Guide to Starting to Work as a Freelance Writer or Copywriter

Written by Xolo
on September 05, 2022 9 minute read

Are you envisioning starting perfect workdays at home sitting on the couch in front of your laptop while sipping on a cup of coffee? You can live your dream when you start a freelance business as a writer. Of course, you are not confined to writing in your living room. Whether you prefer to write in your favorite coffee shop or while living abroad, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Before you start freelance writing, however, you need to learn more about the credentials you need and how to manage freelance writing business.

How to Become a Freelance Writer

While the life of a freelancer seems to be less structured, many details go into getting started. If you want to set your business up for success, you'll need to take some specific steps to become a freelance writer and establish yourself in the industry.

Skills and Experiences Required to Become a Freelancer Writer

The most important skill that you need to be a freelance writer is the ability to write well. Most people can string a few sentences together, but can you write something that someone else is willing to pay for? If not, you could take a few writing courses at a local university to fine-tune your skills. It is also helpful to read regularly and to practice writing in your free time before you get started.

Many freelance writers have a college degree in their native language or in a foreign language, but this is not required. Some people may be fluent in another language by living abroad or even by having a second language spoken at home while growing up. You only need to be fluent in one language, but you may find that more doors are open for you as a freelance writer when you are fluent in multiple languages.

You can freelance as an ebook writer for fiction or nonfiction, online marketing content, product descriptions, guest blogs and more. Many writers will select a niche to focus on, and this may help you to build a regular client roster and establish a more stable income. With this in mind, it may be helpful if you have previous work experiences in another field, a special interest or something else that you are intimately familiar with.

Here are some of the most important writing skills you can learn and brush up to become a freelance writer:

  • Research: You'll need to perform research on the brand, products and any topics that require in-depth knowledge. MasterClass offers six tips to help you improve research skills.
  • Storytelling: Besides writing fiction, good storytelling skills can help you write great informational pieces. Humans naturally understand and connect with stories. We love this Khan Academy's storytelling course which teaches you the coveted art of telling great stories like ones in Pixar movies.
  • Technical skills: Good grammar and spelling are a must. Udemy offers a grammar course for writers to give you a refresher.
  • Editing/proofreading: Everything you submit should be polished and free of errors/typos. Programs like Grammarly and Hemingway can check for issues.
  • SEO: Most clients will expect you to know SEO, or optimizations to help content get found on search engines. SEO-Hacker has a great guide for SEO writing. You can also learn basic SEO on-page elements like titles, meta data, headings, etc. and how you can optimize for those with your SEO keywords in mind. 

How to Choose the Speciality as a Freelance Writer

You need to choose a specialty and a niche. Make yourself an expert in your specialty and niche. Clients want someone who knows a topic well and they are willing to pay more for experts.

You don't want to market yourself as just a writer. It's better to choose a specialty and use it in your marketing. Popular specialties include:

  • Blog posts: Blog posts are probably the most common types of jobs on offer. You'll create an information post on a given topic.
  • News articles: Many news sites need writers who can research and objectively present the news.
  • Product reviews: For product reviews, you may get a sample of a product to use and then write about your experience.
  • Social media content: If you can write short, compelling text, brands will hire you to keep their social media accounts updated.
  • Opinion: Opinion pieces require you to take on an opinion and argue that point. You'll need excellent research skills.
  • Video scripts: With the popularity of video, many brands need help creating scripts for their videos.
  • SaaS: SaaS (Software as a Service) brands often hire writers to create content like white papers and case studies for their products.


How to Become a Freelance Copywriter

As a copywriter, you'll use your writing skills to help persuade customers to buy a product. Copywriting is a great option for those who can be concise while choosing the best words to get a message across.

Skills Needed to Become Freelance Copywriters

To be a copywriter, you'll need to know more than just grammar and spelling. Some of the skills copywriters need include:

  • Research: You'll need to dig into a brand and its products so that you can adopt its voice and list the features and benefits of the products you're selling. This article by Enchanting Marketing will help you to break down features and benefits and how to turn features into benefits to help educate customers on reasons to buy your products.
  • Market research: Market research lets you discover what customers want and helps you write more effective copy. You can learn marketing research through a Udemy course or practice by doing market research for your own passion projects or when you encounter a product or service that you challenge yourself to produce some copy for it. 
  • Creative writing: Copywriters must be efficient and effective with copy. Creative writing can help choose the right words and craft powerful and beautiful sentences. Skillshare offer quite many creative writing courses so you can get the hang of the art and put it right into practice.
  • Headline writing: Killer headlines are a must for copywriters as they can draw in readers. You can practice writing headlines in a fun way by brainstorming and drafting many different versions of one headline, learning great synonyms, injecting numbers and giving yourself a break then peek again for a fresh perspective and pick your best one. Noone is born being a great copywriter so give yourself time to practice and learn the fun of turning your words into powerful weapons.

How to Choose a Specialty as a Freelance Copywriter

Clients want to hire an expert, not a generalist. You can request much higher fees when you specialize in one form of copywriting, especially as you can get experience more efficiently.

In-demand copywriting specialties include:

  • Web copy: New companies may hire you to write the text for the pages on their site or an existing company may hire you to revamp it.
  • Landing pages: Landing pages are specialized pages designed to move a customer through a sales funnel. They tend to be longer than a homepage.
  • Email marketing: Many brands invest in email marketing because it's so effective. They often hire copywriters to create compelling emails.
  • Print ads: Print ads include text for magazine and newspaper ads.
  • Billboards: Copywriters often create the text for billboards and other signage.
  • Television/radio scripts: Many brands create ads for TV, social media, radio and podcasts. You can work with brands to write the scripts.

How to Create Writing Samples as a Freelance Writer or Copywriter

Clients will usually want to see a sample of your work before hiring you. A portfolio makes it easy for you to share your work. If you haven't been published yet, that's no problem! You can write some spec samples. Write on topics that fit within your niche, so that your samples will be relevant when shared with clients. If you're a copywriter, make up a product and write the ad copy for it.

For example, if you write in the gardening niche you could write an article on the top plants to grow in the springtime or your favorite gardening tools. Google your topic to get an idea of what the top-performing posts are like. You can emulate it without copying.

If you want published work to include in your portfolio, you have a few options without landing a client. You can look into guest posting or find a website/blog that posts free submissions. Consider doing free work for nonprofits or friends/family members to help build up your portfolio.

Create a Website or Portfolio as a Freelance Writer

Creating a professional website is a good way to save and showcase your best work. If you don't want to hire a web developer, it's now easier than ever to create your own website.

A platform like Squarespace or Wix offers thousands of templates for you to choose from. You can customize the template with your own fonts and colors and can even create a logo.

These platforms also let you purchase a domain name and hosting so that you can have a unique domain instead of a built-in domain assigned by the platform. You can upload your samples and keep your site updated as you land work and create new pieces. Sharing links to your published work offers powerful proof that you're worth hiring. Be sure to include contact information and the different types of writing you offer - such as blog posts, landing pages, etc. It's up to you if you want to list your rates and packages. Some writers prefer to discuss with a client before quoting them a price.

You may also consider using WordPress. While there is more of a learning curve, it powers almost 40% of the internet. It offers many more possibilities for customization. You may start on a platform like Squarespace and then eventually move to WordPress as your business grows.

Setting Your Rates as a Freelance Writer

If you've never been paid to write, it's difficult to put a value on your work. If you price too high, clients won't want to take a risk on a new writer. If you're too cheap, then clients will think that your work isn't high quality. Do some research to see what writers in your industry are charging. Start somewhere in the middle and raise rates as you go.

You'll also need to decide whether you want to charge by the word, hour or project. There are pros and cons to each. Some clients may balk at a $500 project, yet will gladly pay five cents per word, even if it works out to the same amount.

Beginning freelancers in Europe make an average of €28 per hour. As you gain experience, you can raise your rates. Intermediate and expert writers can earn €50-60 per hour or more, based on their specialty. Certain industries, like technology and technical can charge more as the writing is more complex and requires more research.

How to Find Freelance Clients as a Writer

Online job boards are one of the best places to find your first clients. Check out job boards like:


Joining communities for writers is a great way to network, learn from others and find work. Some popular job boards include:


When you do a great job, clients will often come back, offering you more work. They often have contacts who work in the same industry and those contacts may also need work. Past clients may refer you to new clients.

Finally, work on your personal branding. Join and write posts on LinkedIn, Medium and Substack. You'll be able to connect with clients in your industry. You can create a blog on your website. Write on important topics in your niche. Follow SEO best practices and post regularly. Clients may find you through Google search when looking for writers in their niche or for relevant topics.

How to Create the Best Pitch to Find Clients as a Freelance Writer

Creating a great pitch is vital to landing clients especially if you're cold pitching, or pitching clients you've never had previous contact with. Many writers are tempted to talk about their skills, but you should focus on the potential client. They don't care about your accomplishments as much as they want to know how you can help them.

While you can mention your qualifications, put that near the bottom of your pitch. Start with how you can benefit the client's business. Discuss how your writing will engage visitors and make conversions.

If you have been networking, then you can send a warm pitch. You already have some familiarity with the client, so you can tailor the pitch to them while also calling on your previous relationship.

Most importantly, ensure that you create a unique pitch for each client. If you create a standard pitch to send to all clients, they'll be able to tell. When you write a unique pitch, the client will see that you'll put care into anything you write for them.

4 Tips When Working as a Freelance Writer or Copywriter

If you are a skilled writer, the actual work associated with freelancing may seem relatively easy to you. However, everything from finding clients to managing your business can create work-related stress. What are some tips that you can follow to help you get your new business on track?

  • Transition into your new job slowly. It can take time to ramp up your business. This involves learning where to find jobs, building experience and building up a list of steady clients. By starting your new job on a part-time basis first, you can ease into the new job without enduring financial stress.
  • Use a proofreading application. There are various online applications that can help you to find grammar mistakes, misspellings and other issues that may otherwise make your work look unprofessional.
  • Educate yourself on SEO. Many writing projects that you work on may be used for online purposes. SEO will help to boost your own website’s visibility on search engine results and also increase the quality and performance of your work for your clients’ sites.

How to Manage the Business Side of Freelancing as a Writer or Copywriter

As you start to land clients and grow your freelance writing career, you'll need to manage the business side of your freelancing. It may not be the most fun part of the job, but it's necessary.

Before you make any money, it's a good idea to set up a business bank account that's separate from your personal account. It makes it easier to keep your finances separate and keep track of how your business is doing. You'll also have a much easier task when it's time to file your taxes.

For most clients, you'll need to send an invoice once you've completed the work. Sending a professional-looking invoice will help to establish you as a business. If operating in the EU, you'll also need to include VAT in your invoicing.

Keep detailed records of your invoicing and clients. Records will help when it's time to pay VAT. You can also use your records to do some analytics and see how your business is performing.

At Xolo, we offer a complete financial management solution for freelancers through Xolo Go. This solution covers everything from invoicing your clients, calculating VAT automatically and getting paid compliantly to managing your finances through a detailed dashboard. Now you’ll have more time to focus on your freelance writing career.

the freelancer's favorite pay-as-you-go invoicing tool

Are You Ready to Spread Your Wings and Become a Freelancer Writer?

The ability to earn a living doing something that you love can enhance your life on many levels. Freelance writing can be infinitely rewarding, but starting your business requires hard work and the right approach. You may be able to simplify some aspects of starting and running your freelancing business when you take advantage of our services at Xolo. 

Xolo offers many features for freelance writers. With Xolo Go, you can send invoices like a business. Go also helps you calculate VAT fees and keep up with your business analytics.

Xolo Leap helps you establish your business in the EU with an Estonian address. It also helps you keep track of invoicing and business documents and assists with filing your monthly/quarterly tax reports.

Send your first invoice as a freelance writer or launch your freelance business today!

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