Freelance Writing: The Beginners Guide

By Samantha Tetrault

The most common question I get as an English major (other than what grade I want to teach) is how I plan to make money. It’s a common misconception that English majors (or writers in general) can only make money by teaching or serving coffee. To some extent I can agree with this concept; it’s definitely hard for English majors to make money in their field if they expect to make money writing the next Great American Novel. However, there’s a lot of money to be made from writing if one is able to keep an open mind!

I began freelance writing before I began blogging as I way to earn side income. This was when I was working two part-time jobs while going to school full time. I had no time for myself and knew I needed to find a way out of the soul-killing cycle of retail. I stumbled upon freelance writing entirely by accident, and I was hooked. Even without extensive experience or a completed college degree, I was able to earn a few paid gigs, and I even landed a contracted position as a contributor with a new startup! It might sound too good to be true, but I’m here to show how you too can get started freelance writing!


Do I need experience?

Many people are hesitant to start writing professionally because they think they need a masters degree in English Composition and several years of experience as a paid contributor. This just isn’t the case! There’s a range of writing gigs available, and all of them are looking for different skill and knowledge levels! If you have experience in a different fields like Real Estate or Finance, odds are you are more than qualified to launch your own freelance writing career!

You don’t need a degree or any advanced skills, just a passion for writing! A firm grasp of English grammar and composition will go a long way in this field, but simple tools like Grammarly can help you edit your own work. A lot of freelance gigs are looking for experts in different fields unrelated to English, so having outside skills is a large plus! Also, you’re going to be doing a lot of typing, so having a quick word per minute speed is definitely a plus! Honestly, practice makes perfect in the freelance writing world, so don’t be afraid to jump in and learn as you go!

Creating a Portfolio

Before you can apply to freelance gigs, you’re going to need a small portfolio with examples of your work! I highly recommend starting your own blog to showcase your writing skills while also building an audience. Otherwise, compile 3-5 of your best-written pieces into a document on your computer ready to submit. Unsure what to include? School research papers, book/product reviews, and essays are excellent places to start. Another great tool for aspiring freelancers is LinkedIn which allows prospective gigs to find you! Be sure to link to all your best work on your profile, and include a killer summary!

freelance writing

How to Find Gigs

So you’ve set up your online portfolio and you’re ready to get started freelance writing! Remember you’ll need to be open minded when it comes to options, and you probably will have to start by writing things you aren’t all that excited about. I’ve written boring product reviews, tourist information, and technical copy. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was paid, and I got to work on my own terms. Here are some great places to begin searching for paid gigs with different companies!

  • ProBlogger – A highly curated job board
  • BloggingPro – Another excellent job listing board
  • Contenta – Digital job listings for graphic, web, and writing gigs
  • @Write_Jobs – Follow on twitter for updated job postings
  • MediaBoard – Includes writing gigs from well-known companies

Keep in mind you’ll probably need to apply to more than one before you start getting responses, but don’t give up! Freelance writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but it can be a great way to make side include, and even a full-time income! Happy freelancing!