Look, I get it. We all need money.
And when you're starting out as a writer, you definitely need a budget to work with. Maybe you're writing your first non-fiction book, or maybe you're trying your hands at being a first-time novelist. But while you're working on your masterpiece, you still need food and shelter 🙂 . Plus, when your book will be done, you'll need it to be edited, get a good cover, and so on.
And those things cost money.
Fortunately for us, the interwebs nowadays offer near endless opportunities to find jobs and work. Even if you’re a total beginner.
So, even if freelancing or ghostwriting won't be your dream career, why not put your talent to good use and make some good money on the side?
Whatever your reason, this post is for you. It'll show you how to establish your online presence as a writer, the best ways to find online writing jobs and ultimately get paid to write. All without any previous experience.
What Kind of Writer Will You Be?
When it comes to getting online writing jobs as a complete beginner, there are some foundational steps you’ll want to take before you begin writing. Sure, you could start pitching jobs right away. But, since the online writing space is getting more and more competitive, you’d be doing yourself a disservice.
Follow the steps outlined below and you'll get a head-start over at least 90% of other budding freelancers.
1. Choose a Speciality
A lot of beginning freelance writers make the mistake of trying to appeal to everyone under the sun. This might seem like a good idea: "if I appeal to everyone, then I’ll have an infinite supply of clients", said the unwise newbie.
Don't be like him: think about what your potential clients are actually looking for. Chances are they aren’t looking for a generalist, but instead someone who understands their niche and has the experience to create the high-quality content they desire.
Here's how to 'niche-down' on your market, step-by-step.
Choosing a Speciality-Based Niche
The first thing you need to do is choosing your niche, based on your passion, or past skills.
Look at yourself in the mirror: for example, maybe you’re obsessed with fitness, or you used to be a personal trainer. For the fitness and wellness market, you’d be a great fit (no pun intended).
Or maybe your parents were in real estate, and you grew up helping them with the family business. It wouldn’t be a large jump to start writing for real estate agents and property management companies.
But when choosing a passion-based niche, make sure it’s actually a viable market and people are willing to pay you for your work. If you want to make money for your writing, then you’ll need to lean towards markets that can afford to pay writers.
Choosing a Content-Type-Based Niche
That title is hard to understand, but that's what the second method of niching down actually is: choosing a type of content to be your specialty.
For example, maybe you love writing long in-depth blog posts? Or, you have a skill for landing guest blogs and want to do that for clients? Or, you love writing emails, and want to write sales emails for clients?
There are literally dozens of different writing types you could specialise in:
- Blog post writing (in great demand)
- White paper writing (boring, but could pay well)
- Landing page copy (got copywriting skills? This is for you)
- Email marketing (insanely useful for your career, too)
- Website copy (not too hard, but clients are often very picky)
- Book ghostwriting (if you can stand someone else taking credit for your work)
When you choose to specialize based on a certain type of writing you also have the added benefit of being able to write for multiple different industries. Which can be great if you’re the kind of writer who needs variety.
2. Grow Your Skills and Portfolio
No matter your background as a writer, if you want to get paid to write, it’s important to educate yourself on how writing for the web works. Writing on the internet is nothing like writing an essay for a high school or college class (as good or bad as that may sound).
If you’re feeling a little uncertain about your writing abilities, or want to brush up on your skills before you begin pitching, then spend some time exploring the following blog posts and resources:
Overall though, the best way to grow your skills as a writer is by actually writing. Getting real-world experience and getting feedback from clients and editors will improve the quality of your work more than reading through hundreds of blog posts will.
3. Tools of the Trade
Beyond having a way to write and access to the internet, there are a few tools that’ll make your writing life much more manageable. Here are a few tools I find it hard to live without:
Grammarly — This editing tool is like having a professional editor in your back pocket. It’ll find common grammar and spelling errors and offer suggestions to improve your work.
Google Drive — You probably already have a google account, but using this service provides you with a built-in word processor and a way to share your work with clients.
PayPal — PayPal is one of the most commonly used payment processors in the world. Its built-in invoicing features makes it easy to get paid for your work.
And.co — This is a relatively new service (and recent partner with Fiverr), but they have a lot of useful features for freelance writers, like invoicing, contracts, time tracking, and expense tracking.
Chances are you’ll continually test different tools and services as you begin to write online, and discover what works best for you. But, all you really need to get started is a functioning computer, a word processor, an internet connection, and a way to get paid.
4. Setup Your Website
One absolute necessity is a freelance writer website. Your website will help to establish you as a professional freelance writer, and it’ll be difficult for you to attract any high paying clients without one.
The goal of your website is to present you as a professional, showcase your niche expertise, highlight your services, and give your clients a way to get in touch with you.
Here’s the basic process for creating your writer website:
Pick a web host and buy your domain name
Choose your CMS of choice (WordPress is recommended)
Pick and install your theme
Customize your site
Add your content
Here’s the process in a little more detail:
Choose Your Host and Domain Name
To have a live website you’re going to need a host and a domain name.
There are literally hundreds of different web hosts to choose from, but my #1 recommendation is to go with Siteground.
Their customer support is top notch, and the installation process super-easy.
Beyond a host, you’ll also need a domain name.
You could purchase a domain name through your hosting company. However, it's best to keep your hosting and domain name separate: Namecheap is a solid domain name registrar.
What should I name my website?
When naming your writer website, you don’t have to get too fancy. You could literally just choose your name+surname and add a '.com' at the end. However, if you have a very common name (John Smith), chances are the domain will already be taken. At that point, you can just add something like 'writer' or 'writing' to the string of words: "www.johnsmithwriter.com"
Whatever you choose make sure it’s short, professional, and memorable. Check out this handy guide to give you some extra inspiration.
Install WordPress and Select Your Theme
With your hosting and domain name purchased, it’s time to actually start building your site.
Once again, there are probably hundreds of ways for you to do this. You have self-hosted options like Squarespace, and about a dozen other website builders to use.
There is a tiny bit of a learning curve, but WordPress is built for writers, and it gives you complete control and freedom over the future of your site.
Luckily, you can easily install WordPress on your site with a tool called ‘One-Click Install’ or ‘Softaculous’. The tool you use will depend upon your host.
Simply select the tool from your hosting control panel, and select ‘WordPress’, the tool will do the rest and install WordPress on your site.
Then, you can access the backend of your site via a link like “mysite.com/wp-admin”.
The next step in the process is 'clothing' your website with a theme.
To do this navigate to Appearance>Themes>Add New.
Here you can either search for a theme or browse through the list. This will let you tap into a massive selection of free themes.
If you want to take the extra step, then you can invest in a premium theme. These themes will cost a little bit of money, but you’ll get more control and flexibility in the appearance of your site, and access to a larger feature set.
My #1 best recommendation when it comes to themes is undoubtedly Thrive Themes: they look great, plus you get a whole range of other cool plugins included in the package for an insanely low fee.
But in the end, don’t get too hung up on selecting a theme: find something that’s clean, minimal, and beginner-friendly, then move on to the next step.
Customise Your Website
Your 'freelancing website' doesn’t need to be complicated. We have a handy guide on what a writer-website should include, but here's the lowdown once again, with some extra elements that suit a freelancer:
- A home page that defines your niche
- A services page that explains what you do
- An about page that dives into your story
- A portfolio page to showcase your work
- A hire me page to contact you
The biggest thing is you have to start somewhere. Get the first version of your site live and use the techniques below to get your first client. In time, you’ll refine your website and your portfolio page will grow.
10 Ways to Get Online Writing Jobs (As a Beginner)
There are a number of ways you can get paid to write as a beginner. If you’ve gone through the steps above and have defined your niche, invested in the proper tools, grown your skills, and created your website then you’re way ahead of most other people who are writing online.
But now you need to find clients.
Before we jump in, know that you don’t have to pursue every single strategy. Instead, pick a few that you want to test out and get started. In time, you’ll be able to refine your strategy and discover which methods are the most effective in landing you new clients.
1. Start Cold Pitching
The thought of sending a cold email scares a lot of writers away from actually doing it. But, this is actually good news. With cold pitching, there’s a lot less competition and you have a higher chance of landing a gig.
Cold pitching is the process of reaching out to companies, entrepreneurs, small business, and other online companies and letting them know that you can help their business.
It sounds intimidating, but it can be pretty easy to do and doesn’t take a lot of time.
Here’s the process:
Locate businesses you can help with your writing
Send them an email
Follow up if they don’t respond
Rinse and repeat
Cold emailing is a numbers game, so the more emails you send the greater your chances of landing work.
When you send a pitch make sure to include how you found them, how you can help their business, and who you are and the type of writing you specialise in.
Here are a few great resources to help you get started with cold pitching:
2. Pitch High-Quality Job Boards
As a total beginner, job boards are going to be your best bet. Plus, a lot of job board ads are looking for recurring work, which can be a godsend when you’re first getting started online.
There are a number of job boards out there, however, some of them are nothing more than content mills that pay you next to nothing per article. To avoid losing your mind and giving up before you give yourself a chance to succeed it’s important to seek out companies that’ll actually pay you what you’re worth.
Here are a few high-quality job boards that are worth spending time on:
3. Put Yourself Out There (Let Your Writing Life Be Known)
This might seem like pretty generic advice, but you’d be surprised at how well it works.
As you’re making the big jump into freelance writing let your friends, family, and any past colleagues know that you’re available as a writer for hire. You might have a friend or family member who needs content for their new website, or a couple of blog posts for their personal training business, or coffee shop.
You’ll never know where your first writing jobs will come from, so it’s important to spread yourself as wide as possible.
This can even include things like:
-Sending an email to your friends and coworkers letting them know you’ve started writing.
-Doing a post on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media network you’re active on.
-Attending a Meetup of other creatives in your area.
4. Guest Post for Relevant Sites
Writing for free? I thought you were gonna show me how to get paid to write!
Yes, with guest posting you’re not getting paid for the content you create. But, when you create an epic guest post on a popular site you’re getting yourself in front of hundreds or thousands of people.
Some of these people might end up being your clients.
Plus, guest blogging for quality sites will help you get quality samples you can show off to potential clients. Without samples behind you, it’s going to be difficult to land quality writing gigs.
Not sure where to find these sites? Let’s turn to trusty ol’ Google.
Type in this keyword string to uncover sites that accept guest posts: “niche + write for us”.
Here are the search results from the search, “finance + write for us”.
If you're not having good results with the search query I should you above, try these ones instead.
Copy/paste the queries below (with quotation marks) and add your related keyword: "search term" + related keyword
(e.g. “guest post written by” + blogging)
“guest post by”
“guest post written by”
“guest author today”
“my guest posts”
“places i guest posted”
“this is a guest post by”
“this is a guest article”
“this guest post is from”
“the following guest post”
“submit a guest article”
“submit a guest post”
“submit guest post”
“suggest a guest post”
Or, you can browse this huge list of blogs that accept guest posts and uncover a few opportunities.
As you can see there are probably hundreds of sites that you can guest post on to build your portfolio and even generate a few clients.
5. Pitch Sites That Pay Writers
Did you know that there are hundreds of sites that actually pay writers for a guest post?
These pitches may take a little more work than free guest post, but they’ll be well worth it. You’ll not only get a byline on a popular site (which could lead to more clients), but you’ll get paid to do it.
Usually, these will only be on-off gigs, but they can be a great place to start as a beginner.
If your goal is to build up your portfolio and make some cash while you’re doing it, then this can be a great place to start.
Check out these resources for a massive list of sites that pay you to post:
6. Optimise Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is the ultimate social network for your business. Think about it, it’s full of other people who actually run businesses.
However, you don’t want to just spam everyone and their mother with pitches, you’ll want to take a more structured approach.
Create a Compelling Bio
Your bio is the first thing people will see. Make sure that your niche and the type of content you create is clearly spelled-out. You don’t want people who land on your page to guess what you’re about.
Add People in Your Niche
Next, you’ll want to add people who could be potential clients. Think startup owners, marketing managers, and other businesses in your space. Your goal isn’t to reach out to these people right away but instead, interact with them a little bit.
Spend time liking and commenting on their posts. Your goal here is to simply get on their radar.
Use LinkedIn Publishing
The best way to establish your expertise is to utilise LinkedIn Publishing. Start creating content that’ll be relevant and useful to the connections you’ve added.
Let’s say you’ve chosen the real estate niche.
You could create a post called, “The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing for Realtors”, or “7 Deadly Website Sins Most Real Estate Agents are Committing”.
Publish your content, and wait to see the results.
Simple Reach Out
Once your post has picked up some likes and comments, take note of who these people are.
Reach out to them with a simple hello and let them know that you’re available for work.
You may even get people reaching out to you after you’ve published your content.
7. Reach Out to Local Marketing Companies
This approach is related to the cold pitching approach, but to some, it can seem a little less daunting.
Here you’ll be relying on your personal connection to the area to network with businesses who are always in need of writers.
Chances are, you have a number of local printing, graphic design, marketing, SEO, and web design companies in your area.
You’ll take a similar approach to the cold emailing method. But, make sure to reinforce that you’re from the same city or town.
To find these companies, do a search for “SEO + your city”, and you’ll find a list of companies to reach out to. Swap out SEO for the other company types above and you’ll have dozens of different companies to get in contact with.
For example, here are the search results for “SEO Reno”.
8. Create a Profile at Freelancing Sites
A lot of people tell you to stay away from freelancing sites like Upwork and Freelancer. “They’re full of low paying clients!” “It’s a race to the bottom!”
And yes, those points are valid. And it takes a strategic approach to succeed with these sites, but it is possible to make a solid living from these sites.
It all depends upon your niche, and how you approach the pitching process.
The entire overarching strategy is too detailed to cover here, but here’s the basic process:
Define your writing niche
Create a profile that speaks to your client's problems
Find high-quality job offers and create a well-crafted pitch
Do the work and profit!
If you truly want to succeed with using sites like Upwork, then please check out the site Freelance to Win. It’s completely dedicated to making an abundant living through sites like Upwork and the material is top-notch.
9. Add a "Hire Me" to Your Site
This approach works if you already have an existing blog.
Maybe you’ve been blogging about your own triumphs with personal finance. Or, you’ve been running a popular mommy blog.
No matter your niche, if you’re getting traffic, then it doesn’t hurt to add a hire me page to your site.
Beyond your personal website, you should let your availability be known on any platform you’re currently active, like your Twitter profile, or even your email signature.
10. Explore Craigslist in Popular Cities
A lot of writers overlook the power of Craigslist. Sure, not every posting you’ll find will be a high-quality, high-paying job, but they are out there.
You can explore the listings in your local area, but you can also expand your search to popular cities like Los Angeles, Denver, New York, and San Francisco. When you’re searching for writing jobs outside of your local area make sure the posting specifies that they’re fine with hiring a remote writer.
Getting work as a beginner freelance writer requires determination, persistence, and consistency. The more you pitch, apply for jobs, and put yourself out there the greater your chances of landing work.
Plus, with a well-defined niche and a solid writer website you’re increasing your chances of early success.
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Do you have any questions related to the process of writing your first book? Ask away in the comments below.