This is a four part series that is designed to take you from zero to having clients without a website or working for low pay on content mills.
Part One – Setting Up All the Basics
First off, you should know that I have been a freelance writer working from home for over five years. I started it kind of part-time, but situations in life pushed me to make it my full-time job. So, if you’re looking for freelance writing work, I’m going to show you how to get started today with no website and no content mills.
I’m also going to show you how to find freelance writing work without spending once single penny!
I do want to say, upfront, I don’t judge anyone for doing whatever they need to do to make money from home, so if you have been writing for content mills or some online service, no judgment here!
*Also, keep in mind, I’m not claiming to be some big expert or that I know everything or even do everything the right way or best way. All I am doing with this four-part series is to show you how I went from no clients and no experience to making my full-time income from freelance writing and what I continue to do to this day. Your mileage may vary depending on how hard you work and your writing ability.*
Sometimes, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do to pay the bills.
So, if you don’t know what a content mill is, to put it simply, it is a website that freelancers go to, to find work. There is usually a good amount of work there, but the problem is the pay is very low.
You’ll see people wanting you to write a 500-word article for $3.
Again, if that works for you, that’s great, but I’d rather help you get writing jobs that will pay you a living wage without getting burned out, and I’m going to show you how to do it without even having a website or social media following.
First Steps Needed for Freelance Writing Work from Home
I’m going to assume that you are completely new to this. If you have already been writing content, then you’re ahead of the game and should go ahead and continue reading, but you might want to skip to Part Two – The Client Information Packet.
Otherwise, here we go…
1.Decide what type of content you want to write – There is a whole world of content out there, and there’s no reason to try and do it all from day one. I’m sure you’re familiar with blog posts. You’re reading one now, but there are many other things you can write!
(For this post, when I use the term article or blog post, I mean the same thing.)
But…articles are just the tip of the ice burg. You can also write any of the following:
- Web pages
- Marketing emails
- Sales pages
- Landing pages
- Product descriptions
- Case studies
- White papers
- Press releases
For the true beginner, I would suggest starting out with blog posts and web pages. They are the easiest to write, but it is really up to you and what you find interesting. For me personally, I enjoy writing marketing emails and case studies.
Having said that, I’ve written 1,000’s of web pages and blog posts.
2. Create a few writing samples – Once you’ve decided on what type of content you want to write, you’ll need a few writing samples. Many people talk about having a large portfolio, but honestly, if you have 3 to 5 samples of the type of writing you want to do, that’s fine to get you started.
For example, if you want to write blog posts, write a couple of samples on different topics. The topics don’t matter as much as the quality of writing. You might want to have a couple of samples of web pages as well. This is true no matter the type of freelance writing work you’re looking for.
Go to any website that sells a service, (plumbing, construction, limo service, you name it) and see what you find. Trust me, you’ll be writing a lot of these types of pages. Get ideas, but don’t copy content, from these sites to create your own samples.
I find that many people can’t get past this step. They freeze up in terror at not having some huge portfolio. Honestly, I’ve never found I needed one.
A handful of samples is plenty. You can certainly add to it as you go along if you’d like, but even then, I’d just add a sample of different types of writing.
I can’t stress this enough. Not having real work experience writing for companies isn’t an issue. No one has ever asked me for it when I’ve been looking for freelance writing work. Besides…and this is majorly important…
…you are not an employee – you do not need to give references as if you are trying to find a job! You are a business owner offering your services and that is all. Keep that mindset and you’ll be half way there.
3. Determine your rates – As I mentioned, you’re not going to be working for a service like Elance or Writers Access or any of the other sites that freelancers flock to. Now, I know there are people who actually make good money on these sites over time, but for most people, you will be getting pennies per word. I figure if you’re going to go to all the trouble of finding freelance writing work, you should be well paid for it.
In my humble opinion that is just exhausting and demoralizing. Also, you’ll find that people who don’t want to pay well for writing expect more from you than those that do.
You want to work with people who already value good writing and understand that it costs real money.
For someone new to the business of freelance writing, coming up with what you will charge can be difficult. (You can get my FREE Rate Cheat Sheet for Freelance Writers here.)When I started five years ago, I charged $25 for a 500-word article.
When I started five years ago, I charged $25 for a 500-word article.
Keep in mind, I threw up a website in a day and started marketing and got my first client in two days. I got my second client a day later. For the first client, they paid me the $25 for the 500-word articles I wrote for them.
The second client paid me $45 for a 500-word article. I just asked for it, and they didn’t bat an eye.
It’s also important to know that today, five years later, I get paid between $125 and $500 for a 500-word article. I don’t say that to brag. I mention it only to let you know that you don’t have to write for a penny a word.
If I was just starting out today, I wouldn’t write for under 10 cents a word, (that’s $50 for a 500-word article.)
Of course, it’s up to you to decide what you want to charge when you’re looking for freelance writing work.
Since most of your writing will be blog posts and web pages, I would suggest you use a flat rate and a word count range. This is the word count I use:
- Up to 300 words
- 301 to 500 words
- 501 to 750 words
- 751 to 1000 words
When deciding how much to charge, take into consideration how long it takes you to write a 500-word article. (A 500-word article is a good guide to go by.) For me, it takes me about 30 minutes unless it is really technical. I also know that I want to make at least $50 per hour for writing, and I’d rather make $100 an hour.
That means I need to charge at least $50 for a 500-word article to make that hourly writing rate. Give this some thought as you’re deciding what to charge.
4. Determine your policies – You don’t need to get crazy here on day one. What’s most important is to decide if you are going to require a down payment. Many freelance writers want 50 % down before they start writing.
It’s not a bad practice, but I have to admit that I never did it. It’s only recently that I have started asking for 50% down and I don’t do it all of the time.
I have to say that in over five years of writing, I have always been paid and in a timely manner as well.
You can also consider if you want an engagement letter. Personally, I’ve never used them. I figure the emails sent between the client and myself do the job. I’ve never had an issue, but your comfort level will determine how you want to move forward.
It just made sense to me to make it as easy as possible for the prospective client to say yes and for me to get work. I think too often new freelancers get caught up in making everything perfect before they start looking for clients. Trust me, it will never be perfect.
I suppose some might feel they are being more professional having a long list of policies and engagement letters and so on, and there is certainly nothing wrong with it. Heck, it might be the way to go, but for me, I just wanted to get money on the table as quickly as I could, and I’ve never had an issue.
You’ll have to decide what is right for you.
Well, I think that’s plenty to think about for now. So, here are your actions steps:
- Decide what type of writing you want to do
- Create 3 to 5 writing samples (350 to 500 words each is long enough)
- Decide what you want to change (take into account the time it takes you to write a 500-word article)
- Determine your policies
In Part Two of this series on how to get freelance writing work, I’ll be talking about creating a Client Information Packet. It is what you’ll use to actually get clients without having a website.
Click on the link for Part Two – The Client Information Packet.