You may have tried googling “freelance writer jobs” and gotten a lot of mixed results. The moniker “freelance writer” is anything but constrictive and there are so many things freelance writers can do and services we can offer. There’s a fit for every fancy.
I often get asked how to create writing samples and what kind of work is “best” to take on. It got me thinking… Man, I wish I'd had a better understanding of what kind of stuff I could write for my portfolio when I started writing. So, I made a list.
Below, you’ll find an incomplete list of 22 (yes, TWENTY-TWO) freelance writer jobs and a short explanation for each. I’m willing to bet a few pique your interest.
Newspaper, Magazine, and other “Professional” Articles and Essays
This is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll explain anyway.
Both online and print media outlets are always looking for “outside” voices to tell stories, write journalistic reports, and share opinions. There are tons of calls for pitches on Twitter from editors of every newspaper, magazine and other online media outlet imaginable. Seriously.
The key to landing these types of gigs is to do your research, find the right editor name and email address, and to follow their pitch guidelines (if you can find them, and you probably can) to the letter.
If you don’t follow the publication’s explicit instructions about how to pitch, you won’t be given the time of day. It’s also important to remember that these places get potentially hundreds of pitches every day, too, so you’re just one in a very large sea of many.
Politely follow up and don’t get discouraged if you hear a “no” or don’t get a response at all. Keep at it and eventually, you might find the right person at the right time with the right story or angle.
The best part of these things is that while they don’t generally pay a ton, they have your name on them and you get to fly around the internet tooting your “I’m published in X, Y, and Z” horn.
I wholeheartedly believe that every business needs a blog. This is so important to me that I talk about it all the time. If you like writing long-form, researched, informative content, this is definitely a writing form that should be up your alley.
Landing a client that is interested in having consistent blog content is a big bingo because this often means you have a promise of consistent work for at least a few weeks or months. This saves you the trouble of having to constantly be on the prowl to find new gigs and income.
Blog articles should be a minimum of 500 words (but they can be as long as 2,000 or more) and ideally need to include links to other pages on your client’s website as well as to other reputable outside sources. This is to help them look fair and informed while boosting their long-term search engine optimization efforts.
Email and Print Newsletters
Like blog articles, securing a client who wants you to write newsletters can also be extremely lucrative. I’ve become Instagram friends with a woman who exclusively specializes email newsletters and she’s totally killing it. (Check Lib out. She’s cool.)
Newsletter marketing is an ongoing thing and companies are always in need of someone to help create a strategy and write the copy. You could also learn how to plan and set up email automations – prewritten and scheduled email sequences that are triggered when a subscriber signs up, clicks certain links, or takes a specific action.
In fact, knowing a bit about automations and how to effectively craft them is another service businesses will gladly pay for. If you enjoy strategizing about content delivery, you can up your game by offering email marketing and automation services. This is a great ongoing freelance writer job.
Sales and Marketing Materials
This could take many different forms. You might find you enjoy creating things, like ebooks or journals or quizzes or surveys or coupon vouchers or a whole slew of other things. These materials are used by companies to market themselves every single day.
These things are often called “lead magnets” in the online world. In the print world, sales and marketing materials are literally anything used for sales and marketing. Once again, it’s not a surprise what this means.
From the actual creation of the thing – digital or physical – to the writing that goes along with it, somebody’s got to do that. It could be you. If you’re comfortable using design software like Canva* or if you’ve got a background in more robust systems like Adobe, you could offer a double-whammy to interested clients and handle both the designing and copywriting for their project.
Whitepapers are essentially long-form (think more than 2,000 words) content pieces used by companies to promote specific products or services they offer. (Nonprofits may also use whitepapers.) These are rarely written to entice consumers to buy, but rather for marketing to other businesses.
Want to look over a few whitepaper examples? This blog article highlights a few good ones from big companies like Cisco.
Case studies are, in a way, similar to whitepapers as they serve a specific marketing purpose: They’re basically long-form testimonials for a company. Rather than writing a quick recommendation, case studies focus on specific pain points a customer or client had and how a business helped them solve their issue.
These require interviewing customers about their experience. (Your client may ask you to interview their customer or they may provide you with a recorded interview they conducted.) Your job is to turn it into an interesting cast study article or piece of content depending on your client’s preferences.
While pictures may say 1,00 words, we all still look at product descriptions before we buy things. Someone has to write them!
Product descriptions don’t tend to be high-earners simply based on their length, but if you find a client who has many products and needs descriptions for all of them, that gig could be very lucrative. That said, stores and shops are always adding to their inventory. If you can develop strong relationships with your clients, you’ll be more likely to get repeat business from them.
To pad your product description portfolio, see if you can get some statistics back from your clients. Things like conversion rate (a percentage of how many people visit the product page and ultimately purchase – you want this to be high) and bounce rate (how many people visit the page without taking any action – you want this to be lower) can help you make a case for your copywriting chops.
Media (or press) kits are what businesses use to pitch themselves to press and media outlets. They include company bios, statistics about the person’s or brand’s audience, and a number of different elements that might include notes of their previous partnerships or publication records.
These kits can be used in a couple of ways, too. Some brands use their media kits to pitch themselves as expert speakers or writers. Others may use their kits to court advertisers to buy ad space from their publications.
Depending on the brand or person, the media kit might be short and sweet (check out Jessica Stansberry’s very simple press kit). It might be a very-well decorated press kit like Susue Moore’s. Or it might be an extremely in-depth kit covering advertising pricing, audience demographics, and more, like Oprah Daily, the website covering all press kit materials for Oprah Winfrey’s media empire, or Mel Robbin’s, an internationally-known self-development author and speaker.
These media kits take time to build out and plan. Once again, if you can offer design services, you’ve got one more leg up on other copywriters offering this service. But don’t fret – if you’re not comfortable designing, your services are still in high demand.
Every website you’ve ever visited and read through was written by someone. It might have been a company staffer or it might have been a freelancer. Either way, every single page on the internet with writing had to be (obviously) written by someone.
You could specialize in specific types of website copy, such as “about pages” or any other common page. Or you might specialize in a specific niche and provide copy for company websites in that industry.
One of the best ways to go about this is to ask your clients to present you with an outline of what sections are most likely to be on their website. If they’re working with a web designer, ask for the “wireframe.” If they’re designing the site themselves, ask to see the “dummy” site so you know how things will look, how long your copy sections should approximately be, and where you might need to add little blurbs throughout the pages.
Once again, someone had to write the manual for your Texas Instrument calculator in high school and that new blender you just bought last week.
This may sound especially “technical” but it’s not. Any item that requires a how-to manual or written instructions has a “technical manual.”
This type of writing is generally referred to as “technical writing” and its main goal is to uncomplicate the complicated. It’s very dry language with little or no flourish. Perhaps most surprisingly, this is probably one of the easiest types of writing to break into because it doesn’t often require the writer to match a particular “brand voice.”
Books and Ebooks
Ebooks can be shorter and serve as marketing materials, like lead magnets. (For an example, check out my ebook, 7 Steps to Start a Profitable Freelance Writing Business.) Alternatively, they could be just as long as a printed book, like Kindle ebooks.
Either way, people want to write books but don’t consider themselves “good writers” or want to invest the time it takes to write a book. You could be a book or ebook ghostwriter and make literally thousands of dollars helping others publish their ideas. You may even be able to find postings for these freelance writer jobs on certain job boards. Google “book freelance writer” or “ebook freelance writer” or “ghostwriter.”
Advertising copy is one of the most common things freelancers write, especially if it’s for a special project or sale. It’s akin to copywriting and someetimes these two terms are used interchangeably (though “ad copy” is more specific than just “copywriting”).
This could be something long, like the written content in physical mailers (also called direct mail), or something short and snappy like you often see in sale flyers. If you manage to get feedback from your clients about conversion rates, you can use that to your advantage.
Large companies likely have small teams of people (or just one person) dedicated to running their social media channels (generally called “social media managers”) but smaller companies may not.
Whether they’ve got help creating their images (you could do that as a freelancer, too!), managing posts and engaging with followers, or they just need someone to write the captions, this is a super lucrative freelancing opportunity.
Like with ad copy, if you can track numbers and have something tangible to show for your efforts, you can use that information to gain more clients and raise your rate.
Not everyone wants to hire a PR firm to help them make a splash in the media. Press releases are actually pretty easy to write and the same formula works for nearly every industry. Check out this template from Hubspot to see if this kind of writing is a good fit for you and what you or your client can do to get them in front of a wider audience.
We all know that presidents and other world leaders often don’t write their own speeches (at least not all of them), but that they have a team doing it for them. And they’re not alone!
Plenty of people struggle to write their thoughts clearly or have such stage fright that they need help writing a public speaking script. If you have experience in public speaking or a particular industry, you could easily niche down. Alternatively, your client should provide you with particular talking points so you can craft a thoughtful presentation.
Video has become a dominant force in how we consume media and most of it is scripted in some way. From newsrooms to YouTube videos to advertisements, someone has to make those plans and write those words.
Businesses hoping to make videos for their business on the platform or for their own websites likely don’t have someone on their staff specializing in script writing. Likewise, companies making promotional videos may need help writing scripts for their brands.
If you’ve got any background in video (or radio!) production or scripting, you’d be a natural freelance script writer.
Researchers will often seek help to get their results and findings compiled into written form. These papers may be published in professional or academic journals, among other places.
You likely will need to demonstrate specific previous experience to get hired for these gigs. Depending on your level of expertise in a certain area of study and the budget of the organization that hires you, this could be a big money maker.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Content
There will never be a shortage of people who need to have an understanding of search enging optimization (SEO).
SEO is the “science” behind how brands get found online through search results. There’s a lot that goes into it, from optimizing website pages to checking keywords to writing keyword-based articles and beyond. If this is of interest to you, specializing in SEO will help you stand out from other “generalist” freelancers – bar none. There will never be a shortage of SEO-centric freelance writer jobs (including at companies. This isn't a freelancer-only thing!).
Grants are essentially like scholarships for organizations: money offered by government and aid groups to help fund research and other activities that will benefit the public.
Organizations of all kinds apply for grants and often don’t have anyone on staff whose sole responsibility is completing grant applications to secure funding for their organization. These applications require very special elements and take time to learn.
If you have experience writing grants for a previous employer or nonprofit, you can do it for other groups, too. Even if you don’t have experience, this is a great content-type niche to choose and learn.
As a freelancer, you probably won’t have much need for a resume anymore. (This is one of the many perks of being a freelancer!) But everyone else still does.
People are always looking for help with their resumes. Once again, if you can keep track of your clients’ positive hiring record, you can charge more for your assistance.
Did you know there are people who manage other businesses’ Pinterest accounts for a living? There are!
From creating the images for Pinterest (which you would be wise to offer as part of your service) to writing the captions and scheduling the pins, this is a great way to make money. You’ll need to provide some kind of report each month to show what your work has accomplished for your client, but these don’t need to be fancy.
SIDE NOTE: I spent 6 months in 2021 paying a Pinterest freelancer a whopping $700 a month to manage my Pinterest account. Imagine if you had a few clients paying that much on the regular. You’d be making great money!
Podcast and YouTube Show Notes
Podcasters and YouTubers make the videos and record the audios, but they often aren’t the ones to write their show notes (or edit their content!).
This could be a great opportunity for a long-standing partnership with a client and a great “in” for possible referrals – especially if your person does a lot of collaborations with other podcasters or YouTubers.
So there you have it – 22 different types of content and freelance writer jobs you can master and offer. It takes time to “get good” at any one of them, but the more practice you get, the better you'll be at creating killer content for your clients.
Occasionally, new freelancers or people interested in starting a freelancing business tell me they don’t plan to build a freelance writing website for their budding venture. And when I hear that, my soul cries a little and my ears may bleed.
The truth is that yes, you can technically get your freelance writing business off the ground without a website… but eventually, you're going to want one anyway if you plan to make your biz a bigger part of your life.
Why not start down the right path?
Not to mention, a website gives you a place to:
- Introduce yourself,
- Share your rates (if you'd like – this part is optional),
- Display your writing portfolio, and
- Look professional and show you've got some skills.
Despite what you're thinking, building a website is actually pretty easy and really inexpensive. Here are the basic steps to help you get started on launching your own freelance writing website.
1. Think about what you're going to name your business.
You don't need a fancy business name to build a website. (I once wanted to call my biz “Bold Pen Writing” 🙄 which, I think we can all agree, kind of sucks…).
Start by making a list of adjectives you like that describe your personality or what you want your business to represent. If you know a specific niche you want to write for, maybe consider incorporating that. (Be careful with niches, though, because you don't necessarily want to give the impression you write only for that niche… unless that's your plan, then go for it!)
Once you've got a good list, pull up Thesaurus.com and check out some synonyms for your adjectives. Write down other ones that resonate with you (if there are any).
Now, start pairing the adjectives on your list with words like “writing,” “copywriting,” “content,” and anything writing-related. Keep playing around until you find something you like.
If you don't know what to call your business OR if you just want to be yourself, use your own name! Plenty of successful freelancers do this (including me!) and it works just fine.
2. Search for your chosen website/biz name as an internet domain.
There are a couple of ways to do this.
If you're not ready to pull the trigger on building a website for your business, I recommend simply checking for the URL availability on Google Domains. It doesn't cost anything and will show you whether your website name is available in the format you'd like it to show.
If you're ready to set up your website, I recommend using WordPress.com to set up shop. You don't need a high-powered website with a bunch of bells and whistles right away, so it doesn't make sense for you to sign up for an expensive package from web hosting providers. It's an easy-to-use system and provides you the ability to scale up when you're ready so if you ever need or want more bells and whistles, you can have them.
I recommend going with a “dot com” ending, but sometimes that's not possible. Use your best judgment, but remember you're going to be telling everyone about your freelance writing website. Definitely don't choose something that doesn't make sense, like “dot org!” If you're stuck, try adding a hyphen in your domain name or choose a different ending like “dot io” or “dot co.”
Searching for URLs on Google Domains
Searching for URLs on WordPress.com
Both Google and WordPress will tell you whether or not your clever name is taken (which sadly does happen!) and give you recommendations on how you can tweak yours and get a domain you're happy with.
Below, you can see how this looks on both platforms. I entered the name of this website, KrissiDriver.com (which is of course taken!) to demonstrate the options both platforms will present as alternatives. Google tends to give more realistic suggestions than WordPress… Be careful about using overly-clever workarounds or too many hyphens. You want to be able to tell someone your website URL without having to explain a lot about how to spell it correctly.
Here's what you'll see if your URL choice is unavailable when you're searching on Google Domains.
Here's what you'll see if your URL choice is unavailable when you're searching on WordPress.
I definitely recommend going with WordPress and here's why: You get your domain name for free your first year and your website hosting package (what you pay to WordPress to save your website on their servers) is as little as $48 USD per YEAR. That's less than a month's worth of Starbucks for me!
3. Build your freelance writing website.
Once you've purchased your domain (ideally through WordPress), you can start setting up your website.
WordPress offers all kinds of templates so you don't need to know a single thing about actually “building” a website or how to code. There are lots of free templates or, if you're feeling inspired, you can pay for premium themes (which can be fairly affordable).
Once you've chosen your theme, you can work on creating your pages. You should create:
Don't worry if you're not sure how to organize these or order them. You can always change things later. Taking action is a great first step to getting a website up and running.
As time goes on and you learn more, you can update and improve your pages. Be sure to update your site when you get new pieces to add to your portfolio or when you feel it's time to change your services, raise your rates, or if you're maintaining a consistent freelancing blog.
4. Share your site with the world.
You just built a freelance writing website! You should be freakin' proud of yourself!
Don't be shy – tell everyone. Put a link on your social profiles. Tell your friends and your mom. This is a moment to be celebrated.
Now you have a professional place to point your potential clients and show off your portfolio work when you apply for freelance writing gigs.
If there's one thing I wish I had started doing sooner in my freelance writing journey, it would be to set goals for how much I wanted to earn each year.
When I was new to entrepreneurship, I ran my business like a hamster on a wheel – spinning, spinning, spinning, and nowhere to go.
I had set my rate (kind of…) but I didn't know how much I wanted to make. And because I didn't know how much I wanted to earn, I didn't have any idea of how much I needed to work to meet my nonexistent goal.
Basically, I took on the attitude of “Well, however much work I can find and complete will be great. No need to make plans for these things.”
I was late to the party… But since I started setting income goals (i.e. how much I wanted to make from my freelance work after taxes 😉), things have taken a turn for the better in my business.
Setting goals has been a game-changer and helped me determine:
- How much money I wanted to make and what I might use it for.
- How to set my rate and when I should consider raising it.
- How much work I needed to do each month to meet my goal based on my chosen rate.
Here are a few tips for setting your first freelance writing income goal.
1. Set your freelance writing rate.
Before you do anything, you'd be wise to actually set your rate as a freelancer.
Why do this first? Because you'll need this number to do the math and figure out how much you'll actually have to work to meet your eventual goal. (Moreover, you'll know whether or not you're willing to work that much.)
Let's break this into tangible numbers.
Side Note: I was in the Math Honor Society in high school and any time I get to do actual math stuff excites me. Because I'm a nerd like that. Sorry, not sorry.
Let's say you set your beginning rate at $0.07 per word – a fair rate for a new freelancer. If you write 500-word blog posts or articles (or whatever) at that rate, you'll make $35 per content piece.
Knowing how much you can expect to make per client assignment as you move forward will help you determine how much money you can realistically earn.
2. Pick a reasonable goal number.
Now that you know what your rate is, pick a big amount you want to make over the course of 12 months. Reach high here! Then do the math to see what it'll take to hit it.
Go back to our $35 per 500-word rate example. Let's say you want to earn $1,000 over the course of the year. How much work and/or how many clients are you going to need to find in 12 months to make that happen?
$1,000 ÷ $35 = 28.5 (so let's round up to 30)
You'll need to write about 30 content pieces of 500 words to make $1,000 in a year. That breaks down to:
30 writing gigs ÷ 12 months = 2.5 (let's round up to 3 here)
Three writing gigs a month to make $1,000. Not bad, right?! You could probably do that almost in your sleep.
3. Add at least a third of your goal to your original number.
That $1,000 you want to make? You want to keep all of that, right?
But you've still gotta pay the taxman.
As a self-employed person or contractor, assume you'll be required to pay at least 30% of your earnings back in annual taxes. This is definitely true if you're an American citizen; if you're from somewhere else, there's a high probability that your tax rate is even higher.
So, to be on the safe side, add at least 30% of your “big number” back to your original goal. If you want to be really safe, make it 50%. If you want to be really, really safe (and challenge yourself), double your original number entirely.
Here's our example again:
$1,000 x 30% = $300
$300 + $1,000 = $1,300
$1,300 ÷ $35 = 37.1 (let's round up to 38)
Now we know you have to write 38 content pieces of 500 words to meet your goal and earn enough to pay taxes on it.
4. Incrementally raise your rate to meet your goal faster.
Every time you land a new gig or client, raise your rate a little more. Just a cent or two per word starts to add up. As you gain confidence and credibility, no one will blink when you ask for 10 cents per word. Or 15 cents. Or 20.
Remember to know your worth and don't be afraid to walk away from opportunities that feel like they're not paying you enough. It's your business, so it's up to you whether or not you choose to negotiate your rate with clients. But if you want more money, stand your ground. If someone doesn't want to pay what you ask (not due to true budget issues, but because they just don't see the value in your work), they're likely not going to be a good client anyway.
You might be able to exceed your goal just because you work hard and find great clients. They can be hard to find, especially when you're just starting out – but they're out there.
Taking time to set goals for your freelance writing business is a must because it gives you a clear trajectory to follow and helps you learn how to thrive as an entrepreneur. I wish I'd started setting goals sooner because it would have helped me feel more secure in what I was doing and plan better.
Don't make the same mistake I made – set some goals, set aside money for taxes, and start making things happen.
This article may contain affiliate links to brands I know, use, and trust. I receive a small commission when you purchase services through these links.
If you have a freelance writing business, you need a web presence. While some writers try to get away with netting all of their business from applying to job postings and cold pitching clients through email and job boards alone, you’ll have a much easier time if you have your own website where you can direct potential clients.
Creating your own website requires a little time up front, but it can pay off in dividends down the line. Here are 6 reasons why you need to have your own freelance writing website.
1. A freelance writing website is a one-stop shop.
Having your own freelance writing website fulfills multiple purposes. Not only will it show potential clients that you’re serious about building your business, but you can use it for networking, too.
Linking to your website in your social media profiles and email signature is a great way to encourage others to connect when you interact with them online.
While you’re at it, get some business cards printed! Moo is a great place for unique, quality business cards and they’re super affordable. Adding your website to your business cards allows you to direct all of your contacts to one convenient place.
Whether people are interested in your services or just want to get to know you better, once they’re on your site, your work will speak for itself.
2. A freelance writing website doubles as a portfolio.
Literally every writing job you apply for will want to see writing samples before hiring you for the gig. That’s just a fact.
Sending PDFs or Word documents as email attachments is clunky and looks unprofessional. It’s so much easier to send a potential client to a sleek, well-curated portfolio page on your very own website.
In addition to your portfolio, the content on your website and any blog posts you write function as a “live” demonstration of the work you can do: Your entire website is a stand-alone portfolio in itself. This is your chance to shine!
You have arguably unlimited online real estate with your own website, so use it wisely. Set up pages that are examples of the services you offer, like a mock landing page with sales copy, a case study, and multiple blog posts.
An impressive, well-rounded website shows potential clients you know your stuff.
3. A freelance writing website attracts clients when you’re off the clock.
For the most part, you’re not going to find a freelance writing job unless you’re out there looking for it. With a website, however, sometimes the jobs can find you.
If you link to your website in your social media profiles and engage in places where your potential clients are likely to be, such as Facebook groups or LinkedIn comments, your target audience might stumble across your website even when you’re not actively looking for them.
The more you get your name out there, the greater the chances you’ll attract attention.
4. Having a website helps you stand out.
Although websites are incredibly useful tools, many freelancers simply don’t have the time, energy, or know-how to create one. Or worse – they don’t care enough to bother.
However, setting up a website is much easier than you might think. Anyone can do it with a little perseverance.
Having a freelance writing website shows you take your business seriously. Plus, creating your own website will put you miles ahead of the competition that can’t be bothered to set one up. You can showcase your technical skills (if that’s something you’re interested in offering) while also showing your clients that you mean business.
You can also tailor your brand and voice to the niche you’re targeting, making it even easier to win over your dream clients.
Potential clients want to know that you understand their industry, so if you can show you’ve done your homework, it will be much easier for them to imagine working with you.
5. You’ll gain useful web experience.
Some clients will want you to have experience posting blogs or web content to a platform like WordPress before they hire you. In this case, having your own website will give you a leg up over the competition.
When you build your own freelance writing website, you learn so much about how the process works. Depending on how you set up your site, you might gain a deeper understanding of how to write copy for landing pages, website pop-ups, and more.
Your website should have what I call the “pillar pages” every respectable website has: A “home” page, a personalized “about” page, a “work with me”-type page outlining what you do, and a “contact” page.
Writing copy for these pages not only teaches you how to do it but it’s another way for you to showcase your abilities and your unique writing voice.
In my opinion, if you plan to offer website copy in your service lineup, having your own freelance writing website as an example of your work is a must.
While you don’t need to have any coding or web skills to make a website, you might pick up on the basics as you go through the process of writing and publishing your own content.
6. You can showcase your personality.
With so many freelancers on the market, a website allows you to establish yourself as an individual. The content on your site gives you the opportunity to inject some personality into your business offerings and let your clients get to know who they might be working with.
This is especially true if you’re working through a freelance writing agency or other gig platform like Fiverr (which, by the way, I don’t recommend for most new freelancers). While yes, you can create profiles for your businesses on these platforms, being able to link to your own website gives you a quick leg up over the writing competition on those sites, too.
Although it’s certainly possible to find freelance writing gigs without a website, there aren’t many cons to making one. At the end of the day, the pros might mean the difference between finding a client or having them pass you by.
A freelance writing website is necessary if you want to build your freelance writing business and stay on the cutting edge of your niche.
Not sure how to best to create your freelance writing website or don’t know where to start? I can help with that! My 6-week freelance writing course, The Write Hustle, will teach you everything you need to know about setting your freelancing rate, designing your site, building your portfolio, finding clients, staying organized, and running your business. Check it out now!
When you start out, deciding how to set your freelance writing rate is intimidating. I’m speaking from experience, here. When I first branched out on my own, I didn’t know what to charge clients.
I was afraid of making one of two rookie mistakes: Either
A) Setting my rate too low and being grossly underpaid for my work, or
B) Setting my rate too high and risk getting laughed out of the room.
But fear not, gentle Write Hustler. I’ve come a long way from my early days of freelance writing and I’m here to help.
If you’re not sure what to charge clients as a new freelance writer or if you’re looking to increase your fees, you’ve come to the “write” place. (See what I did there?) Here are my personal tips to help you set your rate as a freelance writer.
But first… Rule #1: We don’t work for “free.”
Let me say that again for the ladies in the back who can’t hear.
[[ Ahem ]] We don’t work for free.
When you’re just getting started as a freelancer and you’re working on building your portfolio (so that eventually you can feel like a badass and make the big bucks), you may decide to work for next to nothing. Or nothing at all.
To this, I say tread carefully and set a time limit.
There are a few instances where this might be okay, and here they are:
- Your name is being published to show it’s your work and a link or other instructions to get in touch with you included, OR
- You’re allowed to use that content as part of your portfolio and if asked, the client will give you credit for writing it.
That’s it. The only times you should agree to do any kind of work for free is when you will be recognized and “paid” for it in some direct or indirect way. And in some cases, even this might be a stretch. Unless you’re 100% sure your content will actually be published, you run the risk of writing something for literally nothing.
You’re worth more than that. So if you do decide to travel down the “free” freelance writing road, choose a stopping point. When you reach that point, don’t take on non-paying gigs anymore. They only serve you for so long.
Even as a new freelance writer, you still deserve to get something in return for your effort. So let’s dig into how to actually set that rate.
Tip #1: Think about what you want your rate to be.
Take a moment and dream. What, to you, would feel like “making it” as a freelance writer? You need to know your goal rate before you can even think about what to set as your starting rate.
Do you dream of making some extra shopping money from your side hustle?
Paying off your student loans or other debt?
Perhaps you want to make a career of writing and pay all your bills. It’s possible, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
Now, we can’t all be J.K. Rowling or James Patterson (and we’re not all writing novels, for that matter). But we can all work to make a living from writing. You may not make millions, but you can work toward making 6 figures.
Determine where you ultimately want to be so you have something to reach for. This will help you along the way as you gain more experience. Remember, your starting rate is just that – a starting rate. At some point, you’ll be able to raise your rate because your work will be worth more. And that’s how you’ll reach your “dream rate” – whether you’re getting clients through a freelance writing agency or running your own show.
Once you know what you want to strive toward, it’s time to choose your bottom dollar (or cents, in this case).
Tip #2: Choose a reasonable (but not lowball) starting rate.
Please hear me when I say that you are worth this rate and much more.
There will be some people out there asking for writers to cobble something together for less than what you’re asking… But you’re better than that. People who ask for lowball rates get what they pay for and they’re not looking for a professional. That’s just a fact.
I generally recommend new writers start charging no less than $0.05 USD per word. If you’re a native English speaker, you’re worth at least 5 cents per word. If you’re confident in your writing skills, use proper grammar, and understand the ins and outs of tricky punctuation, you’re probably worth more than 5 cents.
This initial rate should be your “bottom dollar” rate – the least amount of money you’re willing to accept for your work.
Whatever your “bottom dollar” rate is, be it 5 cents or 10 cents or even 15 cents, stick to your guns. Resist the urge to drop below your starting rate. If you’re asked to write for less than that, walk away. Someone who doesn’t respect your chosen freelance writing rate won’t be a good client, period.
The one and only exception to this rule is if you’re looking for early freelancing gigs that will help you build your portfolio. If you’re offered a bit less than your “bottom dollar” and you’re comfortable with that, you do you, girl.
Do the math. It'll help you find a rate you're comfortable with.
Think about it this way: You’d never ask a roofing expert for a quote to replace the shingles on your house and then, upon hearing their estimate, bargain with them to lower the cost, would you? You might “shop around” and get a few quotes, look at said experts’ previous work and talk to their past clients, and then make your decision. But you certainly wouldn’t ask them to charge you less because you don’t think what they quoted was fair. (At least I hope not!)
Writers, sadly, are often under-appreciated and it can be tempting to take this bait. I’m telling you right now to stay strong. Respect yourself and others will respect you in return by sticking with your “bottom dollar” rate.
Let’s do some quick math here.
If you’re writing a typical 500-word blog piece or email or whatever, charging $0.05 USD per word will land you $25.
At 10 cents per word, you’ll earn $50.
If you don’t have a professional portfolio of published work or a reference you can share, there’s no shame in starting here. These rates are low, yes, but they’re not so low you won’t be taken seriously or ignored completely.
Starting at 5 or 10 cents per word keeps you in the running for first-time jobs that are already highly competitive. Be sure to ask for permission to share the content with other potential clients as you finalize your agreement. That way, you’ll have something concrete to show next time you apply for a writing gig.
Yes, it will take a while to earn much at this rate. But the point is that you’re just getting started. We’re only greasing the wheels of your hustle here, not trying to pay the mortgage yet.
Tip #3: Increase your freelance writing rate with every new gig or client (or every few).
Unlike other jobs where you start at a certain rate and every few months or years you get a raise, freelancing allows for more flexibility. You set the rate and you ultimately decide what you’re going to accept.
As you land more writing jobs, you can begin increasing your rate by a few cents per word. If you’re feeling nervous about this whole “charge what your worth” mantra, mini rate increases may give you the boost of confidence you need.
Remember to stick to your “bottom dollar” – don’t accept work that dips below that rate. As you gain experience writing for more clients, add a cent or two (or three!) to your rate per word. Every new gig, your rate gets a little higher and you get closer to hitting your “dream rate.”
This is a well-known practice among freelancers everywhere and for good reason. Incrementally increasing your rate helps you build confidence in your own craft and worth.
Tip #4: Find a comfortable position and hold it for a while.
Depending on how you choose to set up your business, you may not always have the ability to simply raise your rate with every new assignment.
When you accept one-off jobs, you can easily increase your freelance writing rate from new client to new client.
However, if you’re like me, you enjoy taking multiple assignments from the same clients. This means you’ll have to choose a rate at the beginning and stick with it for a while. After all, your clients assume when they hire you your rate will remain consistent for at least a little while. This should be stipulated in your contractual agreement.
PRO TIP: It’s smart to include some kind of wording in your contracts that your rate is subject to go up. This covers your butt for when you’re ready to increase your rate with long-term clients.
All of that to say… there is a ceiling. Even if you’re more into single-serve jobs, finding a comfortable rate and sticking to it for a while is a good practice. It keeps you aligned with other writers who have a similar amount of experience and helps you build a name for yourself.
Having a constantly fluctuating rate can come back to bite you. If you’re fortunate enough to have clients recommend you to other business owners, you don't want to quote wildly different rates. While you’re still a “newbie” writer, you also don’t want rates so high that you can’t compete for decent jobs. Those are the gigs that will help you build your portfolio.
Beginner vs. Intermediate vs. Expert Freelance Writer
It’s good to know where your rate ought to be in terms of your experience level. This helps you know how best to market your skills.
If you have a good feeling about how you measure up in terms of experience, you can continue to inch your way toward the next experience-level bracket. Little by little, you’ll get closer to your “dream rate” and achieving your goals.
As a beginner freelance writer – meaning you have little or no freelancing experience or published work – I recommend maxing out somewhere around 15 cents per word. Once you have a solid portfolio of at least 3-5 content pieces you can show as proof of your skills, you can probably level up and consider yourself an “intermediate” freelance writer.
If you're an intermediate freelancer, it’s safe to charge upwards of 25 cents per word. You should have a rather substantial portfolio and/or several past clients who have given you testimonials you can use as social proof.
Once you hit the “expert” level, you can charge north of 50 cents per word. This likely means you’re super, SUPER niched down and write for a few specific industries or have specific content types you specialize in and do well. You need to have concrete examples to show your clients before anyone takes you seriously at this rate.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to charge $1 or more per word. It takes time, but people do it!
Tip #5: Consider negotiating a rate on certain opportunities.
As a beginner, I recommend being open to negotiating. However, as an intermediate or expert writer, I say take it or leave it. There are a couple of big reasons for this.
When you're starting out, you’re still building your portfolio. Arguably, you need the experience more than you need the money. If you’re extended a great opportunity or are in talks with a great client, it’s probably worth agreeing to a lower rate in the long run. This is particularly true when they're willing to let you link to the content as part of your portfolio.
But once again, knowing your “bottom dollar” is going to play a part here. No matter how great the opportunity, stand firm in your starting rate and don’t dip below it. Remember your worth.
As an intermediate or expert freelance writer, you may want to be open to negotiations for the same reason: Certain opportunities could really enhance and strengthen your portfolio. However, don’t be tempted to always “drop your pants” and give a lower rate just to get more work.
Even when you consider yourself a seasoned freelancer, you should still have a “bottom dollar” that aligns with your experience level. If you decide to negotiate and write for a lower rate, it still needs to be worth your while.
Tip #6: Learn to know when you’re too high or too low.
There may come a time when, as you’re increasing your rate, you get carried away. Or maybe you don’t have the portfolio to back up the rate you’re asking.
Alternatively, you may be selling yourself short if you’ve been handing over excellent work and not raising your rate often enough.
Take the rate hints subtly (or unsubtly) offered by your clients into consideration.
If you’re losing clients or getting turned down for new gigs, your rate may be too high.
Remember that you need to honor your contractual agreement with your long-term clients. Raising your rate with these folks may come as a bit of a shock depending on how much more you’re charging. While it’s important to take this into consideration, don’t let that stop you from charging more when an appropriate amount of time has passed, like 6-12 months.
To get a feel for what your client can and can’t afford, do some sleuthing online. Check out their social channels, personal social accounts, and their website, if applicable. If they look like they’re raking in enough money, confidently raise your rate. If they look like they might be struggling, consider negotiating a temporary deal until they can meet your new rate. If you like your clients, flexibility goes a long way.
(To be clear, this is all pretty subjective. You can’t really know what’s going on in your clients’ bank accounts purely based on what they do on social media. However, it can give you a great insight into whether a “sob story” is true or just an attempt to save money. We all try to save where we can, right? Your clients are no different, and that’s okay!)
The competition may be playing a part, too.
If you’re getting turned down for new one-off jobs, it may be because your rate is too high compared to other people pitching for the same gig. You might still be marketing yourself as a beginner, for example, when you should be marketing yourself as an intermediate writer instead.
Alternatively, you just might not have enough experience to show for the price you’re asking. That’s okay, and you can always adjust your rate based on the opportunities you get and don’t get. Build up your portfolio a bit more and come back to that rate later.
PRO TIP: Also remember that everyone can’t be your client. Just because one client doesn’t want to pay your rate doesn’t mean someone else won’t, either. We can’t please everyone. Before you drop your rate, grow some thick skin and tolerate several “nos.” You might just be catering to the wrong clientele and need to market to a different, more cash-rich audience.
If your clients rave about you to others (or to you personally!) or you can’t keep up with the amount of work you have, it might be time for a rate increase.
When clients talk about your rates being “affordable” or – and this has happened – lower than other writers they’ve used in the past, it’s probably pretty safe to raise your rate at the next opportunity.
People who willingly sing your praises and enjoy working with you enough to recommend you to others are more likely to accept a rate increase. In fact, they may think (or realize) they’re getting a smokin’ hot deal and feel your rate is actually low for the work you provide.
Likewise, if you’ve got so much work that you can’t really afford to take anyone else on, you’re literally leaving money on the table. Raising your rate gives you the ability to make more money for the good work you do.
All of this to say… listen to your clients! If they’re very happy, you can confidently assume your work will make other clients happy and that you can likely charge more. So charge more. At your next opportunity, increase your long-term rate with your clients or quote a higher rate to a new client and step into that abundance, baby. You earned it.
If clients don’t want to pay your higher rate, don’t be scared. That simply means it’s just not a good fit anymore. “Losing” them is actually a blessing in disguise because it opens an opportunity for you to find a higher-paying client. And just like that, you’re making more money!
Setting your freelance writing rate isn’t an exact science.
It’s different for everyone – some come to the table with a concrete idea of their work’s worth and others have to feel it out. I was certainly the latter for a long time.
Try a few rates on for size until you find an amount you feel fits and reflects your work’s worth. Don’t let money cloud your enthusiasm for getting started as a freelance writer.