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writing a freelance article


writing a freelance article


  • Get Paid to Write Articles: The Freelancer’s Ultimate Guide

Table of contents: How to Get Paid A Lot to Write an Article

1. find good markets, a note about essays, what can i write about, 2. study your targets, verify freelance opportunities, identify best-fit departments, check out the pub’s media guide, 3. generate ideas, 4. find your hook, tips for identifying a news hook, a note about magazine timelines, 5. research the facts, use primary sources, 6. do quick pre-interviews, a note about email ‘interviews’, 7. create a headline, 8. write a query, publication query template, 9. write more queries, 10. get an assignment and contract, 11. finish your interviews, think like an editor, a note about recording, 12. organize your notes, 13. write your article, the ‘nut graf’, the conclusion, 14. boil it down (editing), the road to article greatness, final read-thru tips, 15. one last fact-check…, 16. file your article, 17. respond to editor feedback, 18. finalize and invoice, how to write an article — your way.

Tired of article writing jobs that pay a big $50? There’s a ton of ‘online content’ work out there that doesn’t pay much. Maybe it’s time to move up and learn how to write an article and, more importantly, how to get paid to write articles.

And when I say that, I don’t mean a $75 article — I mean the type of article that pays real money. $1-a-word-and-up land.

If that interests you, you’re in the right place to learn how to get paid to write articles at top rates.

After offering article-writing tips for over a decade, I decided it would be useful to organize all the information into one, big ultimate guide that shows you exactly how to get paid to write articles at rates you deserve.

Many freelance writers do article-prep steps out of order or skip some steps entirely, with poor results. Following this step-by-step guide will make it easier for you to move up, write in-depth, reported articles faster, and sell to better-paying article markets.

Ready to learn how to write an article that pays? Then let’s go!

Affordable Learning and Support.

  • Find good markets
  • Study your targets
  • Generate ideas
  • Research the facts
  • Do quick pre-interviews
  • Create a headline
  • Write a query
  • Write more queries
  • Get an assignment and contract
  • Finish your interviews
  • Organize your notes
  • Write your article
  • Boil it down (editing)
  • One last fact check…
  • File your article
  • Respond to editor feedback
  • Finalize and invoice

Do you do this? You get an idea for an article, and you just write it up. Then, you start looking around for a magazine or website that might publish it and pay you a chunk.

But you discover no such market can be found. Even if it could, many publications pay less for pre-written material. Their editors want to weigh in before you write!

Instead, start your article-writing journey by building a list of well-paid publications or websites where you’d like to see your byline. Stop bothering with local pubs that pay $75 for a feature story!

Here are some places to find markets where you can get paid to write articles at a much higher rate:

  • Join the Freelance Writers Den.  Ok, shameless plug, but if you want to get paid to write articles, the Freelance Writers Den is a fantastic place to start. Not only does the Den have a 100s of members that refer each other lots of high-paying opportunities, but you also get access to 100s of hours of training materials, a 24/7 forum where you can network with other writers, and so many other great resources that will help you get paid more as a writer.
  • Use Writer’s Market. One of my favorite shortcuts is to buy the most recent-year copy of Writer’s Market — with online support. Online, you can set their online search tool to quickly show you only the highest-paying markets.
  • Check WhoPaysWriters for intel on which magazines are paying well, or search up the many available lists of good-paying markets compiled online.
  • Browse our market lists.  our monster list of over 200 paying markets Each month, we publish a new list of markets paying writers good many to write articles. You can get started by checking out .
  • Find trade and company magazines. If you’re unaware of the world beyond consumer newsstand magazines, broaden your horizons to include trade publications and company magazines (this latter category includes the airlines’ in-flight magazines). These latter two categories tend to pay well and offer reliable work, once you get in their writer stable.
  • Write for businesses. Finally, consider writing articles directly for companies. Many businesses create article content for their own websites, or are looking to get an article ghostwritten for their CEO and published in a consumer or trade magazine (known as a ‘placed’ or advertorial article). Rates for placed articles are often $1,000 or more.

If you are thinking about writing personal-essay articles, bad news: Good pay is very rare (this list of paying essay markets gives you a taste of the low rates).

For purposes of this ultimate guide, when I say ‘write an article,’ what I mean is a nonfiction, reported article. Not a personal essay or opinion piece.

Good-paying essay markets are few and highly competitive. The odds you could earn regularly this way are low.

The good money is in reported nonfiction articles, and that’s what this guide is about.

One more quick note about ‘qualifications’ or certifications you might think you need, to write on a topic. None are required .

If you have an interest and willingness to learn about a topic, you can interview experts and learn the industry. I’m a college dropout and have written for top-drawer magazines and websites in real estate, legal, insurance, finance, and other niches. Learned it all on the job, and you can, too.

Once you’ve located some publications or sites that offer serious money for topics you can write about, you’re ready for the next step.

Maybe you’ve read your target magazines before, maybe not. Now, read them as a writer trying to crack that market, and ask yourself:

  • What topics do they cover?
  • What seems popular?
  • What have they already written about?

Most importantly, match bylines to the masthead to discover which parts of the publication appear to use freelance writers. No point pitching to a column that’s authored by the same staffer every edition.

Most publications have departments — short, up-front columns, often with topics they do each issue, followed by space for longer feature pieces. These short ‘front of book’ pieces are often a great place for freelance writers to break in at better magazines.

Also, look online for their advertiser’s guide or media guide. It will have info on the reader demographics and give you insight into who the readers are and what topics are of top interest.

Once you have a strong sense of who reads that outlet and what they publish articles on, you’re ready to develop your idea.

Note: That idea should not be to write another article on a topic the publication covered recently. Likely, they’re done with that now. You’ll need something new.

If you want to get paid to write articles and make a consistent living at it, you’re going to need a lot of sharp article ideas. I know many freelance writers who’re in denial about this, and they sit around hoping some wonderful editor will assign them topics monthly.

Changes in publishing mean fewer editors on staff, less of an editorial brain-trust in-house, and more assignments going to freelance writers to bring their own ideas.

A really strong article idea is your golden ticket in the door of better-paid article markets.

Commit to becoming an idea machine. Consider it a hobby. See how many pieces of information you can collect that could be spun into story ideas.

Here are some ways to troll for ideas:

  • Set up Google alerts on your chosen topics
  • Read press releases on PR Web
  • Read competing publications to your target
  • Subscribe to blogs and ‘push’ news services on the topic
  • Read local publications for ideas you could pitch nationally
  • Read industry trade magazines for ideas you could pitch to mainstream consumer mags, and vice versa
  • Check relevant social-media hashtags or aggregator sites such as Reddit for trends
  • Listen to relevant podcasts for ideas and sources
  • Attend conferences
  • Interview experts
  • Eavesdrop on conversations

Once you’ve gathered some seeds of ideas, you need to figure out how to take these news nuggets and spin them into article ideas you can pitch. Here’s how:

Ask questions to develop story ideas

  • What is likely to happen next in this issue or trend?
  • Have more developments occurred since publication?
  • Why is this happening? What underlying trends are newsworthy?
  • How will this affect various industries, or types of people – retirees, college students, etc.?
  • What relevant question did this story fail to answer?
  • Where else is this happening?
  • Is there a new book coming out about this?
  • Were all points of view included in this piece, or are there voices missing?
  • What other types of publications might want this story?
  • What else do I know about this topic that might shed new light on this issue?

Think a much-covered story can’t be pitched again? You’re so wrong. You can always find another angle, as I demonstrate here .

As you use your news-gathering research to start developing fresh angles to pitch, you’ll need to take one final step to make sure your idea is salable.

Story ideas that are likely to get an assignment all have one thing in common: A news hook.

What’s that? A news hook is something that gives your idea urgency, and makes it need to be published soon . It signals you have fresh information that we haven’t already seen 100 times online.

  • The news hook gets your editor thinking, ‘This must run in the next issue!’ instead of ‘Well, maybe this could work sometime.’ You’ve got to get out of that ‘maybe’ pile to start getting regular assignments.
  • That means you’ll to move beyond generic headlines like: ‘5 Tasty Ways to Cook Bacon.’ We’ve read that story already. A lot. So how do you do that?
  • Find a fresh spin. Is there a new seasoning to use with bacon? A new celebrity chef saying they’re creating a bunch of innovative bacon recipes? Give that editor a new angle.
  • A news hook might be one new fact that’s emerged in an ongoing story – a lawsuit was filed, or a candidate has withdrawn from the race.
  • It could be an anniversary story because it’s a year after the big fire, earthquake, flood.
  • Or something like all the recent ‘Amazon Turns 25’ stories. Google that, and look at all the different ways various news outlets covered that milestone. Some looked back and did historical pieces, others talked about how it changed the culture, still others look at what the next 25 years might bring at the online giant.

Always more fresh angles that could get an editor excited to assign you an article and get you paid.

Remember that many national magazines work 4-6 months ahead of time, when you’re looking for those news hooks. Yes, that makes it hard to be newsy! Pitching a story with a news hook that will be long over before the issue comes out is a common reason pitches fail.

  • Think months into the future before pitching. Think about how you can examine future possible next steps or outcomes, spot up-and-coming trends, or provide more in-depth analysis to get in with the big magazines. You can also look at anniversaries for something that would be timely around the time that issue hits the newsstand.

Now that you’ve got an idea, it’s time to road-test it and see if it’s real. One way freelance writers can make sure an idea is going to hold water is to conduct research to confirm accuracy with reliable sources.

In a word: Don’t trust Wikipedia. Remember, anyone can write anything on there.

Wikipedia is a secondary source or worse. And you want to avoid those as much as possible. Use primary sources instead. Primary sources provide credibility and authority that help demonstrate your ability to report and write a story.

So how do you find primary sources? Here are some examples:

  • Look to university professors, government agencies, professional associations, leading authorities, and noted authors on your topic.
  • Try to get more than one source to confirm, rather than relying on a single source.
  • Stumped? Look up articles on similar subjects at major newspapers and magazines, such as the New York Times or Forbes, and see who they quote. That should give you some leads.

Note: Remember not to over-research — think about how many factoids and bits of background info will fit in your story, and stop when you get enough.

Once you have your facts straight, it’s time to talk to some experts and/or ordinary people who’re experiencing the issue, trend, or problem you’ll write about.

This is the part where for many newbie freelance writers, the whole thing screeches to a halt.

Yes. Most well-paid article assignments involve speaking to live humans (on the phone, or maybe on Skype, or in person). That’s one of the reasons they pay well — they require some legwork.

Breathe. You can do this. You talk to people every day, right?

Now that you have a premise for a story, this is the point where you can get interview practice by conducting quick pre-interviews of an expert or two on your topic.

  • What’s a pre-interview? It’s a quick chat you do so that you have a few good quotes and ideas to put in your query letter. Think 10-15 minutes, tops.
  • Prepare and listen. Come with a few of your top questions, and listen carefully to the responses. They’ll help you craft your follow-up questions.

Note: You might think that no one will talk to you for an article you don’t have assigned yet, but you’d be surprised. Not everyone will agree, but many will be game.

The bigger the market you’re pitching, the easier it’ll be. Ten minutes isn’t a lot of time for an expert to risk for possibly ending up with a national-magazine mention.

In the world of blogging, collecting info via a quick email has become routine. But when it comes to well-paid article writing, not so much. Most legit magazines will expect you to actually speak to people, and may even require that you note it in the article if you only emailed, as in:

“This sucks,” said Joe Shmoe, in an email response.

Yes, that is awkward. So avoid it by screwing up your courage and doing actual interviews. It’s just asking people questions. No lives at risk. Practice with a friend, if you need to!

A great headline can be the difference between getting paid to write an article and getting rejected.

To test out whether your idea has now gelled and is ready to be pitched to picky well-paying magazine editors, try to create a headline for it. Use the headline style of your target publication.

If you struggle with this, your idea may not be fully baked yet.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes a bit of time to craft a strong headline, though — here’s a look at my headline-writing process .

You’ll need your headline to succeed with the next step in your article-writing journey.

You might think that about now, I’d be telling you, “It’s time to write your article.”

Article writing in a vacuum, without an editor’s input, is a recipe for rejection (or at best, a low fee). A lot of newbie freelance writers make this mistake. But most well-paid publications aren’t excited about pre-written content.

Their editor wants to help shape the story, and be confident it’s what they want. (Also, they want to make sure it’s not duplicate content you’ve sent 10 other places.)

And that, writer friends, is why we write query letters.

Your query needs to do two things:

  • Make a compelling case that your story belongs in their publication now — and..
  • Convince the editor that you are the writer who should get the assignment.

There are many ways to go about this, but here’s a basic template that works reliably:

Hi [editor’s name] –

  • Fascinating opening question or lead sentence. [i.e. Life coaches and career experts everywhere urge you to do what you love.  But what about those things you hate” paying the bills, writing thank-you notes, cleaning the oven, walking the dog on a cold night, going to the dentist, washing the car?]
  • 1-2 Paragraphs (if needed) that provide supporting facts and flesh out the idea.
  • Nut graf that provides proposed headline and sums up what the article would tell readers . [i.e., In my proposed article, Stopping Seattle’s Rat Invasion,’ readers would learn what officials are doing about this problem, as well as what they can do to discourage rats on their property.
  • Additional details on what the article would provide readers, who would be interviewed, etc. [i.e., For my piece on Seattle’s rat problem, I would interview local homeowners who’ve had rat problems, including Joe Smith, who trapped 40 rats on his property this winter using caviar-baited traps; pest-control experts from the city’s Department of Construction and Inspection; and Cindy Lou Who, author of Getting Rid of Rats [Wiley 2017].
  • Information that reveals knowledge of the publication. [As in: I’ve noticed there haven’t been many articles on car insurance in AAA Journeys recently, so I thought a piece on how to lower your rates would bring that aspect of AAA’s operations into the spotlight.]
  • Describe why readers would be particularly interested in this topic at this time (the news hook’). [Since spring is when the rat population booms, these tips should be particularly timely for your March issue.]
  • Short bio. [I am a Seattle-based freelance business and community issues writer. A 1-sentence short list of your top credits can follow – My work has appeared in Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business, and other publications – if you have some worth mentioning.]
  • Request for consideration. [May I write this article for you?] Signature

Big tip: Write your whole query in the style of your target publication! Here’s how:

  • Analyze what sorts of words, sentence lengths, vocabulary they use.
  • Sculpt your query so that the editor can easily imagine you writing for their pages.
  • Be sure to drop in a quote or two, so the editor sees you know how to get interesting ones that move the story forward.

A bigger tip: Don’t talk a lot about yourself. Let your idea make the sale. Pro freelance writers take 1-2 lines at the end of their query to talk about what they know that makes them the writer for the story.

As far as what to put in your email subject line (and yes, mostly these days you’ll be emailing editors), we have a few articles on that topic.

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This is an important step. After you send off that query, don’t sit by the computer refreshing your email every 5 minutes. Write more queries and pitch letters ! That’s what successful freelancers who get paid to write articles do.

This is simply a numbers game. The more ideas you come up with, research, craft into queries and send, the more likely you will get assignments.

Assume nothing’s going to happen with Query One, and move straight to developing more ideas and writing more queries.

OK, this one is out of your control. But if you follow all the steps before this one, at some point, you’ll likely connect with an editor who wants you to write an article.

Once you have an assignment — and sign a contract that clarifies your topic, payment, payment terms, rights, deadline, and wordcount — you’re ready to write and get paid for your article.

Quick contract tips for publications:

  • Try to get paid on acceptance, rather than publication
  • See if they’ll include a ‘kill fee’ you get if they don’t use your article
  • Try to retain some resale rights
  • Most of that boilerplate isn’t going to matter

A word about fees: Increasingly, editors seem to ask freelance writers what they charge for an article, instead of stating their fee. Resist this trend, and ask what they typically pay. Most pubs have a usual rate…but many are exploring whether they can get it cheaper. If they won’t say, try asking around your writer network to see what you can find out.

Scored an assignment? It’s time to go back to your sources and get the rest of your interviews done. There may be new people you haven’t spoken to yet, and others who you pre-interviewed and may just have a few additional questions left.

The key thing here is to make sure you get all points of view on your topic. Not just the one you agree with. Your editor expects freelance writers to provide balanced reporting and will want to know what all the different stakeholders think.

  • You might need to hear from politicians, CEOs, customers, community activists, regular people in the community. Interview each of them.
  • Try to get a sense of what they all think. Don’t make the mistake of interviewing three book authors with similar points of view, and no other types of sources. I have more interview secrets in another post.

Since this post is called ‘How to Write an Article’ and not ‘How to Conduct Great Interviews,’ I’ll leave it there. Got more tips for you on how to get awesome interview quotes .

Lots of freelance writers ask me about recording interviews. I learned to type and take notes fast, and don’t record anymore. It just creates more work for you!

  • If you do record, there are plenty of free and cheap tools to enable that. But…always also take notes. Because technology will fail you.
  • Remember that your live interview is just a starting point. It’s OK to shoot them an email to clarify a fact or add one quick insight later!
  • My stock final question is, “Where is the best place to contact you when I remember the important question I’ve forgotten to ask you just now?”

By this point you’ve probably got a stack of interviews, research links, notes, and ideas. You’re starting to worry you have more than you can possibly fit in the article.

And…that means you’re done. When you hear that third expert saying much the same thing as the first one, you’ve probably got what you need.

Now, it’s time to organize this mess so that it’s easy to write your story.

Here’s my normal process:

  • Highlight notes for the good parts.
  • Boil that down into a quick outline of the top ideas, quotes, and facts that must be included.
  • Pick what will make a good opener for the story and write it.

From there, it usually starts to organize itself and flow along.

Note: If you don’t organize your notes, writing your article takes practically forever, what with all the leafing through the pile to find that one quote you wanted. You might think skipping organization is a time-saver, but trust me, it’s not.

Are you excited? It’s finally time to write your article!

A typical magazine article has four basic parts to it, which I’ll go over below.

The secret to writing a first draft…fast.  I want to give you a big article-writing tip for creating a strong first draft: Try putting aside all your notes and quotes, and just writing the story.

  • You know what the important parts are by now. Often, they will naturally rise to the top of your brain as you write.
  • Try staying in the moment and dashing off a quick draft. Leave blanks for names or notes to check spelling and exact quote. Write the gist of the story, from your head, fast as you can.
  • Or as I learned years ago, at a training put on by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism: write without notes, write without quotes, and write without attribution.

Just tell the best story you can. Staying in the storytelling flow is the most efficient way to create a strong reported article.

This ‘spit draft’ will often be a lot better than what you’ll come up with if you cobble the draft together slowly, shuffling through your notes, stopping and looking up names, and rechecking exact quotes as you go.

I’ve often spent a grinding, 8-hour day making all that happen. Instead, see if you could create a first draft in short order. Then, refer to your notes and outline to fill in details and make sure there isn’t an important point you forgot to include.

Now that you have that big-picture, ‘how to write an article’ process tip, it’s important to understand article structure, so your draft has all the key pieces needed to impress your editor.

Let’s break down the four main parts of a typical magazine article, and how to write them.

This is journo-speak for the lead sentence or three, or the beginning of your article. Simply put, the lede needs to be fascinating. Its job is to compel readers to continue reading the rest of the story.

Don’t write a ‘wind-up’ or ‘ throat-clearing lede ,’ where you take five paragraphs to get to the point (unless this is a very long article, and the publication’s style allows for this). Readers generally don’t have the patience for that anymore.

Instead, cut to the chase with something that makes us just have to keep reading. For instance, I once began a reported story with, “Briefly, it was Bambi in bondage.” You want to know what that’s about, no?

Here’s one I read this month, from a long feature about through-hiking in Florida, in Outside magazine :

Everyone told Tom Kennedy to expect flooded trails when he hiked through Big Cypress National Preserve in the spring of 2015. But as he sloshed through miles of waist-deep swamp water that hid alligators and aggressive snakes, the trail quickly got the better of him.

After that opener, most folks are reading on to paragraph two, I’d wager.

It’s a hallmark of amateur freelance writers that their ledes are boring. You want people to read your whole article, after all the hard work you put in, right? Make that lede shine, and they will.

Remember, this lede serves double-duty, as you may also use it in your proposed query letter to try to get hired. Spend some time on it — I’d say I rewrite mine dozens of times, typically, before I’m satisfied.

A paragraph or three on from the lede, after you’ve finished that opening anecdote, interesting fact, or brief expert quote, it’s time to orient readers. They won’t read through a long piece without having a sense of what they’re going to find out if they do.

The nut graf (or nut paragraph) is the orientation guide.

Here’s one my friend and Freelance Writers Den bootcamp contributor Linda Formichelli wrote for trade magazine Club Industry :

If you believe the news, we’re a country full of half-awake zombies who need to chug caffeine just to make it through the day. While the reality isn’t quite that bad, many Americans are sleep deprived, and it’s harming their health. We spoke with health clubs and sleep medicine experts about why health clubs should help their members get the Z’s they need-and how to do it.

Note: A strong nut graf sends your reader on to complete the story with the confidence that they understand the direction this article will take — but not with enough info that they feel fully informed and stop reading.

After the nut graf, it’s time to lay out the rest of your article. The body of your story should be well-organized, with each paragraph and topic logically flowing on to the next.

Profile that rock star. Spotlight the experts who want us to drink kombucha. Tell your story.

These days, this will often involve subheads, bullets, or a list of points to help readers navigate through the rest of your information.

A few tips for the body:

  • Simplify. If you research and interview like I do, you likely won’t be able to fit everything you’ve learned into this article. Look for side issues you could prune out and possibly spin into another article.
  • Watch your transitions. Your article body shouldn’t jump abruptly from topic to topic. Read the last sentence of one paragraph and the first sentence of the next. Do they make sense together? If not, adjust.
  • Organize sources. Try not to ping-pong back and forth between your sources and quotes…it’ll get confusing for the reader. Introduce an expert, use them, and then use the next one. Maybe come back to the first expert toward the end.
  • Quote short and zingy. Usually, 1-2 sentences is good. Don’t use a quote where you could sum up a point narratively. Quotes should add insight, show the personality of the subject, or convey something that would be lost if you rephrased it in narration. Don’t overuse quotes.

Tip for longer articles: Outline the sections you’ll need, and give each a proposed wordcount. This will help you write to length and avoid having to do a ton of cutting later.

Every article must end — and it should end in a snappy way. This is the final thought you are giving the reader, so make it count.

Writing a strong conclusion also helps prevent editor chopping from the bottom (a habit many editors have). If you have a strong final point, the editor’s more likely to come to you and ask you where to shrink the piece down, giving you more control over your article’s final form.

I love ending articles with one last, insightful quote. Other ways to wrap a story include talking about what may happen next with this news or trend, or simply doing a quick recap of what we’ve learned.

Congratulations — you have a first draft! Now, it’s time for burnishing it to greatness in the editing process.

Remember, your editor didn’t want the first 750 words that come into your head. They want the 750 most concise, sharp, accurate, style-appropriate words they can get on their assigned topic.

And no, they don’t secretly want 1,500 words from you. Turn in a piece way over assigned length, and you risk having a cranky editor.

It begins by going through your draft for anything that should be cut or boiled down. Start big and go small.

  • Any paragraphs that are redundant? Cut.
  • How about sentences? Cut.
  • Extra words? (Looking at you, ‘very,’ ‘just,’ and ‘really’…). Cut.

Once you’ve shrunk out the fat, you can go back to your notes for points you hated to leave out, and add more meat.

Finally, give it another read-through to make sure it still all flowing smoothly and making sense. During that re-read, also think about the publication’s tone and whether your word choices and sentence lengths are all conforming well. Adjust as needed.

Here’s an often-overlooked step that will save you a lot of heartache. Once you’ve edited your draft and it’s ready to turn in, go back through one last time and re-check all your statistics, quotes, and facts.

You’ll often discover you’ve got a figure or name-spelling wrong. Or you linked to the wrong site, or have attributed a quote to the wrong person.

The fewer errors in your story, the less likely it is your editor gets suspicious that you’re sloppy. And then decides to go over your draft with a magnifying glass to look for issues…and you get back a sea of red ink.

This might seem like an obvious step, but at this point in the process, many freelance writers balk. You want to edit it some more! You want to wait a few more days!

Don’t. You can’t get paid to write articles by overthinking. You’ve written your draft, edited, fact-checked. Maybe let it sit overnight for one final read, but that’s it.

Time to press ‘send’ and fire off that draft to your editor.

Next comes a critical phase that may decide whether you can cut it in the world of well-paid articles: Your editor will want changes.

Unless the requested changes insert errors, misconstrue what one of your sources said, or fundamentally change the drift of your story… your job is to cheerfully make those changes.

Remember, they know their style and their readers better than you do. Usually, editor suggestions will make your piece better, so try to stay open-minded.

Hopefully, you’re able to conclude edits fairly painlessly, and your editor lets you know your article is now finalized. If you haven’t invoiced when you sent your first draft in (my personal habit), send your invoice now (check out our detailed guide to freelancer invoicing for lots of tips).

For extra credit… send in another article query along with that bill. Keep the momentum going and land another assignment, while the editor is feeling happy about the piece you just did.

There you have it — your complete guide for how to write an article for great-paying publications. I hope this helps you move up to better article-writing jobs.

Don’t like some of my tips on how to write an article that pays? That’s cool. Experiment and create your own process!

I boiled this down from 12 years writing 3-4 articles a week plus 15+ years of freelance work…but if something else works better for you and gets you the lucrative article assignments, then it’s all good.

Want to learn more about how to get paid to write articles? Check out the Freelancers Writer Den .

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How to Create Freelance Writing Samples (as a Complete Beginner)

How to Create Freelance Writing Samples (as a Complete Beginner)

posted on 21 December 2020

Has a client asked to see a freelance writing sample?

You don’t have to scratch your head and put together an off-the-cuff writing sample to prove that you can write. A good writing sample doesn’t just prove that you’re a good writer. It convinces them to hire you, too.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to create a writing sample as a complete newbie. 

What is a freelance writing sample?

A freelance writing sample is a document that proves to a client that you can write. A writing sample can take many forms, and usually depends on the type of writing services you specialize in–be that blog posts , emails, whitepapers, short stories, or landing pages. 

A writing sample is key if you’re new to freelance writing . Potential clients want to see that you’re worth hiring (and spending their marketing dollars on) before they ask you to start writing for them.

writing a freelance article

Why do I need writing samples?

Still unsure on why you need a writing sample, anyway?

The most important reason is that potential clients want you to prove that you know how to write. Clients will only invest in writers they know can do their job properly. They’ll get that confidence by reading your writing samples beforehand. 

(If you’re finding writing gigs on freelance job boards , most prospective clients will ask to see a sample before they hire you for this reason.)

Not only that, but writing samples give people a good indication of your writing style. They’ll see how you format your content, whether you use statistics, and if your tone of voice fits with their company’s. 

7 types of writing samples

Writing samples form part of your freelance writing portfolio.

It’s a library of your best work that contains links and snippets of of content you’ve written for real companies or websites–be that: 

  • Guest posts
  • Landing pages
  • Creative writing
  • Short stories

The good news is: even if you’re not a freelance writer with an existing library of content to highlight in your portfolio, you can create writing samples in the form of content for fictional clients.

You’ll just write content for a client you’ve made up (similar to those you want to target.) 

Let’s put that into practice: Say you’re a new freelance writer who wants to write blog posts for software companies. You can create a fictional client who sells sales software, and create a sample blog post that would attract their target customers. Something like “How to Manage Your Sales Pipeline” would do the trick.

The key to a good writing sample is to create one similar to your target client. Think about the content they’d want on their website–and create it, in the form of a writing sample.

How long should a writing sample be?

The length of your writing sample depends on what type of content you’re writing.

Remember: a freelance writing sample shows a potential client that you’re a good hire. It should match the type of content you’re offering, too–something that has a huge knock-on effect on the length of your writing sample.

Say you’re a copywriter specializing in emails, for example. Most of your writing samples will fall between the 250-500 word mark. A copywriter specializing in landing pages, however, might have writing samples averaging around 1,000 words.

The bottom line is: don’t get too caught up in the word count of your freelance writing sample.

Just think about the type of content your ideal client would want to read, and match it with your sample. It’ll prove to them that you know how to write the content they’re looking for.

How to create your first sample for freelance writing clients

Are you ready to create your first writing sample? 

Not only will you convince potential clients that you’re a great writer, but it’s a superb way to get your freelance writing career off the ground and find your first few clients.

Blogging is a freelance writing niche set to skyrocket this year. So, let’s take a look at how you can write a blog post sample that lands clients. 

(You can use a similar process for other types of content, too.)

  • Prepare a content brief
  • Write a headline
  • Hook them with an introduction
  • Break the content into subheadings
  • Add statistics and data
  • Write a conclusion
  • Make the Google Doc shareable

writing a freelance article

1. Prepare a content brief

When preparing a writing sample, it’s smart to create a brief.

A writing brief details what the end blog post should look like. A client usually gives them to freelance writers before the start of each project. It includes things like:

  • Who the content is targeting
  • The goal of the content
  • What keyword it should try to rank for  
  • How it plays into their wider content marketing strategy 
  • What product features to mention
  • The client/website’s style guide

(If you’re basing a writing sample off a previous client project, make sure you get their permission to include it in your portfolio.)

But even if you’re creating a writing sample for a fictional client, you could always make your own content brief and base the sample off it.

It’s an easy way to prove that you know how to follow instructions, and write a blog post based on a keyword, targeting a specific audience, and discussing certain product features.

writing a freelance article

2. Write a strong headline

A headline is what convinces readers to click through and read your blog post. Nobody will see it if the headline isn’t enticing enough to make them want to click it.

It’s why most clients look for freelance writers who know how to write strong headlines. 

Show you can do this by writing a strong headline for your writing sample.

It should be directly related to the blog post itself (without any clickbait), and have a smart play on words that stand out in Google’s search results. 

For example: “How to Write a Blog Post” can turn into “10+ Actionable Steps to Write Blog Posts Your Readers Will Love.” Much better, right?

Don’t just stop at one headline, though. Brainstorm 5-10 headlines and list them at the top of your writing sample. It’ll show your client that you’re creative enough to think of headlines, and aren’t afraid to play around with them to find the most click-worthy headline.

One you have your shortlist, run your headline options through a writing tool like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer . It’ll give pointers on how to make a good headline even stronger. 

Run with the highest-scoring headline for your writing sample:

writing a freelance article

(Depending on how good you are at writing headlines, you might want to do this step last once you know exactly what the blog post covers.)

3. Hook them with an introduction

Once you’ve got someone to read your writing sample, a strong introduction will convince them to stick around and read the entire thing.

I like to use this introduction formula:

  • Aggravate the problem a reader is experiencing
  • Elaborate on things they’ve already tried (and have been unsuccessful with)
  • Promise a solution if they keep reading

Here’s what that looks like in practice:

writing a freelance article

Use a similar formula to write the introduction to your writing sample. 

Prospective clients will be hooked from the first few sentences–and stick around long enough to convince them to hire you.

4. Break the content into subheadings

Did you know that most people don’t read your content word-for-word?

More people than ever skim-read content they find online. They might read the introduction, the first section…and then skim read the rest of the content until they see something that grabs their attention. 

Subheadings make it easy for readers (and the prospective clients reading your writing sample) to scan. They can see, at a glance, what’s covered in your writing sample. 

Plus, headings help optimize your content for SEO. Search engines use headings to understand what a page is about, without reading the entire thing. It gives them a good indication of whether your content is comprehensive enough to rank for the keywords you’re targeting.

Most word processing software has heading tags built into their tool. Use them in your writing samples to prove to a potential client that you know how to use them.

writing a freelance article

5. Add statistics and data

It’s not just writing skills that potential clients want to see in your sample.

They also want to see that you’re a good researcher that can dig into reports to pull relevant statistics, data points, and survey results. 

So, find some relevant statistics to add into your writing sample. For example, if you’re writing about online marketing, find a statistic that shows how online marketing is gonna explode in 2021.

If your writing sample talks about the best publishing platforms for your client to consider, find out how many websites are hosted on each.

Adding these extra statistics doesn’t just make your writing sample more interesting. It proves that you have concrete evidence to back up the points you’re making–and that you’re not afraid to get in the trenches and research the topic at hand .

💡 Top tip : Create a copywriting swipe file and bookmark interesting data in there. Over time, you’ll have a personal library of data points to fall back on.

6. Write a conclusion (and call to action)

A conclusion tells a reader what they should do once they’ve read your writing sample. 

It wraps up the key points you’ve talked about, and inspires them to take action.

That action isn’t always to act on the advice you’ve given, though. Companies who publish blog content want their readers to do something related to their product–and pitch that as the final call to action (CTA).

Do this for your writing sample by thinking about the fictional client you’re writing for. What would they want their audience to do next?

If that fictional client has digital marketing calendar software, they might want people to take a demo of their product. If the fictional client has a healthcare practice, they’ll probably want readers to register as a patient.

Good content understands the people a company wants to target. Crafting a solid conclusion and matching CTA proves you can do that.

7. Make the Google Doc shareable

You can prepare a writing sample in any type of Word processor.

We prefer Google Docs because unlike Microsoft Word, you can share the link to your live writing sample. You don’t need to download the document, attach it to your email, and constantly remember which is the updated version.

Google Docs simply creates a live document that you create a link for. You send that link to your client and they’ll have access to the latest version of your writing sample.

Once you’ve added your writing sample to a Google Doc, you’ll need to make sure that the link works for the people you’re sharing it with. 

Do this by going to File > Share, and hit the “Change link to [your name]”:

writing a freelance article

You’ll then want to change the permissions so “anyone with the link” can “view”:

writing a freelance article

Finally, copy the link and share it with any prospective client that asks for a writing sample. It’ll take them to a document they can’t edit (only view), so they can see how great of a writer you really are. 

How to use your new freelance writing samples

Now you’ve created your first writing sample, you might feel like the content is just too good to sit in a private Google Doc.

Here’s how you can make the most out of your freelance writing samples.

1. Add them to your portfolio page

We’ve already touched on the fact that clients want proof that a freelance writer can write.

They’ll look to a portfolio for this. So, whether you have your own freelance writing website on WordPress, or use a platform like Authory make sure your writing samples take pride of place inside your freelance writing portfolio.

writing a freelance article

2. Create an email template to respond to enquiries with

Do you have clients enquiring about hiring you?

They can find you through social media, your own blog, or a byline you’ve got on another website. Regardless of how they came your way, make sure prospective clients have easy access to your writing samples by responding to their emails with one.

We put together this free email template to help you do this:

3. Publish the samples to your blog

A blog is a superb way to attract freelance writing clients. 

It goes a step above a writing sample because you can demonstrate how you’d promote the content you write–be that distribution through social media, or optimizing your content for SEO . 

(That promotion could be what brings them to your freelance writing website, in the first place. A well-optimized blog post can crop-up in their Google search when they’re actively looking for it.)

If the content fits within the industry you target, there’s no reason why you couldn’t upload the writing sample to your blog. 

Here’s how I do that on my own writer website. I wrote a blog post about how SaaS companies (my target clients) can use content marketing (the thing they’ll hire me for) to improve retention (their goal):

writing a freelance article

The best part? You don’t need your own blog to do this.

Blogging platforms like Medium give you a way to publish your writing samples and get them out into the world. They already have an existing audience and SEO power, too. Posting your writing samples could bring clients your way organically.

4. Publish guest posts

Guest posting is a fantastic way to land freelance writing jobs–especially if you’re pitching them to an ideal client. 

It’s so successful because it proves to a client that you can actually write. They have first-hand experience not just of your writing sample, but of working with you, as a whole. They’ll know that you meet (or beat) deadlines, can work to a brief, and are happy to accept any revisions . 

(Guest posting is actually how I got one of my biggest clients. I pitched a guest post for them back in 2018. Six months after they published it, they got back in touch to say they now had a budget for freelance writers and wanted to hire me to create the same type of content for them.) 

So, take one of your writing samples and pitch it to a client you want to work with.

Remember that the sample itself needs to fit perfectly with the type of content they’re already publishing. Make note of their average word count, structure, and find a topic/angle they haven’t covered before.

Then use the template inside your email template bundle to pitch that guest post, and make your writing sample work harder.

5. Share them on social media 

Clients are always scanning social media. 

But even if they’re not there to hire freelance writers , you could use social media to share your writing sample. You could:

  • Share your writing samples to your LinkedIn profile
  • Tweet about your content
  • Post the link in Facebook Groups your target clients are active in

Laura Bosco does this using the Featured section of her LinkedIn profile :

writing a freelance article

Doing this consistently over time means you’ll build a reputation for yourself. 

Chances are, you’ll be one of their first choices when they come around to hiring a writer.

Grow your freelance writing business with Peak Freelance

There’s no doubt that creating a good writing sample will help you land your dream freelancing clients.

If you want to take your writing career to the next level, Peak Freelance is here to help. 

Freelance Writing Essentials walks through how to set up a sustainable, profitable freelance writing business. Taught by two six-figure writers, you’ll learn how to create a portfolio, find your first client–and everything in between.

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About Elise Dopson

Elise Dopson is a freelance writer leading B2B SaaS companies. She has bylines on sites like Shopify, Content Marketing Institute, and Business Insider. She's also the founder of Help a B2B writer, a service that connects B2B writers with top-quality sources.

More posts from Elise 👉

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Career Sidekick

How to Start Freelance Writing (No Experience Needed)

By Biron Clark

Published: November 2, 2023

Freelancers | Occupations & Careers

Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Writer & Career Coach

Welcome to my guide on how to become a freelance writer and start a successful writing career.

I’m going to show you how to launch your writing business, get clients online, and start making money as a successful freelance writer even if you have no experience.

To save you time and hassles, I’ll also share the mistakes I made along my path to earning $5,000 a month through freelance writing.

Finally, I’ll reveal how much money you can expect to earn as a beginning freelance writer and which types of freelance writers make the most.

What is Freelance Writing?

Freelance writing is the act of being paid to write for people or businesses (i.e. clients) on a contractual basis rather than a full-time, permanent basis. Freelance writers can have multiple clients and can make their own schedules.

One downside to freelance writing is that you won’t receive benefits and health insurance from the employer, since you’re not a full-time employee. Freelance writers often make up for this by earning a higher wage than full-time, permanent employees.

In my experience as a recruiter, the typical freelancer is able to charge 25-60% more per hour than their full-time counterparts. However, this percentage/gap between freelance writing pay and full-time employee pay increases as you gain more experience, so you might not see quite as large a gap when you start your freelance writing career.

Next, let’s talk about how to get into freelance writing.

How to Become a Freelance Writer With No Experience

Build your writing skills.

There’s a myth that people are born great writers. The truth is if you want to become a better writer, then start writing a lot. You get there by practicing.

You can also take a writing course if you want to jumpstart your freelance writing career, but you can also learn to write by reading great writing online and practicing each day.

I was an awful writer when I started out.

I’m still not the world’s best writer, but I do earn a full-time income from this blog.

But when I wrote my first few articles, they were terrible. My boss at the time had offered to help me and give me feedback on my writing, since I told her that I wanted to start blogging here at Career Sidekick.

But when I showed her one of my first blog posts, she told me that it was so scattered and disorganized that she couldn’t even begin to help. She told me to rewrite the whole thing.

We all start as beginners. Step 1 to becoming a successful freelance writer is to write each day.

You also get there by reading great writing from other people, so you should do that as well if you’re planning to start a freelance writing career.

It doesn’t have to be books. You can read blog posts, etc. In fact, if you plan on taking writings gigs centered around blog post writing, then reading blog articles is more beneficial than reading books.

Don’t worry if you have no idea what type of freelance writing you want to do, either. I’ll help you with that throughout the rest of this article.

Choose a Writing Niche

One of the biggest mistakes that I see new freelance writers make is refusing to “niche down” or pick a specific area of focus.

They’re afraid of limiting themselves so they chase every possible project and have no clearly defined niche.

These are the freelance writers who struggle the most to get clients and struggle to break past $1,000 to $2,000 a month.

It’s alright to try many types of writing at the very beginning of your freelance writing career to see what you enjoy.

But once you’ve done that, I recommend picking one specific type of service to offer.

There are some big benefits to picking a narrow niche.

When you offer one particular service as a writer (like email copywriting, SEO blog writing, etc.) you get better at delivering the work and also at completing projects faster.

You also become better at pitching/selling your freelance writing services so you land more writing jobs with fewer sales calls.

In addition, you’ll build up relevant testimonials in this one niche faster, since it’s all you’re doing. Then you’re an even clearer/easier choice for your potential clients.

By niching down, you’re giving yourself a smaller potential market but making yourself a much clearer choice for that market.

The bottom line is: Choosing a niche is a key step to start earning more money from your freelance writing.

I did this myself, first choosing copywriting, then niching down into just email copywriting. Each project was similar so I got the work done (and got paid) FAST.

Coming up, I’ll share the various types of writing niches for content writing, copywriting, and more, so keep reading.

Lucrative Freelance Writing Niches

To help you choose a niche, here are some of the most common (and high-paying) freelance writing niches. I’ll share more about which ones earn the absolute most later in the article.

  • Website copywriting
  • Email copywriting
  • SEO article/blog writing
  • Technical writing
  • Ghostwriting
  • Business, sales, and annual report writing
  • Scriptwriting (sales video scripts and other scripts)
  • Manuals and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Press releases
  • White papers

Get One Successful Project Finished Quickly

Once you decide you’re interested in becoming a freelance writer, you should focus on getting your first client as quickly as possible.

Your first big goal should be to complete one project for a client so that you have a real result (and hopefully a testimonial) that you can leverage to get more clients. You can even build a case study showing the “before and after” of the project.

If you don’t feel you’re a good enough writer to earn a strong testimonial yet then practice and improve your writing skills more.

Then, do whatever it takes to land one writing gig to get a testimonial in your desired niche, even if you have to do it for free or at a deep discount.

It’s going to be much easier to grow your freelance writing business once you have a piece of published work that you can point to and say, “I just completed a successful project where I did ___.”

I did this and then used the testimonial everywhere… on social media , on my Upwork profile, and more.

Here you can see I led off with it on Upwork, just below the headline:

getting a testimonial to start freelance writing career

I’ll talk more about Upwork and the other best ways to start getting freelance writing clients next…

Get More Freelance Writing Jobs and Hone Your Skills

After you’ve got one completed project and testimonial, you can leverage that to get many more.

You can do this via freelance marketplaces like, social media, word of mouth, referrals, and more.

The best approach for you will depend on many factors including your writing niche, whether you have any existing connections on social media, whether you have an existing network outside of social media, etc.

Overall, though, job boards and freelance marketplaces are a good place to begin. They’re not the perfect long-term solution and you eventually want to be able to get referrals, send cold emails to pitch to businesses you’d like to work with, etc. But when starting out, job boards aren’t bad.

The Best Freelance Marketplaces and Job Boards

The best freelance marketplace to grow your writing business is I personally built myself up from zero to $5K USD per month on Upwork, so that’s what I recommend. You can read my full review of Upwork here , which has many tips on how to succeed on the platform as a beginner.

Additional resources:

  • Upwork profile overview examples
  • Upwork proposal samples and templates

I also have a list of 18 remote job boards here and many feature writing jobs.

Price Your Services High

You may be tempted to offer low prices as you build your freelance writing business online. However, after completing at least one project, I recommend pricing the rest of your writing jobs high.

Never compete on price! It’s a race to the bottom that won’t end well. It’ll also attract the worst type of clients: Extremely cheap businesses who complain about every detail of your freelance writing work, request endless revisions, etc.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that the clients who pay more are easier to work with, more relaxed, and ask for LESS.

Aim to price yourself in the top 75-95% of the market. Price also implies quality. There are many business owners who simply look for the most premium, expensive service because they assume it’s superior.

Just make sure your freelance writing abilities are at a solid level! I’m not suggesting you go out and trick business owners into hiring you when you’re not competent. But once you’re a competent writer, charge high and go deliver great results and communication/service.

That beats offering low-priced writing jobs and competing on price any day!

Set a Clear Revision Policy for Your Writing

In your first year of freelance writing, I recommend having a clear yet generous revision policy. I used to tell clients on Upwork and other job boards that we’d keep working on the project until they’re completely happy.

I was working as a direct response copywriter, which is an area most clients didn’t know much about. So they just trusted my writing and asked for few revisions. So this policy was never abused.

If clients started to ask for too many revisions, I would have changed my policy to something like two rounds of revisions per project.

So start generous, and then adjust. You’ll land more new clients faster and more consistently this way, which is key to becoming a freelance writer that can support yourself full-time.

One other benefit to offering revisions: You’ll get fewer negative reviews on freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr.

I was always able to maintain a 100% job success score on Upwork, and this is due to the fact that I offered revisions for free if a client wasn’t happy.

Do everything you can to maintain a high job success score on Upwork if you end up using the platform as a part of your freelance writing business. If your score drops, it’s difficult to win projects and climb back up.

Get Paid Up Front

One of the most frustrating parts of freelance writing, or any freelance work, is completing a project and not being paid. Or, having to chase a client for weeks to finally get that payment.

This happened once to me many years ago and I decided: “never again.”

So I began asking for 100% of the payment up front. I did this successfully in blog post writing, email copywriting, website copywriting, and other content marketing services throughout my freelancing career.

Occasionally, if a client wasn’t comfortable, we’d settle on 50-70% up front. That compromise is still fantastic for you as the freelancer. You know that no matter what, the client has already paid for at least 50% of the work.

If a client is resistant to paying 100% of the money upfront, simply say:

“I ask for payment up front on all projects. I don’t stop working until you’re satisfied, but I’m in the business of writing great content, not sending invoices and worrying about collecting money, so I do request that projects be paid in advance before I start.”

If you’re more comfortable asking for 50% up front, you can say:

“For payment terms, here’s what I normally do: 50% up front, 50% upon final delivery.”

Don’t do any less than 50% to start! Ever. That’s my advice for new freelance writers with no experience in collecting payments.

And then don’t even begin researching their project until you’ve been paid! Sure, you get on a sales call and learn a bit about this client and their needs, and you want to do some basic preparation for this call to impress new clients.

But that’s for you, not them. Don’t get off this sales call and start preparing for the job, writing down ideas for this client, pouring over every page of their website, etc., until you’ve been paid. That’s just asking to have your time wasted. Start working for new clients when they’ve paid for your work.

Gather More Testimonials and Repeat

Testimonials will be your best friend as you look to become a successful freelance writer. Get written testimonials, video testimonials, case studies/examples, etc. Anything you can.

The best way to prove you’ll do a great job for your next client is to say, “I just completed a project for another client in your niche, and we were able to achieve ___ result.”

So don’t stop gathering testimonials as you start and build up your freelance writing career.

Do You Need a Website to Become a Freelance Writer?

You do not need a website to start a freelance writing career. There are plenty of other online platforms like Upwork where you can build a profile and find clients, and you can also use LinkedIn to build a profile, show writing samples and testimonials, and bolster your online presence.

Creating a website takes time and effort, and almost nobody is going to be visiting your site at the beginning of your new freelance career.

So you’re better off building your portfolio on sites that already have millions of visitors, like Upwork and LinkedIn, and then focus your effort on becoming a good writer, landing clients, and getting paid.

You can always circle back and create a website later, but to begin, I’d start by building out a LinkedIn profile (or customizing your existing profile) to suit your ideal freelance writing niche and then finding one or more freelance marketplaces like to build a profile on, too.

That’s the quickest path to making money and being able to earn a full-time income through online writing.

By the way, you can read my best LinkedIn profile tips here.

How Much Money Do Freelance Writers Make?

Hourly rates for freelance writers.

If you choose to charge an hourly rate for your freelance writing, you can earn anywhere from $10 USD per hour to $100 per hour and above. Your hourly rate as a freelance writer depends on whether you’re doing general content writing, copywriting, or another specialized type of work such as technical writing.

Freelance Content Writer Rates Per Word/Article

If you’re a freelance content writer in your first one or two years of working, then it’s common to charge 10 cents per word, or $100 USD per 1,000-word article.

However, more experienced freelance content writers with a great writing portfolio can charge much more. I’ve contacted writers recently for my own projects/needs and have been quoted upwards of 40 cents per word! So, there’s certainly an opportunity to charge more money for your freelance writing.

However, you may be surprised to find out that the best-paid freelance writers don’t charge per word, article, or hour at all…

Freelance Copywriter Rates

Freelance copywriters often charge per project or even receive a percentage of sales generated by their copywriting (if writing a product sales page, for example). For this reason, freelance copywriters are some of the top-earning writers in the world once they master their craft over the course of two to three years.

In particular, I recommend looking into “direct response copywriting,” which is writing (both online or offline) that’s designed to get a reader to take a specific action, such as buying a product, clicking a link in an email, signing up for a webinar, renewing their subscription, ordering a product via mail, etc.

I personally niched down into email copywriting and started charging a flat rate of $200 per email. I was helping businesses write B2B cold emails that they’d use to grow their own business, and I would sell a package of three to four emails at $200 per email.

I was no longer being paid for my time and could earn far more. I was able to create templates, too, so each project felt like it was half-finished before I even began.

This is a tip that deserves its own section, so I’ll share more about this topic very soon. Let’s recap what you can expect to earn in your first year, though:

How Much do Beginner Freelance Writers Make in the First Year?

In the first year, you can expect to earn between $20,000 and $60,000 USD from freelance writing. Your exact results will depend on the niche you choose and how successful you are in attracting clients. There’s a learning curve to pitching freelance clients and landing gigs when you first start out.

Different freelance writers will also have a different learning curve depending on whether you’ve sold services in the past. When I started, I was fortunate to have done some phone sales previously for employers I had worked for. So I was comfortable getting on the phone with potential Upwork clients and closing deals.

If you have no prior sales experience, this is another area you’ll need to become comfortable with and learn if you want to succeed in freelance writing.

The reality of your first year as a beginner freelance writer is that you can expect to spend 50% of your time obtaining clients and 50% doing the actual writing work. So writing is really only half of your job as you begin your freelance career.

How do Freelance Writers Get Paid?

As a freelance writer, you can use a payment processor like Stripe or PayPal to accept card payments from clients. You can also accept ACH bank transfers. I like PayPal because it allows you to sound a professional-looking invoice via email that the client can then pay via card or PayPal balance.

If you use freelance marketplaces like Upwork to start pitching and getting your first few paid writing clients, then the platform will handle payments for you. You’ll simply add your bank details to receive your payouts.

As you get started as a freelance writer, you’ll want to have a plan for getting paid, so iron out that plan before proceeding. It’s just as important as deciding what you want to write and how you’ll find clients.

How to Multiply your Earnings as a Freelance Writer and Grow Your Business

After you’ve had a good start to your freelance writing career, you should invest some time in creating systems, templates, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to help you complete each project faster.

This is yet another benefit to choosing one niche to operate in; it’s much easier to create templates and give yourself a head-start on each new freelance writing project that comes in.

This also makes it much easier to hire other freelance writers in the future if you’d like to build an agency and grow your revenue further or keep earning the same while working less.

Since this article is about how to start freelance writing and become a freelance writer with no experience, I won’t dive too much into building an agency and scaling to six or even seven figures potentially, but it’s possible, and creating SOPs/systems is the first step.

You can create systems for getting clients as well as for completing the writing work.

Is Freelance Writing a Good Career Overall?

Online writing and freelance writing are fantastic career choices that allow you to work from anywhere and earn a relatively high income. I know plenty of freelance writers (mainly copywriters) who earn six figures per year or who have gone on to build writing agencies that earn six or even seven figures.

While your success and earnings potential do depend on the type of writing you choose and how good you become at selling your services and building efficient processes, there are enough good niches and types of writing that getting started shouldn’t be a problem.

Plus, the difficulties in being a freelance writer would come with any other freelance career, too, such as software development or design. So, freelance writing is as good as any freelance career, in my opinion.

I also like how simple it is. You don’t need an ultra-high-speed internet connection, the most expensive laptop, or constant contact with your clients. You typically take a sales call, arrange payment, have them send over some details about what they need, and get to work.

So being a freelance writer is also simpler and involves less back-and-forth with clients than most other freelance careers, in my experience.

I enjoyed this work thoroughly and took full advantage by doing some of my freelance writing work from Thailand, Vietnam, and other distant locations while still having my writing business based in the US.

Websites and Resources to Become a Successful Freelance Writer

Below are some of my favorite websites and blogs that will help you in your writing and freelancing.


A blog dedicated to copywriting, content writing, and mastering your craft as an online writer. They offer many free articles but also downloadable PDFs. I’ve used and saved these free PDF writing guides myself and they helped me tremendously.

Content Marketing Institute

CMI is a leading content marketing education and training website with articles covering a wide range of topics related to content marketing including SEO, social media marketing, and more. These will likely be key areas your clients are interested in if you plan on starting a freelance writing career online, and this website can help you build a foundation.

The Balance Small Business Freelance Writing and Consulting Resources

The Balance runs a number of large online sites on various topics (Small Business, Careers, etc.) and they have a thorough section of their Small Business site dedicated to freelance writing and consulting. This site can help you learn more about blogging, content marketing, how to break into freelance writing in general, how to earn more money from your writing gigs, and more.

Freelancers Union

The Freelancers Union offers a variety of information and services to help independent workers. Their content ranges from a contract-creator tool to free articles on topics like how to take vacation time as a freelancer and how to handle client onboarding. I recommend their blog in particular, which is the section of their site I linked to above.

They’ve also got an entire website section on resources for non-payment. But if you have read this guide to freelance writing step-by-step, then you know to get paid up front for each writing job, so this won’t be an issue.

Upwork Articles

Upwork, the popular freelance job marketplace, also has a blog/articles section with a lot of high-quality content on how to win more writing gigs and succeed after you land a writing job, too.

Their blog articles are not just dedicated to online writing, since many other types of freelancers use Upwork, too. However, the website has a lot of very high-quality information that’s relevant to starting out as a freelance writer. I’ve written some articles for their blog in the past, too:

  • How to ace your freelance job interview
  • 3 marketing strategies to attract better clients as a new freelancer

Online Communities

I also recommend joining Facebook groups and Reddit communities centered around freelance writing. From there, you can start reading some discussions and asking any questions that you have. There are often many experienced people in these groups who are willing to “give back” and help new freelance writers.

Just make sure to ask specific, targeted questions. Don’t go on Reddit and ask, “How can I succeed as a freelancer?” That question is too broad and you won’t get high-quality answers.

Instead, ask a question like, “Freelance writers: Which freelance marketplace has worked best for you this past year?”

Or, “Question for fellow online writers: How do you decide which writing samples to provide a new potential client when they ask to see a portfolio?”

Next Steps: Start Freelance Writing

Becoming a freelance writer takes practice and hard work, but it becomes easier over time and can be a high-paying freelance career for anyone willing to put in the work.

To start, get your writing ability up to a high level, and then go land your first client via the steps mentioned above. Everything else will become easier after that, and you’ll slowly build your writing portfolio, your online presence, and your confidence as you pitch, close, and deliver more freelance writing jobs.

Biron Clark

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25 Lucrative Side Hustle Ideas for 2024

12 good high income skills to learn in 2024, is upwork worth it review for freelancers, is freelancing worth it (pros and cons), top freelance careers for 2024, finding a job after self employment: tips for resumes, interviews and more, the best side hustles for introverts (16 ideas), 1 thought on “how to start freelance writing (no experience needed)”.

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How to Create Freelance Writing Examples for Your Writing Portfolio

Everything you need to create the perfect freelance writing samples for your writing portfolio.

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Shreya Bose

Written by Shreya Bose , edited by Protim Bhaumik , reviewed by Eric Hauch .

5. Jul 2023 , updated 5. Jul 2023

Preview image of How to Create Freelance Writing Examples for Your Writing Portfolio

If you're a writer, you know your writing samples need to be on point. Be it a sonnet, short story, or SEO article, you need those pieces that have already delighted readers in their own niche. If you're a freelance writer, this is your bread and butter. How else do you find new clients, gigs & projects?

Believe me, I relate. I've been writing professionally since 2017, and have been freelancing for over a year now. So, I thought I'll research and lay out the best practices for creating freelance writing samples.

These guidelines come from a mix of my own experience & industry expert advice, so think of it as the starting point from which to shape the perfect writing sample to astound your potential clients. Plus, there will be examples from real freelance writers who are already established in their freelance writing career(s).

And, just in case, you're in the market for some extra advice, I'll also discuss how you can create the ideal writing portfolio for your freelance writing examples.

How to create freelance writing samples that showcase your writing skills to the right clients

Most employers want to see examples of published content on your portfolio or freelance writing website.

If you already have a set of such publications, here are some questions you should ask before selecting the ones that go on your portfolio:

Can I add all of them?

Interestingly, the modern employer is no longer satisfied with seeing a few well-written pieces. In the age of constant digital competition, clients are looking for people who do good work consistently. In other words, they want someone who writes great content every week. If you're only showcasing 5 articles written over the last 5 months, you'll miss out on being their first preference.

Add as many writing samples to your portfolio as humanly possible. Unless the piece is truly abysmal, it should be on your portfolio. And, if you're worried about the amount of work it takes to copy/paste/upload, there are portfolio-building tools that do all the work for you (more on that later). Also, these tools will let you organize your portfolio so that it’s easy for a potential client to digest.

Is it targeting my clients' niche?

If you're pitching to a lifestyle client, it's best to show pieces related to the same domain. If you don't have any, consider creating writing samples from scratch. While clients can somewhat gauge your writing style from unrelated writing on different topics, they shouldn't have to sit and wonder how you can transfer your skills to their industry. Instead, they'll just go with whoever shows that they have relevant industry experience.

Is there any content featuring me (instead of being written by me)?

Has any of your work ever been quoted or referred to by another writer, podcaster, or video creator? Include it! Ever done any guest posting? Include it!

The fact that other people are referring to your opinions, or actively soliciting them, shows that you are a true expert in your field. Once again, if you're worried about tracking down all your "mentions," a portfolio builder like Authory will come in handy. It finds these "mentions" for you, so you don't have to spend your time scouring the internet (and possibly regretting everything).

Now, in case you don't have published writing samples, you need to create some.

How to create freelance writing samples from scratch

Focus on the client's industry.

You start by looking at the prospective client's industry before deciding what to write on. If you want to pitch to a beauty & lifestyle company, you write something like "Top 10 skincare tips for when you're traveling and jetlagged." If you're pitching to a political think tank, you might want to write an analysis of electoral patterns in Croatia. Look at what the client wants, and give them exactly that.

Throw in some SEO knowledge

The competition to show up on the first page of Google's search results is fierce. In the digital gladiatorial landscape, some knowledge of SEO is a huge advantage. Even if the client is prepared to help writers with SEO guidelines, wouldn't they be doubly impressed if your point out the target keyword for your article? Wouldn't they be even more impressed if you told them how you did your research, even if it's at a rudimentary level with free tools?

Competence with SEO is one of the most desirable skills for a freelance writer. If you're looking to acquire this skill, start with Google's free course .

Pay attention to the title

People's attention spans are low, and everyone is vying for their attention online. Your article's title has to stand out and get people to click on it. A good title is clear, contains a target keyword, and tries to be witty (but doesn't try too hard).

You should be able to get a good idea of the right title (the kind that appeals to the target audience) by doing a simple Google search of your target keyword for the piece.

Keep your word count under control

Your clients have very little time to devote to a single application and portfolio. Don't make life more difficult for them.

Keep your writing samples relatively short. If you're creating it (instead of showing previously published work), try to keep it between 1000-1500 words. 2000 is acceptable for deep dives into technical topics.

Of course, if you see that your client's blog routinely publishes long-form pieces that go beyond 1500-2000 words, feel free to stick to the word count. Clearly, the client likes it.

Edit brutally for errors, plagiarism & readability

Your writing samples should be as pristine as possible. Once you're done with your draft, go through it with a fine tooth comb. Use tools like Grammarly to check for spelling & grammar errors. If you have a paid version of Grammarly you can use its exceptional plagiarism checker. If not, there are plenty of free tools to help you out.

It's also important to keep your article readable to the target audience. Long, complex sentences are usually not reader-friendly (unless you stan for James Joyce). Long paragraphs are heavy on the reader's eyes. If a simpler synonym for a word exists, it should be used over the "heavier" word.

You can use Hemingway to check your article's readability. Try to keep it at Grade 9-10 reading level, unless the client in question is known for welcoming more academic language.

Freelance writing samples to inspire your first one

Final fantasy xvi is still final fantasy, with more blood and butts by reid mccarter.

writing a freelance article

Reid McCarter is a freelance writer and editor with publications in The AV Club, GQ, Kill Screen, Playboy, The Washington Post, Paste, and VICE. He co-founded & co-edits Bullet Points Monthly, co-edits SHOOTER and Okay, Hero, and co-hosts the Bullet Points podcast.

This writing sample of his is a review of the RPG Final Fantasy XVI.

You can read the full review here and browse his freelance writing portfolio here .

The Fashion Grazer by Vicki Reeve

writing a freelance article

Vicki started out in academic book publishing and moved on to luxury journalism. She has written & edited for FT's How To Spend It magazine, Condé Nast Traveller, Stella magazine at The Telegraph, ES Magazine at the Evening Standard, The Sunday Times (Style and Travel), and Tatler.

As a freelance editor/writer, she works with Departures International, Centurion, Compendium, NetJets magazine, Vogue, Art Fund's Art Quarterly magazine, Elephant magazine, and Wylde, among other publications.

Her freelance writing niche is luxury & lifestyle, but she also writes short stories, one of which is the sample here. It is the very definition of a good writing sample.

And, here's her freelance writing portfolio page .

How to use Canva for Non-profits by Carrie Cousins

writing a freelance article

Carrie has 15+ years of experience in media, design, and content marketing with brands operating across the globe. As a freelance writer, she creates content for blogs, informative articles, website or ad copy, and more.

Her freelance writing sample here is a discussion on how non-profits can use the free tool Canva for the best possible results.

Here's the full article & her freelance writing portfolio .

Addressing security gaps with risk-based vulnerability management by Clair Belmonte

writing a freelance article

Clair is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist. Her freelance writing portfolio showcases her areas of interest as B2B tech, SaaS, cybersecurity, data management, AI/ML, and compliance.

The sample highlighted here delves into fortifying data security for organizations by using something called vulnerability management.

Here's her full article & her portfolio .

Using Authory to build your freelance writing portfolio

The examples above have a couple of things in common. One, they're really well-crafted. Two, they're part of a sophisticated, industry-best portfolio page — the kind that helps their authors get freelance writing jobs consistently.

The importance of the portfolio cannot be overstated, especially in the freelance writing business. In case you're thinking about upgrading your existing portfolio, or creating your first one, allow me to suggest Authory as that portfolio builder .

Authory has the following advantages:

A self-updating portfolio (no need to keep adding new work manually)

Authory will AUTOMATICALLY import a copy of every bylined piece from every site into its own database. These sites are called "sources." You add as many sources as you want, and every single bylined piece from every single source will be imported automatically.

You don't have to track down links to your published work (especially older pieces). As long as you remember the URL of the site where your work exists, Authory will collate all your content for you in one dashboard.

Authory can import content from behind most soft paywalls (as long as it is a bylined piece) and some hard paywalls. However, it cannot be used to import copies of articles, podcasts, and videos you haven’t created or featured in.

There isn’t any need to manually upload/copy-paste your content. That said, if you happen to have any non-bylined content, you can always do so manually in those cases.

Automated backups (never lose your content, ever)

All the content that Authory imports from different sources is saved permanently. You'll never have to worry about losing any of your published work. Even if the original website where it's published goes defunct for any reason, you'll always have a copy safely stored on Authory's server.

All backups are in the original format — text and/or media. No screenshots. This is super important because it lets you search through your content database, making it a valuable research tool.

Continued importing of past and future content (less effort for a 100% updated portfolio)

Once you enter a source, Authory won't just import your existing publications. Anything you publish on the same site (after you've fed its URL into Authory) in the future will also be imported automatically. In other words, Authory will import your past and future content.

Authory also sends email notifications for every new piece it imports, so you'll always know if something you submitted has been published.

Many Authory customers have also observed that Authory notifications reached their inboxes faster than Google Alerts .

Collections for easy organization (easy site navigability)

Once Authory imports your content, you can put each piece into folders called "Collections" right within your dashboard. Select the pieces that go into each Collection, name these "Collections," and add them to your portfolio with a single click.

On your Authory portfolio, you'll see that these "Collections" show up as headers. They become the categories under which your content is organized, making your portfolio easier to navigate instantly.

My Authory portfolio

In my case, the Collections I create simply separate articles based on domains: Software testing, All The Music (music journalism) , Application Streaming & Cloud PCs, Creating a Work Portfolio (for my Authory pieces), and Video Engineering & Streaming for Devs .

I added each of my Collections to my portfolio with a single click, and as you can see, they serve as the headers someone can click to narrow down the topics they want to explore.

Analytics, tracking, newsletter, RSS, & more

Authory doesn't just provide a digital space to display your work. You also get ancillary features like:

  • Ability to search through both your portfolio and your content database to find content based on keywords . Prospective employers can use this to look for topics on your portfolio, and you can use it to find specific pieces within your Authory content bank.
  • All imported content can be downloaded as high-res PDFs or exportable as HTML files — no lock-in period.
  • No separate web hosting charges.
  • Get a custom domain and further personalize your portfolio (no extra charge).
  • Multiple, low-effort options for customization to make your portfolio visually appealing and easy to navigate.
  • Allows creation of newsletters with a couple of clicks. After setup, Authory will automatically send your newly published content to subscribers.
  • Widgets to display your personal portfolio on other sites, such as your personal website (if you have one).

If you’re curious, sign up for a free Authory account . Try the 14-day trial, set up a self-updating portfolio within minutes, access all your work in one place, and be assured that you’ll never lose any of your work again. See if it makes your life easier like it did for mine.

Seasoned writer & editor working with B2B & B2C content since 2017. Writes about music on weekends. Trying to overcome caffeine addiction.

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  • The Ultimate Guide: How to Create Engaging Long-Form Content

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posted by iWriter user iWriter Team

February 12, 2024

long-form content

Are you tired of hearing that no one reads long-form content anymore? Well, we’re here to challenge that misconception! Long gone are the days when readers had short attention spans. In fact, engaging long-form content is making a powerful comeback in the digital world. 

If you want to captivate your audience and create truly remarkable pieces, this ultimate guide has got you covered. From mastering storytelling techniques to optimizing readability, we’ll take you on an exhilarating journey toward crafting compelling and share-worthy long-form content. 

So buckle up and get ready to revolutionize your writing game with our expert tips and tricks!

Understanding Your Target Audience and Their Needs

Understanding your target audience is crucial for creating engaging long-form content. Knowing who they are, what they want, and their needs will help you tailor your content to meet their specific expectations and interests.

To effectively understand your target audience, you need to conduct thorough research and gather data about them. This includes demographics such as age, gender, location, education level, income range, and more. You can gather this information through online surveys, social media analytics tools, or by analyzing website traffic.

Choosing a Topic That Will Resonate With Your Audience

When it comes to creating engaging long-form content, one of the most important factors to consider as a content writer is choosing a topic that will resonate with your audience. After all, you could have the most well-written and informative piece of content, but if it doesn’t appeal to your target readers, it won’t be as effective in capturing their attention and keeping them engaged.

Remember, the key is to choose a topic that aligns with your overall content strategy and resonates with your audience. By understanding who you are writing for and what they want, you can create long-form content that engages and provides value to your readers.

Researching and Gathering Information for Your Content

The first step in researching and gathering information for your content is clearly defining your topic or subject matter. This will help you focus your research efforts and narrow down the scope of information needed. It’s also important to consider your target audience and what type of information they would find most valuable.

Once you have a clear topic in mind, start by conducting a general search on the internet. Use trusted sources such as government websites, academic journals, industry publications, and reputable news outlets to gather background information on the topic. It’s essential to cross-reference multiple sources to ensure accuracy and avoid relying on biased or unreliable information.

Crafting a Compelling Headline to Hook Readers In

To create an effective headline, you need to understand the purpose of your article. Ask yourself, what is the main message or idea that I want to convey? What makes my content unique or valuable? This will help you come up with a clear and concise headline that accurately reflects the essence of your piece.

Another important factor in crafting a compelling headline is understanding your target audience. What are their interests, pain points, and motives? Knowing this information, you can tailor your headline to resonate with them. Use language that speaks directly to their needs or desires, and they will be more likely to click on your article.

Structuring Your Content for Maximum Engagement

The first step in structuring your content is to have a clear understanding of your target audience. This will help you determine the type of structure that best resonates with them. For example, if your target audience consists of busy professionals, they may prefer shorter paragraphs and bullet points for easy scanning. On the other hand, if you are writing for an academic audience, a more formal and structured approach may be more suitable.

Once you know who you are writing for, creating an outline is important before diving into writing. An outline allows you to organize your thoughts and ideas into cohesive sections that flow smoothly from one to another. It also helps prevent writer’s block as you have a clear roadmap to follow while writing.

Incorporating Visuals and Multimedia Elements

Incorporating visuals and multimedia elements is a crucial aspect of creating engaging long-form content. Not only do these elements make your content more visually appealing, but they also help to break up the text and provide additional context and information for your audience.

One of the most effective ways to incorporate visuals into your long-form content is through the use of infographics. These visually appealing graphics combine images, charts, and other graphical elements to present complex information in an easy-to-understand format. Infographics are eye-catching and highly shareable, making them a great tool for increasing engagement with your content.

Adding Personal Anecdotes and Stories

Adding personal anecdotes and stories is a powerful way to make your long-form content engaging and relatable. It adds a human touch to your writing and helps connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Including personal anecdotes and stories can also help break up the flow of information in your article, making it easier for readers to follow along. When done correctly, these personal touches can add depth and personality to your writing, making it stand out from generic content.

Utilizing Data, Statistics, and Expert Quotes

This is a crucial aspect of creating engaging long-form content. These elements add credibility to your writing and make it more informative and interesting for the readers.

Incorporating data, statistics, and expert quotes into your long-form content is essential for creating engaging and informative pieces. Be mindful of where you source this information from, and always provide context for a better understanding. With these elements at hand, your long-form content is sure to captivate readers’ attention and keep them engaged until the very end.

The Key to Effective Long-form Content

Creating engaging, long-form content is crucial for businesses and brands to stand out from the competition. By following these tips and strategies, you can create high-quality, long-form content that captivates your audience, boosts your SEO rankings, and drives conversions. 

Remember to provide value, use visuals effectively, tell a compelling story, and tailor your content to your target audience. With dedication and consistency in producing quality long-form content, you will see its positive impact on your brand’s online presence. Do you need help in hiring a content writer? Book a free call to discuss your content needs today.

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Going Freelance in 2024 — What You Need to Know

FlexJob’s report spotlights top companies, career fields, and job titles on the rise for fully remote freelance workers in 2024

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Yellow and purple binders with freelance label sitting next to a pair of glasses

Freelancing is on the rise and some of the most successful self-employed workers are the ones tapping into the biggest and fastest-growing freelance markets. Flexjob's 2024 State of Remote Freelance Jobs Report looks at the ever-changing world of remote freelance work to identify future career opportunities. 

In the report, you'll find the top ten careers for freelance workers in 2024, the most popular job titles, ten companies most likely to hire freelance workers and how to find work. Ready to join the remote work revolution? Let's go.

The rise in remote freelance work

Freelance workers are having a greater impact on the US economy than ever before, and the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. According to the 2024 Work Insights Survey from FlexJobs, 95% of workers want some form of remote work, with 54% preferring to work from home full-time and 41% saying a hybrid is their ideal work arrangement. 

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“The rise in freelancers is a great indication of the many workers pursuing their careers with greater autonomy, independence, and flexibility,” said Toni Frana, Lead Career Expert at FlexJobs. “And fortunately, as our latest report has shown, there are remote freelance opportunities across a wide range of industries that afford people the freedom to define when, where, and how they work.”  

Although the reasons people choose a freelance career can vary — a flexible schedule, a better balance of work and family life and the benefit of being their own boss — the demand for freelance work (and workers) continues to skyrocket. In fact, an estimated 64 million US workers performed freelance work in 2023, according to Statista.

Top 10 career fields for remote freelance work

The following 10 career categories experienced the highest growth in remote freelance jobs from January 1 through December 31, 2023. These jobs are also considered to be strong options through 2024.

  • Graphic Design
  • Art & Creative
  • Copywriting
  • News & Journalism
  • Entertainment & Media
  • Social Media

Top 10 companies for remote freelance work

The 2024 report showed a steady pace for remote freelance opportunities in new career fields, including:

  • Robert Half International
  • LHH - Lee Hecht Harrison
  • Insight Global
  • Solomon Page

Top 10 in-demand remote freelance job titles

Among the top 10 remote freelance job titles, virtual assistants and graphic designers were some of the most sought-after roles, highlighting the versatility in the current freelance marketplace.

  • Virtual Assistant
  • Graphic Designer
  • Project Manager
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Social Media Specialist
  • Video Editor
  • Marketing Manager
  • Communications Specialist

Five steps to finding freelance work

If you’re not sure how to get your foot in the door, FlexJobs has a few words of wisdom to help take your freelance career to the next level.

  • Get Social & Get Networking — Don’t underestimate the role of social media and a powerful network in finding and landing freelance clients. 
  • Target Your Search — Target different keywords to expand your results.
  • Try Cold Pitching — Cold pitching is emailing or messaging potential freelance clients to offer your services.  
  • Build Your Brand   — Having a strong personal brand and personal website to showcase past work is essential when freelancing.
  • Ask for Referrals — Make it easy for freelance clients to share testimonials by sending a polite email with a link and a couple of targeted questions they can answer.

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Heard AI is coming for your job? For these copywriters, that 'future' arrived months ago

Science Heard AI is coming for your job? For these copywriters, that 'future' arrived months ago

Leanne Shelton

In 2023, with artificial intelligence (AI) hype at fever pitch, white-collar workers were told that maybe one day soon, their roles would be automated.

Somewhere between a quarter and a half of existing jobs would be replaced, according to high-profile predictions .

A year later, many workers may be scratching their heads. Sure, AI tools are becoming more common, but generally they are some way from automating entire roles.

A real estate agent might use ChatGPT to write a property listing, but AI can't yet open the door of the house.

Still, there are a few professions that are already feeling the bite — and the experiences of these workers may be a helpful insight into what's to come for those who aren't yet affected.

Copywriters, and in particular freelance copywriters, are seeing large parts of their work automated, and their labour devalued.

They're now adapting by learning new AI skills and specialising in the types of work the bots are currently bad at.

So, are these copywriters the canaries in the coal mine for AI-led automation?

Here's what they have to say about the future of work.

An AI tool crashes through a profession

Last year, not long after the launch of ChatGPT, Leanne Shelton braced herself for turbulent times.

The Sydney-based copywriter, who'd built up her freelance business over nine years, knew that change was coming.

And she knew that freelancers, who were less insulated from market shocks than permanent employees, were going to feel the impact first.

For Ms Shelton, business soon started drying up.

"Clients were like, 'There's this free tool. Why would we invest $2,000 for copywriting when we can get something for free?'"

Tim King, a Bendigo-based copywriter, experienced the same.

"I saw a 45 per cent reduction in overall lead generation," he said.

Bendigo-based copywriter and marketing strategist Tim King

Lindsay, a copywriter in Sydney, was made redundant at a cybersecurity firm.

"They wanted to save costs and so they cut my role," she said.

"They thought the executives could write their own content using ChatGPT."

Looking for employment, she was alarmed by how far salaries in her line of work, and at her level of experience, had fallen.

"A job that would have been mid-management level on $120,000 plus super is now around $90,000."

Tanya Abdul Jalil, a freelance education writer, has colleagues "desperately scratching" for work.

"Especially the ones whose blogs are their bread and butter," she said.

"Something that used to take four to five hours and get them a full day's pay can be produced in minutes."

Perth-based copywriter Kara Stokes sees many in her profession left with a simple choice: adapt or get out.

"It’s like Blockbuster Video," she said.

"They didn't adapt and we saw what happened there."

The problem of measuring AI's effects on employment

If AI is already having such a dramatic impact on copywriters, how is this reflected in their workforce statistics?

The short answer is that it's not. Or at least not yet, experts say.

"Workforce statistics always lag reality, right?" Kylie Walker, CEO of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), said.

"But when you're hearing the same stories arising in multiple places, then it's time to start listening."

Measuring how AI affects employment in general is a problem for economists.

This is partly due to a lack of data. Employers may not be transparent about why they're laying off workers or cutting hours.

The effect of an AI tool that augments an existing role, rather than replacing it, may not show in employment figures either.

A woman with bright pink hair and wearing a pink dress sitting in a wheelchair

But some studies can detect recent trends.

Around midway through last year, three US economists studied jobs and earnings data for copywriters and graphic designers on major online freelancing platforms.

They chose freelancers partly because they were most exposed to the repercussions of AI automation, one of the economists, Washington University's Oren Reshef, said.

"Freelancers are generally less protected from adverse market shocks compared to more standard employment.

"And at the current state of the technology, I believe AI is much better able to replace specific, well-designed tasks, like a short freelance project."

That is, freelancers don't have much job security, and their work is more likely to consist of short, well-defined tasks, which makes it easier to feed this work to AI.

The results of the study were  published as a non-peer-reviewed working paper in August .

They showed within a few months of ChatGPT's launch, copywriters and graphic designers saw a significant drop in the number of jobs they got and even steeper declines in earnings.

And when they dug deeper into the data, the economists found an interesting trend.

Being a more skilled freelancer was no defence against loss of work or earnings. 

This may seem counter-intuitive at first, Dr Reshef said, "but it makes a lot of sense on second thought".

"Who do we expect to benefit the most from a new technology that improves the quality of your work or your output? Probably those that didn't do a great job to begin with.

"Simply put, AI helps level the playing field across all workers."

Automation doesn't mean mass unemployment

Tanya Abdul Jalil

Just as less experienced copywriters might earn more by generating and editing AI content, an experienced copywriter who once earned a decent wage may be paid less to do the same job.

Mr King, the Bendigo-based copywriter, has noticed this trend.

"AI has lowered the bar and increased the ability for [non-copywriters] to generate content," he said.

"Our creative services as a whole have been devalued."

But there's a risk of generalising too much from short-term data like those used in last year's freelancer study, said Xiang Hui, also from Washington University and a co-author of the working paper.

Technology changes, but so do people. AI may improve and be able to automate a higher proportion of existing roles, but people adapt. They learn new skills and apply for new kinds of jobs.

Dr Hui said it's hard to predict what will happen in the long run.

"The technology improves and its capability to replace certain jobs gets better.

"But workers increasingly adopt these new technologies, and the nature of jobs and skills they require may also change over time."

Late last year, ATSE announced that AI could automate 25 to 46 per cent of existing Australian jobs by 2030 .

But automation doesn't equal unemployment, Ms Walker, ATSE CEO, said.

"There will be a shift in where the employment occurs, and in what people are employed for.

"Jobs will be there. They just may not be the jobs that we intimately know today."

Copywriters are adapting to AI

So what can copywriters teach us about adapting to AI?

Having seen the writing on the wall, Ms Shelton, the Sydney-based copywriter, swiftly pivoted to AI coaching last year.

She now earns more from teaching people how to use generative AI tools than she does from copywriting.

"I pretty much started listening to podcasts and reading books about AI," she said.

"[When] 150 people registered for the first webinar, I realised I was onto something."

A woman sits in front of a computer open to a screen showing purple and green colours

Zoe Simmons, who has physical and mental disabilities, said her type of writing — focusing on her experience of disabilities — meant she'd avoided the downturn.

"Thankfully lived experience is something a robot or AI cannot do," she said.

Mr King has rebranded as a marketing strategist, advising clients on how to promote their product, rather than just writing copy.

And when he does write copy, he uses AI.

"For me, it's a tool that I use to infinitely speed up my processes. 

"Potentially AI will take your job but at the end of the day it means we can shift into higher value work."

Whether or not AI means workers end up doing less of the drudge work, early studies show it can boost the efficiency of "knowledge workers" (such as analysts, engineers, and accountants) at some tasks.

In a recent Harvard Business School study , employees at Boston Consulting Group were randomly assigned access to GPT-4, OpenAI's latest large language model. 

Those using AI completed 12.2 per cent more tasks while doing them 25.1 per cent faster. They also produced higher quality work compared to those not using AI.

As with the freelancer study, the least-skilled workers benefited the most from AI.

"People in the lower half of that distribution had a much larger productivity bump," Edward McFowland, co-author of the Harvard study,  said at the time .

"But on average, everyone seems to do better.”

AI can be helpful, but sometimes not

These findings may sound simple enough, but there's one big catch that has implications for how AI may be used to automate office work.

When the Boston Consulting Group consultants were given tasks beyond a certain threshold of complexity and nuance, those who used AI did worse.

That is, AI isn't always helpful.

Sometimes, it makes workers worse at their jobs.

And it gets still more complicated. Some AI-assisted consultants bucked the trend and did better at the more complex tasks than those not using AI.

The researchers' conclusion may be heartening for any white-collar worker concerned that a wave of automation will sweep them out of the office. 

AI use should be tightly supervised and — at least for now — reserved for a narrow range of tasks, Dr McFowland said.

"Companies cannot simply ignore these tools, because they have tremendous value that their competitors will be exploiting," he said.

"However, turning them loose on all use cases can have an array of detrimental consequences."

Has the impact of AI been overstated?

Companies that ditched their copywriters may be experiencing the "detrimental consequences" of having too much faith in AI, according to those same copywriters.

Freelancers report old clients getting back in touch and admitting the bot's copy wasn't up to scratch.

"It has a very Americanised tone, the grammar is all off, and the sentiment is a bit strange as well," Mr King said.

"I've noticed a swing back to copywriters."

An MIT study published last month suggested AI won't replace as many jobs as predicted by studies in 2023.

Jobs previously identified as being at risk of AI displacement weren't currently "economically beneficial" to automate.

For instance, in some cases, buying and maintaining AI systems to automate certain tasks was more expensive than employing a human.

If 2023 was the year of AI hype, 2024 may see the excitement cool to a gentle simmer as reality sets in.

In any case, the job of copywriting won't ever be the same.

"We're not going to sit there and write a 300-word synopsis any more," Mr King said.

"That's in the past. We can give that to ChatGPT."

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Creating effective technical documentation

Author avatar

Effective feature documentation is important in enhancing a user's experience with the feature. Good documentation is like a piece of the puzzle that makes everything click — the key for encouraging feature adoption.

To support you in creating effective technical documentation, this article provides an overview of the core principles of technical writing. It also highlights the best practices for creating clear and accessible documentation. Applying these technical writing principles helps us maintain the high quality of content on MDN. Whether you're documenting your own project or product or contributing to technical content in various settings, you can improve the quality of your work by following these best practices.

Adopt clarity, conciseness, and consistency

These three Cs form the core principles of technical writing. They can take you a long way in producing quality documentation.

For achieving clarity in your writing, apply the following guidelines:

  • Use simple words and clear language. Keep in mind the audience, especially if it includes non-native English speakers.
  • Be clear about who needs to perform the action. Writing in active voice is not strictly required. However, you should use it when you want to be clear about who needs to perform the action. For example, clarify whether a function is triggered by an event or if the user needs to explicitly call the function.
  • Clearly introduce and explain new terms. This helps to lay the foundation for concepts that are covered later in the documentation.
Tip : Replace "it", "this", and "these" with proper nouns if they can refer to more than one thing in the given context.
  • Aim for one idea per sentence to improve readability.
  • Stick to one main idea per paragraph. Each sentence in a paragraph should logically connect to the one before it. Imagine if each sentence in a paragraph was a link in a chain. If you pick up the first link, the other links in the chain should follow, forming a continuous sequence. This is how the sentences should connect to each other, ensuring a seamless flow of a single idea.


Keep sentences short. This automatically increases the readability and clarity of your document. It also helps in quick comprehension. Long sentences can be more challenging to understand quickly due to their complex structures.

Tip : Based on common readability standards, aim for 15-20 words per sentence.

For additional insights on sentence length and readability strategies, see Simple sentences (on ) and Popular readability formulas , including the Flesch-Kincaid index, on Wikipedia.


Use the same terminology throughout your documentation to ensure a seamless reader experience. For example, if you start referring to "user agents" as browsers, stick with that term consistently. This avoids confusion that can arise from using words interchangeably, even when they share the same meaning.

Additionally, maintain consistent word casing and follow a uniform formatting style throughout your documentation. These practices not only enhance readability but also contribute to a professional presentation of your documentation.

Organize your content for maximum impact

Apply the same principles for organizing your content as you would for organizing your code: spend some time setting a clear goal and thinking about the desired structure for your documentation. Ensure that each subsection contributes to this goal incrementally.

Start with an introduction

In the introduction, first describe the feature you're documenting. Next, set the context by explaining why learning about the feature would be beneficial to the readers. This can include describing real-life scenarios where the feature can be useful. The more relevance you add to the topic, the easier it will be for readers to understand and engage with the content.

Progress logically

The following questions can help you ensure that your content is progressing logically:

  • Is your document structured to guide readers from foundational concepts to more advanced ones? Are there sections to introduce the " what " to establish a base before delving into the " why " and " how "? Consider whether the document structure mirrors the natural learning path for the topic. Aligning the document's structure with the natural progression of learning helps readers build their knowledge step-by-step and also enhances the overall learning experience.
  • Are there sufficient how-to guides or examples following the conceptual sections?
  • Consider the flow of the content. Is it following a logical sequence — from one sentence to the next, from one paragraph to the next, and from one section to the next? Does each section logically build on the information presented previously, avoiding abrupt jumps or gaps in the content?

Additionally, as you work on the draft, always ask yourself:

  • What reader questions am I addressing with this sentence?
  • Can I add a simplistic or real-life use case to explain this concept?

Include examples

Imagine sitting next to someone as you explain the concepts to them. Preempt their questions and address them in your writing. Use this approach to add as many relevant examples as possible.

When adding examples, don't restrict yourself to only code; include non-code scenarios to demonstrate a feature's utility. This helps readers understand the concepts better and also caters to different learning styles. Consider providing real-world scenarios or use cases to illustrate how the feature or concept applies in practical situations.

Optimize the document structure and length

Evaluate your documentation's structure to ensure it maintains a logical and balanced hierarchy.

  • Ensure that each section and subsection has a clear purpose and sufficient content.
  • Look for instances where a main section contains only one subsection (orphan), such as a single H3 section under an H2 section. This indicates that you need to reorganize your content or make some additions.
  • Check if there are lower-level headings such as H4 . Too many subsections can be overwhelming for readers, making it difficult for them to grasp the information. In such cases, consider presenting the content as a bulleted list instead to help readers retain the key points more effectively. This approach helps to simplify the hierarchy and also contributes to easier navigation.
  • While there should be sufficient content for each section, pay attention to the overall length. If any section becomes too extensive, it can be overwhelming for readers. Split large sections into multiple logical subsections or restructure the content into new sections and subsections. Grouping content into digestible pieces helps maintain focus and improve navigation for readers.

Proofread your writing

One aspect that cannot be stressed enough is the importance of self-reviewing and proofreading what you've written. Whether you're creating a large document or a short paragraph, this step is crucial.

Taking the time to fully review your work will help you identify sections that don't flow well or can be improved for clarity. During self-review, aim to spot and remove redundancy (repetition of ideas without adding value) and repetitiveness (overuse of words or phrases). These refinements will ensure your documentation is clear and coherent and conveys your ideas as intended.

Proofread and then take a break before you review again. Only then submit your work. While spell checkers can flag spelling errors, they might not flag incorrect use of words, such as an unintended use of "he" instead of "the". It's best to take a break and return with fresh eyes to catch any errors you might have missed. Pay close attention to identify inconsistencies in tone, style, tense, or formatting and make the necessary adjustments.

Additional tips

To improve the clarity and accessibility of your documentation, also keep the following guidelines and tips in mind. To go in-depth into any of the topics, feel free to consult our Writing style guide .

  • Bulleted vs numbered lists : Lists, in general, make documentation easier to scan. Use bulleted lists when there is no specific order of the items. Use numbered lists when the steps need to be followed in the specific order. Always include a lead-sentence before beginning a list to provide context.
  • Commas : Use a comma after an introductory clause to improve readability and to clarify the sentence structure. Use a comma to separate items in a list to ensure clarity.
  • Alt text : Always provide an alternative text for the images you add to content. This makes your documentation accessible to people using screen readers. In addition to images, ensure that video and audio files have accompanying descriptive texts.
  • Descriptive link text : Make sure each link text is clear even out of context and clearly indicates where the link leads. Descriptive link texts also help people using screen readers understand the destination of links. For example, use "Read our writing style guide to learn more" instead of "Click here to learn more".
  • Inclusive language : Make your documentation welcoming to everyone. Strive to use words that respect and acknowledge the diversity of your audience.

That's it for this article. I hope you found these tips helpful as a quick refresher on technical writing best practices. Remember that learning how to create effective and easy-to-use documentation is an ongoing process. It starts with understanding your audience and the goals of your documentation. By applying these technical writing principles and tips, you'll certainly be able to enhance the clarity and overall quality of your documentation.

Let me know if you learned something new or if there's any idea that resonated with you. I'd also like to hear if there are any best practices you use in your technical documentation workflow. Share with us on Mastodon or Discord .

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ChatGPT-5: release date, price, and what we know so far

ChatGPT-5 release date, price, and what we know so far. Purple OpenAI logo behind illustration of man and machine, and rows of data servers

In a recent conversation between the CEOs of Microsoft and OpenAI, it was revealed by Sam Altman that ChatGPT-5 is expected to receive significant updates to its speech, images, and eventually video capabilities.

On his “Unconfuse Me” podcast, Bill Gates, along with Altman, explored the future of artificial intelligence, including its improved reasoning ability and general reliability. “Multimodality will be important,” Altman said, hinting at a future where artificial intelligence (AI) can perform increasingly complex tasks and potentially reshape various sectors, including programming, healthcare, and education.

Anticipation is building for the next iteration of ChatGPT , known as GPT-5. This advanced large language model is seen as a crucial milestone on the path to achieving artificial general intelligence (AGI), enabling machines to mimic human thought processes.

Here’s what to expect with the next version of GPT.

Will there be a ChatGPT-5 and what can it do?

As Altman has suggested, ChatGPT-5 is already in development as an updated version of its predecessor, GPT-4. The OpenAI CEO stated, “Right now, GPT-4 can reason only in extremely limited ways, and its reliability is also limited,” hence the aim is to improve its current functionality.

GPT, which stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer,” is a deep learning-based language model designed to produce text that resembles human writing. It boasts more natural language processing skills and finds widespread use across numerous applications.

On top of being dependable, Altman stipulated that “customizability and personalization will also be very important.

“People want very different things out of GPT-4; different styles, different sets of assumptions – we’ll make all that possible,” he added.

Altman highlighted that GPT-5’s ability to utilize personal data, including understanding emails, calendar details, appointment scheduling preferences, and integrating with external data sources, will be among the key advancements.

Multi-modal AI is designed to learn from and use a variety of content types such as images, audio, video, and numerical data. OpenAI has stated that GPT-4 is a multi-modal model, capable of processing both text and image inputs, although it is restricted to generating outputs in text form only, but GPT-5 would use more data to train on.

“We launched images and audio, and it had a much stronger response than we expected. We’ll be able to push that much further, but maybe the most important areas of progress will be around reasoning ability,” Altman told Gates on his podcast.

OpenAI has already indicated that it is working on a “supersmart” assistant to run a computer for its user. It is said to rival Microsoft and Google’s own AI workplace assistant but these programs are said to be in their infancy.

When will ChatGPT-5 be released?

However, Altman has not revealed a specific date for its release. He told the Financial Times in November that teams were working on the large language model, but did not state when this would be due.

Speaking at the World Governments Summit (WGS) in Dubai this week, Altman then reiterated that ChatGPT-5 is “going to be smarter.”

“It’s not like that this model is going to get a little bit better, it’s because we’re going to make them all smarter, it’s going to be better across the board,” he continued. He also spoke to Bloomberg, saying that he expected the company to “take its time” and make sure it can launch a product that they can feel “good about and responsible about.”

Despite the quick release of GPT-4 following ChatGPT, it underwent more than two years of training, development, and testing. Should GPT-5 follow a similar timeline, its arrival might be sometime in 2025. Nonetheless, this does not mean that we will not see any updates with GPT-4. OpenAI is expected to further develop GPT-4 and may even introduce an interim update, potentially labeled GPT-4.5, in the meantime.

Sam Altman addresses GPT-5 speculation during a recent Bloomberg interview: “I don’t know what we’re going to call our next model…I don’t want to be like shipping iPhone 27…I expect us to take our time (developing)” #ChatGPT #ai #genai — Equity Sesame (@EquitySesame) February 6, 2024

However, the impact of last year’s upheaval at OpenAI on the situation remains uncertain. On November 17th, Altman was removed from his position by the company’s board of directors. After five days of ambivalence, showcasing conflicting perspectives on AI’s future, Altman returned to lead the company , along with a newly formed board. Hence, this may have caused a delay to its initial training.

We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo. We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this. — OpenAI (@OpenAI) November 22, 2023

Will ChatGPT-5 be free?

While there is a free version of ChatGPT, it is unclear whether ChatGPT-5 will require a subscription like its predecessor. The ChatGPT Plus subscription plan is $20 a month, providing subscribers with exclusive benefits including priority access during high-traffic periods, enhanced response times, the ability to use plugins, and exclusive access to GPT-4. Users also have access to its in-house AI image model DALL·E.

It’s also important to note that current language models are already expensive to train and maintain. This means that when GPT-5 is eventually released, access to it will likely require a subscription to ChatGPT Plus or Copilot Pro.

Ultimately, the launch of GPT-5 could lead to GPT-4 becoming more affordable and accessible. In the past, the high cost of GPT-4 has deterred a number of users. However, once it becomes cheaper and widely available, ChatGPT’s capability to handle complex tasks such as coding, translation, and research could significantly improve.

OpenAI has been approached for further comment.

Featured image: DALL·E / Canva

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Suswati Basu

Freelance journalist.

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books . She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award. With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google. Her career also includes a seven-year tenure at the leading AI company Dataminr , where she led the Europe desk and launched the company's first employee resource group for disabilities. Before this, Suswati worked as a journalist in China for four years, investigating censorship and the Great Firewall, and acquired proficiency in several languages. In recent years, Suswati has been nominated for six awards, including the Independent Podcast Awards, International Women's Podcast Awards, and the Anthem Awards for her literary social affairs show. Her areas of speciality span a wide range, including technology, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), social politics, mental health, and nonfiction books.

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Engaging Finance Content

$250-750 USD

Paid on delivery

I'm seeking a talented freelance writer to create compelling and promotional articles focused on finance and accounting topics. These articles are aimed at professionals in the field, with the goal of promoting understanding, engagement, and interaction within the finance community. Your content will play a crucial role in elevating our brand's authority and engaging a professional audience.

Ideal Skills and Experience:

- Strong background in finance or accounting

- Proven experience in writing high-quality, promotional content

- Ability to translate complex finance topics into accessible, engaging content

- SEO knowledge to enhance article visibility

- Excellent research skills to ensure factual accuracy

- Ability to adhere to brand tone and guidelines

Key Project Requirements:

- Creation of promotional articles on various finance and accounting topics

- Target content towards professionals in the finance sector

- Integrate keywords and SEO strategies to increase article reach

- Collaborate with our team for topic selection and brand alignment

This project is perfect for freelance writers with a deep understanding of finance and accounting, and a knack for creating promotional content that resonates with professionals. Your contributions will significantly impact our goals to engage with the finance community and promote our brand as a thought leader in the industry.

Article Rewriting Article Writing Content Writing Finance Ghostwriting

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We are hiring a freelance writer to create blog posts, articles, web content and more. Work can usually be completed based on the freelancer's availability and schedule, however if a deadline is...


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