It seems like everyone and their cousin is starting a freelance writing career nowadays, doesn’t it?
But how do they get started in this business with no experience as a writer?
It’s hard to believe, but a lot of freelance writers get started in the industry without having a single published article under their belt.
Usually, you need a published article to have a portfolio piece that you can show to prospective clients, so how does it work when you have nothing to show for your skill?
Don’t be afraid of your lack of experience because there are ways you can break into the freelance writing business without ever writing a blog post, article, or guide.
How to Become a Freelance Writer with No Experience
There are a lot of avenues writers take to start writing for clients and build their business to a sustainable one.
Honestly, there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
But I’m going to share what seems to be the most common route new writers take to gain experience and then continue growing their business into one that can support their lifestyle – and, potentially, replace their full-time job.
Your pathway might look a little different than this, and that’s okay.
But these steps can generally take you on the path that’ll get you writing for clients for cash on an everyday basis.
First, you should do a few things before you go applying to any content mills, freelance marketplaces, or writing gigs you find:
- Set yourself up with a professional domain (you can make a website with it later) and email address using that domain. You can do this through Google for a small monthly fee, and it makes you look like the real deal when you do start applying.
- Consider what niche you want to write in. You could decide to focus on a type of content, like writing blogs, or writing within a specific industry, like law. Having this niche helps you later when you start marketing yourself more.
- Write a couple of awesome pieces for your portfolio. They can be Google Docs, Word docs, PDFs, or even blog posts on your personal blog. Make sure they match the niche you’re targeting.
- Create a computer folder to house all the content you write for clients. Organize it anyway you want that makes sense to you, but make sure stuff is easy to find when you need it.
1. Getting Started with Content Mills
The first place a lot of new freelance writers turn to is their chosen “content mill.”
Why is it called a content mill?
A content mill is a website that’s meant to utilize the work of freelancers to churn out content fast for clients.
So, a lot of the time, you’ll be expected to work quickly on assignments, usually finishing them up within a day – sometimes, hours – from the time you claim them.
The result is quick and convenient content for the client who requested the work.
The benefit to you is that you get to choose what assignments to work on and you’ll usually get paid fast.
The ugly side of content mills, though, is that they tend to pay very low compared to work you’d get if you found clients on your own and marketed your services.
But when you’re a newbie, that’s tough to do.
Another downfall of content mills is that you usually can’t use the work you do in your portfolio, which makes it difficult to build one if content mills are your only source of writing work at the time.
But when you need money in a pinch and you want to gain some experience working with clients and completing writing assignments, then content mills can be an okay place to start.
Here are some to consider:
Verblio is one of the very first content mills I heard about back when it was BlogMutt.
Interestingly, it’s one of the few that I hear good things about from people who have used it for years.
It’s a little different from others in how it works because you need to move up levels to raise your pay.
When you’re starting out, the pay is pretty low, but upper levels can get paid decently for long articles.
Clients save the very best work for upper levels and being at the higher levels means work is less competitive too.
On Verblio, you can write article requests from clients for any work that’s at your level.
Unfortunately, other writers can also write the same articles you are, and the client gets to pick which one they like (although they can pick more than one if they want).
So, there’s always a chance your work won’t get chosen and you won’t get paid.
However, you can use that unpaid article for a different client on the platform or take it off the platform to sell to someone else, so it’s not a total loss.
But as far as there always being a lot of work to choose from and getting paid quickly, Verblio seems to be one of the best mills out there.
Textbroker is another long-running mill in the business, but how good it is depends on who you ask.
There’s no denying that the pay here is low, even if you’re a top-level writer.
And it seems like even those with writing experience can’t start at a high level and it’s very difficult for anyone to move up.
But, it’s easy to get signed up and approved here, so if you’re not picky about what you’re making to start with, then it could be worth a shot.
This mill has a lot of health-related articles, so it’s good for people looking to write in health, fitness, or beauty niches.
There are some strict formatting requirements to follow, but as long as you read through the tutorials and watch the videos, you should be in good shape.
There seems to always be orders available for writers on Crowd Content, and some projects pay pretty well.
Once you get accepted on the platform, you’ll still need to apply to each project you want to join, though, so it can be pretty competitive.
If you’re good at writing product descriptions, then Metro is the place for you.
Upon completing a writing sample, you’ll be a writer on the team and can choose from available work to complete.
It pays via PayPal.
This content marketing agency looks for writers who want to make about 5 cents per word writing mostly product descriptions, although there is sometimes some other content you can write too.
This is one of the more selective content mills, reportedly only accepting about 2% of the people who apply.
If you think you have what it takes, go for it!
On average, Scripted says that its writers make 10 cents per word or more.
Writer Access has a strict screening process for writers in which it hand-selects the people who are a good fit for the platform.
Still, if you have awesome writing chops, this could be you.
The platform pays 3 cents to $2 per word, depending on the client and project.
2. Publishing a Profile on a Freelance Marketplace
Some people choose to skip content mills altogether because they hear how much of a “race to the bottom” they are (competing with thousands of other writers and working for pennies per word isn’t necessarily appealing to all).
Those people usually end up at our next stop, the freelance marketplace.
These are sites made for freelancers to find work.
Some cater to all types of freelancers while others focus specifically on writing/editing and similar work.
Although you can still find many low-paying clients on these sites, they tend to be a step up from content mills because they offer you more control over the jobs you get.
You can choose what work you want to complete and what clients to work for based on what jobs you apply to.
And, unlike content mills that often have set prices for work, you’ll have some room for negotiation once you begin talking to a client on a freelance marketplace.
Here are some to consider using:
Upwork is usually the first marketplace I suggest to anyone, simply because it seems to be the most reliable in terms of finding steady work.
That is, of course, if you have a good profile set up and at least a couple of jobs already completed successfully.
It’s a good idea to try to land a couple of easy jobs first to get a good rating from clients, and then you can start pitching more competitive jobs.
It’s also kind of challenging to get accepted here as a writer because there are so many writers on the platform already.
Some people have mentioned that they sign up with a different skill and then tweak their profiles later, so you can always try that method.
Guru is like a second-hand Upwork.
It works similarly but isn’t quite as active and some clients aren’t as trustworthy.
Take your time to look for good writing gigs and only apply to those that you’re really interested in.
A perk with this place is fast PayPal payments after your jobs get completed and approved.
PeoplePerHour lets you apply to gigs and even post your own, giving you a little more control over the people you work with and the money you make.
Freelancer has been around for a long time but you’ll hear some mixed reviews from the people who use it to find writing work.
The truth is that any marketplace will require some time and effort on your part to find decent gigs.
The same is true for this one.
On Fiverr, you can drop your own writing gigs on your profile for others to hire you for, so you’re totally in control of how much you earn for your writing.
Once you start getting good feedback, it should be easy for you to find work.
Clearvoice has some really good paying writing jobs but they can be few and far between.
Set yourself up with a portfolio on the site – it’s free! – and you’ll need to wait for clients to find you based on your experience, industry, etc.
OneSpace is an online work platform that sometimes has writing gigs available.
You won’t see them all the time, but you can consider it another tool in your belt to keep in mind when you need some writing work.
Skyword matches writers, editors, and photographers with clients who need their help.
You can sign up as a writer to build your portfolio for free for clients to see, or you can join when a client who uses the platform invites you (many online publishers use it to manage their freelancers and content).
3. Searching Freelance Writing Job Boards
Next, we have freelance writing job boards.
These are designed specifically for writers to find work and can be good places for people who have started writing some articles but may not feel like they have enough experience to market themselves.
However, it’s important to note that most clients looking for writers on these sites will expect you to have at least a few relevant pieces in your portfolio to show them.
The perk of using these job boards is that they do the hard work for you.
There’s no researching or Googling for companies looking for writers because they’re already curated into job listings on these boards.
A few of my favorites are:
ProBlogger is a great place to find blog and article writing jobs.
However, a lot of writers know about and use this place to find jobs, so just be aware that it’ll be competitive.
This board only lists jobs that are at least $50 per blog/article, so it’s a good way to make sure you’re not taking jobs that don’t pay what you’re worth.
This isn’t the most active freelance writing job board, but it does list some good gigs that are curated from all over the web.
This site has both a free curation of daily jobs and one that’s available by “donation” for more premium jobs.
Even the free listings are pretty good, though, so it’s one you should definitely bookmark.
Another place to find freelance writing jobs and save yourself from searching all over the internet for work.
The owner of this site posts curated writing job listings on the site and mentions them on her Twitter account, too, so make sure you follow her there.
She’s also diligent about making sure writers don’t get underpaid, so you can trust that she won’t put up crappy listings.
4. Browsing Online Job Search Sites
These job boards are more generalized for any type of job, but they can be great places to find writing jobs too.
You just need to be a little more careful about searching for them.
For example, you might need to set your searches to only show remote jobs if that’s what you’re interested in.
Sometimes, you can even find full-time jobs that allow you to work from home, but it can be tough to get accepted for these if you don’t have writing experience.
Still, you can harness whatever other experience you have to find ideal writing jobs for you, so it’s worth a look.
Believe it or not, Craigslist is one of the best places to find freelance writing jobs, especially if you’re a beginner.
Browse the Gigs section of your local site.
If that doesn’t turn up anything, you can look for remote opportunities in large metro areas, like NYC or San Diego.
Indeed makes it easy to find any kind of remote work by typing Remote or Work from Home in the Location search bar.
You can do this with writing jobs, too.
This site helps freelancers and remote workers find their next paying gig, and it’s free to sign up and start looking.
CloudPeeps is specifically for independent professionals like yourself to find work, and it seems to work well for content marketers, writers, and other similar professionals.
Clients use ServiceScape to find freelancers in their industries.
You’ll need to have at least one or two professional credentials (certifications, degrees, etc.) to sign up as a writer.
FlexJobs is one you’ll need to pay a monthly or annual subscription for, which is why I’m mentioning it last.
I don’t personally like paying for job listings, but I’ve heard some awesome things about this place, especially from freelance writers.
FlexJobs curates remote, work from home, and telecommuting jobs in a range of industries, so you may have luck finding your next freelance writing gig here.
5. Branching Out on Your Own
Once you’ve gained some experience writing articles for clients using any of the above methods, it’s time to start thinking about building your business in a more sustainable way.
You can, of course, choose to start with this step and skip the others.
The only downside is that it might take a bit longer for you to start earning income this way unless you have some excellent portfolio pieces and a winning pitch for potential clients.
Here’s what to do:
Build a Website
Your first step here is to build a website that can also house a blog, portfolio, and description of your services.
This website will act as a hub for clients to learn more about you and contact you about your services.
Luckily, websites now take only minutes to get set up – even for complete beginners – so this is something you don’t have an excuse to skip!
You can even use a platform like SquareSpace or Wix to get set up fast and easily.
Next, get yourself on social media platforms if you aren’t already.
LinkedIn, especially, can be a great place for you to network with other writers and your potential clients.
You can even publish articles on the platform that can become part of your portfolio.
Twitter can be a good place to find gigs, and LinkedIn also has job listings, although you’ll need to make sure you’re only applying to remote ones if that’s what you’re interested in.
Also, take advantage of Facebook groups for writers and groups where your ideal clients might be hanging out.
Writing groups often post job opportunities, and niche-related groups can help you find potential clients for writing work!
The dreaded cold pitching.
Some freelancers go their whole careers without ever cold pitching because they don’t like to.
Instead, they’ll use freelance marketplaces, job boards, and other avenues to gain clients.
There’s nothing wrong with that at all.
But cold pitching can be an excellent way to put you in the driver’s seat of your business.
What’s cold pitching?
It’s reaching out to people you want to work with to offer your writing services.
But it’s a lot of work.
You need to find the right clients to target, write emails to pitch your services, follow up with them, and schedule phone calls to talk to them more in-depth about your services.
Some writers spend hours sending out emails to 100s of prospects only to get one or two interested ones.
But if those interested clients turn into paying, long-term clients, then it’s worth your time – especially if they have no problem paying you your set rates.
Need some guidance on getting started?
This guide from Ryan Robinson mentions several cold pitching templates that have proven themselves to land clients.
Conclusion: Freelance Online Writing Jobs for Beginners with No Experience
Every freelance writer’s journey will be different.
Some have no problems picking up a few clients and getting the ball rolling from there.
Others spend months getting denial after denial, even from content mills.
The truth is that your writing skills are the most important thing you have.
Without excellent writing skills, you’re not going to be able to fake it.
Even most content mills require you to write a sample to prove that you know what you’re doing.
So if you don’t think your skills are up to par, you might want to consider taking a writing course or spending some time practicing your skills on your own – through a blog, writing prompts, whatever – to boost them.
Then, take what you’ve learned and roll with it using the above tips.