Be a Freelance Writer: Do You Have It in You?

Rejection stings, doesn’t it?

You decide to give freelance writing a try, work your little tail off answering job ad after job ad,  only to  hear nothing back.

Then, finally, someone is interested. You send them an email telling them your relevant background info and you are the writer for them.

Be a Freelance Writer: Do You Have It in You?

You wait in anticipation and when you see they returned your email you give yourself a little fist-pump.

But, it’s short-lived; the prospect decides they are going a different way and don’t need your services.

More likely, though, you will hear nothing back and you will be left hanging, wondering what you did wrong.

Chalk it up to inexperience, a bad first impression or not liking your writing, rejection sucks.

So, do you have it in you to freelance and hustle your butt off?

My series, Be a Freelance Writer: A Step-by-Step Approach, will help turn you – a SAHM, SAHD, part-time worker or burned out worker– into a successful freelance writer. Through a series of posts, I will give a step-by-step guide on getting your writing business up and running.

Each post will tackle the writing side or business side of freelance writing.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what freelance writing is all about, this post is going to make sure you are ready for what it takes to be a freelance writer.

Not everyone is cut out for it, and those that are, often doubt they want to continue.

The Cold Hard Truth About Getting Started

Many freelance writers have an idea of what the writing business is all about. They imagine waking up any time they want, wearing pajamas all day and sipping coffee while they type.

Having flexible hours, not having a boss breathing down your neck and being able to work from anywhere is enough to get people excited over getting paid to write.

But, as you land more and more writing jobs and you are more involved in your freelance writing business, you’ll start to uncover the hard truth – there’ a lot more to it than just writing.

Let’s look at 6 hard truths about getting started in the freelance writing business.

1. Long Hours

Face it – don’t expect to land a writing gig within the first month starting your business. For many freelance writers, it can take them up to 3-6 months before they land their first paid writing gig (sooner if you follow my tips in this series).

So, during the first 6 months (and even longer), you ‘re going to be working hard and working long hours.

But, if you don’t have any – or many– clients, what the heck are you doing?

The first thing you need to do is establish yourself in the freelance writing industry (my series will touch on this off and on in various posts as it’s a highly important and an integral part of landing high-paying writing gigs).

Since you are a one-woman or one-man show, you are also responsible for:

  • Promoting your brand
  • Building your portfolio
  • Sending out pitch letters to job ads
  • Working on attracting prospective clients to your writer website.

On top of all this, once you do have a steady amount of writing work, you also need to manage your time efficiently while still being able to create a healthy work-life balance.

Being your own boss is time consuming. Having to wear the hats of an entire business doesn’t leave much room in a day for anything else.

So, before you think you can take every weekend off and cut every day short, realize that if you truly want to be a success as a freelance writer, you need to put in the time and work… in the beginning.

As you become more successful, you will have opportunities to scale your freelance writing business and diversify your income, leaving you more time to travel, spend time with your family or have a weekend off.

This will be tough for SAHM’s. I’m a mother to twin toddlers and on top of writing for my clients, I have to:

  • Take care of my twins throughout the day
  • Prepare all the meals
  • Do all the laundry
  • Go grocery shopping weekly
  • Tend to the house (inside and out)
  • Spend quality time with my husband
  • Spend quality (in the moment) time with my children

So, you can see, my day is already  packed full with other obligations.

But, even though I spend around 3-4 hours a day actually writing, I’ve managed to land many writing gigs and grow my business to what it is now. But, I barely have time for myself and this is one of the prices you pay being your own boss.

2. You Will Have Distractions

Having the ability to work from home is a great feeling.

With so much flexibility, you won’t realize how many distractions are built in when you stay home.

For example:

  • children
  • social media
  • email
  • family
  • life in general

Be prepared to draw the line when you begin freelance writing from home. Give yourself times in the day to check your email and/or social media, because if you don’t you won’t get much work done otherwise.

If you have small children, you may have to write whenever they sleep. Or, you could give them some quite time activities during the day if you have a tight deadline and need that time to write.

Find ways to maximize your time and minimize your distractions. It can be as easy as closing the door when you’re working or as involved as sending your kids to day care three days a week. If you want to succeed, find a way to tame your distractions.

3. You’ll Have a “New” Type of Boss

So, you know how I said one of the perks to being a freelance worker is the fact that you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck?

While this is technically true, you will still have clients breathing down your neck. These clients are now your new boss, so to speak. You provide a service and with that comes following the guidelines and requirements your clients tell you.

You might have a client with short deadlines or one that requires multiple revisions. You might even fall victim to bad clients:

  • The scope creeper – a client that keeps piling on more work after you agreed to a set amount
  • The “I’m never happy” client– a client that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the writing assignment and then when you turn in your work, complains you did it wrong
  • The late payer – a client that takes their time to pay you and never gives you a reason why they are always late

Every freelance writer will come in contact with one of these clients. Realize it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns running a freelance writing business. Sometimes you have to be a hard-ass.

Do you have it in you?

4. Your Income Will Be Inconsistent and Variable

Have you heard of the starving freelance writer?

Or, how about hearing that the freelance writing business is like a revolving door – one client in, another client out.

When you first start freelance writing, be prepared to climb a steep hill in terms of obtaining the same amount of pay you received at your old job.

Since you want work, you’ll take any work that comes your way – whether it’s equivalent to $15/hr or $100/hr.

Not all clients value content like we do. Many clients will undervalue your writing, and if you are new and don’t know otherwise, you’ll take the job not realizing that you’re essentially working for pennies.

But, that’s okay because everyone has to start somewhere.

You’ll also encounter inconsistent pay. One month you might make $1,000 and the next month it might drop to $400 because one client dropped their content needs and another decided to drop your services.

This is normal for a freelance writer and if you want the chance of having a lucrative business of your own, the sooner you understand this, the better chance you’ll have at succeeding.

And with my  “paid to write” series, you will learn guaranteed ways to land clients and earn more than pennies among other things – making you a successful freelancer!

5. You’ll Doubt Yourself In the Beginning

I’m technically not a formally-trained writer.

I don’t have a journalism degree or a background in writing. In fact, I have a Bachelors in Psychology and my career before this was working as a special education assistant in a school setting.

I definitely had doubts about becoming a freelance writer. You start to wonder:

Am I a good writer?

I’m poor at grammar. I can’t be a writer then!

Her writing is so much better. No one will like my writing

You start to compare yourself to other freelance writers and doubt starts to settle in, making you realize you may not be cut out for this.

But, you know what?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a formal background in writing. You can still make a ton of money online writing for other people!

All you have to remember is this: No on can write like you do.

Clients who hire you, want YOU. They want your writing style and your writing voice.

Just keep that fact in mind next time you feel any doubt about choosing this career.

6. You’re Not Going to Like Every Writing Gig

In the beginning, you may not have the credibility or authority to pick and choose your clients. This comes with time.

So, most of your writing gigs may not be very exciting, but if it pays well, most likely you’ll keep them on as a client until something better opens up.

I encourage you to find any paid work because this will help you:

  • Become a better writer
  • Build your credibility as a paid writer
  • Build your portfolio
  • Land more clients

Remember, you don’t have to keep these clients for the long haul if you don’t want to. Use the clients that you don’t really like to write for as a learning experience.

My first writing gig was for an automotive enthusiast site. I am not a car enthusiast and I know absolutely nothing about cars.

But, they liked my limited portfolio and I must have made an impression during the phone interview, because they hired me.

Another writing gig I secured was for a phone app I knew nothing about. I’m the least tech savvy person around, but my portfolio and Google hangout interview sealed the deal.

I still write for both of these clients, and you know what?

While they aren’t the easiest topics to write about, the work is fairly consistent and the clients are wonderful and easy to work with.

So, don’t be afraid to write for a WordPress site or a digital marketing firm. Tell yourself, these writing gigs are a learning experience.

 Do You Have It in You?

I just laid out 6 hard truths about freelance writing. If you’re still gung-ho about getting paid to write after reading this, then you passed the test and you’re on your way to being a legit freelance writer.

You’re now ready to start building your writer platform. My first post talked about establishing an online presence.

For my next post in this series, I want to focus on the core of this – your writer platform. Learn what it is and how to build a writer platform that will get you noticed.

Until next time, let me know if you’re still ready to start getting paid to write after learning about some hard truths.

And for all you newbie freelance writers out there, if you need some coaching or mentoring, you know where to find me!

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Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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45 Comments

Hello Elna, Thank you for this honest post. Writing has always been a part of my life, but I never seriously considered it as a career. I am currently a sophomore in college and am looking into becoming a freelance writer. I think I am mostly concerned about needing to take jobs that do not interest me. How much creative freedom do you feel that you have in writing for clients? Thanks!Reply to Jessica
Hi Jessica! Thanks so much! As for creative freedom, it depends on the client. One of my clients gives me no deadline and I can write as I want. But I do keep in mind their audience and the type of information they want to have on their blog. Since I’m a B2B writer, I know writing for businesses is factual, engaging and full of actionable advice. However you package that can be up to you as long as it mirrors the client’s voice and message.Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, I’m 2 weeks old into this freelance writing business. I’ve been pitching to job ads and cold pitching local companies but no bites yet. I’m starting to doubt myself, when this post came through the email, lol. I’d thought my niche would be travel and personal development but it seems like the travel blogs are really paying low and I’m not quite sure how to find businesses that are into personal development. You mentioned writing for things we have no clue about. But how do we do that? I see lots of ads for digital marketing but I’m not confident to try them, since usually the prospects are looking for people with experience. I’ve set up a writer’s website… but I’m not sure how to market myself through it. Your insight is much appreciated!Reply to June
Hey June! I have a lot of resources including my Write to 1k course https://writeto1k.com that can answer your questions. Yes the travel niche and parenting niche are not high paying since there is no demand for writers. Any blogger can write about travel or being a parent for the most part. I wouldn’t worry too much about having experience in digital marketing or business writing. Guest post in those niches and then pitch with those samples. You’ll land gigs.Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, I enjoyed your post, and your points are well orchestrated. I have been writing for less than 5 years, and I graduated from the Art Institute of California with a Advertising Degree concentrated in Copywriting. None the less, it is very challenging to wrangle your freelance schedule. I am still learning about managing clients, and I have learned that a freelance writer, or any freelance title must have a “Bullet Proof Soul.” Clients can be wonderful, and they can be vicious. The “Client” subject is a sticky category because it must handled professionally, and the freelancer’s guidelines must be illustrated clearly in the contract. Anyway, I appreciate you sharing your knowledge, and I look forward to reading your future posts. Best Regards, MikeReply to Mike
Hi Mike! Thanks and I totally understand where you’re coming from in regards to having a “bullet proof soul” when working with clients. Managing clients can be tricky for a freelance writer, but you’re right – it takes time and you win some and lose some. Thanks for stopping by! ElnaReply to Elna
Thank you for voicing all of my own anxieties! I’ve been writing for years and I still feel under-qualified and over-distracted. I am finally letting go of being perfect and focusing on finding clients that are a good fit for my writing style and my time constraints. It means less money, but a lot more happiness. Thanks again!Reply to Tara
Hi Tara, Writing is personal and it’s hard when it gets scrutinized by others. You suddenly have the imposter syndrome where you think how can someone pay me for my writing? You believe you are not good enough. It’s hard but as you secure more and more clients, that feeling goes away! Good luck on your freelance writing career! ElnaReply to Elna
Excellent article! Love how concise you are… I always waffle. Will be reading the rest of this series… I think this is the next step for me 🙂Reply to Mel
Thanks Mel! Glad you liked my series thus far. Today I published my next part so if you want take a look and enjoy! ElnaReply to Elna
What a great article on getting started writing and the possible pitfalls you will come across.Reply to Tessa
Hi Tessa, It’s nice to see a new face on my blog! Freelance writing is a profitable career, but you have to approach it the right way for it to be successful. I hope this series will help steer people in the right direction! Thanks for stopping by. ElnaReply to Elna
Elna, thanks for sharing your experience…! 🙂 It was really amazing tips about writing, and it really educate me a lot about how to get starting with freelancing. Actually, I’m not a freelancer but I’ve got a plan for starting. My new blog just launched last month, and I’ve offered some of freelance project such as writing. I was really wondering about how to build portfolio for my business, but now you have make me sense. thanks for sharing..Reply to Kimsea
Hi Kimsea, That’s awesome that you want to be a freelance writer! Way to go. I will work on how to build a portfolio for my series. I can tell this series will be a long one! But I hope it won’t bore anyone. There’s a lot that goes into being a freelance writer. Thanks for the comment! ElnaReply to Elna
Thank you SO MUCH for these tips! I’m definitely still in the learn-as-I-go stage, and have to fit in blogging around my “real” job. But my goal is to become a professional freelancer. I’ll be following you and your advice closely!! Thank you againReply to karyl
Thanks so much Karyl! I’m glad my tips are helping you out with your freelance journey. Blogging and freelance writing on the side is hard when you have a family to take of and another job to go to. Good luck on pursuing your dreams. If you ever need coaching, shoot me an email at [email protected]Reply to Elna
This is the best post, I have read in a long time. Yes, freelancing writing isn’t all rainbows but as you’ve said, it is all worth it. 😀 Also…. please do correct piad* on LinkedIn* 🙂Reply to Karishma
Thanks for your compliment! I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Yes I realized I spelled Paid wrong on LI! Go figure. When you speed typing with twin toddlers climbing all over you, it can be a challenge to correctly spell everything! Thanks for the heads up though! ElnaReply to Elna
Hi Elna, It’s SO key to crave freedom over doing uncomfortable stuff. I love living in paradise and writing articles, posts and books, so I focus on the freeing feeling more each day, because that focus brought me here and expands my presence daily. If you love being free more than you fear doing uncomfortable things you’ll blast through the resistance noted about….and yep, we all hit these obstacles 😉 Thanks for sharing! RyanReply to Ryan
I know you LOVE writing Ryan! Pulling 4 or 5000 word blog posts is a feat! You tell such great stories that get you sucked in quickly! I’m going to have to sit down one of these days and read everything you write! I have a lot to learn from you. Freelance writing is freeing and so is blogging if you can make a living from it. That’s the hard part – not working like a dog just to make survive. But, you have to start somewhere right? ElnaReply to Elna
thank you for this, it is very informative. Lots of people doesn’t have realistic expectations when they are working as a freelance or at home.Reply to Cindy
Hi Cindy, Glad you stopped by! It’s true that people don’t have realistic expectations when it comes to being their own boss. There’s more to it then just writing or marketing. There’s a whole other side to it and then you have to consider work-life balance. ElnaReply to Elna
thanks for sharing this post – very helpful!!Reply to Tianna
Thanks Tianna! Glad you liked my post. If you ever think about getting paid to write, feel free to contact me! ElnaReply to Elna
I too am thinking about diving into the freelance writing world, thank you so much for your helpful tips!Reply to Jenn
Congrats on the big decision! Great to know Jenn. I hope my series will inspire you to take the plunge. Make sure to read part one where I talk about the first three steps to take! Starting up can be overwhelming if you have children, but if you do it one bit at a time, it won’t seem that difficult. Good luck and if you need any coaching email me at [email protected]!Reply to Elna
Definitely a lot of great things to think about. I love how upfront you are about everything involved.Reply to Jessy
Hi Jessy! Thanks so much. I’m really liking this blog series. When I first started I didn’t find anything that just laid it out – for free! I got tips here and there but nothing definitive. So I thought there are others like me that want to get into paid writing so why not just write it on my blog! So glad you liked it. ElnaReply to Elna
What a really honest, revealing post! I think it’s so helpful to embark on new careers with open eyes – embracing the excitement, but also being totally honest with yourself about the pitfalls you may encounter, as well. And so often, I think that, when you’re prepared for those pitfalls, they’re much less disheartening and much easier to overcome. Great, insightful read! 😀Reply to Shelley
What a great way to say what I wrote Shelley! Want to be a freelance writer?? LOL. You’re right, it’s good to know what exactly you’re getting into – the good and the ugly. One thing I didn’t mention, but that happened to me 6 months in is how I unknowingly distanced myself from my husband. We both work at home and we ended up spending all our time with our children or on our business. We had to step back and assess what was going on. Luckily we nipped it in the bud and are making efforts to spend quality time together. ElnaReply to Elna
As a SAHM trying to kickstart a freelance writing career, these tips are so helpful. Thanks for a little added inspiration!Reply to Fiona
Thanks for these great tips and advice. There are so many things to learn about blogging and writing and trying to make any money. It can be so frustrating and slow. I appreciate hearing any advice from those who have trudged through it! Thanks!Reply to Mom
Blogging is a big thing to handle when you are new to it. I never knew the little things about blogging and am actually considering writing a post on how to write a blog post! Crazy, I know, but I feel some new bloggers and freelance writers don’t know how to properly write and site a blog post. Thanks for stopping by! ElnaReply to Elna
This is an excellent post and resource, for someone considering freelance writing. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience.Reply to Jane
Thanks Jane. I hope to inspire bloggers, SAHM’s and those just interested in supplementing their current income in freelance writing. It can definitely be a lucrative career. Thanks for stopping by. ElnaReply to Elna
Signed up and I’ll check it out, thanks!Reply to annabelt
Thanks Anna! Glad you enjoyed my blog and this blog series on getting paid to write. I’ll be sure to check out your post! ElnaReply to Elna
Lots of great information! I especially liked that part about distractions and children. I’m very familiar with that aspect of writing life!Reply to Eva
Hi Eva, Yes having kids around you while you write can be a huge distraction. That’s why I only do my client work when my twins are sleeping. I can do email, social media and sometimes pitching when they are awake. Glad you like my series! ElnaReply to Elna
I’m just getting started and it’s tough! Thanks for the info and making me feel like I’m not alone (:Reply to sara
Yes, freelance writing is tough, especially if you are a SAHM!I never imagined taking this route, but after doing it for less than a year, I can safely say that I really love freelance writing and the freedom it gives me. Thanks for coming over to my blog! ElnaReply to Elna
This is a GREAT post, especially about managing expectations, the work load ahead of you and what to work on yourself! Great job!!Reply to Kaitie
Hi Katie! Thanks for stopping by! Glad you liked my post on getting paid to write. Once you decide to be a freelance writer, there are some misconceptions so hopefully I laid it all out for everyone! It isn’t all rainbows you know. Thanks again ElnaReply to Elna
Awesome post, Elna – I’ve been MIA recently so I missed the first post in this series (will correct that mistake right away!) but I wanted to say bravo for this one! Too many people get into freelancing without realizing it’s hard work, especially in the beginning – then they fail because they were not prepared and go tell their friends what a haux freelancing is 😀 Nevertheless, it’s worth mentioning that at some point you can “wake up whenever you want, wear your pajamas all day and sip coffee while you type” – if that’s what you want 😉Reply to Diana
Hey Diana Glad you liked my post! It is hard work being your own boss. Your blog has some great tips about handling the pressure of freelancing. Ha, I’m sure you can wake up whenever you want, but I find that hard when you have deadlines and blogs to manage! Every moment counts. But, you are right – at some point, you may be able to wake up at noon and work all day in your pj’s and not worry about all the chores you need to do! Thanks for the comment. ElnaReply to Elna