A good portion of my income is from freelance writing. I also write on several of my own blogs – some for fun, others for profit. The important thing is, I write a lot. And that helps me hone my craft. Reading alone won’t make you a good writer (although the importance of reading can’t be understated – see below) and it definitely won't pay the bills.
Doing, rather than absorbing information, changes the brain’s neural pathways and helps us to better understand complex tasks.
Write as often as you can. Hemingway, who knows something about writing, said that “the first draft of anything is shit”. The advice here is to keep writing and keep refining.
Should You Write?
Hemingway also said, “You shouldn’t write if you can’t write.” And that’s an important point to get. Children are told they can be whatever they want to be and many people keep this notion well into adulthood. The truth is that you can’t. Just as I can’t become an astronaut or ballet dancer now, the writer's life might not be for you. Of course, nothing should stop you writing for yourself, but don’t bet your house on making money from it.
The first draft of anything is shitErnest Hemingway
Everyone loves the story of the guy or gal who never gives up and eventually succeeds in achieving their dreams. I applaud these people. If you feel this way, go for it. But don’t be reckless. There are good and bad writers and the good ones make money. The bad ones might make some money the odd time, but they won’t make a living as a freelance writer from it.
On the other hand, talent is overrated. Hard work and dedication are what get people to places they'd never dreamed of.
Just because you can't write now, doesn't mean you won't be able to in the future. Start writing today and learn from your mistakes.
How much do freelance writers make?
That's almost like asking how much footballers earn? The good ones earn an absolute fortune. The average ones (who are still far above the rest of the population) make anything from a part-time income to a decent salary (comparable to a well paid professional job).
I've been paid anywhere from $30 to $300 for 1000-word blog posts. How much you charge or make depends on a number of factors:
- The industry. SaaS companies, insurance firms, and any business drenched in
capitalwill have a lot more money to spend on writing services. Small corner shop business owners pay badly.
- Your work experience and skill level. If you can't prove to a client that you've done this before, you're going to have to charge a lower rate.
- Your pitch. This might even be the most important part. I wrote an article on How to Making Money on Upwork (one of the most important freelance websites) and one of the points I make is that you shouldn't charge too low. Even if you're just beginning. The guide also gives advice on how to become a freelance writer with no experience.
Writing “Guides” and “How-To” Posts
Writing about what you know is good because you understand the topic and can find new things to write about.
But writing about what you know well is not always the best strategy. This is often quite apparent when writing guidebooks, courses, or training material. Why is this a problem?
Sometimes the best guides are written by people that are one step ahead of you on the knowledge path to expertise
Well, knowing a topic so well that it becomes second nature puts you into the realm of instinctive decision making and understanding. The expert often forgets what it was like to be a beginner. If I do something by instinct, it's not something I have to stop and think about.
Sometimes the best guides are written by people that are one
Writing For Clients
If you’re writing for your own blog and traffic is not important, then there are no rules. Minor spell checks and a bit of editing will be enough. Don’t cramp your style. People forgive spelling mistakes. People don't forgive “boring”.
But if you’re writing for a publication or someone is paying you to write, you’d better have your grammar and spelling in order. Spelling mistakes are unforgivable. Grammar mistakes are unprofessional. With the tools available today, there should be no excuse for sloppy grammar and spelling.
Just some of the apps and tools to help freelance writers write better
- Pro Writing Aid [recommended]
- Hemmingway App
- Grammarly [recommended]
- Ginger [recommended]
Use these tools to edit your prose. Get rid of words that don’t add anything. Remove filler phrases. Drop crutch words. Tighten up your writing until it’s a flowing piece of prose that doesn’t make people’s brains hurt or send them off to sleep.
How to find blog topics
Many friends and clients ask me how I manage to find things to write about. They find it hard to come up with topics. This, for me, is one of the easiest parts of the process. There are so many ways to find good topics to write about that I can’t possibly write them all here (but check my course for a complete list)
- Look around you. What products do you use? Which books do you read? What services do you subscribe to? Can any of these things tie into what you write about?
Let’s take an example. You run a blog about music production.
✅ Products: How to choose an audio device for music production.
✅ Books: The best books on writing music for games and film
✅ Services: My favourite audio subscription services
- Check Reddit
Reddit is a goldmine for ideas. Let’s say you’re interested in CrossFit. The CrossFit subReddits are full of people asking questions on certain topics. If you see an interesting question, search for similar questions using the main keyword to see if people regularly ask about this topic. Build up a database of questions.
The great thing about this method is that if you can write the article fast enough, you can post the answer (or a link to the answer) in the Reddit forum.
- Answer Quora questions
Like Reddit, Quora can give you great insights into what real people are asking and how many people are interested in hearing answers. (Use the Views number at the bottom of every post to judge the popularity of the post). QApop is a tool that helps marketers and sales people answer questions on Quora. Measure the engagement of questions and answers and find out what questions are worth answering. Get 10% off QApop for life with code FFM.
How to craft a blog post
Let’s not make things complicated. Blog posts need an intro and a conclusion. The rest is the body of the post, which I’ll get onto in a minute.
Short and to the point. Introduce the rest of the post. Describe the problem, give some real-life numbers or a real-life example, and describe the outcome. You could hint at how the problem or topic will be addressed.
The body of the post:
People like to scan blog posts. Nobody reads on the web like they do a book. The title and subheadings are so important that you should spend a lot of time picking the right headings. If you have goals such as
This is where you test multiple headlines, body text (copy), or images to see which convert the best. A conversion might be someone clicking a call to action button or clicking through to your product. But that’s a more advanced part of blogging and is a topic for another day
Summarise the post without explaining any new topics. Leave the reader with a question or something to ponder. Even better would be to lead the reader into another post or have them wanting more answers to related topics.
I’m not going to get deep into proofreading, editing, communication with clients or team members, referencing, and rewriting. All of these things will help you deliver better results. But you can still get by without them.
Many content writers I know only speak to their clients once they've completed the content. Editing should be an ongoing process. Every draft needs an edit. Don’t skip this part. Rewriting, well that’s up to you.
Writing for the web
I’ve gone from nowhere to a $120 per thousand words writer in less than 3 years. Not to brag because my early writing wasn’t that polished. But there were hints of talent and I had the determination to succeed. I used whatever I could find to help bring nurture that talent. But most of all, I made my life easier by finding tools and processes to make writing easier and more enjoyable.
Sitting and waiting for inspiration doesn’t work. Even the best writers in the world know that systems are key. In the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work: Mason Currey, the author shows how most writers use systems to produce their work. They never rely on sparks of ideas, inspiration, or guidance from their muse.
Learn to write faster and produce high-quality blog posts with less effort. This skill alone could take your writing career into the stratosphere.