I’m often asked: “How can I become a freelance writer with no experience, no degree, and $0? It seems impossible!”
It is possible.
It probably involves different steps than you think.
As far as having no degree and no experience?
I’ll walk you through the exact steps you need for your marketing plan in this blog post. Based on exactly what I did to make over $1,000 freelance writing quickly and $5,000 by month four.
Now, what about being broke?
Well, most freelance writing advice blogs would probably tell you to either:
- Set up a free portfolio somewhere OR…
- Join Upwork or use content mills to “gain experience.” *eyeroll*
When you start a business, having a bit of moo-lah puts you in a MAJOR power position, which sets you up for MUCH greater long-term success.
…On the other hand, starting a business with $0 means you’re going to be completely desperate for any asshole who’ll hire you, even if they’re only paying $10 for 1,000 words.
And before you know if, you’ll be stuck in a vicious cycle of these “clients,” never actually building a REAL, sustainable business and full-time income.
Let’s explore this idea of desperation a bit more with another example.
(In case you aren’t convinced yet and you’re still considering joining Upwork/content mills/etc. Instead of starting your own freelance writing business.)
Imagine for a second you start casually dating someone new.
They seem desperate to hang out with you any chance they get. Abnormally desperate – it’s like they have no friends, job, or anything else going on.
They’re borderline obsessed with winning you over.
So much so that it’s kiiinda creepy.
Not just normal “being a nice, attentive person” stuff.
And later, you find out that they actually have nothing else going for them.
They want to fully rely on you as their source of happiness.
They also seem to have no backbone.
Are you going to want to start a committed relationship with this person?
For one thing, this would be a totally unhealthy relationship dynamic.
They’re totally desperate and would be totally dependent on you, which would make being in a relationship with them unattractive to you.
The main point here is this:
You can see how desperation is unattractive and puts the NON-desperate person in a MAJOR power position.
THEY are going to be the person calling the shots in the situation.
And business works the same way, baby!
Having the ability to turn someone down because you have other things going on (specifically, other prospects and clients) gives you POWER.
When you’re NOT desperate for work, you have the POWER to find much better, higher-paying clients.
Even if you ARE actually desperate (I was when I started out, so I get it), you need to put yourself in a position where you aren’t coming across as desperate to potential clients and turning them off as a result.
So, before we get into the step-by-step process, we need to address this:
Should you start freelance writing when you have no money?
A lot of other sites might tell you to either:
- Set up a free portfolio somewhere OR…
- Join Upwork or use content mills to “gain experience.” *eyeroll*
Neither of those options put you in a power position or make you come across as a REAL business owner to your potential clients.
Which is why I’m going to give you some much better (any maybe unexpected) advice:
Instead of starting your freelance writing business with $0, figure out how much money you need and then go MAKE that money.
Before you roll your eyes and think, “It’s not that easy!”
…Let me just say that I’ve been broke as a fucking joke before.
I get it.
I’ve literally been weeks away from my car getting repossessed, and I’ve been so broke all I could afford was chips and the McDonald’s dollar menu.
But I made money when I needed to.
And I got more resourceful over the years, which is why I can now give you some tips for making the money you need to become a freelance writer with no experience.
First, be happy that freelance writing is a SUPER cheap business to start.
You probably just need to pay for a website (hosting and a custom domain).
That’s the bare minimum.
(^^This is an affiliate link, but costs you nothing extra to use. I only recommend this service because it is what I personally use and enjoy, and I truly appreciate the support!)
Pretty much only other stuff you 100% need is a decent computer and a Word processor, which I’d bet that 99.9% of you reading this already have.
Compare this with starting a restaurant or any brick-and-mortar business where you have to pay for rent, inventory, employees, etc… starting freelance writing is CHEAP!
So, how can you afford this stuff when you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck?
I have 3 ideas that will help you become a freelance writer when you have no money, all of which I have personally done:
- OPTION ONE: Sell (or flip) some shit.
When I was too broke to even pay my bills, I went through everything I had (which wasn’t much) and asked myself what I thought I could sell.
I ended up selling a (shitty) guitar, a purse my mom gave me, and some other stuff. And that’s how I paid my bills that month!
Look around your house. What can you sell?
Grab some old clothes or shoes and put them up on Poshmark or Facebook Marketplace.
Dig up that weird antique sitting in your attic and put it on Craigslist.
You would be surprised how much money you can make just by selling stuff you already own!
If you want to take it a step further, try flipping stuff you find for cheap at garage sales.
I won’t go into this too much, but look up GaryVee’s “Trash Talk” series where he shows exactly how it’s done if you’re interested.
Of course, flipping requires a bit of an upfront investment, but it can be a great way to score some quick cash if you do it right.
- OPTION TWO: Take on some easy, part-time work.
This doesn’t have to mean getting an actual “job.”
You could clean houses, mow lawns, or even babysit for a month.
Start by asking your friends and family if there’s anything you can do to help them out in exchange for cash.
Or, you could do what I have done in the past and sign up for some paid focus groups.
I’ve seen these pay anywhere from $100-$200+ for a couple hours of your time. Pretty sweet.
If you’re interested in doing this, look up focus groups in your area, and sign up for all the alerts.
Then, check your email religiously.
And make sure they have your phone number!
The focus group websites I’ve signed up for in the past have been great about emailing and calling me with loads of opportunities.
Not enough for a full-time income, but definitely plenty for a chunk of change to help you become a freelance writer.
You have loads of options, so get creative here. Can you drive for Lyft? Deliver food for Favor or UberEats? Do some seasonal work for a couple months?
Remember, this doesn’t have to be a long-term job.
So even if it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, you can feel better knowing you won’t have to do it for long to raise enough money to start your freelance writing business the right way!
Give yourself a goal $$ amount, make that amount, and then start your business.
- OPTION THREE: Cut costs temporarily.
Take a good, hard look at your spending, and cut ruthlessly.
I recommend the Mint and TrueBill apps for money management.
With these apps, you can easily see what subscriptions you can cancel and exactly where your money is going.
From there, you can cut wherever possible.
And again here, remember, this doesn’t have to be long term.
But if you can give up cable TV (watch YouTube instead) for a couple months, isn’t that worth starting your own business?
Keep in mind that you can also do a combination of 2 or 3 of these methods for making extra money!
Get creative. Be resourceful.
It may suck for a little while. But if you hate your current career situation, things are going to suck either way, right?
Might as well deal with the suckiness of working toward something that will eventually pay off big-time.
Now, let’s talk about how to become a freelance writer with no degree and no experience. I’ll cover 3 steps.
First, I want you to know:
I had NO college degree when I started freelance writing. Still don’t have one!
Aaaaand any “experience” I had writing professionally was basically equal to working in a content mill. Nothing I could really use in a portfolio or use to land clients.
I don’t say this to brag.
I just want you to know what’s possible when you… *brace for cheesiness*:
BELIEVE IN YOUR DAMN SELF.
There are writers out there who are far less talented than you but way more successful – simply because they believed in themselves and put in the work, in spite of their fears.
^ Read that a few times. REALLY let it sink in.
Now, once you’ve got your mindset right, what are the practical steps?
Well, first, you need to pick an area of expertise. Also known as:
STEP ONE: Choose your freelance writing niche.
…ALSO also known as: “Pick a niche and make it your bitch.”
Choosing and marketing a profitable niche is the #1 thing that will get you hired over writers with WAY more experience than you.
I’m saying this as a writer AND also as someone who has hired writers.
Here’s an example that shows my thought process when I hire writers…
(And it’s how your potential clients think too!)
Let’s say I run a blog for a law firm.
I’m looking to hire a writer for the blog who can help bring in more traffic and land the firm more clients.
Which of the following 2 writers will I be the most likely to hire?
- A generalist freelance writer with a variety of samples and experience in all kinds of industries. This writer also has an English degree and 10 years of experience freelancing.
- A writer who specializes in writing blog posts for law firms. They have no degree, but they do have a website that markets their expertise in writing for law firms, and all of their writing samples are law-related blog posts. Maybe they even have a couple testimonials from law firms.
Let me tell you…
I’m going to hire Writer #2 EVERY. DAMN. TIME.
Because their niche expertise makes me TRUST them. It’s that simple.
Even if Writer #2 has only been freelancing for a couple months. It doesn’t matter.
I’m hiring someone who I think can get me the best results… and that has nothing to do with years of experience or college degrees.
So, my friend:
Pick a niche. Make it your bitch.
If you need help choosing a niche, here’s a graphic with the 3 main niche qualifications to consider.
(BTW, no, you don’t need experience in a niche to write in it, so no excuses!)
…Now, for the next practical step for anyone wanting to know how to become a freelance writer:
STEP TWO: Set up your writer website and create 2-3 niche samples.
Notice I did *NOT* say:
“Create a one-page portfolio website that just includes your name and some random samples.”
That shit won’t cut it.
If you want to SELL and start a REAL writing business, you need to be more strategic than that.
Rather than re-write what I’ve already written, I’ll just link you to two of my best, most popular blog posts about creating a writer website and samples.
THEN, when you have a website set up already, go here to learn how to create samples.
By the way, I have an exclusive discount link that will get you a FREE domain and a sweeeeet discount on hosting for your website.
Click here to get a FREE website domain and your hosting discount right now (even if you’re not setting up your site today, it’ll still save the discounted rate when you click, so I would go ahead and do that!).
…This costs you nothing extra, just saves you money!
Full disclosure: I am an affiliate for Bluehost, the company you’ll get your domain/hosting from. This means I get a commission when you use my link, which costs you nothing extra. I only recommend Bluehost because it’s what I personally use for my website, it’s affordable, and I enjoy it. I’d never recommend something I didn’t enjoy/use because, well… that’d make me an asshole.)
STEP THREE: Start pitching!
First things first:
This does NOT mean set up an UpWork or Fiverr account and pitch yourself for the pathetic, penny-per-word gigs on those sites.
(Seriously. Please don’t do that. It’s a waste of your time, and those sites devalue writers.)
At this point, you have a REAL marketing strategy. So you don’t need to settle for BS gigs.
You’ve got a niche, a website, and 2-3 samples related to your niche.
So, it’s time to PITCH!
I recommend starting with high-quality job boards.
Don’t get ahead of yourself here.
Two freelance writing job sites I recommend include Clearvoice the ProBlogger Job Board (I’ve made tens of thousands of dollars using this with my pitching strategy).
Still, you don’t ever want to rely on job boards.
You need to learn how to cold email and pitch clients independently.
Cold emailing means sending a high-quality, tailored email to a client in your niche.
This strategy alone made me over $800 the FIRST MONTH I tried it.
Two of those clients happened on the very first day I ever cold emailed
I couldn’t freaking believe it. I – a college dropout, who had just been fired – was actually landing amazing clients with cold emailing!
If you want to learn about my cold emailing strategy, check out my best-selling course for freelance writers, Killer Cold Emailing.
Now, I realize that a very small percentage of you reading this may truly be broke and struggling to the point where you have almost no free time (kids, multiple jobs, etc.) You may truly not be able to go out and find other work, sell stuff, etc… At least not right now.
And for some of you, it may be much, much harder to become a freelance writer than it is for others reading this.
But here’s the truth you need to hear:
99% of you reading this CAN do SOMETHING to improve your situation – you just aren’t doing it because you’re too scared or too lazy.
Even for those of you who will have a more difficult road, there is STILL some baby step you can take toward your goal today.
Consider this blog post your loving ass-kicking telling you to FINALLY TAKE ACTION. <3
To help you out even more, I’ve created a totally free class (taken by over 3,000 writers!).
The 4-step process for how to become a freelance writer and make your first $1,000 writing online in 45 days or less
Even if you’re broke as a joke.
Even if you have no experience.
Even if you have no college degree.
YOU CAN DO THIS.
You just need the right process and steps.
And to put in the work..
And then? Putting in the work is up to you.
Don’t let another year pass settling for a career than makes you want to rip your eyebrow hairs out one by one.
Stop giving up your writing dreams when you know damn well you’re capable of achieving them.
See ya there. 🙂