How to Become a Freelance Writer: How I Did it (And What You Can Learn from My Experience)


Are you curious about how to become a freelance writer? Maybe you have always loved writing and you want to make a living out of it. Or maybe you want to work for yourself, and you’ve heard that freelance writing is a good way to go. You want to know: how do people make it work?

Everyone’s path to freelance writing is different. For me, what started as a simple way to fund my round-the-world travels slowly developed into a highly-paid career over the past 7 years. Here is a summary of how I got to where I am now.

I Wrote to Pay My Way Around the World

My freelance writing journey began in 2012 when I moved to rural Thailand. Like many people who graduated shortly after the financial crisis in 2008, the job opportunities I could get as a new college graduate with a bachelor’s degree were underwhelming. I knew that I had wanted to see more of the world, so I thought why not now? Basically, barefoot freedom awaited.

The trip was more eye-opening than I could ever have hoped it to be. I thought I would be abroad for a year before I would start looking for a full-time job again. What was really happening was that I was shattering the previous expectations I held about what my life would look like.

As my savings began to run out, I was motivated to find work to keep my travels going. That’s when I started sleuthing around online and beginning a few “make money online” side hustles. I stumbled upon freelance writing by chance after researching how to become a freelance writer. I learned I could make money online through upwork, content mills, and online job boards. It was a humble beginning, but I was able to patch together a good enough income from these sources and a few other side hustles so that I could continue to travel.


Getting Serious About Freelance Writing

When I moved to San Francisco in 2014, I knew I had to kick into gear and earn much more money to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I leveraged what writing experience I had into a full-time copywriting job. But I soon realized that, for the bump in income I received, I had traded away most of my time and freedom. Couldn’t I find a way to make a decent living AND be able to live the lifestyle I wanted?

So, I quit. I cut back my expenses and gave myself a set amount of time to earn a San Francisco-sized income from writing or else find another full-time job. I needed to know how to become a freelance writer who was paid well, not just someone who could make a few bucks off of writing. This is when I got serious about marketing myself and asking for what I was worth. Whereas before I had just been applying to this and that or doing content mill work, I now chose a niche that related to my educational background, developed a professional approach to marketing, proactively went after interesting clients, and asked for higher pay. Surprisingly, my new approach started to work. Once I started taking myself seriously, clients did too. This is when I realized what a fantastic (and potentially well-paid) career opportunity I had in front of me. What had seemed like just a way to make a couple of extra bucks became a career path.

That’s For the next few years, I was learning how to build a systematic writing business. My goal was stability; I wanted to make sure that I could count on writing as a reliable career and that I wouldn’t have to worry crazy about ups and downs in income. I didn’t want to be trying to support a family or take on huge financial milestones in the future while banking on what I had read was a “volatile” career. With that in mind, I worked with a lot of clients and cultivated relationships with people I could reach out to in the future. I developed a system of primary and secondary clients so that there were always a few layers between me and unemployment.

That’s not to say it was always smooth sailing; it took a few years to figure out how to keep those clients rolling in, and I kept a few side hustles in the meantime. I had a few pretty ridiculous side gigs to fill in the gaps in those first few years… anyone want a meatloaf cupcake? That’s probably a story for another time…

The bottom line was that I was determined to make self-employment work, because I truly believe everyone deserves to be in control of their own time. When things got hard, I decided to persevere and keep building my dream of lifestyle freedom; that was more important to me than always having an easy paycheck. I can say, from the other side, that it does get easier. I did manage to find stability in this career; about 2 years into “serious” freelance writing, I got to a point where I didn’t have to wonder where my income would come from. I had enough clients that I was turning down work. And I had enough repeat clients that employers were coming to me, and not the other way around.

Reducing My Hours, Growing My Income

At that point, I had another breakthrough. I realized that my goal had always been to replicate/replace a full-time job while being self employed, when there was no reason I had to work full-time at all.

I knew I wanted to make X amount of money, but did I need to work 40 hours per week to do it? What if I could work 20, or even 10? That would require me to grow my hourly rate significantly. To do that, I sought advanced training in my niche, learned where the highest paying clients in my niche were, and studied how to be as valuable as possible to my specific audience. With this approach, I more than doubled my income on an hourly basis. That’s where I am today; I have a rewarding part-time career and a lifestyle I love.

How to Become a Freelance Writer: What You Can Learn From My Path

Want to know how to become a freelance writer quickly? I figured out my approach over the course of 7 years, but you can do it much more quickly. Some of the most important takeaways I’ve found are:

  • Find your specialty as soon as possible and develop your unique value proposition to become highly paid

  • Be persistent about becoming more valuable as a writer and then asking for higher pay accordingly

  • Treat your work like a business. Develop effective processes for finding clients on autopilot, tracking how your time translates to revenue, and identifying areas of opportunity. Be as strategic as possible about growing your business.

These are all things I focus on in this blog and in my courses: I want to teach you how to become a freelance writer who succeeds right away. I hope you can benefit from the time I’ve spent developing my systems, so that you can create an awesome career in less time.

What Do You Think?

Why do you want to become a freelance writer? How do you plan to do it? I’d love to hear from you; hit me up in the comments below!

Who Wrote This?

Renee Hyde Digital Nomad.png

I’m Renee Hyde and I’ve been a digital nomad freelance writer since 2012. So far I’ve visited 60+ countries and counting! On this blog I share tips about dreamy travel destinations, travel hacks, ways to work remotely and travel, and advice for living your best nomadic life!


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