Have you ever read an article and thought, “I could write that”? Well, that’s what I thought for years. And then I finally decided to do something about it. 

My goal was to earn $1,000 a month, just some extra cash to supplement my husband’s income. I reached that goal after two months of dedicated hard work and an “I can do this!” attitude. And while being a stay-at-home mom with two wild toddlers underfoot.

Are you ready to give it a try? I’ve broken down the key steps, making the process a little less overwhelming.

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Decide if You Want to Be a Writer

First, you have to decide if you love, or at least like writing.

If the thought of creating an article or essay from scratch makes you break out into hives or a cold sweat, then stop reading this article and move on. Alternatively, you can check out 10 Side Jobs You Can Do While Your Kids Are in School.

Now, if you’ve decided you do like to write, and that you’re a decent writer, then let’s move forward.

Create Your Own Blog

Honestly, the best way to see if you’re ready for a writing career is to start a blog. With your own blog, you can dabble in different forms of writing, express yourself creatively, and build a portfolio all at the same time.

First, research how to start a blog. I started with a free site through Weebly, which worked fine as a starter site. I recently upgraded to a professional WordPress site designed by Sidewalk Marketing and it was worth every penny spent. Do whatever you can with your current budget, though.

Next, select a few interesting topics to write about, such as your hobbies, favorite recipes, travel tips, crazy stories about your kids, or how you’re staying sane during the pandemic. Or read this list for more inspiration.

Lastly, don’t forget to share your blog. Even if only friends and family read it, you can call yourself a writer. I landed my first steady gig because of my creative blog posts. So there you go — writing a blog does pay off.

Search for Jobs

I started on UpWork, which has hundreds of job opportunities. However, most of the assignments pay crap (like, less than $10 an hour). But in saying that, the jobs are usually entry-level — allowing you to build a solid portfolio in record time.

Here are a few samples of my first freelance articles done on Upwork:

The above articles were all ghostwritten, meaning my name isn’t attributed to them. Regardless, they still helped me land higher-paying gigs.

There are plenty of other places to land freelance jobs besides Upwork. Read 53 Places to Land Freelance Writing Gigs Online to get some ideas

I personally love PitchWhiz — a freelance job platform that’s completely free to use (for now). Although the rates aren’t through the roof, they’re definitely a step up from UpWork. You can see two sample jobs in the image below.

A sample listing of jobs available on Pitchwhiz

A sample of jobs available on Pitchwhiz. Source: Pitchwhiz.com

And as always, social media is overflowing with opportunities. I’ve landed a couple of gigs from the various binders groups on Facebook, such as Binders Full of Writing Jobs. You can also find freelance jobs on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Depending on what type of job you apply for, you’ll probably need to write a pitch or include a letter of introduction (LOI).

  • A pitch is used mostly for journalistic outlets, but not always. You generate a story idea from scratch, then “pitch” the first couple of paragraphs to see if your potential client wants to “hire” you to write it. Here’s a great post about How (and Where!) to Pitch Your Writing.
  • The LOI, on the other hand, is a letter used to introduce yourself to various clients, businesses, and agencies. Here are 7 steps to help you get the most out of your LOI. You can also read sample LOI’s here.

One thing to note: sending the pitch or LOI is only the first step. Don’t forget to follow-up a couple of weeks later. Editors and business owners are flooded with hundreds of emails. The key to success is remembering to do that follow-up (even two or three times) — the squeaky wheel and all that, right?

Start with Low Paying Jobs

I belong to a few freelancing groups and everyone says to always aim high. They adamantly advise others to never settle for anything less than $75 an hour, or $1 per word.

That’s all great advice. But in reality, you have to start somewhere. And you need at least 3-5 solid clips to build your portfolio. Even though your blog helps, some clients want to see a range of material published by different sites.

So, don’t be afraid to take low-paying jobs with the sole intention of boosting up your portfolio. Just don’t get stuck in the low-paying rut forever. Once you’ve got some amazing clips under your belt, start searching and applying for those higher paying gigs.

Most importantly, don’t write for free. Even though you want clips, there’s no point in giving your work away. Obviously writing your own blog (or as a guest writer on a friend’s blog) doesn’t apply. But beyond that, it’s important to value your time and efforts. Remember, even UpWork will pay something for your work.

Research and Network

A group of 6 people sitting at a table with laptops and shaking hands

It turns out that freelancers are a helpful, generous, and super friendly lot. Aren’t they afraid of others snatching up the work? No, they’re not. Because when you connect with other freelancers, they share work and then you share work.

For example, perhaps you write about parenthood and they write about technology. So you find a tech job and pass it along. And they reciprocate when they find something in your field. 

Start by reading the Freelance Content Marketing Writer by Jennifer Goforth Gregory, which outlines the steps to take to turn freelance writing into a lucrative career. Then, join Jennifer’s Facebook group, as well as signing up for her newsletter.

You can also join paid groups, such as Freelance Success — which has a hoard of valuable information and helpful freelancers ready to share their wisdom.

Set Higher Goals

Okay, now that you’ve landed a few jobs, you’re wondering what next?

It’s easy to coast along with low or medium-rate jobs. But at some point you’re thinking, how do I get to the next level?

Basically, you need to hone your niche, directing your skills to the areas that interest you most and pay a higher rate. For example, writing B2B (business to business) content in fields such as finance and technology tend to pay more than articles about how-to clean your oven. 

In order to prove you’re an expert in the more lucrative fields, you need a solid plan, which includes increasing your clips in that niche. It takes hard-work and perseverance and I’ll be honest, I’m still learning as I go. But Jennifer’s book is a great how-to guide. She’s a high-earning freelancer — bringing in 6-figures! — and if she can do it, so can you!

Go forth and see where your words take you. If you have any questions, ideas, or stories of success, please share them!