Freelance Writing for Beginners: 31 Things You NEED to Know

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 09/20/21 •  18 min read

Ok, so you’ve decided you want to become a freelance writer…great!

I truly think freelance writing is the best way for beginners to get started building a business online. It’s a great way to bridge the gap from where you’re at now, to where you would really like to be in life.

Over the last 12 years, we have helped thousands (literally) of people start freelance writing businesses, and in that time we’ve been asked just about every question imaginable.

However, most of the questions we get are all variations on the same thing.

So today, we’re going to answer them: this is the ultimate freelance writing for beginners guide.

Think of this as your freelance writing cheat sheet.

If you’re just getting going, the following post and video should take care of 90% of the questions you’ll have as you’re getting going.

You ready to do this?

Awesome, me too!

Freelance Writing for Beginners: The Video

If you prefer to watch as opposed to reading your content, you’re in luck! I shot a very detailed video version of this post which you can find below.

It helps give a little more insight and elaboration at certain parts if you’re looking for more info:

Freelance Writing for Beginners: Before You Start 

To get going we’re going to cover some of the most common questions new freelancers have before they even officially start their writing business.

Do I need to choose a niche for my freelance business?

This is arguably the most common question we get asked. The answer?

No, you don’t need to choose a niche.

Many of the most successful writers I know are considered “generalists.”

If you have specific expertise, then it can absolutely benefit you to niche down and focus on that. For instance, I personally happen to have unique knowledge of the golf industry, so I specialize in copywriting for golf businesses.

But when you’re just getting started? It can often be beneficial to cast a wide net, and then niche down as you discover a market, and decide where your strengths and interests really lie.

More Reading: Freelance Writing Niche: Do You have to Niche Down?

Do I need a website to start freelance writing?

No, you don’t have to have one…


It’s to your benefit if you do.

Think about it, if you meet a potential client either virtually or in person, what is the first thing they’re going to do afterward?

They’re going to look you up! If they’re thinking of working with you, they want to know you’re the real deal.

A website gives you an opportunity to show them who you are, why you’re worth hiring, and helps you build rapport in the process. So we recommend having one.

BUT, if you find yourself stressing out and spending weeks on this early on?

Table it.

It’s far more important to start actually looking for work than to get lost in the weeds setting up your website.

More reading: How to Choose a Theme for Your Freelance Portfolio Website

Should I become a freelancer or start a blog?

The easiest way to decide which of these two paths is right for you is to answer the following question:

Which is more important to you?

  1. Making money as quickly as possible
  2. Building a brand around something you love to do

If you answered #1, then you should start freelance writing. Within a few months, you have the potential to be making a full-time income.

If you answered #2, then you might consider starting a niche site around your hobby or passion.

It will likely take you a year or more to be making any significant income, but the work may be more enjoyable. you’ll be building an asset for yourself, and have the ability to make passive income down the line.

Additional Reading: Should you start a niche site or become a freelance writer?

Do I need experience to be a freelance writer?

One of the great things about freelance writing is that you don’t necessarily need a formal degree or training to begin freelancing.

However, you should have some basic writing proficiency.

If you can write at a high-school level, there are opportunities for you to be successful at freelance writing.

And if you’re a little nervous about jumping head-first into freelance writing, maybe consider finding some proofreading jobs first.

Additional Reading: Everybody Writes – Ann Handley. If you feel like your skills need a bit of a refresh, I recommend this book.

English isn’t my first language, can I still become a freelance writer?

Yes, you can. But as I mentioned above, if you plan to become a freelance writer in English you should have at least a high-school level writing proficiency.

You also don’t have to do it in English! There’s a good chance there are freelance writing opportunities in your native language, and there may be less competition as well.

You should explore both options.

Additional Reading: 5 Freelance Writing Tips for Non-Native Speakers

Can I start freelance writing if I don’t live in the US?

Sean Ogle at People's palace Glasgow, Scotland

Doing some freelance work from Glasgow, Scotland!

Of course. There’s a need for freelance writing all over the world.

Just keep in mind, if you’re not a US citizen, but are looking for writing clients in the US that you may need a US bank account to get paid.

Your Freelance Writing Portfolio Website

So many people get hung up on the website. Here are some questions surrounding setting up your freelance portfolio that should hopefully give your more confidence around it.

How do I make my freelance site? Does it have to be on WordPress?

We recommend using WordPress to set up your site because it’s affordable, has a huge support community, and provides a ton of flexibility in the future.

You can get a one-click install with a Bluehost hosting account, and there are thousands of good themes out there.

But you can also use Squarespace, or even Wix to create your site. Honestly, whatever you feel best about using is all that matters here.

Additional Reading: How to Start a Blog or Freelance Site

Should I post rates on my website?

You can do whatever you want.

Some people like to post their rates in order to make sure potential clients are on the same page as far as what to expect. This helps avoid wasting time if you’re not a good fit for each other due to price.

Others like to keep their rates more ambiguous so that you can talk to potential clients and put together a proposal based on the needs of the client and the scope of the project.

Personally, I prefer to do the latter. But you can do it, either way, it’s a personal preference.

How many sample articles do I need?

There’s no set number here, but I think having 3-5 is a good starting point.

What should my sample articles be about?

If you’re going to be a generalist, then create your samples in very different industries to show that you’re a versatile writer and can write about different topics.

Literally, this can be anything. But if you’re stuck then try writing a 750 word post on:

Those likely will require you to do a bit of research, just like other real-world jobs. Learning how to digest information quickly, and write coherent articles about any topic is one of the best skills a freelancer can have.

Can blog posts count as samples?

They can. Just make sure they’re professional and not just a personal journal post. For instance, if you have a travel blog and you wrote a 2500 word post on things to do in Tokyo, that can be a great sample article.

If you wrote a blog post complaining about your mother-in-law…that’s probably not going to fly.

I usually tell people that if you have a freelance portfolio site, having a blog component to it can be valuable because it adds personality. Every post you write is an example of your abilities as a writer, and also a window into who you are as a person.

People want to work with people they like. So having blog posts that are both professional and personal, can give you a leg up over your competitors.

Finding Freelance Writing Jobs as a Beginner

Alright, you’re ready to start finding and working with clients! Now what?

How do I get my first client?

There’s no one way to get your first client.

But the best way we’ve found to get clients is through cold email.

  1. Create a list of potential businesses, agencies, or websites that may be interested in hiring freelance writers.
  2. Send Letters of Introduction to as many of them as you can.
  3. Follow up regularly.
  4. Repeat.

Seem simple? It is. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.

Additional Reading: How to Write a Pitch

Is Upwork the best place to get writing jobs?

No. In fact, Upwork is one of the worst places for aspiring freelance writers.


Because there are so many writers on Upwork that it can be difficult to even get approved as a writer on the platform. And if you do? It’s a race to the bottom as far as price goes.

So you end up doing a lot of work to apply for jobs, and then likely either won’t get the job or won’t get paid what you’re worth.

There are much better freelance job boards to apply to as you’re getting started.

Additional Reading: 5 Freelance Writing Job Boards that Don’t Suck

How do I set my freelance rates?

To set your freelance rates, start by figuring out how much you want to make per hour.

To make it easy, you can just go with that. Want to make $25 an hour? Great, there’s your rate.

However, when providing a quote for work, do this:

So if you want to make $25 an hour, and you think a job will take you 4 hours all in?

Quote $125-150.

This gives you room if the client negotiates down a little bit to still hit your desired rate. It can also account for a job that takes longer than expected.

Additional Reading: How to Set Your Freelance Rates

Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

Join over 40,000 people who have taken our 6 part freelance writing course. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

By entering your email address you agree to receive emails from Location Rebel. We'll respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

What is an LOI?

LOI stands for Letter of Introduction.

This is an email you send to a potential client simply introducing yourself and establishing a relationship. There’s no selling involved. You’re just letting them know who you are, asking a few questions about their needs, and seeing if there’s an opportunity to talk more.

Additional Reading: What is a Letter of Introduction in Freelance Writing?

How is an LOI different than a pitch?

In a pitch, you’re actively trying to sell someone on working with you. You’re trying to close the sale.

In an LOI, it’s all informational.

No hard sell, just seeing if there’s potential for a future relationship.

Many new freelancers think that you’ll have more luck if you’re always pitching.

The reality is unless you’re really good at cold email, that could lead to a bunch of automatic no’s, or even worse, no answer at all.

An LOI warms people up and can make it easier to close the sale down the line.

I’ve sent out 10 LOIs but haven’t heard anything back, what am I doing wrong?

So many new freelance writers send out a handful of LOIs or pitches and then get frustrated when they don’t get an answer.

If you’ve only sent out 10? You’ve barely begun.

Once you’ve hit 50? Even a 100? That’s when we can start considering if something is wrong.

As a freelancer, expect to send out hundreds if not thousands of cold emails.

I generally think a 20-30% response rate is really good.

If you can get 25% of those to turn into a phone call or request for samples, you’re doing great.

And if you can turn 50% of those into clients?

You’ve got a full-blown business on your hands.

To put this in real numbers:

Send 100 LOIs

Hope for 20 people to respond.

Hope to get 5 of them to be legitimately interested.

Get 2-3 of them to turn into clients.

Those would be very good numbers and is a good goal to shoot for.

You’ll get way (WAY) more no’s than yesses. The sooner you grow a thick skin, the better off you’ll be.

What happens if my pitch gets rejected?

I’ve got news for you…your pitch will get rejected.

Over and over and over again.

But occasionally, it won’t.

Like I just said, the sooner you grow a thick skin, the better off you’ll be.

Additional Reading: Freelance Work: 5 Reasons Writers Must Embrace Rejection

How do I keep track of my pitches?

The most basic way to do it is to just make a spreadsheet of everyone you reach out to.

Keep notes for their website, name, email address, any relevant notes, and the last contact date.

Then make a point to personally follow up every 5-7 days until you hear back. Sure you can automate this, and most do, and that’s why most people fail. Smart business owners can see right through the automated follow-up.

By personalizing it you’re proving yourself to be different straight out of the gate.

If you’d like to take it a step further, you can get a CRM to help keep track of all your outreach.

Personally, I love Streak for Gmail. They have a free version so you can get started and see if it’s right for you.

Additional Reading: How to Use Streak for Gmail (And Why It’s Such an Awesome Tool)

What to Do Once You Get a Freelance Writing Job

Get a job? Great! Now the fun really begins. The following are questions about working with clients and making sure you continue to grow your connections and contacts in the process.

Do I need a contract?

The responsible thing for me to say is, “yes, you should always have a contract.”

But I don’t think that’s indicative of the real world.

In many freelance cases, I have not had a contract.

If it’s for someone I trust or is a relatively low-stakes relationship, I don’t usually create a contract. And *knock on wood* I’ve never had an issue.

Usually, you’ll find two types of freelance clients:

Chances are if you pitch the first person, they’ll tell you exactly what they need, what they can pay, and then they’ll have you sign a contract.

Great. Double-check it to make sure the terms work, but it’s likely good.

The second is the one you need to be more worried about. This is where it benefits you to have a contract template.

You shouldn’t worry about them being put off by signing it. If they are? This is a huge red flag, and you probably dodged a bullet anyway.

What do I do if I’m given a topic I don’t know anything about?

One word: Google.

Google is your best friend.

If you can master the art of learning information about a given topic and turning it into a competent article quickly? You’ll never hurt for freelance writing work again.

How do I get paid?

Each client generally has a preferred method. It may be:

I usually just work with whatever they want to do, and in lieu of everything else, I’ve found PayPal to be great and easy.

Freelance Writing for Beginners

Not a bad office. Nirwana, Bali.

Is it ok to ask the client questions if I don’t understand something?

Absolutely, 100%, yes.

Don’t worry about annoying them, or coming across as clueless.

You should always have total clarity on the scope of the project and what you need to do before getting started.

Most clients will appreciate the thoroughness. And they’ll appreciate it, even more, when you’re not costing them more time and money by having to redo work.

How long should a blog post be?

Blogger to blogger? I’d tell you that a post should be exactly as long as it takes to get your point across. No more, no less.

Is that 300 words? Great.

3,000? Cool.

But in most freelance cases, your client will have a target word count or range for you to shoot for.

So let them dictate how long the post should be, and if they don’t say it upfront, then ask.

Additional Reading: How long should a blog post be?

Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

Join over 40,000 people who have taken our 6 part freelance writing course. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

By entering your email address you agree to receive emails from Location Rebel. We'll respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

How do I write posts faster?

Practice makes perfect.

But beginning to have a few templates in your toolbox can help speed things along if you have a lot of articles to write.

When I say templates, I don’t necessarily mean anything fancy. Even the headline template can be helpful. Here are a few examples:

You get the idea.

This is obviously an oversimplification, but by outlining your post based on templates like these and nailing down all your main points ahead of time, you can blow through the writing process much faster.

Other Common Freelance Writing Questions

These are some of the common freelance writing questions we get that don’t necessarily fit into some of the above categories.

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is any writing where you’re being persuasive, or selling, with your words.

Sales pages, Facebook ads, Marketing Emails are all forms of copywriting.

Copywriting is one of the most highly paid styles of freelance writing. It’s also one of the hardest to break into.

Additional Reading: What is Copywriting and How to Become a Copywriter

How long does it take to become a copywriter?

There’s no one answer here, as everyone has a unique background.

Some factors that go into how long it will take you to become a proficient copywriter

Some people will naturally start typing and innately have some copy chops.

Others might work for years and just never quite get there.

Do I need to know SEO to be a freelance writer?

You don’t have to know SEO, but understanding the basics of SEO as a freelance writer will give you a huge leg up.

Most articles you’ll write will be shared online. And the people publishing it will likely hope to get some search traffic from it.

So if you know how to properly format and optimize your writing for search, it will just make you that much more valuable as a freelancer, and will likely lead to more work.

Additional Reading: SEO Writing is Dead! Do this type of freelance writing instead.

How do I avoid writer’s block?

Every writer inevitably faces bouts of writer’s block.

If you find yourself struggling, set aside the thing you’re trying to write about for a second.

Then just write. Anything.

I have a book of 600+ writing prompts that sits on my desk, so I’ll often turn to that.

Additional Reading: 25 Writing Prompts to Spark Creativity and Kill Writers Block

Now Go Start Writing!

There you have it, all of the most common questions we get from new freelance writers. If you’re looking to start a business online, I 100% think this is the best option for most people who are just starting out.

If you want some extra hand-holding as you’re getting going, check out our free freelance writer’s guide and six-day course that walks you through how to get going.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

Join over 40,000 people who have taken our 6 part freelance writing course. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

By entering your email address you agree to receive emails from Location Rebel. We'll respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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