A guide on how to become a freelance writer with no experience – including tips on finding remote work and getting started with People Per Hour.
If you’re looking to have more flexibility in your working life, becoming a freelancer is an ideal way to achieve that freedom. Being a freelancer comes with a whole bunch of positives from setting your own hours to being able to work remotely anywhere in the world (so long as there’s Wi-Fi!). That being said, it’s hard to know where to start freelance writing with no experience.
Luckily, for me, my first experience of freelancing came by chance whilst running my lifestyle blog, Formidable Joy. Over the last ten or so years, through sharing my thoughts, advice, and an insight into my own life on my blog, I’ve managed to monetize it in a way that I can earn some extra money by doing something I love! Bagging sponsored posts or blogging opportunities was my first experience of being able to use my skills outside of the office to bring in some form of income.
I soon realized I could earn money – and possibly start a career – offering my other skills too, such as admin, data entry, copywriting, and SEO. And once I knew this was a possibility, I never looked back.
Here’s what I have to share in this article.
- Common challenges of freelancing
- How to get started as a freelancer
- Finding remote work
- Working practices and my tips and tricks
Common challenges of freelance writing for beginners
Although freelancing offers a lot of amazing opportunities, like most roles or lifestyle choices, it’s not without its challenges.
Being your own boss is great, but you still have to work with clients and their deadlines. This means you have to be very disciplined with working hours and completing projects on time. You need to show up and answer for yourself: there will be days when you have less motivation and no one other than yourself to push you through those days to work.
Simply put, you won’t get paid for a 9-5 day if you don’t actually work during those hours.
Work won’t always be consistent, especially with entry-level freelance writing jobs. Some months you may be rushed off your feet and working on lots of projects, and others may be quieter. You won’t have a set monthly salary and may need to push yourself more – and look for additional work – just to break even or pay your bills some months. This is why if you want to become a freelancer full time, you should have some money saved up as a backup – at least until you ease yourself into receiving regular work.
Finally, working as a freelancer can be lonely. This past year has taught us how working from home or staying inside all the time can be negative on our mental health, and it’s important to realize that being a freelancer will be similar in a way – but not as extreme. It’s important to take steps like making sure you go for daily walks or spend some hours working in a cafe for some human interaction. It’s also a good idea to network with other freelancers if you can, or set up a Whatsapp group so that you can bounce ideas off each other or just have a chat throughout the day.
How to get started as a freelancer today
It’s very easy to get started as a freelancer – much easier than looking for jobs, dressing up to attend interviews then waiting weeks on end to see whether you got the job or not!
First of all, even if you don’t think you’ll be making enough money for a long time, at least take a look into what type of tax you’ll need to pay – if any – when you become self-employed. There are different rules for different countries and this is especially important if you’re going to be traveling whilst working. Get up to speed early to avoid making mistakes later on.
Next, think about what type of work you’d like to do and what skills you already have to offer. You don’t have to conform to one niche, to begin with, but a general idea helps like marketing (blog writing, social media set up, engagement) or admin (data entry, file organization, taking calls). Chances are, you’ve already got a whole lot to offer already.
I’d then recommend getting your CV and portfolio up to scratch. Depending on your industry, it may be worth putting together a more creative CV on Canva. I personally like to create a few different copies based on my experience and what roles I want to go for. I’ll have one CV showcasing my journalism work and another with my admin work, for example.
Any work you do or that you’re particularly proud of should be easily accessible too. You can use work from previous non-freelance jobs here too. Keep a portfolio to hand at all times – even just within Google Drive to begin with – so you can showcase all your various skills straight away when approaching clients. This is really useful, especially when applying for writing jobs without a degree.
Finding remote work and writing jobs for beginners
One of the toughest parts is finding freelance writing jobs online for beginners. Usually, once you have a few clients, you’ll find that word of mouth works in your favor and you’ll also start having a network of different brands or clients you can contact for further work.
Until then, I recommend websites such as People Per Hour or Fiverr for beginners. I personally really love People Per Hour as it’s quite simple to use and you’ve got that added security of all messaging and money transactions being done via the website. Although PPH takes a small fee, in return it offers fantastic protection for freelancers.
Similar to Fiverr, with PPH, you set up your ‘offers’, showcasing what roles or tasks you can do for what price. This is where buyers can find and message you based on what they are after.
On the other hand, you can also find projects to quote on. At first, it can take a while to get work this way as you have to essentially ‘bid’ or submit a proposal about why you’d be a good fit for that particular project. In some ways, this is much easier than the traditional ways of applying for jobs. In other ways, it can be tough to stand out amongst others, especially if another freelancer is offering the client the same expertise at a lower price.
PPH takes a little bit of practice in that sense. I found no harm in starting off with a lower price to begin with – just to get the ball rolling and get work coming in – before raising my prices. The more work you get through People Per Hour, the more your profile is seen.
You can also easily move up through the ‘CERT’ ranks, which is essentially a way that PPH rewards certified freelancers with extra exposure. Your CERT ranking relies on your quality of work, response time, and more.
I find it best to always have my offers live and then look for projects to quote on in my own time – more so with quiet months. Even when I’m not logging on and actively looking for work, my offers are still being looked at.
I’d also recommend being vocal about the fact that you’re exploring the world of freelancing. Once you do, you’ll find many friends or acquaintances think of you when they see roles offered. Join Facebook job board groups, skim Twitter threads, and don’t be afraid to literally post on social media about your skills and to just let people know you are available to work or offer a helping hand.
Working practices and my tips and tricks
Here are some tips I’ve learned since becoming a freelancer. Sometimes it can be a case of trial and error, so hopefully, these tips will help.
- Use platforms such as Trello to help with project management. Once you have multiple clients, you’ll need an easy way to oversee and balance all projects from various clients.
- Keep a spreadsheet of clients you approach or projects you apply for.
- Stick to a routine as best you can, even if you only work for a few hours each day. It can be tempting to laze about whilst at home, but getting up, having a proper breakfast and getting changed out of your pajamas will make all the difference to your mindset. Having a dedicated working space will help to minimize distractions.
- Ask for feedback and learn from it.
- Don’t be afraid to check in with previous clients and update them with your situation. If you have an opening to take on more work, make sure you let them know. I recently bagged myself a big ongoing project this way. If I hadn’t asked, they may not have even thought about me.
- Make use of time blocking or even traditional to-do lists.
- Continue learning and advancing your skills. There are plenty of free and affordable courses out there on anything from the basics of SEO or social media management. The more you can offer a client, the more you can charge them per hour or the more likely they are to turn to you for additional jobs or tasks.
Finally, because it’s fairly easy to get set up as a freelancer, there really is no time like the present! Even if you’re working full-time and can only dedicate 1-2 hours a week towards additional work, it’s a step in the right direction. Once you get started, you’ll soon start bringing in additional work and hopefully be in a position to freelance full-time!
All photos and graphics in this article are the property of Louise Joy.
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