How to Become a Freelance Writer Who Gets Paid

People often ask me how I got started as a writer, and how I found my work from home job. Thankfully, I currently write full-time for a trade publication, and I do get to work from my home office. But that hasn’t always been the case.

Image: luigi diamanti /

Most of the writers that I know — in journalism, public relations and marketing, at least — are still required to work in a traditional business setting, in an office. But with the power of high speed Internet connection in homes, and the fact that more employers are catching on to the benefits of hiring remote workers, the landscape is rapidly changing.

I started my career in journalism working in busy newsrooms at The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News, here in Washington, DC.

Frankly, nowadays, just about anybody can start a career in writing thanks to the Internet and convergence of different forms of media. The game has, indeed, changed.

I used to think, for example, that blogging wasn’t “real journalism.” Of course, now I’m eating my words, and I’m seeing a lot of budding writers take on projects remotely through up and coming blog sites that deliver fresh content, relevant and useful information that traditional media just can’t afford to provide its audience.

Moreover, there is a new generation of workers cropping up who make a living never having to step a foot inside a traditional office. I’m one of them. And you can become one of them, too — if that’s what you aspire to.

Several online job boards feature hundreds of telecommute and work-from-home writing gigs every day. Check out the new job board created on this site, which pulls remote jobs in the writing, marketing and web design industries from all over the Internet in one place.

Can you withstand the competition?

With the onslaught of opportunities available, however, you better believe that that also means fierce competition for you. So you better have your resume in tip-top shape, and some previous writing experience to prove your worth.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply at all and risk failure. Just keep some things in mind as you search.

If you’re a new writer, in particular, be very considerate of what the job entails. If a job description asks only for applicants in a particular area, and you don’t have that kind of experience or expertise under your belt, then don’t waste your time (or the employer’s).

However, if the job description piques your interest and you believe you can pull it off, then go for it! The worst a prospective employer can say is ‘no’ or ‘not at this time.’

For instance, if you’re a registered nurse and a job posting is looking for a medical writer; however, you’ve never written professionally, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You have the knowledge, and it may just take one break such as this to launch a writing career.

The thing is: if you can synthesize technical information and — as we say in journalism — write in such a way that makes reading easy enough for your grandma or middle schooler to read and understand, then you’ve got a shot at a promising career.

What opportunities are out there?

As you start your search, you’ll find that there are various types of opportunities out there. 

Most job postings will typically include the following categories:

  1. Article writing: These are projects in which you are assigned to write about a particular topic under a specified word count. Make sure you’re familiar with the AP style. If you don’t know what that is, look it up and practice is it pronto!
  2. Copywriting: The use of words and ideas to promote a person, business, opinion or idea, as in marketing copy or promotional text (i.e. advertising for print, online, television, radio, or other media.) This could include white papers, case studies, press releases, brochures, editing, sales letters, and scripts.
  3. Freelance writer: A person who works for a business or individual on a contractual or project basis.
  4. Web content writer: An individual who specializes in providing relevant text content for websites, and can easily adapt their writing to different sites. Most of this work centers on marketing products or services that particular websites are selling or endorsing.
  5. Proofreader, transcribing:  If you have an eye for detail and are meticulous, these are appropriate for you. A proofreader is someone, likely an English major or someone with similar background, who can verify that copy is free of grammatical, structural and spelling errors. A transcription is when someone writes out, or transcribe, a taped interview, for instance.

What are you waiting for? Now you’re armed with some basic tips on getting started. Don’t let analysis paralysis stop you from going after your writing dreams. Trust me — I was once in your shoes.

If you need help making sure your resume gets noticed, check out my new resume writing and cover letter writing services.

Meanwhile, i
f you have any other questions, leave them in the comments section below or contact me via email. Talk to you soon!



  • Kristine Wilson

    Emily, great article!  I just have 2 comments.  1 – the link in this piece with the anchor text “new job board” is broken (I got a 404 error).  2 – If you want to get your foot in the door, I know is a great place for writers to go to get paid for doing what they do best.  

  • Aileen Watson

    Thanks for the tips regarding freelance writing.. I am glad I visited here and want to share my views regarding it.. The very first thing which one should keep in mind while doing freelancing writing is the quality of content..

    • Anonymous

      Hi Aileen, I completely agree with you. Quality is King. A focus on quality writing will take you far, and a commitment to improving your craft is one step to getting there. Thanks for your input!

  • DanaLeavy

    Great article Emily!  Tough business to break into, but you’re right – it’s do-able.  Thanks for sharing.   

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Dana! It is very tough, especially in this economy. But if someone has the chops and sets realistic goals — you’re right — it’s doable.