Freelance Writers: all you need to know. What they do, how much they get paid, and how to work with them

If you search on any remote job hiring platform, you are bound to discover hundreds of fantastic freelance writers, ready to work. However, when you start to dig a little deeper you might be confused to see the variance in types of freelance writers, what they offer, how much freelance writers make, and how they work with clients. 

In this deep dive blog, we aim to demystify what freelance writing is, for both writers who may wish to become freelancers, and any businesses and companies that might be considering reaching out to a freelance writer. We also highlight some of the best freelancing websites for writers.

And whilst we’re at it, we also spoke to some of the lovely freelance writers already in the Work for Impact (WFI) community to hear what they had to say. We discover some of the best resources for freelance writers and share some top advice!

What do freelance writers do?

The most obvious answer to this question is, of course, freelance writers write. They craft the written word into paragraphs, articles, and content, mostly informed by that of a client, but what exactly do they do? Is all writing the same? Another easy answer here: No. There are actually numerous types of writing, and freelancers often will specialize in certain areas.

Below are some of the top types: 

Types of Writing (Professional)

  • Webcopy – copy created specifically for a website
  • Academic Writing – Research Write Ups or Journal Articles etc
  • Article Writing – for magazines, online publications 
  • Copywriting – mostly used in flyers, booklets, informational pamphlets, sales focused copy
  • Blog Posts- used on personal or professional blog sites
  • Social Media Copy – social media posts, AD copy and direct messages
  • White Papers (longer form copy) – Topic detailed research and knowledge summaries
  • Proposals/Business Plans – often used to apply for loans, or gaining investment
  • Grant Applications (Charity) – proposals based on charity’s offering (requires experience of sector)
  • Creative Writing – ghostwriting and/or writing competitions

Additionally, some writers offer bespoke and unique services beyond these traditional writing services, such as editing and updating pre-written copy, and even in some cases market research and analysis.

freelance writer
Ph: Gustavo Fring via Pexels

Types of Writing Work

After knowing what kind of writing your freelancer offers, there is a multitude of ways to engage that writer into a working agreement. Here are two main types of arrangement:

Project based 

These writing projects are when you want a writer to write regular content for your blog, but don’t wish to hire a full-time writer. The workload is determined at the beginning of the project and has a finish date, and the writing subject and tone are dictated by the client.

N.B: Sometimes projects can be very long term, and still not be a contract job.

Single Article or Copy Submissions

These are much smaller than a project-based writing arrangement. Often pitched by the writer themselves to a magazine or website and will focus on the writer’s specialism or an interesting topic they’ve come up with. Harder to get, but in return, they are more financially lucrative.

There is a third type of contract writer, which one might argue is the same as project-based, but by having a contract a writer becomes less of a freelancer and more of a contract writer. In this article, we will not go into the specifics of searching for or hiring a contract writer/gig.

How do freelancers work?

For most freelancers, there are five stages to any project or writing assignment. 

1. Contact or Pitching

Writers will either reach out to the media outlet or company they wish to write for with an article submission pitch. They’ll outline the title of the piece, scope of the article, with a price and timeline included. Alternatively, copywriters etc, will often receive an email or message asking for their services, from there they need to begin negotiations for the work. 

2. Negotiations, Agreements & Deadlines

With either the pitch accepted or the work being taken on board, writers move into the negotiation stage. This is where payment is decided, timelines and delivery. It is an important step for both parties to ensure their overall requirements are met and all parties are satisfied with the compensation, work amount, and when it will be delivered.  

3. Briefings

“Depends on the project, but briefs are almost always a part of it!”, Ocean our freelancer quite rightly says. Each project or article is different and requires a briefing. Some writers such as Flavia utilize email to ensure they understand what is required. “I usually exchange emails with questions and ask for their goal to understand what they want and need. Plus, I also ask for examples of similar articles they like.” However, some writers prefer using a briefing form to gather information and/or a call. 

4. Submissions, Reviews & Alterations

Once the writer has created the first draft, many will send it to the client for review. This is to enable the client to check the copy matches the briefing requirements, but also enables them to ensure the information is correct. Things can get lost in translation.

Most writers will offer small changes as complimentary, a sentence or paragraph change here and there within their initial price. However, if the client asks for big alterations, and it is revealed to be due to unclear communication, this may require further charges to the clients. This happens rarely though, and ensuring you get all the right information to the freelancer in the first instance, it means this is even less likely to happen. 

5. Completion & Invoicing

After review, writers will make their last changes and submit them to the client as a final draft. Once sent, an invoice will often follow for payment. In the next section, we’ll go further into payment types. 

How much do freelance writers make?

Pricing can vary dramatically from writer to writer, as well as from one type of project to another. Experience, location, and speed can also impact revenue. Traditionally there are four main ways of charging for writing services.

Freelance Writer Pricing

  1. Article – each article is given a set cost regardless of length or time for research
  2. Hour – a writer has a set price, and covers a multitude of services i.e. research, writing, project management etc
  3. Project – Similar to per article, but a bigger scope and can cover a number of written projects with special rates and additional work
  4. Word – each word has its own price i.e. $0.15 per word

Our freelancers shared some of their pricing experiences: 

“Journalist work is usually project-based and per article, while copywriting is usually per word count. Payment is usually made after the job is completed and the work is published or accepted.”
Ocean

“I price my writing hourly. If it is a contract, I charge per hour and get paid weekly or monthly. If I have to price a single article, I study the subject, see how long it could take me, and charge the total amount of hours.
I sometimes can lower the price if the client gives me more work to do, and charge it when I deliver the final piece.”
Flavia

“Quote per project and request payment on completion, with a deposit of 35% depending on the reputability of the client.”
Jordan

“Blog writing is based on word count, and then the others would be project-based. Payment would be after completion.”
Sasha 

As a freelance writer becomes more experienced, they may raise their rates to match their expertise and knowledge levels, particularly if they come to specialize in a certain area or focus on a writing niche. A standard price per blog for an experienced writer can be around $140-160, however, it can be as low as $50-70 (varying depending on length etc). 

Some writers also take advantage of invoicing tools such as Quickfile or Zero, which enables them to easily invoice you, as well as track writing projects and clients. Others use job boards such as Work for Impact, which can track projects, manage contracts, fulfill payments and send receipts, all so you don’t have to. 

Freelance writer
Ph: Vlada Karpovich via Pexels

How do you become a freelance writer?

As in life, there can be many routes to becoming a freelance copywriter. Interestingly though writing doesn’t always require a University or College Level degree to enter the field. Often field experience, and/or examples of work done can be sufficient enough to get you started. This, of course, varies depending on the type of work you offer, but it’s an industry where you can start from the bottom and work your way up. 

However, many of the freelancers on Work for Impact do have a writing education. For example, Ocean has an “advanced certification in Journalism for Social Justice from UC Berkeley, as well as a diploma in Sustainable Tourism from the University of Copenhagen”, and Flavia has a “Journalism degree, as well as having attended specialized digital content courses”.

Alternatively, freelance copywriters, such as Jordan, have professional degrees in Social Media Marketing and have completed multiple copywriting, content writing, and fiction/nonfiction writing courses. Freelancer Sasha on the other hand had parents who both published work, “it has been deeply ingrained in me. My degree is interdisciplinary, but the class I learned from the most is Environmental Rhetoric, where I worked to produce copies for environmental nonprofits”.

From what we could tell, no two routes to freelance gigs for writers came from the same qualifications or experience. Though all have many examples of their work.

What do freelance writers care about?

The writers on Work for Impact care about impact. So it’s not surprising to know this is a big element of the work they do, and the writing they endeavor to take on. For instance, Ocean shared with us they liked to work with clients that were “dedicated to making a difference in the world”.

For Flavia, it was about sharing their passion for Veganism without being righteous. It was using the written world to share the message and to inform, whilst showing that little changes are everything in making an impact.

Finally, Jordan focused more on matching their values and intentions with their clients. So with a passion to work in the areas of sustainability, conservation, travel, environment, animals, etc, these were the types of clients they looked to work with. 

Where is the best place online to find freelance writers?

As Flavia puts it so well, “working with a freelancer is great because once you find someone who understands your likes and dislikes, and knows what your business is about, they can really bond and trust in our work. It is a more personal relationship and it can humanize the professional environment” but where to find them?

In truth, there are many freelance websites for writers out there with a simple search,  however when you hire through a company like Work for Impact, it allows clients and freelancers to give back to meaningful initiatives. 

Places to Look

  • Freelance Writing Job Boards i.e.Freelance Writing or Work for Impact  
  • Writing Newsletter Round Ups i.e thewritersjobnewsletter.com/
  • Linkedin, using the search function
  • Reach out to your network – works two ways, new writers can let everyone know what they offer, and those looking for writers should reach out to their network to see what writers are already in their network know, and can be recommended
  • Networking groups – build a network who can refer you, or refer you to a writer
  • Check out Instagram i.e instagram.com/amordigitale/ 
  • Finally use searches to discover personal writing websites i.e. sashagwyn.me 

Top Tip for Hirers: “Every freelancer is different, it is important to understand what you want and be clear how much control you want the writer to have over the project.”Sasha

Tips for beginner freelance writers

Before we finish our deep dive into freelance writers, here are a few tips:

  1. Less can be more when it comes to guidelines and briefings. Be as clear and specific about exactly how you want the project done and what the expected outcome is. This goes for writers too, make sure to understand exactly what is needed of you. 
  2. Use a portfolio site (or a site like Work for Impact) so that clients can see your past work and also get into direct contact with you.
  3. Use it or lose out: If you have additional skills such as multi-language and time-zone flexibility, make sure to advertise your skills and stand out from the crowd.
  4. When setting deadlines, always add a few extra days to the timeline. You never know how long someone may take to get back to you and a little buffer can help smooth the process. 

Discover freelance writers on Work for Impact today by signing up here!

Featured freelancers:

  1. Ocean M.
  2. Flavia Z.
  3. Jordan M.
  4. Sasha C.