The Ultimate Freelance Writing Career Template

Last week a reader asked the question we’ve all heard or asked in some form or another —

What specifically does one need to do to make a living as a freelance writer?

Shawn, this post is for you.

It’s actually for all freelance writers who find themselves stuck in a low-paying rut, in an unfulfilling cycle of work and unhappy client interactions. It’s for new writers too, who are prone to asking the same question Shawn did, not knowing that the question is too broad and requires a lot of repetition of things that have already been written about. But if you don’t look around, you don’t know that.

So this post is a consolidation of all the things I’ve talked about over the years — and what friends have posted. These are the details. These are the nuts and bolts that are needed to get your freelance writing career either off the ground or out of the trenches.

They work.

But they don’t work alone.

See, other writers can give you every single item — they can write the template that will get you earning better. They can give you point-by-point advice and even cheer you on.

But they can’t do it for you. You, my friends, have to apply the advice that fits.


If you're not consistent with your freelance writing efforts, you will not meet your goals. Click To Tweet

That’s a fact.

That’s also my disclaimer. I cannot make you do these things, nor can everything I’ve done that worked for me work for you. You have to be willing to tweak it and work your own system every day.

Every. Day.

Who knows? You may be back here in a few months teaching me how you do it better. (And I’d love it if you did.)

Let’s do this in the form of the questions that are often asked.

How do I start?

Your Start-to-earn-now Freelance Writing Career Guide

Where do I learn how to…?

33 Places to Learn New Writing Skills for Free

How do I know what to charge?

Goal Planning Worksheet (via Jenn Mattern)

Setting Freelance Rates

Your Freelance Writing Rate

The Freelance Money Flow

Who Determines Your Freelance Rate?

Where do I find clients?

14 Go-to Sources for Clients

16 Places to Find Freelance Clients Today

5 Easy Tips to Help You Gain Clients

Your Freelance Clients, Prospected

What to Do When Clients Disappear

Your Client Prospecting List

The “Where do I find clients?” Primer

How do I contact clients?

Know Your Market

Query Writing Series, Part One

Query Writing Series, Part Two

Guest Post: The Letter of Introduction (via Paula Hendrickson)

How to Make Your Money

One Marketing Strategy that can Boost Your Writing Income

26 Right Now Ways to Market

Following Up

How often should I get in touch?

Finding Your Process

Short-term and Long-term Goal Setting

Can’t someone just walk me through this?

The 31 Days of Freelancing Series

How do I know if my approach is working?

Your Freelance Career Evaluation
Need more? Try this roundup of the best post on freelance writing on the Web:

101 Best Blog Posts for Your Freelance Writing Career

These are just a few of the posts on this very blog. If you look, you can find even more. But you have to do the legwork. Freelance writing success does not come through the work of others — it comes through the work you put into it. It’s hard, but not impossible. There are plenty of successful writers who are proof that it can be done.

Now it’s your turn. Show us how you can rock.

Writers, what would you add to this list?


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  • Cathy Miller October 24, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Lori, this post alone sends the biggest tip about establishing a freelancing career. It takes time and effort. No get rich quick here! Thank you for all you do and for sharing your time and effort. This is a keeper. Kind of like reading a book series from a favorite author over and over. -)

    • lwidmer October 24, 2017 at 9:26 am

      Thank you for that compliment, Cathy! I like being a “favorite author” of some sort or another. 🙂

      The post took me about half an hour to 45 minutes to put together. Sadly, that’s more time than many freelancers put into learning how to run their businesses.

      But here it is — the guide freelancers have been looking for. And freelancers who are starting out or trying to break out of a rut, it’s now up to you to put the time into building a stronger career and business.

    • lwidmer October 24, 2017 at 9:27 am

      And I hope Shawn comes back. He/she really seemed frustrated, and this ought to at least give a direction for that pent-up energy.

  • Paula Hendrickson October 24, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    That’s quite a list, Lori. You should compile your posts into a book, or e-book.

    When I replied to Shawn’s comments in your previous post, I noted that most of us who’ve been at this a long time are constantly trying new ways of landing good clients so we can keep moving forward. So this post is for all freelancers, not just the new or frustrated ones.

    • lwidmer October 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Good point, Paula. You never know what someone else is doing that may work for you!

  • Krista October 27, 2017 at 9:11 am

    One thing I’ve noticed is that people seem to underestimate the work involved in establishing oneself as a freelancer. I’ve been working my butt off for more than a decade to get where I am. A couple of weeks ago, I get a FB message saying something like “Who is it you work for online? My sister might be interested.” I politely told her that her sister would need a lot of experience to get on with the companies I freelance for, gave her some resources, and even offered to answer any questions. Never heard back! Or another question I get is “How did you get into that?” And it’s always like they are expecting this one-sentence answer. Not that simple. If it was everyone would be doing it.

    • lwidmer October 27, 2017 at 11:30 am

      Oh Krista, you’ve hit on a huge peeve! And I know it’s because most people don’t understand the time and effort involved in getting to where we are, but still. I think the word “free” causes some people to associate our work with the term “free and easy.”

      Nothing easy about it!

      • Krista October 27, 2017 at 11:32 am

        Yes, I know. Or their eyes light up when they hear you work from home. “I’d LOVE to do that!!” Never mind that they have no interest in or experience with writing in any form. My husband and a few other people know I work hard. After this length of time that’s good enough for me.

    • lwidmer October 27, 2017 at 11:33 am

      Oh, and the most common statement I hear from aspiring freelancers (the actual freelancers would never say this) — “I’ll take any overflow work you have.”

      Overflow work? Never understood what that even means. If they mean “extra” work, there’s almost never any of that. I either stop taking work when I have no more time for new work or I push the deadlines out so I can fit it all in.

      It’s another way of saying “I’ll just sit here and wait for you to funnel work my way.”

      • Krista October 27, 2017 at 11:36 am

        Yes, I’ve heard that too. Aside from what you mentioned, I couldn’t in good faith recommend someone to a client I value (or a potential client I might want to work with) without having any idea whether the person will be reliable or even has basic writing skills.

    • Paula Hendrickson October 27, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      A few years ago a friend’s sister’s job as a librarian was in jeopardy due to budget cuts. Because she got an A in our high school creative writing class (where you got an A for showing up and turning in assignments without major grammar or spelling errors) she said, “If I get laid off I’ll just be a freelance writer like Paula.” I laughed. She didn’t even know where to look for clients. Thankfully her job was spared.

      • Krista October 27, 2017 at 2:28 pm

        Sounds like we could all tell similar stories. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing…