How To Become A Freelance Writer

I’ll be doing some lectures in the new year and it got me thinking about my route to becoming a freelance writer and how I found myself here.

As any freelancer will attest, I’m regularly asked about my job and what it is that I do. So, I thought I’d share my journey and what it is that I do each week. I’ve also added in a list of the type of work that pays best, for reference.

How I Became A Freelancer

How I Got Here

If I’m completely honest, I don’t like to be told what to do. I’m not anti-authority, but I think I’m most effective when I have autonomy to do things my way. Being micro-managed (i.e. having to send my email to my boss before sending it to a client) has always infuriated me; it displays a lack of trust.

With that in mind, working for myself seemed the obvious choice. Ultimately, though, you do need contacts. You need people who are championing your cause and who have seen your potential. That way, wherever these people go they’ll recommend you. You don’t get recommended if you don’t work hard; so whatever your situation (and however much you’re not enjoying it), always show up and work hard.

I left my job at Grey Pocket (which I loved) to write. I had one client at the time, so it was risky. But, I’m a big believer in big risk, big reward. That leap of faith was definitely the right decision for me.

When Should I Start Freelancing?

A really good time to try out freelancing is straight from University. You don’t have any commitments (mortgage, children etc.) In writing, if you’re talented, you’ll shine. Although experience gives you contacts, good writing will always find its way to the right person.

The great thing about freelance writing is that it can be done alongside your other job. If you don’t have the flexibility to leave, try to build up a ‘side-hustle’. I wrote my first book in my lunch hours of my first ever job. I know, HA HA – a lunch hour? Yeah right. This was a long time ago and it was awkward that I *actually* left for an hour. But, oh well.

If you want to make something happen, you’ll always find the time.

What Are The Hours Like?

This question all depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. If you need to make a lot of money then you’ve got to be prepared to work hard. Such is the way with any job.

I work from 8-4/5 each day. What I particularly like is that if I fancy taking the day off, I can easily schedule that into my week. If I fancy taking a two-hour lunch break, I can do that, too. Being your own boss means you need to be disciplined, but it also allows you to chill the hell out if you feel like you need to.

I’m a pro at working from home. I’ve done it for most of my career. So, if that’s the area you think you’d struggle with, check out my blog post all about it.

How To Become A Freelancer

So, What Do You Actually Do?

My week consists of the following:

  • Content writing (primarily for hotels/travel organisations)
  • Book writing (I’m currently ghost writing one book, writing one historical guidebook and writing my own book)
  • Book editing (I take on the odd editing job)
  • Script writing (I write scripts for The Sun’s social media videos)
  • Journalism (I write around one travel/lifestyle/health related article per week)
  • 2x blog posts for this blog
  • My #CarolineEdit newsletter that goes out every Monday morning (you can sign up here)

So, that’s quite a varied week and variety (for me, at least) is the key to staying motivated.

Which One Makes The Most Money?

This is a common question in the freelance world. I’m on a number of freelance journalism private Facebook groups and the way that we divide up our time is always a topic of conversation.

Here’s the lowdown:

Content Writing

This pays well and regularly. I would advise against one-off pieces for companies. You’ll  end up spending your whole life chasing money. Instead, work with a select number of companies on a retainer basis. Build a relationship with them. You will guarantee yourself regular income – I’m usually paid monthly for this – and you’ll build good relationships.

Building good relationships in freelancing in general is key. Freelancers will always be the first one culled, so don’t make yourself an easy target by being slow or sloppy.

How To Become A Freelancer

Book Writing

Ghost writing and commissioned writing pays well. But, don’t enter into this lightly; it’s a lot of work and a lot will be expected of you. Although the pay seems like a lot, ensure it’s reflective of the amount of effort you’ll have to put in.

I’ve been commissioned to write the historical guidebook I’m currently working on, which entitles me to an advance (also known as ‘the dream’). This doesn’t happen often unless you’re an established author, so use your advance sparingly.

If you’re writing your own book and then mailing it out to literary agents/publishers, you won’t receive a penny until (if) the book is published. Again, this differs if you’re already established. I would also vehemently recommend finishing your manuscript before sending it out.

Book Editing

Again, this falls into a very similar category as writing. It’s extremely time consuming, so although it pays well, it’s worth calculating the cost per hour you have to spend on it.

Script Writing

Writing content for videos is extremely sought after in journalism at the moment, so if you’ve got the skills you’ll be able to make money from it.

I write short, sharp clips. Living my life on Twitter (140 characters, well, until recently) has come in very handy.

Becoming a regular freelancer for any national newspaper always pays well, and, getting a foot through the door can lead to a whole range of future opportunities.

Journalism

I absolutely could not live on the wage I get from journalism alone. The freelance economy for journalism is so hard. I’ve started pitching less and less now because what tends to happen to me is that I pitch an idea, they say no, and then I see one of their staff writers has written it instead. Infuriating.

I only work with a select number of magazines and newspapers who I know are fair and honest when it comes to freelancing. That number is decreasing all the time.

I tend to put my best ideas on my blog, and as a result, I’ve got a lot of opportunities through it and my readership has hugely increased.

Blogging & #CarolineEdit

I do the #CarolineEdit for free. I will never look to seek money out of it. It’s just something I enjoy doing and don’t put any pressure on. As soon as money appears, sometimes the fun can be sucked out of something.

My blog is much of the same. My blog has afforded me opportunities more than anything else. A lot of magazines and newspapers have been in touch to ask me to write pieces based on what I’ve written on here. I also hear from a lot of companies asking me to content write for them as a result of this.

If I could offer one piece of advice to writers, it would be to always keep your blog going. It’s one of the best ways to showcase who you really are.

What Has Your Experience Been Like?

Please feel free to comment and tell me how your experience has differed. I’d love to be able to add to this post with more advice and ideas from others in a similar position.

Caroline

A writer and author with two published books and a third one on the way. I write mostly about women’s interest topics; travel, careers and cooking. I’m available for freelance work, so please contact me if that’s of interest.

2 Comments
  1. Great information. I also freelance and originally fell into it by chance. I wrote a story for a magazine (not in article writing style by any means) and I was published. From there I said if I can do this what else could I do? So I self-taught myself the basics of queries, publishing, article writing and now five years later have multiple publishers that I work with, three books in the works and a screenplay I need to finish.
    Basically, this goes out to everyone that you can find the time to freelance if you are disciplined, determined and driven to do so. Is it difficult? Of course, sometimes, but the rewards make up for it ten- fold!

    1. Thank you this Michael – I have to agree, like any job, you have to work hard and be disciplined in order to achieve your goals. I’m glad you’ve found your area & are enjoying freelancing – it’s certainly my preferred way of working.

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