5 Steps to Make Freelance Writing Your Side Hustle

Do you love writing and have some reason to believe that you’re pretty good at it? 

If you answered yes, then there’s a good chance you can turn writing into a fun and profitable side hustle. 

Writing great content isn’t enough. You have to be able to find paying gigs and create relationships with the people who love your work. But after following the steps and tips in this guide, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to start making money as a freelance writer. 

A Note Before Starting: Managing Your Expectations

If your idea of becoming successful as a writer is to write personal blogs that detail your own adventures, good luck getting paid for that. It’s important to make that distinction between the desire to write whatever you want, and the desire to use your writing skills to make extra income. While your trip to a dog park in a nearby city may be fun to write about, there are far fewer places that will pay for blogs about your personal life. 

Ultimately, it’s best to approach this idea with the intention of finding gigs that pay, and escalating them until you have the workload and extra income you want. Other personal blogs you may have done will be valuable for adding to your portfolio though, especially early on. 

Five Steps to Making Freelance Writing Your Side Hustle

A lot of people hate writing, but if you’re someone who loves it enough to do it on a regular basis and on a wide range of topics, there are companies out there that need your services. Below, discover the five steps to turning your writing hobby into a side gig that provides supplemental income. 

1. To Be a Writer, You Must Write on a Regular Basis

Most of us know people who have aspirations of being a writer. Maybe they dream of writing a screenplay or talk about their own version of a fantasy book that will be the next Game of Thrones. Writers are often dreamers, but there’s one distinguishing trait that differentiates true writers from wannabes: Real writers write

On the most basic level, the only way to improve as a writer is by doing it often. This means taking on challenging new blogs, offering to write articles, working on your fiction or nonfiction projects, and doing any other type of writing that’s available to you. But since our other goal is to make money as writers, it’s blogs that we’re looking for primarily. 

Early on, this may mean working on your personal blog or taking on new assignments for little to no money. During this early stage when you’re writing articles for free, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s crucial to have content for the next step, which will be to build a portfolio that holds all your work and is crucial to acquiring new writing gigs. 

Write to Solve a Problem

Effective writing that people are willing to pay for typically introduces a pain point, addresses it, and explains how to solve it. For example, notice how these two articles introduce an obvious topic, and then tease the pain points and solutions to it: 

2. Start an Online Portfolio with Contently or Another Service

This step is absolutely critical and will make it vastly easier to get paid writing gigs in the future. As a writer, your portfolio is even more valuable than your resume. At a single glance, an editor can read over all of your various types of content to assess the style and quality of your writing. 

Starting a Portfolio is Easy and Free

Getting started with a portfolio is easy. Most of them are free, and all you have to do is sign up, customize your page, and begin dropping your work into it. At first, you might just have your personal blogs in there, but the more you build and refine your portfolio, the more higher-paying jobs you’ll eventually be able to get. 

Example: My Portfolio on Contently

Just so you have an idea of what to expect, here’s an example of the portfolio I use on Contently. Notice how it includes your name, photo, a bio, and as much content as you’re willing to add to it —all in an easy to manage format. As you might imagine, this makes it easy for people to review your work, contact you, and get a strong idea about who you are and the type of work you do. 

Putting Your Best Content First

As a general practice, you’ll want to stack your best content towards the top of your portfolio. The reason is simple: people will look at the content toward the top first and you want them to judge you by your best work. 

3. Commit to Increasing the Quality of Your Writing Gigs

After your portfolio is stocked with a few dozen or more blogs, web pages, and other content, you’ll be well-positioned to begin looking for opportunities that actually pay. Once they see from your portfolio that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into being a writer, they may be ready to give you the opportunity to make some money for your work. 

Where to Find Paying Writing Gigs

Going from your personal blog to getting $500 per article writing for The National is unlikely, so it’s best to start small. For me, the first paying gigs I did, and thoroughly enjoyed, involved getting $25 per article writing for MapQuest. Note that there are tons of companies that pay writers a nominal fee to blog on various topics. 

Consider Checking These Types of Places for Paid Blogging Opportunities

  • Many SEO agencies outsource their writing and will pay well for bloggers. 
  • Check any company that has a blog to see if they need your services. 
  • Search Craigslist for companies that need a writer. 

Use These Blogs to Continually Level Up Your Portfolio

Once you’ve gotten some paying blog opportunities, make sure to add them to your portfolio. From there, you’ll be able to apply to blogs that pay a bit more. If you’ve written for a website and got paid $25, then search for gigs that pay $50. If you’ve written for $50, remember to not go lower than that while you search for blogs of increasing value that improve your worth as a writer. 

4. Stick to a Workload and Income Amount That Works for You

If you’re at the point where you’re getting $50 for a 500-word blog, then you can take on however many of these you can devote time to for decent secondary income. Ten cents per word is the going rate for freelance writers, and if you’ve been practicing so you’re able to turn out high-quality content in record time, then $50 gigs can be great. Plus, it’s the most common rate for bloggers. 

Realistic Goals, Realistic Actions

If your goal is to get rich or pay all of your bills as a freelance writer, it’s possible, but far from likely. Remember that your goal was to generate passive income to support whatever you do for your full-time job, so if you’re able to make an extra $200-1000 per week by writing blogs, that’s enough to make a difference for most people. 

Aim Higher — Making Real Money As a Writer

Writing opportunities that pay $250 and even higher are out there, and available for the right person. It’s worth noting that these will typically involve a higher level of responsibility and longer articles, but it’s exciting to know that you’ve made hundreds of dollars on one article. 

To take your earning potential to new heights, it just takes dedication, time, and effort on your end. The same methods that took your blogs from paying nothing to paying $50 are the same methods that can take them to $250 and beyond. It really boils down to how much time you want to spend writing and doing outreach for new opportunities — only you can make that decision. 

5. Create and Maintain Connections Along the Way

The goal early on is to start writing blogs that will pay you for your efforts. 

The advanced goal is to have connections to where you can submit content, and they’ll gladly pay you for it everytime. When you’re in the position where you can write for paying sites on a consistent basis and know they’ll love it, you’ve officially made writing your side hustle.

Recurring Work is Pure Gold for a Writer

When someone needs a good writer, it’s a major relief for them to find one that’s talented, knowledgeable, and easy to deal with. You want to become this person, and can do it by making sure your work is submitted on time, honoring any guidelines that they’ve posted, and being respectful and professional in all your correspondences with them.  

Look for Opportunities to Connect with People

Did someone leave a comment on one of your blogs? Did they reach out to you on social media? People who show interest in your work are a valuable resource for writers. They may own a website or publication you could write for, or know of some other opportunities that may be of interest. If nothing else, it’s worth it to reach out and express gratitude for reading your content. 

The Perfect Side-Hustle is a Few Blogs Away

There’s a reason why the term “gig economy” is thrown around regularly in 2019. As more people develop marketable skills on their own, the desire to turn them into profitable side hustles is at an all time high.

If writing is among your talents, then it’s easier than ever to turn your passion into a fun and fulfilling source of supplemental income. Simply follow the steps in this guide, put time and effort into improving, and you’ll be sending out invoices for your blogs in no time. 

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