Freelance writing is one of the oldest ways to make money online and continues to be one of the easiest.
For people with no experience, however, the most challenging part is knowing how to start and where to find clients.
These concerns held me back from pursuing a freelance writing career for years. But once I committed, I went from zero experience to earning over $3,000 a month as a writer in a little over 6 months.
And I never worked more than 30 hours per week.
If you want to become a freelance writer, I’ve put together 22 of the best blogs, courses, tools, and apps that helped me get started. Most of them are free, while some require a small investment.
They’ll teach you the skills to become a great writer, find your first clients, develop your business knowledge, and ensure long-lasting success.
Best of all, you can start while you’re reading this blog post.
How to Use This Guide
Don’t feel like you need to read every website, sign up for every course, and learn how every tool works. You’d be completely overwhelmed in you tried that.
Instead, take a quick look at everything listed below and decide what’s relevant to you.
Then assign a few hours every week to familiarise yourself with each resource. Over time, you can add more as you see fit.
Some require more time than others. For example, the blogs and newsletters only probably need an hour, but the courses will take considerably longer. Plan accordingly.
Take your time, move at your own pace.
Blogs and Newsletters
If you want to learn about freelance writing, the best place to start is blogs and websites by successful freelancers, many of whom are happy to share the most significant lessons from their careers.
The freelance writing industry has an abundance of bloggers and websites promising to guide you towards a successful career.
Rather than list them all, I’ve picked four that were most valuable to me, or my freelance writing friends.
1. Location Rebel’s Youtube Channel
Sean Ogle has been blogging about working online for a decade. He’s still relevant and is certainly worthy of your attention.
I wish I had started following Sean’s blog Location Rebel years ago, as I definitely would have felt more confident about becoming a freelance writer much sooner. Alas, I only subscribed to his Youtube channel in 2019.
If you’re thinking about freelance writing, blogging, affiliate marketing, or any other avenue for working online, his videos are essential viewing. He provides honest, grounded, accessibly, and actionable advice covering a massive range of topics, all relevant to online freelancing and business.
2. Guavabean’s Weekly Newsletter
Guavabean is a brilliant online community created to support freelancers in every area of work. Their Facebook group is excellent, and I spent much time in it when just starting.
However, these days I mostly stick to their weekly newsletter, the Guavabuzz (sign up at the bottom). It’s a quick round-up of the best jobs they’ve found online each week, starting with writing gigs. There are also usually some interesting blog posts and resources shared, too.
Guavabean also has a podcast now – Dear Guavabean – a sort of ‘Agony Aunt’ for freelancers based on questions submitted by their readers.
3. eBiz Facts
I may be biased, but I genuinely believe that eBiz Facts is one of the most valuable and trustworthy resources for anybody considering transitioning to working online.
I met the website’s founder Niall Doherty in Thailand in 2012 and in the years since he’s become an occasional mentor and coach. His guidance, advice, and support have been invaluable to me over the years.
Not to mention, I owe Niall my highest paying client (see below).
eBiz Facts is Niall’s latest project, where he brings together all the knowledge, insight, real-world experience he’s gained as an online entrepreneur for nearly ten years. To get the most out of the website:
4. Freedom Business Builder Facebook Group
Freedom Business Builder is Niall Doherty’s online community, a place for people to share ideas, inspiration, questions, and jobs relating to all aspects of working online.
I found my current ghostwriting job through a post in Freedom Business Builder, from which I’ve earned over $20,000 to date. I can’t guarantee the same result for you, but I can guarantee a welcoming, supportive, and fun community that has been essential to my success in freelance writing.
Membership to the FBB only group is open to Niall’s supporters on Patreon.
While it’s crucial you know how to find clients and successfully build a freelance writing business, you also need to write well.
Udemy is an excellent resource for freelance writers to improve their practical writing skills. There are 1,000s of cheap writing courses on the platform.
I’ve picked three that will provide the most value and return on your investment.
Quick Note on Udemy Courses
It’s very possible that when you click the links to the Udemy courses listed below, they’ll be priced at about $200 each.
Don’t ever buy a Udemy course full price.
The site has constant flash sales, in which prices are slashed by ~90%.
If you see a course you like, bookmark it and check back regularly until the price has dropped to under $20.
6. The Complete Digital Marketing Course
Freelance writing is a multi-disciplinary activity.
As you’ll see reading this guide, successful freelancers need to understand various aspects of digital marketing, from social media to SEO, WordPress to graphic design.
This course is an accessible introduction to the 12 main areas of digital marketing. It’s long, slow, and occasionally out-of-date, but still provides excellent value.
Rather than doing the whole course in one go, from beginning to end, I suggest studying individual modules as you need them or they’re relevant to your work at a particular time.
7. Shani Raja’s Udemy Writing Courses
Shani Raja is a former editor at the Wall Street Journal, so he has serious credentials.
His courses are short and concise, showing you small ways to significantly improve your writing.
Before looking for my first freelance writing clients, I signed up for Ninja Writing: Four Levels of Mastery and Writing With Flair. Each course covers different aspects of creating engaging, enjoyable content for your readers and potential clients.
Without these courses, I would not have landed such great clients so quickly, without any previous experience.
8. The Complete Copywriting Course
Full disclosure: I’ve not taken this course yet, but I have signed up for it.
Many successful writers have recommended it to me, which is why I’ve included it on the list. Once I’ve completed the course, I’ll share my thoughts.
In the old days, it was all about putting pen to paper. Or dusting off your typewriter.
Now, you’ll most likely be doing all your writing on the cloud.
So, it’s essential you know how the best online writing tools work – you’re going spend A LOT of time using them.
Don’t wait until you land your first client. Learn how the best cloud-based writing tools work now, so you’re ready to go with your first assignment.
9. Google Docs
If you don’t already use Google Docs to its full potential, its time to learn.
You’ll be using it to submit your writing assignments for review, receive feedback, make revisions, and collaborate with your editors and colleagues.
As such, you need to know how the following Google Doc features work:
Document sharing settings and secure user permissions
Comments, suggestions, and tags
Preparing a Google Doc for WordPress
Organizing Google Docs on the cloud
Of course, the best way to learn is by doing. So, have a go at writing on Google Docs and playing around with the different features listed above.
Proper grammar and spelling are crucial to being accepted as a writer by potential clients. If your emails or submissions are littered with errors and spelling mistakes, you’re never going to find work.
And my writing is always littered with errors and spelling mistakes.
Which is why I use Grammarly to proofread EVERYTHING I write. The app flags basic typoes, misspelling, and incorrect grammar within your text, as you’re writing it. It also makes suggestions for improvements.
Despite my terrible attention to detail when writing, I’m paid to proofread my work. Editors expect it. It would be impossible to do so – for me, at least – without Grammarly.
The basic version of Grammarly is free and makes a huge difference. Sign up and install the extension on your browser.
Is Grammarly Pro Worth It?
Before January 2020, I would probably have said no.
However, since upgrading to Grammarly Pro, I’m shocked at the difference. Grammarly Pro goes way beyond flagging basic errors. It will show you inconsistencies and structural issues in your writing that you’ve probably never even heard of before, while also helping you hit the right tone and delivery.
I wish I had signed up for Grammarly Pro the moment I started freelance writing. In just a couple of months, it has made me a far superior writer. I could never go back to writing without it.
If you’re not able to upgrade to Grammarly Pro, Hemingway is a great alternative. It offers a similar service: flagging overly-complex or long sentences, common writing errors, and use of the passive voice.
As a free tool, Hemingway is excellent. It can be combined with Grammarly to pick up additional errors, but formatting your text can be time-consuming afterward, especially if you’re writing long pieces of content.
If you’re going to be a freelance writer, you need to develop a vital skill: doing long stretches of focused, often repetitive, and occasionally complex work.
In a world abundant with distractions and noise, this can be incredibly difficult.
The following tools will help you organize your daily workflow and manage your business efficiently while cutting out the biggest distractions.
Asana is a project management platform built to boost the productivity and efficiency of small teams. For freelance writers, it offers two clear benefits:
- You can use it to project manage your business, and your entire life.
- Many of your prospective clients will be using Asana or similar platforms like Trello, so it helps to be familiar with them.
I’ve been using Asana for two years and I’m still finding new ways that it can boost my productivity. These include:
Reminders for one-time tasks, with due dates and deadlines, so I don’t forget anything
Checklists for traveling, managing my finances, submitting assignments, running my business, and much more
Automating my daily, weekly, and monthly routines, so I never miss a thing
Using the Google Chrome plugins to create live reminders while reading emails and browsing the internet
With Asana running in the background, I’m much less likely to forget about or miss important tasks or deadlines for my clients. Meanwhile, my business runs smoothly, almost on auto-pilot, without taking up much space in my head.
13. Cold Turkey
Cold Turkey is a website blocker that takes willpower out of the equation.
Once installed on your laptop, you can set Cold Turkey to restrict access to any distracting website or app, either on a fixed schedule or custom timers.
I use Cold Turkey to block over 120+ websites every weekday until 2pm. It helps me focus on writing in the morning, while I use the afternoon to catch up on social media, news, admin, and other tasks that don’t require as much focused attention.
Unable to access distractions outside of set times, you’ll expend less energy and willpower while you work.
Freelance writing is a business, never forget that.
If you don’t treat it as one from the beginning, you’ll struggle to succeed and grow.
Before looking for your first assignment, make sure you know how you’ll be setting up your admin, finances, and communication with your clients.
Google Docs and Asana are two important steps. Now we’ll take a look at finances and communication.
14. Payment Platforms
Before finding your first client, you need to work out how they’re going to pay you.
This can be tricky, depending on where you’re based and do your banking.
Paypal is one of the most popular platforms for invoicing and receiving payment online. However, its fees are high, its currency conversion rates are terrible, and many of our community members in Africa have experienced significant issues using Paypal.
You can use Transferwise to accept international payments in different currencies and Wave to create invoices for these payments. Both services are free, but Transferwise has some small transaction fees.
Transferwise and MPESA
For Kenyan freelancers, Transferwise provides direct deposits into your MPESA wallet. I’ve paid Kenyan freelancers this way in the past, for added convenience.
15. Toshl Finance
Toshl is a personal finance tracking platform that is especially great for freelancers and digital nomads.
It allows you to sync bank accounts and quickly record cash transactions in multiple currencies. You can easily monitor and record your income and personal or business expenses, without using a calculator and spreadsheets.
While not designed for business finances, Toshl is excellent for freelancers just starting. Financial uncertainty and stress is a huge issue when you don’t have regular, consistent income or the stability of a regular job.
Using Toshl to monitor your finances each week can help you plan based on your current income, and identify any areas you need to adjust or reduce expenditure – like coffee, or shoes.
Think businesses still communicate over email?
Dysfunctional ones, maybe.
But as you start working online, you’ll quickly learn that communication in most companies has moved on.
Slack is probably the most popular communication tool for remote teams and agencies. But like many of the freelance writing resources listed here, if you don’t understand how it works, it can be overwhelming. Using Slack badly can actually be worse than not using it at all.
Take time to understand the platform. Join a Slack community for freelancers and explore its many features.
17. Zoom & Loom
Of course, Zoom needs no introduction anymore.
Loom is another video tool that lets you take screencasts of your desktop and create explainer videos, provide feedback, or quickly highlight complicated issues in a body of text.
Using video to communicate with clients and colleagues has many benefits:
It’s quicker and more efficient
It reduces misunderstandings and potential conflicts
Freelance writing can be a bit lonely. Sometimes it’s nice to actually interact with somebody and see them.
Learn how Zoom and Loom work, and your communication with clients and colleagues will improve enormously.
Agencies and Job Boards
Most successful freelance writers will tell you the best place to find your first client is your surrounding network of friends, family, and colleagues. I agree: my first two clients were fellow members of my coworking space. My third came from a Facebook group.
Depending on your network won’t be an option for everyone.
If you need to cast a wider net to find your first clients, online job boards and freelance agencies are your best bet. It can be challenging to land good clients without a published portfolio, but not impossible.
Craft effective outreach emails and proposals, and you can still stand out from the competition.
I was undecided for a long time about including Upwork in this list.
While it’s undeniably one of the most prominent places to find freelance jobs online, I agree with Sean Ogle from Location Rebel that Upwork may not suit most beginners.
At least, this was also my experience when I first tried freelance writing on Upwork around 2015.
I quickly became overwhelmed by the more experienced competition and disillusioned by the low paying jobs. In the years since, it has become a lot more difficult to even create a profile on Upwork.
However, it might still be worth a look once you’ve found some clients. But I recommend watching Location Rebel’s video on Upwork to prepare yourself.
19. ProBlogger Job Board
There are countless freelance writing job boards online. Some are better than others.
Problogger is one of the best.
There aren’t so many jobs that you’re overwhelmed trying to reply to them all; the people posting jobs seem more professional and pay proper rates; and while it’s difficult to know for sure, competition doesn’t seem too high, at least compared to Upwork.
18. Freeup Agency
Freeup has tried to position as a hybrid of job boards like Problogger, traditional content agencies, and a smaller-scale Upwork.
Freelancers who apply to join must go through several tests related to your field of work. You’re then matched with potential clients based on your experience, rate, and more.
While I’ve never used Freeup to find clients, I have a couple of friends who joined and were quickly and consistently earning $10-20 per hour.
I’ve also hired a couple of freelancers on the platform and found it much more accessible than Upwork.
Remote Scholarships & Internships
So far, we’ve focused on teaching yourself how to work as a freelance writer.
Which is perfectly okay.
Figuring things out for yourself is maybe the most important skill for successfully working online.
However, there is also great value in learning directly from the pros. So, I’ve included a couple of programs that accept remote applicants and teach you how to find jobs online.
20. Remote-How Scholarship
While not focused on writing, Remote-How’s scholarship is a fantastic opportunity to learn about working remotely for a large company.
Their clients and hiring partners include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Linkedin, and Remote Year.
You can learn what these companies look for in potential remote employees, stand out from 10,000s of other remote work job applicants, and save a few hundred dollars.
21. Clever Touch Marketing Internship
Clever Touch is a popular content marketing agency based in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. They specialize in creating brilliant content for affiliate marketing and niche websites, particularly popular with members of Authority Hacker’s online community.
The agency offers a short, paid internship, in which you can learn about working in a successful content marketing agency as a freelance writer.
Canva helps you create beautiful designs for a wide range of purposes, without any graphic design experience.
Why would a freelance writer need this?
Here’s one example: You could announce on social media that you’re looking for your first clients. A striking graphic would grab people’s attention and show you’re approaching this like a professional.
It’s also a brilliant added value proposition. If you’re writing blog posts for a client, you could offer to create the graphics to go with them.
Canva makes this super easy and quick, with lots of customizable templates and many more amazing features.Check Out Canva
I’ve packed a lot into this guide.
If you’re a bit overwhelmed, don’t worry. You don’t need to learn everything about freelance writing at once.
Decide which resources would be most beneficial to you and focus on those. Whether that’s improving your writing, finding your first clients, or making your workflow more efficient.
Once you feel ready, take action. The best way to become a successful freelance writer is not reading blogs and loads taking courses.
It’s doing the work and writing good content. That’s how you become a successful freelance writer.
Did I Leave Something Out?
If you know a great freelance writing resource not included in this list, share it in the comments.
We’ll add it ASAP.