Getting paid to put words on a page … now isn’t THAT the dream?
You can do it. It’s totally possible.
But how do you start???
Most people will tell you to start like this:
- Maybe get a degree or take some fancy course
- Offer up your services for free until you’ve built up a portfolio
- Eventually, you’ll be “good enough” to charge for your services
Doesn’t sound like fun, does it?
It’s also not the only way to go about living the dream.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can get paid immediately as a freelance writer – even if you’ve got little to no experience under your belt. Whether you’re starting a content business or striking out as a freelance writer, here’s everything you need to know to get started and grow your career from the ground up.
Here’s How You Can Start Making Money Freelance Writing Today
Everyone starts somewhere.
I started in my early 20s with $75 and no idea what I was doing except that I was going to write for my life. (As you do. ?)
I tried a lot of things (a lot of it didn’t work), and I talked to a lot of people (many had good ideas, some didn’t). As it turns out, it’s totally possible to make this dream a reality. You just need a few specific things.
Here’s what I discovered you absolutely must have to get paid immediately as a freelance writer:
1. A Website and/or Portfolio
And when I say a website, I don’t mean a profile on Upwork. You want your own turf to house your portfolio and blog, with no middleman getting in the way.
If that sounds daunting, take a deep breath. You don’t have to do it from scratch. There are a lot of sites out there that specialize in portfolios for writers.
That’s because a website:
- Lets you establish your thought leadership (demonstrated expertise, anyone?)
- Is better for SEO, especially when clients are searching specifically for YOU (content differentiation factor FTW!)
- Isn’t at the mercy of the platform if you get kicked off or outgrow it (I’ve been there – it’s not fun)
- Offers more freedom and flexibility to build out your site or services (and thanks to templates it’s easier than ever)
- Is easier to brand (no annoying platform logos anywhere)
If you’re just starting out and don’t have anything for your portfolio, this article is for you. It covers everything you need to know about establishing yourself as a freelance writer (including how to build a portfolio with no experience.)
Content differentiation factors aren’t just for your clients. You can use it to set yourself apart from the competition, too! (But you need a website to do it.)
2. The Skills That It Takes
I use this term a lot when I’m talking about getting into freelance writing: demonstrated expertise.
It simply means that you have the hard skills that it takes to be a freelance writer, and you’re demonstrating them with the work you put in your portfolio. (That work doesn’t have to be for other clients, either. Mockups, or spec ads, are fine. Just be transparent.)
Your prospective clients want to know that you know what you’re doing before they entrust you to become the voice of the brand they worked hard to build. They want to see that you’re committed to helping their brand grow. Expect to demonstrate your skill as a growth-oriented content creator by showcasing skills like:
- Writing and editing for the internet
- Content types
- Content strategy and marketing
- Digital marketing
3. A Means to Get Paid
If you’re working on a platform, they’ll often handle payment for you. Expect to hand over a social security number and possibly a bank account number. However, if you’re totally freelance, you’ll need a way to collect payment from your clients.
Some common payment methods include:
- By business check – only do this for local clients
Most platforms take a percentage as the cost of doing business on them. Another advantage that your own website has involves eliminating this cost, but you need to be up to doing your own marketing. Source: Upwork
4. Clients Who Will Pay You on Day One
There’s a myth that you need to start out offering your services for free.
It’s not true.
In fact, you shouldn’t if you can help it. There are two reasons for this:
1. As soon as you’ve developed the hard skills you need, you’re fit to charge for your services (there’s no degree needed to become a freelance writer).
2. Some clients seek out new freelancers knowing that they can get work for cheap or free because they expect you to not have the competence or confidence to charge. These are some of the worst possible clients you can take.
Remember: If someone tries to tell you the exposure they can offer you is a great opportunity for you, politely let them know the utility company stopped accepting exposure as payment last week. They aren’t worth your time.
5 Quick Tips for Getting Paid as a Freelance Writer
Knowing that you can get paid immediately as a freelance writer – on day one – is good knowledge to have, but how do you go about actually getting paid immediately?
Just like waiters learn to gauge the right moment to drop the check, you need to know how to go about actually hitting clients up for their cash. Here are five tips I’ve learned the hard way over the years:
1. Get Payment Terms in Writing
It’s a very good idea to have a contract that you send off when you onboard a new client. Make sure you’ve got a clause in there that includes how you accept payments.
If you’re subcontracting from an agency or another freelancer, always make sure to confirm how and when payment will be received.
At Express Writers, clients pay upfront when they order content. Writers are paid after they complete an assignment. Most agencies follow a similar pattern, as do platforms like Upwork.
Some clients may be hesitant to pay upfront with individual freelancers, but be wary if the client isn’t willing to commit to milestone payments or pay half upfront.
Always spell things out clearly so you aren’t left to decipher smiley faces and other obscure lingo. Source: BBC
2. Invoice Promptly
Don’t wait around to send the invoice until you’re absolutely sure that all work is complete – that just gives the client another chance to vanish. I recommend that you either send the invoice:
- With the contract at the beginning
- With the initial draft
- On the first of the month for ongoing work
Pro tip: If you’re going to complete more than $600 worth of work, send your W-9 with your first invoice. That’s especially helpful for agencies or companies with a payroll department who need this information to release payment.
3. Create Follow-Up Sequences
Some clients will pay minutes after receiving the invoice. Those clients are both dreams and unicorns.
Most clients will take a few days or a week, and a precious few will take longer than that. Unless you’ve negotiated monthly or bimonthly payments, most businesses understand that it’s poor form to take longer than 30 days to pay their subcontractors.
Some will. In these cases, you may need to follow up. Here are some tips:
- Always be polite. Running a business is chaotic. Things get lost or misplaced. Checks take longer than they’re supposed to in the mail. Do not assume it’s the client’s fault you haven’t been paid.
- Never pester clients for payment. At best, they’ll stop working with you. At worst, you’ll undermine your lawyer if it comes to that.
- Examine your contract and resend the invoice with a polite message. They may simply have lost it in their email. If that doesn’t work…
- Send a letter to the business manager. Include your contract and the invoice, as well as a letter explaining the situation. A letter can be a little formal, so you can instead…
- Follow up with a phone call. Sometimes, a friendly phone call can be enough to get the lay of the land. Make sure to confirm if they’ve received your invoice before taking any other actions.
According to Bonsai, you can expect to be paid on time around 71 percent of the time. Source: Bonsai
4. Vet Your Prospective Clients
Here’s another secret to keep in mind when you’re just getting started: you don’t have to take every client or job who comes your way.
It’s an unfortunate part of freelancing that some people will try to scam you. The good news is that learning to spot the telltale signs of a potential con artist can save you time and frustration. Make sure to follow these rules:
- Research your prospective clients. Google the business and the people involved. See what you can dig up because word does get around.
- Pay attention for red flags when you interact with the client. If they consistently avoid the topic of money, offer vague reassurances but keep stalling, or try to rush you into completing work before a contract is even signed, beware.
- Never pay for supplies or subscriptions. Never shell out money for something at the client’s insistence, and never accept checks or payment for supplies that the client wants you to buy.
- Beware of scope creep. Scope creep occurs when a project turns out to be bigger than what was agreed or expected. It’s often accidental but sometimes it’s not. Clients that want to add more and more to projects (usually without discussing payment) are bad clients.
5. Be Known as a Professional
Finally, remember that your clients will take you as seriously as you take yourself. Present professionally and you will be treated professionally.
This is one area where having a good work ethic comes in handy. Clients who are impressed will pay promptly because they feel good about handing over their cash.
Likewise, if you’re lazy about deadlines and sending invoices, expect clients to respond by being lazy about paying you.
Lazy ants get no crumbs. Source: Calvin and Hobbes
You CAN Get Paid Immediately as a Freelance Writer
It’s totally possible to get paid immediately as a freelance writer even if you don’t have all that much experience under your belt. I’ve outlined the four things that you need to get started today, plus provided a handful of actionable tips to ensure that you get paid on time by clients who LOVE what you do as much as you do.
Of course, there’s a lot to learn when you’re diving into the world of freelance writing. While you don’t need a degree, you do need specific skills (and know how to demonstrate those skills) to win clients and do good work.
Get started on the right foot by joining the Content Hacker™ Academy today.