This guide on how to be a freelance content writer is a guest post by Rhiannon.
I have always loved writing ever since I was a child. I enjoyed all creative subjects really, from art to language learning, but writing was the main thing that I was always good at.
When the careers advisor at schools asked me what I wanted to be, and I said ‘a writer’, she just laughed and told me that being a writer wasn’t a career. She told me that if I liked writing, I should look at doing touch typing and office orientated work.
Well, after years of mind-numbing office orientated work, I decided to quit my job for a year and travel.
In my head, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to try and launch my writing career, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it at all. What ended up being a bit of a vague plan did indeed work out, and the money I earned from freelancing more or less kept me traveling for the whole year that I was away!
So, that’s why I’m here to share what I know about how to be a freelance content writer because I know how it feels to be starting out and not have a clue where to begin looking.
I just kind of learnt along the way, using my own knowledge from blogging, doing some research, and just working like hell! But boy would it have been handy to have had a guide back then with the basics all laid out on how to be a copywriter!
So I’ll share some handy tips on how to find your first writing gigs, point you in the direction of some fantastic groups that focus on how to get into copywriting, and even places you can go to that will help you launch your writing career.
How to Be a Freelance Content Writer
1. Know What You’re Talking About – Freelance Content Writer vs Copywriting
There are a few different broad terms that get thrown about, without people really understanding what they mean.
If you want to offer a service, then obviously the first step is to know that service inside out. You don’t want to make a fool out of yourself and nod along to things, only to find out later that you’ve jumped in the deep end and have no idea what’s going on.
It’s entirely possible to do several things, which is why you might often hear me saying that I’m a copywriter, a freelance content writer, or a social media manager because I do all of these things.
Copywriting vs Content Writing
Content writing is a more general term for a freelance writer, and usually encompasses writing a variety of content (could be long-form pieces, evergreen content etc.), but in my experience, it’s usually things like blog posts. Content writing can be done in any sort of style in your own voice.
The main difference between content writing and copywriting is that copywriters will be expected to create content in a certain tone of voice in keeping with the brand that they are working for.
Most brands will already have a style kit put together, which will tell you about the brand, the tone of voice they want, and the language they prefer to use. Copywriters are also usually expected to have some basic knowledge of marketing under their belt, and also often write short pieces for marketing such as email campaigns and adverts.
So if you want to get ahead on how to be a copywriter, then perhaps look into a basic marketing course or read up on the subject.
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An incredibly important part of writing for an internet audience these days is SEO. It’s more than likely that you will need to have at least a basic knowledge of this in order to get some paid writing work.
SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ and in a nutshell, means that you use specific keywords or phrases in your text which will help the article move up the ranks in google searches. So one of my main tips on how to get into copywriting is to get some reading done, so that you understand what to do and what is considered ‘good SEO’ and ‘bad SEO’.
Along with the piece that you have written, you may or may not be expected to write the meta title and meta description to go along with it.
Metadata will basically be short descriptions of what you have written, that should also include the keyword that you have been focusing on, and kind of comes under the same sort of umbrella as SEO in the sense that it will help the article get further in search results. So again, if you’re wondering how to be a copywriter, brush up and do some reading!
2. Before You Apply as a Freelance Content Writer
Before you start applying for jobs, I think it’s well worth investing some time in making an awesome CV.
As a freelance content writer, there can be some fierce competition and you want to stand out from the crowd! I use Canva for mine, and make it as eye-catching as I can, with easy to read sections, stats (if applicable), social media channels and a link to a portfolio or blog.
I would also start making an online portfolio if you don’t already have one or a blog (I’ve used my blog plenty of times and people are more than happy with it) so that you can use to showcase work.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have an existing blog, and haven’t got any content yet, I would suggest writing some sample pieces that you can put on there. Try and get a good variety, like
- a sample travel piece;
- an SEO piece;
- a funny listicle-style article;
- and perhaps something a bit more technical so that you have a wide range for prospective clients to look at.
3. How to Find Paid Gigs as a Freelance Content Writer
My main tips on how to get into copywriting or content writing and look for jobs is to utilise social media and networking.
I actually got my first client through a recommendation of a friend, who found out about it on Twitter.
Join Twitter threads and lists for writers, keep an eye on certain hashtags, and follow relevant companies. Make a Linkedin profile and connect with other freelancers and companies, join Facebook Groups, put yourself out there and keep your finger on the pulse!
Some Facebook groups that I have found great for learning and picking up writing jobs are:
- Remote Like Me – By Taylor Lane
Taylor has been working remotely for a while and specialises in helping others do the same. She offers one-on-one paid courses, BUT she also has a lot of wonderful invaluable free content. She shares plenty of helpful tips on the group and sends out remote jobs that she has sourced in her newsletter.
- Female Digital Nomads
Ok, this one is obviously not so great if you are a guy, but for women looking for a supportive like-minded community where you can find jobs, tips and tricks, and a group of ladies that understand you, then this is a great one!
- The Copywriter Club
This group is a super knowledgeable and welcoming bunch of copywriters. You can learn a lot from them, and they’re very supportive in answering questions or helping out if you’re a bit stuck. Occasionally, people also post jobs to the group as well.
Freelance Websites & Remote Job Boards
Another aspect of how to get into copywriting is freelance websites and remote job boards. You can find tonnes of handy lists all over the internet with a quick google search, but some of my favourites that have worked well for me on various occasions are:
Upwork can have a bit of a bad rep, and sure, when I first joined, I hated it. I left it for a bit and then went back and persevered with it. It’s not something that everyone can use as the main earner, because there is a lot of competition and people offering stupidly low rates, but I have had some nice little side-earner projects through Upwork that have boosted my income.
Jobspresso is a remote job board with 1,000+ vacancies for a variety of remote jobs, including various writing opportunities. They’ve been featured in the likes of Forbes and CIO.
Another great remote job board is Remote.co They feature various remote jobs, including writing jobs, and also have an interesting and informative blog of their own.
Another unique experience, which I came across in Thailand, is a writer’s residency in Koh Samui called The Content Castle I stayed there for 3 months and had an incredible time. It’s the first of it’s kind, and I’m hoping that it will start to really gain some momentum.
I think it’s perfect for anyone who wants to become a freelance content writer and wants to gain some guided experience.
Basically, you can stay for between 1 – 3 months, and in exchange for writing content for their various clients, you receive free food and accommodation.
It’s great for newbies who want to break into the industry, but also great to help you progress and generally add a bit more to your portfolio. Since all your work goes through a 3-step editing process, I personally found that my writing really improved. Here are some more choices.
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If you’re feeling brave and really want to get yourself out there as a freelance content writer, then consider doing some cold pitches. Research companies, get contact details from their website or Linkedin, and contact them offering your services.
There’s a certain knack to this, as you want to hone in on what they’re missing (like if their blog sucks or hasn’t been updated in a year), list the benefits of why they should focus more on this, and then pitch why you would be perfect to do it for them. The return rate can either be great or non-existent, but it’s certainly worth a try!
Further Your Writing Career—The Next Step
Further your writing career once you’ve gained some experience by focusing on a niche that you can be an authority on.
A great example is a friend I met several years ago in Thailand. She started off as a freelance content writer, writing just about anything that was passed her way, even random things like product descriptions for hoovers! She’s always been a big fan of cannabis, and started writing a few articles on that.
The funny things is, at first it wasn’t a major earner, but since the legalisation in many states of America, the business has boomed, and she’s now being head-hunted to write for big companies.
At the moment, she’s earning about $4k a month from writing about cannabis!
My main niche tends to be centered around travel. Besides my love of travel and personal travel experience, I worked for a travel insurance company for several years. I dealt with medical emergencies abroad, organising visa paperwork, and giving travel advice on vaccinations etc.
Most of my work as a freelance content writer is more the technical side of travel, consisting of guides for expats (anything from guides on visas to where to find products that you miss, or lists of the most quirky bars and restaurants), crafting travel itineraries, writing travel blog posts for travel companies, and managing social media accounts.
I am so happy to say now that writing is still my full-time job, even though I’m back home in England (for now!).
In fact, as I’m writing this article, I’m about to receive the most money I have ever earnt in one month, even compared to my old office job.
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I’m by no means a millionaire, and I won’t pretend to be earning six figures and living it up, but it goes to show that if you’ve got a natural talent for something and you’re passionate about it and work hard, it will come to fruition.
Being a writer was my dream job and what I loved more than anything else; my love for travel and the leap I finally made to take some risks made my dream job my reality. Perhaps not in the way I had expected, but being a freelance content writer is a perfect fit for me.
Is it the perfect fit for you too? Let us know in the comments!
Rhiannon is an adventure loving freelance writer who has been working remotely and traveling since 2016. You’ll find her wandering across obscure landscapes, riding her motorbike or probably drinking whiskey somewhere. You can follow her latest escapades on her blog The Gypsy Heart Travels.
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.