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How Do I Start Working as a Freelance Writer?

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is the original Ninja Writer.


How Do I Start Working as a Freelancer?

  • First, it's important to understand that some parts of being a freelance writer are in your control, and some are not.
  • You can control your work ethic and whether or not you give up when things don't go the way you hope they will.
  • You can control your efforts to build and connect with your audience.
  • You can control your efforts to become a better writer.
  • You cannot control whether or not a publisher contracts you for work.
  • You can't control whether your readers respond.

Putting your efforts into the things you can control and not obsessing about the things you can't is how you start working as a freelancer.

Three Steps to Becoming a Freelance Writer:

  1. Figure out what you want to write about.
  2. Decide who your audience is.
  3. Choose where you want to place your work.

Each of these steps is described fully below.

Figure Out What You Want to Write About

My favorite method for figuring out what to write about involves asking yourself four questions.

  • What are you good at?
  • What do you want to be good at?
  • What interests you?
  • What is interesting about you?

Freelance writers can do one of two things. Teach something or learn something. You only need to be a step or two ahead of your readers to teach them. And readers will show up to watch you learn something that they're interested in as well.

The things you're good and that are interesting about you are the things you can teach. The things you want to be good at and that interest you are the things you can write about as you learn.


Go Where the Questions Are

This is the best technique I know for finding exactly what readers want to know about any subject.


Quora is a social media platform that focuses on questions and answers. You can type in any topic you want to write about and Quora will offer you up a list of real questions that real people have asked.

The photo above shows an actual Quora search for the term "freelance writing."

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You can see how many people are following each question, which is a good indication of whether or not you have a potential audience. A question on Quora with a lot of followers is likely to be a question that a lot of people are interested in the answer to.

Make a list of questions and plan your freelance writing projects around answering them.

Decide Where You Want to Write

Freelance writing has changed so much in the last few years.

Used to be, if you wanted to be a freelancer, your only choice was to send query letters to magazines or websites or other publications describing your idea, then wait for a response. Either they'd reject your idea or they'd ask you to write it and offer you pay.

Now you can sign up to write on platforms like Hubpages or Medium, where you don't have to pass a gatekeeper before you're allowed to start writing.

You can also start your own website. In this case, you'll be in charge of figuring out how to get paid, usually by placing ads on your site, finding sponsors, or developing a product (like books or courses) that you can sell.

Decide where you want to host your work.

If you want more control, choose your own website.

If you want control over your content, but will be happy to let someone else manage the money end of things, choose a site like Hubpages or Medium.

If you want more prestige, higher pay per post, and you have patience, send query letters to traditional publications and websites.


The Things You Can Control (and the Things You Can't)

It's so easy to get caught up in obsessing about things that you have no control over.

You can't control whether or not an editor connects with your ideas.

You can't control whether or not readers respond to your work.

But you can control whether or not you do the work. Your work ethic is among your most precious commodities as a freelancer. Treat your work like a job. Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it.

And you can control how you connect with your readers. Start building an email list, so that you can tell your fans where to find your work. Your email list belongs to you. It will allow you to bring your readers with you, where ever freelancing takes you.

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