Freelance Writing Online: 6 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started

Freelance Writing Online: 6 Things I Wish I Knew When I StartedWay back in 2012, I was completing the odd freelance writing gig online for a few bucks here and there. While I don’t like to boast (I’m British), I now have global freelance writing clients in the travel industry that give me regular work. But I learned the hard way, and I want you to learn the easy way, so here’s everything I wish I’d known right from the start…

1. You’re competing against nobody but yourself

Sure that sounds cute, but what does it mean? Aren’t you actually in direct competition with every two-bit writer on the web? That’s what I thought when I first started out as a freelance writer online, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s the thing:

All those ‘successful’ freelance writers you read about on blogs are the same as me and you. They’re doing a hard day’s graft just like everybody else. They have the same access to writing gigs online, the same resources to work with and the same(ish) doubts, fears and insecurities as you and me. They just seek the work out and do it anyway.

Simple as that. The only person you have to prove yourself to is yourself – the rest will follow as soon as you realise this.

2. Perfectionism is OK, but being precious holds you back

When I first started getting my writing work out there and being paid for it, I was way too precious about it. I took any criticisms personally, spent far too long on each piece and even held back from pitching for writing work in case I was rejected.

Guess what I learned (pretty quickly)? That’s no way to run a freelance writing business! Being precious about your writing, taking too long to ‘perfect’ your work and being afraid of rejection can only hold you back when it comes to making a living as a freelance writer online.

3. You don’t have to accept every offer of work

It can be tempting to take almost every offer of writing work when you start to build momentum as a freelance writer online. It’s in that blurry stage between newbie and when you start to gain experience when this really comes into play.

After you’ve built a bit of a portfolio and can prove that you’re a top-quality, reliable freelance writer, stop accepting every offer of writing work that comes your way. In fact, I advise turning down freelance writing work as a strategy to your progression.

4. It’s good to read about the industry… but don’t believe everything you read

It’s a bloody good idea to read up on the ins and outs of freelance writing online as you embark on this career path – and to keep abreast of issues in your niche as you progress along your own path. But don’t believe everything you read.

First of all, while some of the self-appointed gurus in the online writing world are genuinely trying to help, others are simply amplified egos trying to make money and bolster their self-image. Use your own mind when you’re researching and reading about the industry. Know who your are and what you’re about and if you don’t agree with something, don’t do it – even if it seems like everybody else is. They’ll have their reasons. Have your own.

5. The sooner you stop applying for work and start pitching for it the better

Yep – this where the money is. This is what all the highly-paid freelance writers are doing while hoping that the lowly-paid writers applying for the odd job writing for content mills don’t cotton on to.

Again, once you can prove your worth as a quality and reliable online writer, pitch directly to clients for regular work. This is how you make a living out of this game. There’s more on exactly how to do this (pitching templates included) in the Complete Freelance Writing Online Course: Beginner to Pro.

6. Confidence breeds confidence

I’ve left the most important lesson for last. When I first started out, if I’d read somewhere the words, “confidence breeds confidence” I may have nodded and moved on, thinking I understood the concept.

I didn’t. Here’s why:

To truly know why and how confidence really does breed more confidence, more work and more money – in any industry – you have to experience and learn this for yourself. How does this help you at the beginning? Forgive me for ending on two well-worn cliches, but here’s what you do:

You fake it until you make it, and you don’t give up when the going gets tough.

Then you’ll see.

>> Get pitching templates, plus step-by-step instructions on how to find your niche and earn a living from freelance writing online, in the Complete Freelance Writing Online Course: Beginner to Pro.

Image courtesy of Mats Eriksson via Flickr.


Fed up with overly pessimistic blogs about the state of online writing Kirsty Stuart founded Freelance Writers Online in 2013 to help other writers. Kirsty also writes for a children's charity and lives by the sea.

17 thoughts on “Freelance Writing Online: 6 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started

  1. Ah, that first moment you don’t want a 35-dollar gig because it’s too low…Great feeling 🙂 Then of course the lowest price you’ll work for on a certain piece of work keeps increasing.

    I wish I knew these beforehand as well 🙂

  2. I didn’t know it when I started (and luckily it didn’t stop me), but as a freelancer you should be open to writing for industries you know nothing about and be willing to learn as much as you can as quickly as you can.

    1. Yes, that’s a good one Amanda. I wrote for all sorts of different industries and learned all kinds of things! Thanks for this addition.

  3. Great advice Kirsty. I’m just starting out and definitely need to stop applying for work and just pitch. I have done it a few times – and it’s been infinitely more successful than the former – but the old confidence issue is the one that holds me back from doing more.

    A much needed reality check – thanks.

    1. You’re welcome Heather. Remember – ‘confidence breeds confidence’ so just go for it and you’ll become used to the process – and the results!

  4. Thanks Kirsty,

    I agree with all of those things! It’s always great to read inspiring articles by other freelancers rather than the people who write about how hard it is!

    1. Agreed Caitlin. I’ve found that the articles I read that are inspiring and practical benefit me more than the ones that go on about how difficult everything is! That’s why I steer clear of fear-mongering on this site. 😉 Glad you enjoyed the post.

  5. Forming relationships with others is important, too.

    You never know when one of those connections will hire you!

    (I speak from experience with this comment; I sent out a friendly, caring email to a blogger the other day who hasn’t posted anything on his blog for a while and asked him if he was alright. He emailed me back, saying he just took a new job, and hired me to edit 6 blog posts!)

    1. That’s a great story Lorraine! So true about the importance of forming and maintaining strong relationships – thanks for your contribution to the list. 🙂

  6. Hey Kirsty,

    Great stuff.
    I just stumbled onto your site (via twitter) this morning and I’m already hooked.
    Thanks for the quality tips.


  7. Just stumbled upon your blog and am really starting to love it.Cool advises. Am just starting out and am sure I will learn a lot from you in future.Thanks

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