Freelance writing is a never-ending learning experience.
It feels like there’s always a new puzzle to solve in this business.
That’s part of the fun.
However, there are several things you need to learn first.
Without further ado, here are 11 must-know tips for beginner freelance writers:
1. Designate a home workspace
I know – it’s fun to work in the living room. I also tried working in bed, the dining room, and the balcony.
But do you know where I spent my most productive hours?
You guessed it: my designated home workspace.
Being a work-from-home professional blurs the line between your work and personal life. By having an official home workspace, you can train your mind to know when it’s time to write or relax.
While I recommend having a separate room as your home office, it’s not exactly necessary.
As long as you have an official workspace that’s inviting and organized, you’re good to go.
- Be sure to clean and organize your workspace regularly.
- Have a notepad or bulletin board for daily reminders.
- Invest in good lighting if your home office is windowless.
2. Have specializations
Back in 2014, I was required to research a ton of niches I didn’t care about.
I wrote about homeopathy, programming, diets, essential oils, trucking, entrepreneurship, and so on.
Sure, it’s cool to learn about various industries. But it’s much cooler to have specializations that align with your background and personal interests.
That’s how competitive freelancers roll.
First and foremost, having a specialization makes professional writing significantly easier.
Once you’ve nailed the basic terms and concepts, it’s just a matter of exploring different angles and targeting new keywords.
Additionally, having a specialization will allow you to increase your freelance rates over time.
It can help you write better quality content more consistently – allowing you to charge more for your services. You’ll also have a longer list of work samples, which will help you attract higher-paying clients.
- Pick an industry you’re passionate about.
- Start following relevant blogs.
- Be on the lookout for the latest trends and developments.
3. Establish a daily writing routine
Quick fact: you need a more prudent approach to managing your time.
You can’t just keep on writing whenever you want – regardless if you’re hitting your target daily word count. What you need is to follow a sustainable routine that will ensure consistent output in the long run.
Below is what a typical week looks like for me:
It’s essentially my personal time management blueprint – shaped through years of writing thousands of words per day.
Here’s a quick rundown of the steps you need to take:
- Identify your target daily word count
- Visually plan your schedule
- Build your schedule around your “ultradian rhythm”
- Make time for catching up
- Learn how to spend your breaks productively
- Keep focusing on the end goal
Again, refer to my CYC guest post to understand how these things tie together.
- Use a spreadsheet tool like Google Sheets to make quick adjustments to your schedule.
- Understand your own writing speed to plan your schedule accordingly.
- Experiment with various productivity and time tracking tools.
4. Get an automated proofreading tool
I’ll let you in on a little secret.
Using a built-in spell checker isn’t the same as proofreading.
We all know that popular word processors like Microsoft Word and Google Docs automatically detect misspelled words. However, experienced freelancers know that built-in spell checkers are never enough, especially if you want to create flawless, error-free articles.
What you need is an automated proofreading tool like Grammarly.
Unlike basic spell checkers, Grammarly does more than just detect spelling errors. It can also detect advanced issues in terms of clarity, tone, and overall readability.
My favorite way to use Grammarly is through the Microsoft Word “Add-in.” This allows me to proofread and polish my drafts without leaving my go-to word processor.
- To save time, only proofread once you’ve finished the whole draft.
- Don’t forget to read your draft out loud when proofreading.
- Use your own discretion when applying corrections with Grammarly.
5. Find ways to immerse yourself in the language daily
Here’s something that a lot of writing blogs don’t talk about.
If you want to create top-notch content in a certain language, being fluent isn’t enough.
You need to learn the language to a near-native level.
Most of the best freelance writers I know were immersed in the English language from a young age. They spent countless hours watching movies, reading books, listening to music, and having conversations online with native English speakers.
Remember, the goal is to be a near-native English writer and speaker.
That’s beyond being able to write with perfect grammar spelling. You should also be able to:
- Hold vocal conversations with other English speakers proficiently
- Pronounce words properly as you speak
- Quickly form cohesive and coherent sentences in your head
- Comprehend sentences and words as they’re spoken by native speakers
- Keep up with the evolution of words and their usage
As for me, I got immersed in the language through books and MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). I also spent a lot of time in my teens socializing through now-defunct networks like MySpace and MyYearbook.
If you think you’re past your youth, there are still a number of ways to achieve near-native fluency in English.
Personally, I think the best way is through podcasts on streaming services like Spotify.
Of course, you can also read books, watch YouTube videos, and follow English blogs to immerse yourself in the language.
I also suggest socializing with native English speakers through networks like Facebook, Reddit, and LinkedIn.
Just look for groups or “subreddits” about topics you’re genuinely interested in. They shouldn’t be hard to find.
- Spend a reasonable amount of time each day on English immersion exercises.
- Be sure to observe the rules of any community you join.
- Try using video calls when talking to clients.
6. Join groups and communities for freelancing tips
Speaking of socializing with native English speakers, you should also join communities dedicated specifically to freelance writers.
Newbie freelance writers need all the help they can get to grow and succeed in this business.
The good news is, other freelancers are more than willing to provide their guidance to beginners.
You just need to know where to look for them.
- Join as many social media groups as you want – memberships are free!
- Be sure to contribute to the community by responding to other people’s posts.
- Always look at the comments when checking out job postings on social media groups.
7. Put your eggs in different baskets
It’s not easy to find a good long-term client.
Even if you do, you should never be complacent.
Whenever you have free time, build up your online portfolio and advertise your services to more prospects.
You never know when you need extra work to cover a month’s expenses.
Besides, having a diversified list of clients will protect you against slow business days. If your main client runs out of projects, extra work will be just a short email away.
If you haven’t yet, read my guide on finding freelance clients for the best practices.
I also advise building a freelance portfolio website while you have the time.
Hosting services like GoDaddy make this easy and affordable.
For as little as $3.99 per month, you can create your own WordPress-powered online portfolio within minutes. This is possible with WordPress’s library of free, ready-to-use website themes.
- After a successful project, ask for a testimonial you can feature on your website.
- Use a simple theme and focus on your website’s loading speed.
- You can also build a free portfolio using WordPress’s hosted service.
8. Make writing a hobby
Having an online portfolio also gives you a space for your own articles.
In other words, you can turn it into a blog.
This is good for building your credibility and boosting your employability in the eyes of prospective clients.
Moreover, turning your portfolio into a full-on blog opens up monetization opportunities. But that’s a topic for another day.
For now, here are a few topic ideas you can write about:
- Things you learned
- Memorable experiences worth sharing
- The latest news and trends
- Your hobbies
- The tools you use
If you’d rather write privately and safe from the judging eyes of the internet, write a personal journal instead.
My first laptop was a VAIO, which came pre-installed with Evernote.
I’ve been using it to write private journal entries ever since.
What really caught my attention is Evernote’s ability to sync notes across devices. You can use the mobile app to jot down notes on the go and edit them later once you get to your computer.
The notes I write range from diary entries to detailed strategies for my personal goals.
Occasionally, I use Evernote to create outlines for an in-depth writing project.
In addition to making writing fun again, a personal journal will also help develop your unique writing style and voice. That’s why I think every freelance writer should write privately from time to time.
- Whether you’re writing a blog post or a diary, remember to have fun.
- Always give your best when writing blog posts – the whole world is watching.
- OneNote is a good alternative to Evernote, especially if you already own Microsoft Office.
9. Learn Search Engine Optimization
There’s a good chance you’ll come across the word “SEO” when looking for freelance writing jobs.
Short for “Search Engine Optimization,” SEO is a collection of strategies that improves the visibility of content in search engines.
Good SEO allows websites to appear on the first page of search engines like Google. Bad SEO, on the other hand, is just an utter waste of money.
The sooner you learn SEO, the sooner you’ll be able to take on higher-paying jobs that require it.
Unfortunately, discussing SEO in detail would make this post extremely long. In the meantime, below is a list of my favorite blogs so you can start learning SEO at your own pace:
- When learning SEO for the first time, start with keyword research.
- Get yourself familiar with popular SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush.
- Every SEO campaign is different – don’t be afraid to ask clients for SEO guidelines.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Want a surefire way to reduce the number of revision requests you get from clients?
It’s simple: ask every question you have before turning in your first draft.
Of course, you shouldn’t ask questions you can answer yourself by reading the project details provided by your client. You need to ask good questions about tentative project details and creative ideas you may have.
For example, I often ask clients for links to other posts that I can refer to for things like:
- Desired writing style
- Types of visual content to include
- Subtopics to cover
Another thing I used to do was ask for feedback after finalizing the outline and writing 300-500 words.
This way, I can make sure the project is going in the direction my client wants. If they’re not happy with the draft for any reason at all, I could easily make tweaks and adjustments.
- Before taking on a project, ask your client about the modes of communication you’ll use.
- Volunteer to track the project’s progress using a tool like Trello.
- Read the project details twice to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
11. Don’t settle
Making money online by writing is indeed a blessing in itself.
However, I believe talented freelancers need to be paid what they deserve.
A lot of freelancers, particularly from developing countries like India and the Philippines, are happy with substandard pay.
If you’re one of them, I beseech you – don’t undervalue yourself.
Always be on the lookout for your next move forward.
Keep on looking for clients who can offer you better compensation for your services.
Sure, there’s value in maintaining long-term relationships with good clients. But you can’t rely on them forever.
To learn how to diversify your client list, I published a post on the top ways to find freelance clients. Give it a read and I hope you find it enlightening.
- After working with a client for some time, ask for a raise – it works.
- Sometimes, giving up a client for a new one is the best way to grow.
- For the most part, don’t burn bridges and maintain a connection with past clients.
Being a freelancer has been the most transformative event in my life.
It will be for you, too. If you’re a beginner, hang in there and take in all the freelancing tips you can get your hands on.
I’ll wait here – writing more posts that can help you make the most out of freelancing.
If you have suggestions for future posts, feel free to leave a comment below. You can also ask me a question or leave any feedback.