Is It Possible to Make a Full-Time Income Freelance Writing?

Mark Zeni

Freelance writing sounds like a dream job. If you have a keyboard and a computer, and maybe an internet connection, you can sit down pretty much anywhere and start making money. But is it really feasible to make a full-time income by writing articles online? Or is it just a pipe dream?

Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

What It Takes to Be Successful

First, you should know that pursuing a freelance writing career is demanding. While it may seem easy to an outsider, writing a solid piece requires copious amounts of research and the ability to structure paragraphs and sentences in a way that your audience can understand. You’ll also be responsible for finding new clients and opportunities, meeting strict deadlines, and occasionally working long hours.

At a minimum, you’ll need:

An entrepreneurial mindset. Freelance writing is a business, first and foremost. While you’ll have some degree of control over which assignments you take on and how you find new work, your income will also depend on your work ethic and adaptability. If you’re not a driven person, or if you’re overly picky about your clients, you’ll be unlikely to find success. You need an entrepreneurial mindset in addition to your core writing skills.

Experience. You’ll also need to have experience, and a way to prove that experience. No company is going to hire a writer based on their own assertion that they’re a competent writer. Ideally, you’ll have some past credentials, like previously published works or relevant education.

Attention to detail. One or two submissions with errors or sloppy work could be enough to damage your reputation. You’ll need to think critically about every assignment you complete, and proofread multiple times over to make sure you’ve gotten everything correct.

A field of specialty. Finally, you’ll need some way to differentiate your brand. Usually, that means having some area of specialty. For example, are you especially skilled at writing articles for search engine optimization (SEO)? Or do you specialize in writing short articles for a specific industry?

Two Distinct Approaches

There are two possible approaches to being a freelance writer. The first is more straightforward: you’ll recruit clients who need articles written (often for their onsite blog or offsite reputation building campaign), then charge a fixed rate per article or a blanket rate for ongoing services. For this, you’ll need to build a brand that naturally attracts more clients (or a strong sales strategy), as well as an invoicing strategy that allows you to collect revenue regularly. This method is approachable because it allows you to do a wide variety of work; if you lose a client, you can always get a new one. However, you’ll often be at the mercy of an external authority’s stipulations and deadlines.

You could also take writing into your own hands by creating and running an ongoing blog. Over time, if you build up enough popularity, you’ll be able to attract advertising on your blog, or use affiliate links to generate revenue. The problem here is it takes a ton of visitors to attract enough advertisers to generate a sustainable income; to do that, you’ll need to start with a truly unique idea and spend many hours fleshing it out to become something popular.

Variety in Income Levels

While there are plenty of freelance writing opportunities available to aspiring writers, those opportunities aren’t all equal. If you’re just getting started and you don’t have much experience under your belt, you might find it hard to get new assignments, or you might be forced to take a lower rate for your work. On the other end of the spectrum, highly experienced writers can make a very comfortable living—but getting to that point takes many years and a level of commitment that most people aren’t willing to invest.

Consistency

As with any freelance opportunity, you’ll also need to think about consistency. Chances are, demand for your writing isn’t going to remain steady indefinitely; instead, you’ll see bursts of demand that force you to work long hours and dry spells where income is sparse. You’ll need to have proactive budgeting measures and a solid emergency fund if you’re going to survive on the income you get—or a side gig that helps you supplement your income during the down periods.

So is it possible to make a full-time income from freelance writing? The short answer is yes, but it’s not as straightforward as it seems, nor is the job as glamorous as it seems. If you’re prepared for the realities of the job and you have a way to build experience and an area of specialty, you should be able to work your way toward a viable full-time career.

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