What is a Freelance Writer?

by | Aug 10, 2023 | Business Advice, Writing Skills

Being a freelance writer, either full-time or as a side gig is a great way to make some extra money or build a flexible career you love. 

What is a freelance writer and what can you expect to do day to day? And most importantly, how do you get started freelance writing?

 

 

What is a freelance writer? 

Freelance writing is when a writer is paid on a project basis to create content for a client. Sometimes freelance writing may also be called content writing. Content writing is typically used to refer to writing that will be used online. 

A freelance writer is not an employee of the client, therefore they do not receive a salary or benefits. They are usually paid per project or per word. They may just work with a client to fulfill a one-time need or have ongoing work in the form of monthly retainers. 

Clients who hire freelance writers may include publications, websites, marketing agencies, or individual businesses. Almost all businesses need some type of writing service these days, whether it be email marketing, website copy, social media, or blog articles. The demand for freelance writers has grown exponentially because of the need for high-quality writing.

Freelance writers often specialize in specific subjects or writing styles. For example, I am a registered dietitian, therefore my team and I specialize in writing health and wellness content for our clients. As our experience has grown over the years, we have also learned about copywriting, SEO, content strategy, and more, as a way to add value to our clients.

Types of freelance writing jobs

Freelance writers can work on many different types of projects for clients. Anywhere there are words a writer is needed. A few types of freelance writing jobs available include: 

  • Blog Posts/Article Writing
  • Copywriting
  • Technical writing
  • Ghostwriting
  • Grants
  • Medical Writing
  • Screenwriting
  • Emails and Newsletters
  • Thought Leadership
  • Travel Writing
  • Resume Writing
  • Creative Writing
  • Social Media Content 
  • White Papers
  • Academic Journals
  • Journalism
  • Press Releases
  • Editing and Proofreading
  • Books and E-books
  • Product Descriptions
  • Product label copy

These are just a few of the types of writing a freelancer can do. Some of these, like medical writing, may require additional skills or degrees, but many of these opportunities do not require specific degrees or training. 

Pros and cons of freelance writing

If you are considering becoming a freelance writer, there are a few pros and cons to consider before diving in.

Benefits of freelance writing

The main benefit of being a freelancer is that it is a flexible way to make money. How much you make as a writer is up to you and your personal hustle. 

Being a writer allows you to have more control over your work-life balance. You can work during your own hours, typically from home. This makes freelance writing an ideal career for mothers or caregivers with other demands of their time.

There is not much equipment or overhead needed to become a writer. There are a few pieces of software I do recommend that make things easier, but all you really need is a computer, an optimized LinkedIn profile, an email address, access to word processing software of some kind (Google Docs or Microsoft Word), and a way to collect payment from your clients. 

All the other things that are “nice to have” like a website, project management software, or other tools can all come later. I recommend investing in a contract as soon as possible, even if you purchase a template through a legal network like LegalZoom. This can save you a lot of hassle and drama. 

Finally, freelance writing work is typically different with each project, no two jobs are exactly the same. This can keep things interesting day to day. It also allows you opportunities to learn new skills, such as SEO or marketing. 

Downsides of freelance writing

There are a few downsides to being a freelance writer. With the increased demand for writers and how easy it is to get started, there is a lot of competition. Some of this competition is willing to work for pennies, which brings the market value of writers down overall. 

This doesn’t mean it is impossible to make money as a freelance writer. While it can be a challenge to position yourself correctly when you first start, you can figure out how to find the right clients who want to pay what your services are worth. 

Finding the right clients, who value good writing, will likely be more challenging as AI becomes more powerful, but I believe that quality writing will always stand out. 

When you first get started, freelance writing work, and therefore your income may be inconsistent until you build up a steady stream of clients or a good reputation. This may mean that initially, you will have to be constantly hustling for the next assignment.

As a freelancer, there is no guarantee of income month-to-month. While you can have clients sign retainers to try to guarantee a certain amount of work every month, many clients prefer to work with freelancers on an as-needed basis. This can make financial planning challenging.

Freelancers typically don’t have access to employer-provided benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, or retirement plans, which may necessitate additional planning and costs. You will need to find healthcare elsewhere as a freelancer and put away money for your own retirement.

For some people working alone without the camaraderie of an office environment can lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation. Working from home is not for everyone.

Freelancers are responsible for every aspect of their business, including marketing, invoicing, taxes, and client management. This can be time-consuming and detract from the time available for writing.

What does it take to become a freelance writer?

If you are passionate about becoming a freelance writer, there are a few skills you need to have. The first is good writing skills. While you don’t need to be the BEST writer who ever lived, the desire to work on your writing, learn new skills, and improve over time is essential.

You will also need self-discipline, an entrepreneurial spirit, time management skills, and the ability to do research. Sales and marketing skills are also transferable to both client work and building your own freelance writing business.

If you are interested in health or nutrition writing, while not required, I believe it is easier to work in this space if you do have a degree in a health-related field. Google likes content created by “experts” in the Your Life, Your Money space. This is part of Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines for SEO-ranked content. 

How to get started as a freelance writer

If you’re interested in becoming a freelance writer, there are a few things you can do to get started:

  • Build your portfolio: Create a portfolio of your writing samples so that potential clients can see your work. Publish an article on Linkedin or offer to do a guest blog for a friend or colleague. 
  • Network with other writers and editors: Attend writing conferences and connect with other writers online.
  • Market yourself: Optimize your LinkedIn profile and eventually create a website to showcase your work and attract clients.
  • Be professional: Respond to client inquiries promptly and meet deadlines.
  • Be persistent: It can take time to find consistent work as a freelance writer, so don’t give up!

If you are a registered dietitian or healthcare provider, I offer many resources for health professionals who want to become freelance writers.

Writing can be a rewarding career path that offers flexibility, variety, and control over one’s work-life balance. It provides opportunities for continuous learning and growth. 

However, it’s not without challenges. The competition, financial uncertainties, and lack of benefits require some adaptability and perseverance. 

The journey to becoming a successful freelance writer may be filled with ups and downs, but with determination, it’s a career that allows for personal fulfillment and flexibility. 

Want to learn more about becoming a freelance health writer? Grab the 5-day mini course here.  

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