If you’ve been kicking around the Interwebs trying to figure out how to make money from writing, you might have come across some information on freelance writing. And you wouldn’t be the first person to ask, What the heck IS a freelance writer, anyway?
A freelance writer is someone who writes for others — companies or individuals — on a per-project basis, for money.
That money bit is super-important, because money is a good thing. With money, you can buy food and shelter and iPads and other things.
Freelance writing is a job — but it’s not a J-O-B where you go to an office and have a boss. A freelance writer isn’t an employee of a company, but rather an an independent contractor. This is a fancy way of saying, “You’re on your own, baby!”
As in, you have to find your own work, find the place to do that work, and get the equipment you need to do that work.
You can probably get by with a laptop, an internet connection, and a comfortable place to sit. (The seat is optional. I actually work on a treadmill desk. Really!)
Freelancers also have to handle all the administrative work that goes along with being in business — for example, sending invoices to clients, and then following up to be sure the client actually sends the check.
If this is starting to sound like a raw deal, don’t panic. Because the flip side? Well, the flip side is that when you are a freelance writer, you are in control of your own income.
What Does It Mean to Be In Control of Your Own Income?
When you’re an employee at a company, you most likely don’t have access to the whole picture. You don’t know the ins and outs of the company’s finances.
You don’t always know if layoffs are being discussed. You don’t get to decide which projects to take, and which to pass on.
When you’re a freelancer, it’s your business, and you know what the situation is at any given moment. You know if there’s enough work and money.
You know if you need to get out there and hustle, and how much you’re going to see at the end of the month.
To me, that feels a lot more stable than counting on someone else to come through for you.
It’s really, really important to note that not everyone feels the way I do. My husband, for example, loves having a job with a regular paycheck. You need to carefully consider how YOU feel before you make the decision to be a freelance writer.
If I’m a Freelance Writer, What Exactly Will I Do?
Freelance writers do a lot of different things, depending on their interest and abilities. Some freelance writers write blog posts — for their own blogs, and for other blogs. Some freelance writers specialize in blog posts for businesses.
Some writers focus on articles for print and online magazines, and others write technical manuals and software user guides.
You can find writers in almost any area you can imagine: corporate marketing materials, ebooks, white papers, press releases, and so on.
What’s not on this list? Novels, short stories, poetry, and similar kinds of writing. That’s typically not the kind of writing we’re talking about when we talk about freelance writing.
BUT! You can combine those types of writing with freelance writing so that you can make money and write what you love.
Do I Have to Pick Just One Thing To Write?
Here’s a cool secret: you don’t have to do anything! When you’re a freelance writer, you are in charge of your own business, and you get to make all the decisions!
Many years ago, when I started out as a freelance writer, I wrote all kinds of things. This was partly because I placed a really high value on materialistic things like heat and food, and also because it’s really hard to turn down work when you don’t have any.
In the span of a single year, I wrote dozens of articles on parenting toddlers, along with press releases for a semiconductor company, test questions for standardized exams for elementary and high school students, and a brochure for a company selling home delivery of medication for Hepatitis.
Basically, if someone was offering money, I was there, laptop at the ready.
(Except one time. One time, a big formula manufacturer wanted me to write a guide to formula feeding. I turned down the assignment, which very nearly caused my husband to leave me.)
You get to make your own choices, is the point, which means that if the formula company comes to you, you can take the assignment and donate the money to La Leche League. Or you can buy a caseful of formula, and hand it out in the maternity wing of your local hospital – and that’s fine.
You have your comfort level, and I have mine. That’s what makes the world interesting – and gives us super fun comment wars on Facebook.
Anyway, I was writing a lot of different things, and while it did give me a lot of experience, it didn’t make me a lot of money.
I like money and I really like the things I can BUY with money, so I knew I needed to figure out a better plan.
I didn't know it at the time, but one of the things I really needed was a niche.
But when I started out as a freelance writer, I didn’t have a niche.
I had never heard of “choosing a niche” — so I didn’t bother to pick one.
Stop letting your niche hangups get in the way of starting your freelance writing career. If you can’t pick a niche, get started anyway.
Are there advantages to choosing a niche? Of course. Just check out all those links above. But if choosing a niche is preventing you from getting started in freelance writing, that’s just silly.
You can start TODAY, right where you are, with nothing more than the knowledge you have in your head, right now. You don’t have to quit your day job yet. You don’t have to invest money in building a web site. You can just start, and figure out your niche after your first few assignments. You're already ahead of where I was, because I didn't even understand that choosing a niche was a thing.
My instinct was to say YES! to everyone.
I wrote press releases about semiconductors, articles about breastfeeding, and courses about the laws concerning insider trading.
Doing all of those different things meant that I was constantly learning new things. I was always a beginner.
It took me several years to realize that by always having a learning curve, I was significantly limiting my income. When I started turning down work that didn’t interest me, I took a big step in the right direction, but it was a long time before I finally wised up and niched down.
By turning down the work that didn’t interest me, I opened up time in my schedule — in my life — to find the work that I did like. The work that made me feel excited. The work that earned me real money.
If that's what YOU want, go ahead and check out my free course on how to be a freelance writer. It's a great way to get started today.
Because you can do this.