How to start freelance writing in 2020: our top tips for success

Thinking of becoming a freelance writer in 2020, but don't know where to begin? Use this step-by-step guide to succeed.

Xe Consumer

December 2, 2020 8 min read

Freelance writer

Are you great at telling stories and have a good grasp of English? Give freelance writing a shot. As a freelancer, you can set your own working hours and pick clients as you wish. Here are some more benefits of freelance writing:

  • It’s a great way to earn flexible money

  • You can work on a diverse range of projects

  • You can achieve a work-life balance

  • You save money on traditional work expenses

  • You educate and inform people with your content

For many people, the number one thing holding them back from embracing a freelance (or even a digital nomad) career is concern over the lack of stability, potentially from a financial side. We’ve got you covered. Xe makes freelancing more enjoyable as you can receive, spend, and send money from almost anywhere in the world. But we’ll get to that later. First, let’s figure out where to even start.

When you’re just starting out, freelance writing can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Here's how to become a freelance writer in 2020.

1. Understand the different types of freelance writing

You have what it takes to write well: sentence fluency, excellent word choice, and great ideas. But if you don’t know the type of content you need to generate, you may never be successful. The most successful freelance writers don’t write about anything and everything, they specialize in one or several niches.

These are the major freelance writing niches:

  • Technical writing: This involves writing complex, technical descriptions for computer hardware, software, engineering, robotics, aeronautics and other tech industries. You write in layman’s terms for average readers to understand.

  • B2B (business-to-business) writing: Business-to-business writing involves writing articles, emails, business proposals, white papers, and product descriptions for businesses that sell to other businesses.

  • B2C (business-to-consumer) writing: B2C writers write articles, emails, press releases, product descriptions, newspapers, blog posts, video scripts, and social media ads.

  • Ghostwriting: A ghostwriter creates blog posts, articles, books, and other written material but isn't credited for the work.

  • Web content writing: This type of writing has a specific purpose: to sell products or services, drive traffic to a website, educate people, or entertain them. You
    write articles, white papers, blog content, or relevant content for websites.

  • Medical writing: Medical writers use the principles of clinical research to develop clinical trial documents that clearly describe product use, research results, and other medical information.

  • Finance writing: This niche covers everything finance-related, from personal finance to market commentary for digital and print publications.

  • News writing: News writers are mostly journalists who write news for media such
    as newspapers, radio, and television.

To be a successful freelance writer, you must be conversant with different niches. This helps you to become versatile and ensures you never run out of work. However, avoid being a jack of all trades because you’ll spread yourself too thin.

2. Pick a niche

Choosing a niche is a step-by-step process.

  1. Identify your area of expertise.

  2. Know what you’re passionate about.

  3. Find a profitable niche.

  4. Look for opportunities or gaps in the market.

  5. Seek out clients.

If you love what you write about, chances are you’ll be successful in freelance writing. Follow your passion. If you love tech stuff, give technical writing a shot. If you’re creative, consider storytelling or writing books.

You can also niche down, depending on the industry. For example, if you’re a finance writer, you can decide to focus on accounting, personal finance, cryptocurrency, budgeting/frugality, or financial stocks.

High-paying clients avoid generalists and prefer to work with specialists. This is because a specialist can provide exactly what the client is looking for

When you’re starting out, you won’t have testimonials or a good portfolio. Picking a niche is a great way to set yourself apart. However, find a balance between passion and profit. The idea is to enjoy your work as you make money.

And remember, your niche won’t be set in stone. You can change it multiple times.

3. Start blogging

Creating a freelance website is the best way to showcase your writing portfolio and build social proof. Blogging also helps you get into the habit of writing regularly, which enhances your skills. It also makes you look professional.

If you don’t have any money when starting out, you can create a free WordPress, Wix, or Blogger website and start another one when you get established as a freelance writer. These content management systems offer free and self-hosted websites.

A website also makes it easy for potential clients to contact you--it’s the equivalent of a business card. It shows your writing ability, your qualifications, and your experience. It also gives you the opportunity to do what you love to do: write. And when you’re applying for jobs, you can use your blog posts as samples of your work

4. Build your writing portfolio

When you’re new to freelance writing, creating a portfolio is a catch-22 situation. It’s one of the major determinants of securing writing work, yet you need writing samples to build a portfolio.

Here’s what you can do

If you wrote any content before you became a freelance writer, use it to create your portfolio. Also, publish content regularly on your website. Some freelancers have two websites: a personal one and a freelance one. A freelance website is perfect for creating a portfolio. It gives you the opportunity to stand out among a sea of talented, go-getters

When writing blog posts, write them as if you’re getting paid to do it. When you’re a writer, people judge you by your writing. To write attention-grabbing posts, consider your expertise, passion, and experience. It’s easier to write about something you’re familiar with.

Also, reach out to other website owners in different industries to find out about guest posting opportunities. This will help you to diversify your portfolio and show your masterful grasp of different niches. You can also publish blog posts for free on LinkedIn and Medium

Always grab opportunities to build your portfolio, even if they don’t pay well

5. Market yourself

A freelancer is a businessperson, and when it comes to business, nothing is as important as
marketing your brand. You need to make people aware of your services and your rates. You should also provide your contacts so they can easily get in touch.

If you really want to stand out, you can create a marketing strategy for your brand. You can create targeted ads on social media sites where your potential clients like to hang out

And when the jobs start streaming in, don’t be choosy. Most companies don’t pay beginners top rates because they haven't been vetted. But some low-paying jobs may become high-paying ones later on

Here’s how you can market yourself as a freelancer:

  • Use social media platforms to market yourself for free. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit have become goldmines for many freelance writers. You can join groups, like pages, subscribe to subreddits, or follow popular businesses.

  • Update your LinkedIn profile and connect with people. Connect with editors and content managers for different companies. Afterwards, start publishing posts regularly so people can see your writing proficiency.

  • Pitch to companies and businesses about writing for them or featuring their content on your website.

You may not get hired the moment you start marketing yourself, but if you’re persistent, it will pay off. Therefore, be patient. Expect some rejections and handle them well--it’s all part of being a freelancer.

6. Search for freelance writing jobs

As you market yourself, you can also look for jobs on job boards and freelance platforms. There are tons of freelance writing jobs available on platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, LinkedIn, Problogger, and Freelancer. Alternatively, you can pay a monthly fee to access jobs on sites like SolidGigs and FlexJobs.

But there’s one thing worth mentioning about freelance writing sites: competition is stiff. If you want to stand out, you must create a great profile and send amazing proposals. Also, remember to add your portfolio.

7. Request for bylines and reviews

A byline tells the readers who wrote the article and gives credit to the author. It’s the name you use when writing and is your professional writing identity. Having your name attached to your writing is vital for building your brand and connecting with your audience. Some websites give bylines while others don’t

You can also request the companies or people who hire you on freelance platforms to write
reviews. They can also leave reviews on your website. If possible, get every client you work with to leave a review. You’ll get to a point where potential clients seek you out, not the other way round. The more awesome reviews you get, the higher the chances of getting higher-paying jobs.

How to get paid as a freelancer

Freelance writers charge their clients in 5 ways. They may charge:

  • A fixed rate (per project)

  • An hourly rate

  • Per word

  • Monthly

  • A retainer.

When determining how you want to get paid, consider the payment method and the fees charged. Here are 2 methods we recommend.


Xe provides a quick and efficient way to get paid. You can quickly sign up and start receiving
money immediately. There are no hidden fees and you can transfer money internationally to over 130 countries.


You can use Paypal to invoice clients directly, or they can send your payment to your
account. Paypal’s invoicing feature is easy to use. However, the fees will be deducted from your payment, and they may be significant.

Looking for more information on the best ways to keep a steady stream of income while freelancing, from invoicing to managing your finances? Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post.