How to Make Extra Money As a Freelance Writer

I’ve been blogging since 2006, but it wasn’t until 2015 that I discovered a growing market for people who want to make extra money as a freelance writer.

My background is in banking and financial coaching. The more I blogged about personal finance (including my own debt-free story), the more I realized it resonated with people.

The same thing happened when I became a mom three years ago and started blogging about parenting and diapers and sleep deprivation. That clicked with moms.

If you have an area or two in which you have a great deal of insight or experience, you have a command of the English language, and you’re willing to put in some hard work, you could make extra money as a freelance writer.

Since transitioning from a hobby blogger to a freelancer, I’ve been featured on The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, Rockstar Finance, The Dollar Stretcher, LifeHack, Scary Mommy, and more. I typically earn $40 to $100 per post or $20 to $50 per hour.

I’ll show you how in this article.

make extra money as a freelance writerWhy Make Extra Money as a Freelance Writer?

  • Flexible hours
  • Good pay
  • Work from home
  • Lots of growth potential
  • No overhead
  • You get to pick your work
  • You get to speak on topics that resonate with you

Some people do this full time, but I’m assuming you’re already employed elsewhere or running your own business, so you’re interested in doing this on the side.

Perhaps you want to bring in extra money to pay off debt, grow your emergency fund, or invest. Those are great goals, but like I said, this job takes a lot of work, so ask yourself if you really have a passion to do this for more than just money. The reason is because you’re probably going to do some free work for a while as you build your samples and skills.

I can tell you as someone who began doing only free work and can now pick and choose what she wants to write for pay, it’s worth it.

Recommended Reading: “My First 3 Months: How I Made $1,200 Working Part-Time as a Freelance Writer”

Make Extra Money as a Freelance Writer in These 5 Steps

1. Choose your niche.

“Freelance” has such a miscellaneous feel to it. You might as well call yourself an everything writer. That is unless you zero in on a niche. What do you know a great deal about? What lights a fire in you?

Don’t just pick a niche that seems the most lucrative. If you can’t deliver valuable content that instructs or inspires readers, then editors probably won’t give you the time of day. I’ve already said my two niches are personal finance and parenting. I’ve also just broken into the writing niche, now that I have enough experience to share.

Freelance does give you the freedom to occasionally write in other niches (like in my case, travel, law, insurance, and fashion), but 90% of my work is in one of my primary niches.

What’s your niche? Here are a few examples:

  • make extra money as a freelance writerPersonal Finance
  • Business
  • Technology
  • Online Marketing
  • Health/Wellness
  • Fitness
  • Travel
  • Food
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Writing
  • Photography
  • Relationships
  • Parenting
  • Marriage
  • Retirement
  • Sports
  • Homeschooling
  • DIY

Action Step: Brainstorm a list of topics that interest you. If it’s fly fishing, write it down. Circle your top two or three. Keep that list handy.

2. Start your own blog. 

I can’t even begin to explain how paramount this is. One of the most powerful tools you can use to make extra money as a freelance writer is your own self-hosted blog.

Derek assembled a list of terrific resources that will help you start your blog right here on Life and My Finances. Check those out here.

Why start a blog?

Here are four reasons:

  1. It gets you to write! You can read as many articles and books about writing as you want, but until you’re the one plunking the keys and clicking “Publish” every week, you’ll never grow your skills.
  2. It teaches you how to write for other blogs. I faced a pretty big tech curve when I switched to my first self-hosted blog in 2015. The more I studied and practiced things like formatting, SEO, and content marketing, the better prepared I was for offering great content to editors.
  3. It gives you a place to hang your shingle. Once your blog is up and running, add a “Hire Me” page with a description of your writing services. To view an example, here is mine.
  4. It gives you more chances to monetize. People write entire articles on this one point. You can advertise, use affiliate links, write sponsored posts, grow an audience and sell products to them, or many other options.

Action Step: Read Derek’s article Start Your Own Blog and start thinking about which hosting service you’ll choose, as well as a domain name.

make extra money as a freelance writer3. Start guest blogging (for free). 

Yep, I said it. Once you’ve developed a niche and launched a blog, start looking for similar blogs that might allow you to guest post on their site for free. This is a great next step for three reasons:

  1. It grows your samples. A professional writing portfolio is essential for someone who wants to make extra money as a freelance writer. You can create a portfolio for free on Contently or Pinterest.
  2. It grows your experience. I really pushed myself to new heights when I knew my content was going in front of someone else’s audience.
  3. It grows your network. I’ve met some great people along the way and was able to network with them (which is essential in this business).

Action Step: Establish a routine with your regular blog posts, then schedule in a potential starting date for guest posting. Start searching around for places to write for. Join forums or Facebook groups for writers and ask around about opportunities. Google “write for us” and see what comes up.

4. Learn to freelance. 

Becoming a better writer, choosing a niche, and guest posting are awesome accomplishments, but so far they haven’t made you a dime. Here’s where the cheddar comes in. You need to study freelance writing as it’s done in 2016. Therefore, you need to learn from someone who is actively freelancing right now.

I learned from business consultant and freelance writer, Gina Horkey, who created a widely successful course called “30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success.” You can go whichever route you choose, but this is the path I took and it helped me start generating an income very quickly.

Gina’s course was self-paced and filled with resources, tips, instructions, examples, and support. Before, I was earning $5 per article as a ghost writer. Afterward, I was earning $20 – $100, bringing loads of fresh traffic to my blog, and had articles go live on mega sites with millions of followers like Scary Mommy and The Penny Hoarder within the first 60 days.

My favorite component of Gina’s course is the Facebook group available to course graduates only. We share encouragement, advice, weekly wins, and more.

Action Step: Choose a method for studying freelance as it pertains to today’s online market. Then immerse yourself in a community of freelancers to get the latest information on writing opportunities, questions along the way, and general networking.

5. Find work and get paid. 

Some of the best ways to find paying gigs are to search Google, the ProBlogger job board, Craigslist, UpWork, or Facebook groups. Once you find one you like, send the editor a pitch with a few article ideas or the whole article.

Read the writing submission guidelines and follow them to a “T.” Editors like this. Then create a concise pitch introducing yourself and your article in just a couple sentences. Highlight why the article could be important for their platform, add a link to your “Hire Me” page, include a few samples at the bottom, then get the heck out of Dodge. What I mean is, keep it brief. The shorter your pitch, the better.

Action Step: Begin searching for paying gigs in your niche. Bookmark them in a folder called “Paid Writing Gigs.” You can start by bookmarking this article that lists 79 websites that pay $50 and up for articles.

I’ve highlighted a lot of information in this article. Here is a quick review of the steps and resources offered:

  • Choose a niche
  • Start a blog
  • Choose a hosting company
  • Choose a domain name
  • Start guest posting
  • Create a professional writing portfolio (example)
  • Learn how to freelance
  • Find work
  • Send a concise pitch
  • GET PAID

Your Turn: Would you like to make extra money as a freelance writer? What would you enjoy writing about? Share in comments below!

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17 comments to How to Make Extra Money As a Freelance Writer

  • I had no idea that there was so much money to be had in the blogosphere. Personal finance bloggers posting their monthly income reports have got me inspired to keep at it. You’ve had quite a bit more succses with your income generation than I have.
    Millennial Moola recently posted..John Oliver Goes Off on High Fee Financial Advisors

    • Laura Harris

      Hi Millennial Moola,

      Having a good teacher definitely helped in my case. What do you write about? If it’s personal finance, take a look at this list of 18 financial websites that pay freelance writers:

      http://thewritelife.com/get-paid-to-write-personal-finance-articles/

      Those income reports are nuts, aren’t they?? I’m fascinated with their progress. It seems like the majority of those reports include passive income like affiliate income or selling a product. So yeah, that would be the sister to this post: “A Blogger’s Paradise: Partnering Freelance Writing Income with Passive Income” haha.

  • Nice detailed post. Thanks for crafting this for us to get our butts in gear.
    ZJ Thorne recently posted..Ways To Be An Ally

    • Laura Harris

      Hey ZJ,

      Glad you liked it. I was hoping to remove as many barriers from people wanting to start as possible, but your wording is accurate, too, haha.

  • Hi, Laura!

    Excellent article! I really like how you’ve laid things out, but I guess I’ve done a bit out of order. I started my blog last August but have never picked a Niche. I don’t want to focus on one area, such as personal finance. I’m a former educator/counselor and have taught some finance at a Junior College, and I’m VERY interested in it, but I’m also interested in writing on other subjects. I don’t know how one would classify my blog Towards Your Better Life.

    I’ve done a little free-lance writing, through “broker” but haven’t figured out how to find other clients. Same with guest blogging. I’m probably not looking hard enough, though.

    On another note, I never thought of setting up a Portfolio on Pinterest. Interesting! I’ve always thought of Pinterest as a “Crafty” site. I’m going to have to look into that in more detail.
    Keith “Shin” Schindler recently posted..Why Aren’t You Saving for Retirement, If You’re Not?

  • Laura Harris

    Hey Keith,

    Thank you for reading. What do you want to write about? If you give me a couple niche topics, I can try to find you a list of paid writing opportunities. Also, scroll up to one of the previous commenters for my link to a bunch of personal finance writing opportunities, if that interests you.

    The great thing about freelancing, as I’m sure you’re experiencing in TextBroker, is that you can write in all those different areas if you want to. I think the benefit to having a couple primary niches is that it can help you secure your own clients and blog traffic when they read your byline at the end of a guest post. For example, your byline could say, “Keith is a writer for hire with experience in a variety of topics” vs. “Keith is a writer for hire with a background in education and counseling. He also has a passion for personal finance…” Or whatever you want it to say. It just gets the right attention from the right people, you know?

    After reading your comment and taking a look at your blog, I see that you have written quite a bit about personal development. Does that resonate with you? It resonates with TONS of people and you could get paid to talk about it in finance, business, marriage, parenting, technology, religion, health, etc. Wherever your experience lies.

    I didn’t mention it in the article, but I was an active writer for TextBroker for 3 months before taking Gina’s freelance writing course. I’m guessing that’s what you meant by “Broker?” I worked my tail off and didn’t even break $300 (granted I can only work part-time since I’m at home w/ the kids…BUT STILL). I did learn a lot about writing for other websites, but if you can write for TB, you can freelance on your own and probably triple your rates immediately.

    I like Pinterest because it’s so easy to pin my published posts to my portfolio, but you can also do a free portfolio on Contently.com or as a landing page on your own blog. I’m not the originator of these ideas. All Gina.

    Has this information helped you?

    • Hi Laura,

      I just realized that you replied to my comment. I’m sorry that I didn’t get back to you sooner.

      I really appreciate the time you spent in your reply, as well as all the info that you shared.

      A little update.

      In late July I discovered Upwork and picked up a gig writing for a woodworking website. Not really in line with the topics that I’m writing in my blog, but I’m a former woodworking instructor and still do it as a Side Hustle, so I applied for the gig.

      The clients liked my first piece and I’ve completed 13 articles for them. I’ve grossed about $800 so far and it looks like it could be a long term gig.

      I still really enjoy writing about personal finance, so I’m talking with another finance blogger on collaborating with a new site, or re-branding mine.

      We’ll see how it goes.

      Once again, thank’s for checking out my blog and the info you shared.

      All the best! Keith
      Keith Shin Schindler recently posted..Christmas Crunch

      • Laura Harris

        Thanks so much for sharing your update, Keith! I enjoyed reading it on your blog, too. You were in EXACTLY the same place I was this time last year ghost writing for content mills. I’m so glad you found a client who gave you recurring work. It’s tremendous to grow that working relationship and have a bit more stability than to keep starting from scratch every Monday morning. Hope it continues to grow for you, especially as you branch out into personal finance. That’s a huge market with a lot of very passionate followers.

  • I really liked this, you put all the steps so concisely. I’ve been struggling a bit with motivation for the past couple weeks, but this post has renewed my inspiration to sit down and write!
    Corrie Alexander recently posted..Why Yoga is My New Run

    • Laura Harris

      That makes my day, Corrie! It’s such a tough place to be, because how do you switch on motivation? May your moments of inspiration flow like the mighty Nile. There’s your campy metaphor for the week. 😉

  • […] and I could probably earn another $1,600 a month as a freelance writer. […]

  • Great article! I have been thinking a lot about getting into freelance writing. These tips were quite helpful in moving along the process. Thanks!

  • It’s time to raise your rates girl! $100 per post is definitely a good starting point, but you don’t want to get stuck there for too long 🙂

    • Hi Stefanie,

      You sold me. 🙂 This is something I’ve been thinking about over the last three months as I reach out for more paid work and experience new avenues of negotiation with clients. Always nice to have someone else back me up, too. Thanks.

  • […] Upwork?  Well, I follow Life and My Finances and came across an article written by Laura Harris, How to Make Extra Money As a Freelance Writer. Laura shared some great info in her article, including a link to the article, Websites That Pay […]

  • […] Related: How to Make Money as a Freelance Writer […]

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