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What is a freelance writer? Everything you need to know

What is a freelance writer? Everything you need to know

The term “writer” gets thrown around quite a lot. The internet has made writers out of most if not all of us. Think about all the emails we send, the memos, the texts, status updates, chat messages and everything in between. Oh, don’t even get me started on emoji. Heck, there is a whole movie just for that 🙂 Then comes freelance writing. And it begs the question, what is a freelance writer anyway?

freelance writing


We’ve covered how to become a freelance writer in 24hrs or less, and even how to get freelance writing clients or grow your freelance writing business. Yet, in all of those, we haven’t quite touched the core. The “primordial soup” of freelance writing. And that’s coming up with a more unobstructed view of what a freelance writer is, what they do etc.

So let’s explore that today. Let’s take an inside look into freelance writing. What is it? A typical day of a freelance writer, desirable character traits of a freelance writer, how to become one and maybe even how much you can earn as a freelance writer.

What is a freelance writer?

what is a freelance writer

In all honesty, there is no objective definition. This is not an exact science. People pursue freelance writing motivated by very different reasons. Some do it as a side hustle, others want to explore ideas in a more profound, more systematic way, some do it, and some do it for fun.

What we can do though is break things down a bit. In this case, let’s break down the phrase “freelance writer.”

According to the Merrian Webster Online Dictionary:

Freelancer – a person who acts independently without being affiliated with or authorized by an organization


: a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer

Back in the Middle Ages, a freelancer was a mercenary soldier! We’ll ignore that definition for now.

Writer / Author – one that originates or creates something

Joining the two together, we can say:

A freelance writer is an independent contractor who pursues the writing profession by creating written works without a long-term commitment to any one employer.

Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?

Let’s borrow this working (and beautiful) definition from the Writer’s Bureau instead:

A freelance writer is a writer who works on a self-employed basis. They can work for just one magazine or, more often, they write for several different publications at a time. The more diverse a writer can be, the more likely they are to be published and paid for their work.

See, now that’s better.

Some words jump right at you. Like “independent”, “self-employed”, “different clients” and of course, “money”. It’s only prudent that we look into the pros and cons of being a freelance writer.

Advantages & disadvantages of being a freelance writer

  • You get to choose your hours and perhaps even clients
  • Freedom to write about anything you desire. You can, for example, write about cupcakes, panda mating, rise of the machines or even your favourite travel destinations.
  • Say goodbye to the daily commute. In fact, you can work from just about anywhere you feel most productive and creative
  • Take as many holidays as you want without going through tons of paperwork
  • Ability to choose your work hours as long as you meet client deadlines
  • Power to customize your working environment. (Little tip here, get some plants 🙂 )
  • Ability to determine how much you make depending on the work/clients you take on
  • A creative outlet for your ideas
  • Variety in your writing assignments

On the minus side

  • Kiss stability goodbye. It’s time to get comfy with the “feast-or-famine” cycle until you develop your client base
  • No steady paycheck. Sometimes you’ll have to chase clients down to get paid
  • You are entirely responsible for your health insurance, retirement plan and any other benefits
  • The work life balance line gets distorted and can get taxing to your relationships
  • It can also get lonely with no co-workers around

The money – What a freelance writer makes

freelance writer

Now that you know what a freelance writer is, and the pros/cons, let’s explore how much a freelance writer gets paid.

Freelance writing income depends on various factors. It hinges upon who you write for, what you write about, your level of experience, etc.

According to one AND CO’s study, 43% of freelancers interviewed make less than $25, 000 a year. So not exactly rolling in dough.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t earn more than that. Freelancing offers you the chance to make as much as your talent, hard work, and marketing skills allow.

In short, if you want to make more, you’ve got to hustle for it and do it smartly.

Which brings us to the final segment for the day.

Tips for new freelance writers

Now that you know what is a freelance writer, check out these tips to become a successful one.

A career or side hustle as a freelance writer can be rewarding. It not only offers that extra boost in income but also opens up an avenue to explore your creative side. Whatever your reasons for choosing to become a freelance writer, the following tips can help you get better at it, achieve success and possibly make more money.

  • Put your heart into it and treat your freelance writing career as a business
  • Network with other freelance writers. It expands your learning and work opportunities
  • Pitch every day. You are your boss now. The clients and work won’t drop from heaven like manna. You have to go looking for it.
  • Start a blog. It will act as your portfolio and provide writing practice
  • Educate yourself. Take a course for example. Sharpen your writing and marketing skills
  • Listen and understand your client’s needs
  • Take care of yourself. A healthy body is a key to a healthy mind that generates ideas
  • Focus on assignments that comfortably pay the bills and uplift your spirits. You might have to take less than ideal work sometimes yet don’t let that be your space
  • Develop a thick skin. You’ll get a whole lot of “NO’s” in this business
  • Keep on hustling

Final thoughts

Freelance writing gives you the opportunity to explore different ideas in depth. It’s also a nice way to supplement your income as a freelancer or consultant. Writing and proper communication skills are always in high demand in every business and perhaps freelance writing will give you that chance to sharpen your edge.

Please let us know your favorite tips as a freelance writer in the comments section below. What advice would you give your less experienced self?


About The Author

Simon Elstad

Simon is a freelance writer, content marketer & digital entrepreneur. He writes on business, tech, marketing, etc. He works closely with entrepreneurs helping them build thriving businesses. Can be found at: SimonElstad.Com or Contact and connect on Twitter & LinkedIn

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