How to Make Your First $100 as a Freelance Writer

How to become a freelance writer
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We’re artists, passionate about our word-crafting. This industry is such that we’re almost afraid to say we want to make a living writing, because so few people do. And those fearful of writing for a dollar are the ones not making the bucks.

But how do you get started from scratch? How do you become a freelance writer? What’s the best way to get paid to write? By analyzing your assets and setting goals, while at the same time remembering that long-term dream that drove you to enter this profession in the first place. In other words, organization and drive.

Start off by determining the following:

1. Your long-term goal;

2. How much money you want to make in a year, in two years, in three years; and

3. What you’re willing to do to make the bucks.

There’s a reason that last one sounds like a hooker (yes, as in prostitute), because that’s what you’ll become if income is your immediate desire. You need to be willing to write almost anything, because you must be recognized as a writer first and foremost before you attempt to become a NY Times Bestseller novelist or world-renown blogger.

At this point, most new writers are spinning in place, wondering how the heck to get started. Your fingers are itching to write, but you have no outlet. You have no idea how to become a freelance writer. You aren’t sure where to start or what to write about. Slow down . . . and look within — and don’t make the mistake of thinking you have a drab life or minimal knowledge.

How to become a freelance writerList three assets that define you. Those could be events, personality, interests, experience, other profession, leadership roles, education, etc.

List three things about life that inspire you. For example: parenting, nature, religion, charity, freedom, military, etc.

List three things you dream of. Examples: retirement, publishing, grandchildren, traveling, marriage, winning the lottery, sustainable living, etc.

From these three lists you amass a wealth of topics to address. This is your expertise. From here you seek markets, because girls and guys, when you want to earn money with your words, you have to seek clients, whether they are businesses who require copywriting for their newsletters, websites and advertising, or magazines that seek freelance features. You need to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk. (Click to tweet this idea!) Sure, you can write anything, but to jump start your career make your first steps with your lists, tapping subjects you’re already knowledgeable of.

freelance writing

Places to find freelance gigs and magazine markets:

1. Craigslist (Avoid those who ask you to write pieces on a topic as part of the application. They are just gathering free material. Avoid those without real-people connections.)

2. Writers Market

3. The Best of the Magazine Markets for Writers

4. Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers

5. Blogging Pro

6. Pro Blogger

7. Worldwide Freelance

8. Simply Hired

9. Morning Coffee Newsletter

10. Freelance Writing Jobs

11. LinkedIn (Paid upgrade has many more opportunities.)

12. Free Trade Magazines (Free subscriptions to magazines you won’t find at the newsstand.)

13. Free Trade Publications (Ditto number 11.)

14. Free Trade Magazine Source (Ditto number 11 and 12.)

15. Magatopia (Ditto 11, 12, 13.)

What about that dream project? That award-winning novel in your head? That’s your dessert each day. That’s what you fuss over once you’ve put in your time at bringing home the bacon.

Don’t get depressed that you’re abandoning your artistry. On the contrary, you’re building a foundation for it. Once you become adept at freelancing, you not only have income to use for your dream project, but, surprise! You’ve vastly improved your writing skills. And people now identify with you as a professional writer.

I started FundsforWriters and freelanced because I could not sell my mystery. At the end of the nonfiction day, however, I played with my fiction, recognizing the fact it still needed work, while I still needed an income. Several years later, income better defined, I dove into the mystery and made it happen. But the unexpected benefit of taking that route was this . . . I had unknowingly built a decent platform consisting of people who liked my writing. And that made my new publisher quite happy.

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C. Hope Clark is editor of FundsforWriters.com, recognized by Writer’s Digest in its 101 Best Websites for Writers list for the past thirteen years. She is also author of the well-received Carolina Slade Mystery Series published by Bell Bridge Books. .

C. Hope Clark | @hopeclark

C. Hope Clark
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Comments

  1. This is great stuff, Hope. I remember the first (and so far, only) time I got paid for an article I’d submitted on a personal experience. The online magazine, “Design News,” was looking for particularly difficult, real-life technical/mechanical “mysteries” and how they had been solved. I wrote of a problem with an ancient cement mixer truck from some fifteen years earlier. It’s trouble defied all my attempts at fixing until I was stumped to a headscratching standstill. On a sheer hunch I’d found the solution and when “Design News” accepted my crazy tale of frustration, I was thrilled. Imagine getting real cash money for that! Unfortunately, it was the only story I have in me that fit their need. So I’ve never written another. Now I find that many of my other experiences, interests, etc. are sought by all sorts of publications. I’d just never known about them or felt anyone would be interested. Thanks so much for opening my eyes to the many possibilities out there for “ordinary” Joes like me to tell our little tales.

    • You are quite welcome, Neil. Opportunities are all around us just like the one you mentioned. I had a similar experience about a landscaper who thought I knew very little. His face turned red when I told him my degree was in agronomy (plant and soil science).

  2. I actually did it the other way around. I’ve only recently started gettting jobs from 3rd party sites. Instead I fell into freelance writing because people who knew me online asked me to work for them. When I decided to up my earnings – I went to elance and picked up a client fairly easily – because I have a VERY unique niche which fitted with a client’s needs.

    I also found that with my book formatting that I get most of my clients via my own website – though if I remember to ask – enquiries have usually seen my name somewhere or someone I do know have recommended. It is definitely worth doing some freebies to start of with to make sure you get some genuine testimonials and some examples you can point at.

  3. Great article! I’m making my lists and checking the links. I have done the freebies, but didn’t realize there was such a market for freelance. Going to get busy with this format soon!

  4. William Swan says:

    Question – how do you submit clips or examples when the only ones you have are from content mills, online SEO gigs and older blog posts?

    • William, al of us start without clips. The point is to prove you are the best person to write the story, or pitch such a good idea that the clips don’t matter. But saying you have only written for writing mills, SEO, etc. can hurt you more than help. Just pitch a great story in a very professional manner and you’ll eventually grab your first real, bonafide clip.

  5. Thomas Parsons says:

    I would ultimately love a career as a freelance writer but at times I honestly question my ability to write. Do you have any recommendations for peer review for my writing? Would you suggest doing anything such as that? I am really just in search of opinions for my work to help me know for myself if my only love, writing, is the path I should be walking down. Thank you so much for your time.

    • Find a critique group in your area, Thomas. They are at bookstores, libraries, and you can always go to Meetup.com for your city and see if there are any posted there. But grab some how-to books for freelancing, READ a lot of material and learn from what’s already successful, then go to therenegadewriter.com and consider a magazine course from Linda Formichelli. She’s fabulous.

  6. I love love love *did I say love?* the way you put things into perspective here. This is the first and only article I have read where you demonstrate how to work on your “dreams” in writing, as well as concentrating in making some income. As a small business owner in a down economy, I need to find a way to make some decent supplemental income. I also have a dream I believe I am to work on in a more inspirational category. I hope I can heed your suggestions and create a balance between the two. Thanks for this information!

    • Laura

      Hey, it’s only realistic that we earn a living while also working on our dream project. There’s nothing wrong with doing both. One actually feed the other, IMHO. Glad to help and good luck!

      Hope

    • i like your comments and i also want writing in the topic of science fiction novel short story and others please help me

      • From a strictly constructive criticism point of view, I would personally recommend making sure you’re comfortable with puctuation, capitalization, spelling, and grammar in whatever language you’re planning to write in. Good editors are going to look for those things in even casual writing, such as random comments on random websites, and are not going to have someone proof-read your work for you. This was a conclusion I came to myself some years ago. I was used to neglecting punctuation and capitalization, and even spelling, on everything but schoolwork, until I realized that 1) it didn’t look professional and 2) I didn’t like how comfortable it became and how difficult it was to remember not to write like that at school. In grade 12 I wrote an essay on the grammatical difference between the words ‘who’ and ‘whom’ and my English teacher actually asked for a copy. I’ve thought of that often and wondered if I could have gotten that essay published. However, I couldn’t have gotten that kind of reaction all on my own. I read and re-read that essay probably three times doing my own proof-reading, making corrections, fixing mistakes and awkward phrasing, then asked my mum to proof-read it. She had even more corrections for me to make.

        So my suggestion here is to get yourself comfortable with all aspects of proper writing, and then find yourself a couple friends or family members who have good vocabularies, firm grasps on the language, and can proof-read the living tar out of your writing. Remember that it’s going to take a fair bit of work and several draft copies.

  7. Hi there…this was a super helpful and practical article. I especially liked your process for figuring out the topics I’m qualified to write about. I have one question. You gave a number of different portals for finding freelance gigs and markets. Right now time is limited for me (I have a full-time job), so if you had to recommend one place in particular to find work as a newbie freelance writer, where would it be?

    • Okay, since this is new for you, Angela, get thee to a Writer’s Market. Even go for paying for the online database to have a more accurate listing since a Writer’s Market is published once a year and markets change. A lot of writers have full-time jobs. My first three years writing involved another full time job. It’s just the way it is, unfortunately, until you build a regular clientele.

  8. This is a great site with great resources! I’m so glad I found it.

  9. david ingosi says:

    you realy inspire me whenever i read you post or coment. im thinking of becoming a freelace writer but i don’t know where and how to start. any advice please?

  10. Hi Hope!

    Thank you for this article. I especially found your 3 lists to determine your expertise to be very helpful! I haven’t seen anyone else break it down like this for new writers.

    Sincerely,

    Loura L.

  11. I wish I would have read this sooner! I’ve already done two ‘sample’ peices as part of an application process. Ah well, now I know!

  12. Wow, I was just saying that I feel like there is an abundance of information out there about freelance writing, but nothing that actually says, “Here, do this!” That is, until I read this article, which was so very helpful! I recently decided to take on freelance writing and (gulp) actually call myself a writer (which is a really hard thing to do at first). I have had one unpaid pitch and two paid ones accepted, and was invited to be a contributor on a website that I love. But now I feel like, as you said, I’m spinning in place, wondering where to go. Thanks for all your helpful resources and information. I will definitely be perusing your site daily!

  13. Jeremy Webster says:

    A very enjoyable and thought-inspiring piece. I’m faced with a peculiar situation. I’ve spent twenty years as a writer in a variety of fields for a few companies, as well as in journalism and in film criticism. This work eventually lead me into video and audio production and editing as well. I was laid off in May of 2013, but haven’t been able to get work in any of these fields in the area, which has been very frustrating. I know I could do freelance writing work, but, after so many years I don’t know where to go or what to do to get started. Hopefully this article will be able to help me at least build a foundation for this endeavor.

  14. Rotouel Tigues says:

    Hi!My name is Rotouel Tigues. I am a poet and I love to write! I have recorded a song that I wrote. I have 3 professional videos on Youtube. I am not a conceited person, but the videos and the content are both very good. My question:How do I get noticed? The content is good,the presentation is great-where are the oppurtunities?I would be appreciative of your respone.Thank you very much

    • Rotouel,

      Several things:

      1) Have you established a homebase-type presence on YouTube? Don’t just post your videos. Establish a go-to site for people to find you, then you use it on all your emails and everything you do.
      2) Start a blog. Cover stuff in the business.
      3) Follow others in the business and be active on their social media.
      4) Keep writing and keep putting out videos.
      5) Post your material on other social media like FB, Tumblr, etc.
      6) Join professional organizations in your genre.
      7) Be patient and do something promotional each and every day.
      8) Consider a project to fund on Kickstarter or Indiegogo and work it hard to develop a platform. People get discovered on crowdfunding sites, but only if they work it VERY hard with a professional touch.

      It may not happen in a year, even two, but you stick it out. Good luck.

    • I would love to check out your YouTube channel. Mabye you could provide a link to your content, even here.

  15. Dev Samal says:

    Hello, I want to be a freelance Writer and I’m really upset cause I am in need of work but there is no oppurtuning everybody asks for Writing Samples And URL but I dont have them. Can You Help me In This?

    • Yes, you’ll generally need writing samples to demonstrate your skills to potential clients. But they don’t have to be paid pieces — try writing some sample pieces based on your own experience or knowledge. If you’re focusing on blogging, this resource might help you get started. Best of luck!

      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

      • Dev Samal says:

        Hi Heather,

        Can you give me some links where I can get real paid writing assignments? Its okay if it pays low amount. I just want to get started by doing a lot of assignments to get experience while I’m getting paid a little, It will increase confidence too, I think. Can you help me?

        Thank You.

        • Sure — there are lots of great resources in this post and this one. Best of luck!

          • Dev Samal says:

            All websites are asking writing samples and resume, but I’m a complete fresher, I want to build some writing samples, can you give me some links which will give me some topics to write Compositon, Essays, Article etc. so that I’ll be able to write few of them and include it in my fresher resume and provide them to websites?

          • Better to pitch yourself based upon a great query and great idea than to try to land cheap clips. The clips have to match where you are pitching, and a cheap market does not reflect well on you. Rule of thumb is not to mention negatives in a query. Not all markets want clips, and will overlook no clips if your query writing and article idea are sharp. Been there…done that.

  16. I am a college student that is heading into the writing field. I am new to the game of this profession currently. I am still going to college in the summer & fall of this year. I could use any kind of advice and resources to help me out. I am very determined to make it as a writer. I have started keeping a writer’s notebook and have written in it every single day for almost a month now. Do you have any kind of advice for someone like me?

    • You need some steps in here:
      1) Consider what type of writer you want to be – novelist (what genre), freelancer, copywriter, screenplay writer, etc.
      2) Read up on the industry by signing up for forums. blogs, groups on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
      3) Read those in your genre/type writing who’ve been successful. What makes they good? Rule of thumb in my world is to read ten times as much as you write, and write ten times more than you keep after you edit, and edit ten times more than you actually publish. That’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t.
      4) Be careful publishing before you think it’s great. Once published, it doesn’t go away, and trust me, you’ll regret publishing too soon.

  17. Rightly said. The lost of free websites you have mentioned here is quite impressive. I too feel that instead of waiting for jobs on commision based websites on should also check out free listing and portfolio websites to get more freelance work opportunities. I’ve also written a bit about it on http://theworkster.com/2015/06/20/getting-your-first-freelancing-job/

  18. Thank you for your advice, especially appreciated the idea of ‘long term’ investment building a social network of people who can say they like your work, (payment would generally indicate that view). But where I am stumped with my writing is I do it more as a passion, something I don’t feel I can turn on, even for money. I just write. Admittedly not as often as I like at times but as I say it seems to be a mood thing. And the reason I do it is because I like the views I see of life and I like to translate that to pen and paper. I’m also in no hurry to finish some of my ‘projects’ 🙂 Maybe one day. And when I do I’ll bear these tips in mind. Thanks again.

  19. Thank u so much for this wonderful post. I registered with Elance but didn’t know how to start. With this i can now.

  20. I made my first $100 at Writerslabs. It wasn’t easy, but I did the trick!

  21. I have always been really deeply in love with writing and have done several writing things (I always wanted to write books) in which i’ve shared. I got good feedback some asking for more of my writing and myself asking more from myself. I really want to be a writer I always wanted to be a writer it’s something I desperately want and dream of. I think becoming a freelance would be a good step to learning more skills as a writer and good source of beginning income. However I don’t have the know how to really get started. I really want to do this I really want to put myself in the field and learn what I can. I feel I need more specific advice on how someone so novice and green can make decent headway as a freelance writer. I’d really like some further advice if possible. Anything would be appreciated!

    • Your goal is to learn how to write – the basics. As for creative writing, consider Fiction University for lessons and advice. Then read great writing and practice. Enter contests. But do not expect to earn money for something you have not mastered. Anyone hiring a writer, wants someone skilled. Work on your skills and don’t let the noise of the Internet lull you into thinking it’s easy to earn a dollar right off the bat.

  22. I love this site! It is so practical and filled with great advice. I’m a part-time freelance writer and have worked to slowly build my portfolio of samples by focusing on a couple of topics that I knew about, was interested in, and required minimal research so I could crank out articles with only a few hours to devote each week. It’s been a slow but rewarding process. On my blog, I posted 5 tips for someone just starting out and not ready to quit a day job quite yet. Wanted to share here to provide that perspective!

    http://thestyleheist.blogspot.com/2015/08/five-steps-to-become-freelance-writer.html

  23. You can Earn lots of money if you work this company there you can write papers and earn thousands of $

  24. Obviously I’m new at this, but I find a lot of these posts and comments to be most intriguing and informative. I want very much to be a writer, but have met with what some call “Writer’s Block” wall! Frustrating as it may be, I somehow manage to find ways of breaking through that wall. C. Hope Clark, you have opened my eyes to a couple of ideas but I believe I would need your professional advice on how I could advance my skills as either a copywriter or possibly a science fiction writer – these are the two niches I have been interested in. Making money is, of course, a given, but I need to better my skills before I can reach that particular plateau.

    Writing has always been my passion and enjoy it very much. Most of the writing I’ve done has been my science fiction writing, but my eyes have been opened recently to copy-writing. This type of writing seems to offer a potential for making a fair amount of money, but it involves a more definitive type of writing and marketing. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    • Yes, there’s a huge difference between scifi and copywriting. With scifi, you need to study the scifi craft, especially reading what you consider good scifi work. You also need to study basic storytelling skills. The basics apply to any genre. Fiction University is a great website for that purpose.

      With copywriting, you have to learn how to meet a client’s needs and write with diversity. They are hiring you because they don’t know exactly what they want to say, so you’ll have to held them understand as well as write their work. Peter Bowerman, The Well-Fed Writer is a great copywriter. You can connect to him through his banner on my website http://www.fundsforwriters.com – on the right hand side.

      You are wise to take the time to learn how to write. The money has to come way after that. Good luck.

      • Hi Hope. Loved your book The Shy Writer. What would you recommend for someone who wants to brand themselves for two genres–say creative nonfiction and poetry on the one hand (neither enough to live on)–and blogging for online businesses that pay a living wage? Should I use different names for the different roles along with different websites or would that only add to the confusion?

        (My goal is not to fool people, but to show the role I’m playing. Kind of like when an actor switches hats or masks.)

  25. I am confused as to how to get started. It seems that in order to get hired as a freelancer you have to have experience, but in order to have experience, you have to get hired.

    • You start off with pitching a piece you’re truly an expert in, or about an experience that you endured. You pitch so grand that the editor doesn’t ask for your publishing history because you just knocked his socks off with a pitch he wants. That’s why writing a great query is what matters most.

  26. Hello, I got me very interested about become a profesional writer and to gain some extra money,
    I would like to be self employed freelance style, I’ve been looking at ways to get new offers and now I’m working with this site about workingfreelancer.com
    I do not know if it is good idea but now has worked for me

  27. Douglas Oerly says:

    I have always dreamed of being a writer but it never materialized. Now at age 53, I have had some articles published in a small weekly free newspaper concerning computer and computing related subjects. My career has been in the computing industry where I have been everything from a programmer to a project manager as well as networking and repair. I have written user manuals, documentation, and hand-outs for a class I ran for new programmers concerning structured program design. I have always found writing easy and can throw together a well written article concerning any subject. Does this sound like I could be successful in blog-writing? I just started looking into this subject and am skeptical about it, especially after viewing some jobs. To top matters off, I have no experience nor any kind of a resume entries concerning this field.

  28. Dear C.Hope Clark

    Oh… Writing writing writing… Earning earning earning…
    You know, I always try to do these two things from July this year. After 4 months searching I found a light from HIM that I decided the right way, to earn through writing. I’ve started to make a blog and pour everything in my mind into my madesandat blog. Until now, I don’t earn any money yet. But, I will keep learning and trying since I chose to be a writer and had left my monthly-earning job. So, now I write but not earning any dollar yet. I hope that I can share everything in my mind to the world soon. Thank you for your article, Hope Clark. It encourages myself to be more optimistic and more productive and to find ways when I get stuck in writing.

    In a big try to prove myself,
    Made Sandat

  29. I am a writer since five years. If you want to read my articles, please open my Fb jeprasad raman

  30. Thanks for sharing the informative material. I really enjoyed this post. I also suggest the readers of this post to visit the link: http://www.paidonlinewritingjobs.org/ for a legitimate writing job. If you are serious you can earn up to $200 per day.

  31. Well, I purchased your book for 19$. I’ve been told that I have the skill to become a decent writer. My wife is pushing my interest and so I’ve decided to take the plunge. Thanks for the resources.

  32. Inspiring article. I experienced being an article writer before and put gigs in fiverr. I made few hundreds (not enough though to stop my offline career). Sadly I have to give up this online passion because of my offline career that was so stressful and burning me out mentally, I couldn’t even churn out a single line in any topic. I just wanted to sleep and drop any sign of technology. I wanted to be passionate about it but during that time I was feeling drained all the time. Writing quality and original articles or blogs really need time and mental strength.

    I’m restarting again because I really love writing my opinions. And this time I am taking it slow. I just started a blog about my hometown (just a week old) to test how am I mentally and commitment-wise am I ready to restart looking for freelance jobs.

  33. Jeremie says:

    3 lists. I can do that!…

    Thanks for this. You just brought down one of my biggest obstacles; Where to start.

  34. Mohammad Sahil says:

    I have some fabulous stories and I want to share them with people. I want to be a freelance writer. What should I do?

  35. Hey Hope, thanks so much for this! It was a huge help setting up my site this week 🙂

  36. This is great information and very encouraging! Thank you for sharing this for new writers with a dream, I will be tapping into all of these resources!

  37. Camille says:

    Hi there! i aspire to be a writer and i have an overactive imagination for fictions using fantasy, horrors, and mysteries. I know i have a talent for it when i write fanficton and my readers love my work. i am willing to do anything but the problem is I’ve heard and read horror stories that it is a money pit, scams, I’m afraid people will steal my work, etc. That fear cripples me and quite frankly time is not on my side since I am currently unemployed, limited funds and I fear I might lose my house. I also live in Asia and most companies that hire freelancers only cater to those in America (not all but some are REALLY racist). What should I do? I’ve been writing stories since I was in grade school and it was the one thing that made me light up in joy.

  38. Those are some helpful tips for new writers. As a freelancer I know the struggle of getting new clients and pitching for the first time. It needs a lot of pacience and focus on your goal.

  39. Hi.
    Writing is one of the few things in life that excites me. My love for the art of poetry has led me to write them myself. I had this crazy notion that I would publish a book of my very own poems. Lucky enough, I sold over 40 copies at my job, but that’s just about it for now. My question is, how do I attract people to my book in order to generated sales? You see, I have come the the realization that I don’t quite fit into the working environments. People keep telling me to change who I am to be fit for promotions. The sad part is, I cannot change for nothing. I will always be who I am – a writer. Trying to fit in makes me miserable and sometimes frustrated. The challenge for me is that I have no idea how to take this writing to the next level. Help please!

  40. It really all depends on the kind of work. A writer who lands a recurring gig with a content company or a business might make a few thousand dollars a month, depending on time spent and the rate paid.

    On the other hand, as a new writer pitching publications or blogs, the earnings may only amount to $50 to $250 a month.

    One thing to remember — sometimes you get paid long after the post has published! So you’ll need to have a good budget in place to keep you afloat.

    Thanks for reading!

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