How to Start Freelance Writing with No Experience
Have you been interested in learning how to start freelance writing, but you have no experience?
I get asked about this a lot.
When I started freelance writing, I didn’t have any experience, either!
Aside from writing essays in school, I hadn’t published an article; I hadn’t written a white paper. I hadn’t done website content creation for anyone other than myself.
And now I’ve made thousands doing it in the past couple months alone.
Sure, when I started out, I’d written a lot of script analysis, but otherwise – my most recent “writing samples” were a decade old!
I didn’t really understand what went into the process. But I’m going to show you how to do it quickly and easily, without stress, so you can start the process, too.
You don’t need a college degree in writing.
You don’t even need to be perfect at grammar and spelling.
All you need is an interest and the will to focus – and you’ll get there.
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And back to the post. Here’s how to get started:
Start By Writing
This probably seems kind of basic, but when I went out to create my first “writing portfolio” I didn’t have any writing to add. So, I made things up.
That’s my big secret.
I did some research on areas I might want to write about, or types of writing I might want to do (there are a lot of different writing niches, including news, blogging, website content creation, proofreading, and more!).
Once I had a handle on what I wanted to do, I faked it. I came up with an idea for an article I might want to read, explaining something I already knew about.
Try this exercise:
What do I wish I knew about my current job when I first started?
If you haven’t had a job before, try this exercise:
What do I wish I knew about my life before I got to this point?
Think back to what would have been useful information for you when you were starting down your current life path.
Maybe you know something about applying to schools. Maybe you know something about how to cook the perfect hamburger. Or maybe you know something about picking the right color paint for your walls at home.
Whatever skill set you have, use that, and write an article about it. Once you have an article ready, write another one.
You want to have at least 3-5 pieces in your portfolio.
They can be really similar! Maybe you write one article about content creation, and another about blogging. Those are similar concepts, but they’re different enough that you could find different audiences.
Put Together a Free Website to Host Your Portfolio
The site URL doesn’t really matter when you’re starting out.
Eventually, you’ll build it into a website portfolio you pay for, with your own URL. But to start, you just want the basics.
If you don’t understand web design at all, Wix is really user-friendly.
When you get into it, you’ll want to build your own site with your own domain. For both domain registration and hosting, I use Namecheap for some sites and Bluehost for others, and I recommend both of these services. They both have good customer service and ease of use for first-timers. If you’ve really never done any web design at all, though, I would stick with Wix to start with.
What If You Don’t Have Time to Write for Free At All?
I recommend trying to write free if you can, only because you can build the kind of writing you want to prove yourself in. If you write for other people, you’ll be working to their guidelines. If you start out writing a few things for yourself, you can create the style and content you want to be paid for.
I’m currently using Upwork, and I enjoy working with my clients. I think it’s got a lot of potential to make you good money.
But you will have to go through some lower-level gigs to raise your ratings, and you might not make enough starting out to make it worthwhile in the long term.
What if It Takes Me a Long Time to Write?
That’s okay. Try putting aside 5 or 10 minutes a day. Write an outline for your article first, so when you set out to write the whole thing, you have a guideline to follow.
That way, even if you only have 5 minutes a day, you can put together an article in a week or two.
When you’re freelance writing with no experience, you likely will take a while to write starting out.
The more experience you get, the faster you will become.
How Long Should It Take to Build My Writing Portfolio?
As long as it needs to.
I would start applying for jobs with 1 item ready to go in the category you’re applying for.
Keep building while you apply. Do both at the same time, so when you get to your 5th or 10th application, you’ll have 3-5 good pieces ready.
Where Do I Find Freelance Writing Jobs?
I recommend Googling for the type of work you want to do. New sites pop up all the time, so by the time I’ve finished writing this, there will be something new out there.
I also suggest cold-emailing.
Write to companies you want to work for. Put your top 10 list together, and send each of them an email. Introduce yourself, and say what you write and what you want to write for them. Provide a link to your portfolio, and explain your expertise.
Try Guest Posting for Blogs
This is a good way to get traffic to your own website, once it’s set up. Guest post for blogs and see what you can come up with that will help them (and in the process, help yourself). It’s another way to build a portfolio link that isn’t just your own website, and it can create traffic to your work, which can lead to clients!
Yes, I do accept guest posting pitches.
Some basics to keep in mind:
1. Don’t Plagiarize
Use your own work. If you use someone else’s idea (even if you rephrase it), cite the source. Make a reference (and ideally a link) to where you got the information.
2. Spellcheck and Grammar Check
I hear great things about Grammarly. If you don’t use that, I’m sure there are other systems that can run a spellcheck or grammar check for you (Microsoft Word isn’t terrible).
Make sure you’re putting your most polished foot forward.
3. Write What You Want
If you don’t want to write white papers, why waste time putting one together?
Write an extra article, or an extra blog, or an extra company bio.
4. Write What You Know
This isn’t really so much the old cliche as it is… make sure you sound knowledgeable in your field. If you want to write about video games, make sure you’ve played the games you’re discussing.
If you want to write about cooking, make sure you actually have cooked something (or watched other people cook). You don’t have to be an astronaut to write about outer space, but ideally you know something about the galaxy.
Make sure you have a grasp of your topic. It will make you sound smarter and get you better clients.
5. Don’t Undersell Yourself
When you start out, you might have to take a few low-paid jobs in order to make ends meet. That’s okay. Write what you can, when you can.
And raise your rates appropriately.
I won’t do any less than $100: 500 words. Some people will, and that’s okay. Find your comfort zone. Track how much time it takes you to write 500 words. For me, it takes a little while.
So, I make sure I’m keeping to my expected hourly rate of no less than $25/hour. That gives me 4 hours to write 500 words, which is probably doable for a topic I know about.
If I have to do extra research, I might raise the cost. Of course, try to be reasonable. Be willing to negotiate where you can, especially starting out. Once you have a strong portfolio, be willing to walk away, if the client is too stressful or won’t pay you fairly. It’s better to have one great client who will pay you $1000 than 4 clients who will each only pay you $50 for the same job.
When you work enough, you will get to a point where you can choose your clients.
You can absolutely start freelance writing with no experience. You don’t need any knowledge of the writing space at all. You just need a computer or tablet and a desire to write.
What has helped you starting your freelance writing journey?
What other information do you want to know about the process?
Post below in the comments, and I’ll answer your questions!