How to succeed as a freelance content writer

33 replies
Hello there. I have been a very unsuccessful content writer for about 5 years now, working on a rather low wage. Could somebody give me advice on what materials, books and courses I should take, read and get to improve my skills and up my level to be able to get freelance content writing jobs that pay at least fairly? I will be very grateful to anybody's recommendations on where should I start to develop and how they succeeded. Thanks!
#content #freelance #succeed #writer
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  • Profile picture of the author Randall Magwood
    What are you charging per content that you develop? How many words do you write per piece, and how many pieces can you produce within a single day? After 5 years it would seem that you would have the knowledge of how to get clients, and build repeat clients that you've written for. Do you have your own website? Are you on the major freelance sites?
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  • Profile picture of the author malzeri83
    Can I give a small suggestion? It is my private thoughts only so just decide is it interesting or not.
    1. I think it is too complicated to run special professional content without deep knowledge. And without it a big half of the market is closed.
    2. Maybe it is interesting not just to write the content and sell hours/words/articles but to create the complete package with publishing. Published article I believe could cost much more than article just sent by mail as order.
    3. Probably all recommendations and style of work lies inside offers of your competitors on freelance sources.
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    • Thank you for your suggestions. How do I prepare and make published articles?
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Originally Posted by Katerina Valcheva View Post

    Hello there. I have been a very unsuccessful content writer for about 5 years now, working on a rather low wage. Could somebody give me advice on what materials, books and courses I should take, read and get to improve my skills and up my level to be able to get freelance content writing jobs that pay at least fairly? I will be very grateful to anybody's recommendations on where should I start to develop and how they succeeded. Thanks!
    Who are you writing for?

    This is the #1 question you need to answer. Since you used your real name on your profile (good for you) I was able to find your clippings samples. Your writing is fine from a native speaker point of view. So there's nothing to stop you in that department, which is a good thing and a step ahead of many people who want to be writers.

    So... who are you writing for? Trying to pick up scraps in article jobs on freelancer sites is not the answer. You need to niche down and get a specific kind of customer who you enjoy writing for.

    Also, think about what result you want to bring to your ideal client. It looks like you're comfortable writing content pieces, in contrast to sales pieces. Areas exist that you can make good use of your research and writing skills in, to produce content pieces for a certain kind of client and educate * their * ideal customer. Consider the journey you will take your client's customers on...where they start, and where you take them.

    A strategy comprised of content pieces with this kind of goal in mind can be called Account Based Marketing in addition to content marketing.

    We've all done the "write a 500 word article for $5" gigs and they are soul-destroying. Don't do that.

    Decide what you like talking about all day. Maybe 2 or 3 categories. Then think about WHO could use someone writing about those topics. Probably business owners. Maybe non-profit organizations. Think: people with money. People making money. People getting grant money. People who can pay you.

    Back in 2010 after moving to the US I was the only writer for a scientific & testing equipment firm, in the Inc. Top 500. They paid me $200 for a 600 word article. Those took me maybe 3 or 4 hours to research and write. I had to be competent: engineers and techs read them, and if they were salesy or factually incorrect, I was informed by the marketing manager that readers would angrily erupt on the company's blog. They didn't. Eventually the company bought a Canadian firm of similar type, and I could write as much as I wanted. The money after awhile wasn't worth it to me--I had other things I could be paid more to do. But as far as a writing client went, they were great. And I earned many times more per article than gigs because it was specific, and for a regular client.

    I answered a Craigslist ad to get that gig. Now CL had a bit more cred back in the day, but nowadays there is nothing to stop you from picking a niche or two, making a list of 20 or 30 potential clients in each, and reaching out to the marketing managers to find out if they could use some smart help in the content department. You can do this easily on LinkedIn. One niche will take off and you can specialize in that. Then you can go back to the previous possible clients and show them what you did, relevant to their field because it's the same.

    Move away from "writing" and towards "content strategy and fulfillment". It has higher perceived and actual value. Keep in mind long term clients rather than one-off gigs.
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    • Hi Jason, what you suggest totally makes sense. Thanks for taking the time and effort to find my work and for the positive evaluation. I'm glad that it's not that obvious that English is not my native language. I will think well about what niches I want to write in and apply the advice you give me. Still, I think I need some more resources to make my writing better. If you could recommend some, I would be happy. For example, I am subscribed to Writer's Den and I think they are professionals. Do you think their courses would help me become a more professional writer, or are there books you can recommend me?

      Thanks again for the help and suggestions you made. I am sure you are a professional in writing, and your help means a lot to me.
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      • Profile picture of the author DABK
        To write better:
        https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Well-.../dp/0060891548


        https://www.amazon.com/Elements-Styl.../dp/020530902X


        Read Virgina Wolf (Mrs. Dalloway), Steinbeck (Cannery Row), https://www.amazon.com/Armada-Garret.../dp/0618565914 (history book that reads like a novel), an essay or two by Dante Aligheri, essays and fiction in the New Yorker Magazine or the Atlantic, Dan Kennedy's books on sales letters, Eric Erickson, college textbooks on topics that interest you, Calvino's Invisible Cities. In other words, read a lot and read in different areas. And, also, think about how they wrote and why you liked how they wrote a sentence or paragraph or why you did not like it. By like or do not like I mean: does it fit in the overall goal of the piece, does it produce the result the author wanted (entertain, inform, etc.) and do you think there was a better way.




        Originally Posted by Katerina Valcheva View Post

        Hi Jason, what you suggest totally makes sense. Thanks for taking the time and effort to find my work and for the positive evaluation. I'm glad that it's not that obvious that English is not my native language. I will think well about what niches I want to write in and apply the advice you give me. Still, I think I need some more resources to make my writing better. If you could recommend some, I would be happy. For example, I am subscribed to Writer's Den and I think they are professionals. Do you think their courses would help me become a more professional writer, or are there books you can recommend me?

        Thanks again for the help and suggestions you made. I am sure you are a professional in writing, and your help means a lot to me.
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    • Profile picture of the author XYZcontent
      Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

      Who are you writing for?

      This is the #1 question you need to answer. Since you used your real name on your profile (good for you) I was able to find your clippings samples. Your writing is fine from a native speaker point of view. So there's nothing to stop you in that department, which is a good thing and a step ahead of many people who want to be writers.

      So... who are you writing for? Trying to pick up scraps in article jobs on freelancer sites is not the answer. You need to niche down and get a specific kind of customer who you enjoy writing for.

      Also, think about what result you want to bring to your ideal client. It looks like you're comfortable writing content pieces, in contrast to sales pieces. Areas exist that you can make good use of your research and writing skills in, to produce content pieces for a certain kind of client and educate * their * ideal customer. Consider the journey you will take your client's customers on...where they start, and where you take them.

      A strategy comprised of content pieces with this kind of goal in mind can be called Account Based Marketing in addition to content marketing.

      We've all done the "write a 500 word article for $5" gigs and they are soul-destroying. Don't do that.

      Decide what you like talking about all day. Maybe 2 or 3 categories. Then think about WHO could use someone writing about those topics. Probably business owners. Maybe non-profit organizations. Think: people with money. People making money. People getting grant money. People who can pay you.

      Back in 2010 after moving to the US I was the only writer for a scientific & testing equipment firm, in the Inc. Top 500. They paid me $200 for a 600 word article. Those took me maybe 3 or 4 hours to research and write. I had to be competent: engineers and techs read them, and if they were salesy or factually incorrect, I was informed by the marketing manager that readers would angrily erupt on the company's blog. They didn't. Eventually the company bought a Canadian firm of similar type, and I could write as much as I wanted. The money after awhile wasn't worth it to me--I had other things I could be paid more to do. But as far as a writing client went, they were great. And I earned many times more per article than gigs because it was specific, and for a regular client.

      I answered a Craigslist ad to get that gig. Now CL had a bit more cred back in the day, but nowadays there is nothing to stop you from picking a niche or two, making a list of 20 or 30 potential clients in each, and reaching out to the marketing managers to find out if they could use some smart help in the content department. You can do this easily on LinkedIn. One niche will take off and you can specialize in that. Then you can go back to the previous possible clients and show them what you did, relevant to their field because it's the same.

      Move away from "writing" and towards "content strategy and fulfillment". It has higher perceived and actual value. Keep in mind long term clients rather than one-off gigs.
      Wow, this is a fantastic response.
      Signature
      Your one-stop shop for all written content.

      Visit us at XYZcontent.com
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    Hi Katerina,

    I have been working as a writer/editor/proofreader for 13 years.
    I think that if you follow Jason's advice, you won't go wrong.
    Signature

    Cheers, Laurence.
    Writer/Editor/Proofreader.

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  • Profile picture of the author yeyvasil
    Are you sure that you're a bad specialist or you just need a suitable resource to find work?
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  • Like the old adage goes, content is king.

    Uhm, so, yeah -- what 'bout the frickin' gals?

    Don't we get no say evah?

    So prolly always the deal with content is ...

    For Whom?

    From Whom?

    & bound by WHAT?

    Bcs whatevah the content for whom an' from whom, it gotta make the SWITCH from one to the othah.

    So the form of your content gotta sit equally easy with exudah an' imbibah.

    Content is kind.

    If'n it ain't, don't evah expect nowan to sniff it up through their nostrils an' proclaim glory glory glory!

    If'n you don't wanna read the stuff, then why should you?

    tbh I sick of hearin' content is king.

    An' I believe my intentional typo variant may move this pertickuler narrative on.

    What is for evrywan?

    That each may derive colossal benefit from the yummiest of juicy, plopped personally onto their very tongues by benevolent overseers of ultimate joy?

    Content is kind.

    Hold this in your braino for 24 hours an' see what comes up.
    Signature

    Lightin' fuses is for blowin' stuff togethah.

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  • Profile picture of the author spartan14
    Well you need to know your value ,if you are a good writer then charge more per words if not search to improve your writing to be able to charge more
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    • I am doing that right now - searching for ways to improve my writing to be able to charge more. Could you recommend me materials for that?
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    Hi Katerina,

    As a practical tip, writing 1000 words daily in a Word document just for practice can increase your writing confidence and clarity. Being a clear, confident writer positions you to land more clients. Following this simple tip enhances every aspect of your freelance writing campaign, especially if English is your second language and you need a little confidence boost.

    Ryan
    Signature
    Ryan Biddulph helps you to be a successful blogger with his courses, manuals and blog at Blogging From Paradise
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  • Hi thanks. Does it matter on what topics I write and do I need to follow certain rules or I can just write whatever is on my mind?
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    Does it matter on what topics I write and do I need to follow certain rules or I can just write whatever is on my mind?
    If you are going to 'practice' you should write as you would for a paid gig. I agree that writing every day helps you - but just sitting down and writing nonsense or your thoughts isn't helpful.

    Plan an article, with a topic/niche, using keywords...and practice what you will be hired to do.


    Then proof read the article you wrote, check the keyword density...just as you would if writing for pay.


    How do I prepare and make published articles?
    Formatting of articles is important as is flexibility on how you deliver the articles to the buyer. Buyers may want text copy or prefer to have finished articles in both text and Word.

    As for 'published articles' - not sure what you mean. If a customer wants you to publish the articles on his site/blog he will give you instructions for that.
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    that's why there are so many of us.
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  • Profile picture of the author samus24
    Find some help with content ai, like copy.ai
    You can find some idea / inspirations
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  • Profile picture of the author blairquane
    Assuming you have clients to write to then I suggest doing the following:
    1. Use a grammar software that checks your work for free = quality writing.
    2. Focus in depth on the topic at hand and don't drift into other topics.
    3. Get deep into detail in the topic as other writers don't do that very often.
    4. Include infographics and good images with your work.
    5. Write the article like a college essay with intro middle and conclusion.
    6. Focus on the keyword of the article.

    Clients want the content to be very well-written and very topical. Middle of the road content just doesn't cut it now days. Hopefully, that helps.
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  • Thanks, that sums it up basically the key to success. You said it very accurately and to the point. I follow most of these. I don't know how in-depth I go with each topic as I easily get distracted and I don't add images as the client I work for doesn't require them.
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  • Profile picture of the author prasanth1964
    Freelance writing needs skill and patience. Do your best to incorporate strong keywords in the articles much to the delight and satisfaction of your clients. Make sure you are sound in grammar. Stick to the basics of grammar and you will succeed as a freelance writer. Also keep an eye on the freshness of the articles that you write for your clients. They have to be new and original.
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  • Profile picture of the author drwnrz
    Focus on the problems your content solves for your clients.

    Businesses don't want content...they want the results that translate into more money.

    Be less of a writer...and more of a problem-solver.

    Read anything by Bob Bly...but start with Secrets of a Successful Freelance Writer and The Copywriter's Handbook.

    Also, develop a solid understanding of SEO.

    You don't have to be an expert, but understanding how your content and a company's SEO strategies can work together will set you apart from other writers.

    Adam Clarke's SEO 2022 book is a great resource. (He updates it every year.)

    Good luck to you.

    And keep us posted!

    drwnrz
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    • That's a great resource of books and authors you suggest. I'll check them (by the way I have The Copywriter's Handbook paper book just need to read it). I will definitely do it!
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      • Profile picture of the author drwnrz
        I should add one more book that I think would be an excellent resource... and addresses the point I made about positioning yourself as a problem-solver more so than just a writer.

        The book is Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You've Got by Jay Abraham. Excellent resource.

        Enjoy!
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  • Great, I'll check it!
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  • Profile picture of the author Artkantos
    You can check Twitter too, there I see that good writers stand out a lot and they are able to get opportunities, like ghostwriter gigs etcetera. I can recommend you some people to follow and learn from, good luck!
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    • Yes, please recommend to me who to follow on Twitter - copywriters that I can learn from. Thanks!
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      • Profile picture of the author Artkantos
        Originally Posted by Katerina Valcheva View Post

        Yes, please recommend to me who to follow on Twitter - copywriters that I can learn from. Thanks!
        Sure, these are some of the best

        waronweakness
        aaditsh
        heykahn
        chrishlad
        imjoshcousins
        thatroblennon
        IAmAaronWill
        WrongsToWrite
        AlexHormozi
        ItsKieranDrew
        dickiebush
        OneJKMolina
        thedankoe
        thejustinwelsh
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  • Profile picture of the author Artkantos
    "Knowing what to say is more important than knowing how to say it. Which is why most "good writers" are broke!"

    What do you think of this quote? It comes from a well-known copywriter...But could be a bit clickbaity
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
      Originally Posted by Artkantos View Post

      "Knowing what to say is more important than knowing how to say it. Which is why most "good writers" are broke!"
      If you're a writer, there's not much point knowing what to say, if you don't know how to say it.
      Signature


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    • I don't understand it very well. If you are a writer, you should know what to say and how to say it as well as the right timing. To me, these all are important to be successful.
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  • Profile picture of the author Artkantos
    Yeah, I thought so, copywriting is mostly about the how...You can say the same things in 2 different texts, the first one people ignore it and the second one everyone reads it because the way is written
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