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Freelance Writer

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Startup Costs: Under $2,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? Yes

THE BRIEF

If you've always wanted to write editorial articles for web sites, magazines or newspapers, there is no better time to do it than now. Just 10 years ago, the opportunities to crack into the industry were much more scarce. But today, all you need is access to the internet and the self-motivation to sit down at your computer and start writing. (Talk to any writer and you will learn that that second part is much more easily said than done!) 

If you are a complete beginner, be warned, you won't be making a ton of money coming out of the gate. In fact, you will likely have to start by working for free. But if you have the passion, skills and energy to keep at it, you will eventually grab the attention of editors. Because while there are millions of posts published on the internet every day, there aren't millions of posts that are actually worth reading. If you have a unique voice and can deliver words that inform and inspire, if you can tell stories that make readers think, laugh or cry, you have a real shot at transforming this from a side gig into a full-time career.

ASK THE PROS

How much money can you make?

"If you're just starting out, not very much to be honest! But a good ballpark for established writers at bigger name outlets is $200 to $250 for a web story and roughly $1 per word for a print magazine story. Your experience, the length of the story and the amount of research required will all be a factor. As is the outlet. Smaller operations may not have those kinds of budgets." -- Dan Bova, editorial director of Entrepreneur.com

What kind of experience do you need to have?

"You will want to build up a backlog of stories, called clips, that showcase your writing style and get assigning editors excited about featuring you. If you are truly a beginner, your best bet would be to start writing the kinds of articles you'd like to be paid for and posting them on free platforms like Medium. Generally speaking, most people who make their living as freelance writers have an established network of editors that they've worked with for several years, if not decades." -- Dan Bova, editorial director of Entrepreneur.com

What’s the most important thing to know about this business?

"Freelance writing can be incredibly rewarding and fun, but I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- it can be extremely frustrating. You will send many pitch emails that get rejected or don't even get a reply. Tenacity is an essential ingredient in making this career happen. As with any industry, relationships are vitally important. At the end of the day, editors want to assign stories to reliable, smart and organized writers who will make their lives easier. Making human connections with other writers and editors is key for freelancers. People move around a lot in publishing, and you never know; one day a fellow blogger might become an editor at an outlet who has the perfect story for you." -- Dan Bova, editorial director of Entrepreneur.com

The Market

Your customers will be the editors of your target publications. The way to garner business is to send query letters that describe your story idea and explain your qualifications for writing the piece. If you've got writing credentials from your present or previous job, be sure to include them. If not, you might explain why you have an expertise in the area you're writing about. The query letter is the first test of your writing abilities, the one that will attract the editor's attention, so make sure it shines. Once you establish relationships with editors, you can often call them with story ideas, and they'll sometimes call you with requests. But until then, you'll need to send well-developed and enticing queries to a variety of publications--and keep sending them.

Needed Equipment

You'll need a computer, a laser printer, a fax machine, and the usual office software. In addition, you'll want plenty of reference books, including a dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus and style guides.

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