Get All Access for $5/mo

How to Start a Freelance Writing Side Hustle Want to get paid to write? Here's how you can get started.

By Julia McCoy

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Marko Geber | Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way so many of us once viewed life. From a safe haven of the nonchalant, everyday buzz of daily commutes and Friday meetups with friends — to a suddenly cold world of social distancing, fear and depression, we're facing a world crisis unmatched since World War II.

The job sector has been seriously affected. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, 31.3 million people report being unable to work due to COVID-19-related business closures. 6.5 million more people say they're prevented by the pandemic from even looking for a job.

The result of all this panic and confusion is that more and more people are turning to the pandemic-proof world of the internet.

In fact, searches for the term "work from home" have skyrocketed from 300,000 searches per month to a staggering 1.8 million searches per month.

As an entrepreneur for nine years and the founder of Express Writers, I can tell you that making money online isn't just a sideline teens use to add to their school allowances. It's a real business, one that took me from clueless college dropout with $75 in my pocket to thriving entrepreneur with five brands, three courses, and three best-selling books.

How I accomplished all this was through one channel alone: the written word. Today, I'm sharing with you how you can do it too, banishing the figure of the starving poet from your mind and getting down to creating a thriving freelance writing side hustle. You can use it to supplement your income or even replace the job you may have lost. Here are five steps to follow.

1. Find your niche

Choosing a niche involves two things: the subject you love and the people you're talking to. It's impossible to label yourself as a "writer" without knowing what you'll say and to whom you'll say it.

To start, dive deep into what interests you and sparks your passion. Lay your experiences out on the table and study them. For instance, if you have a long history in personal finance and credit cards, you can get into the finance writing niche. Your audience will be everyday people who want to save more and live a richer, more stable life.

At first, this sounds counterintuitive. As a finance writer, you'll miss out on clients who need writers on other subjects like fitness or marketing. But the longer you do it, the more you'll see how it makes sense. While you can always land generic writing assignments in freelance markets, authority writers get paid up to $1 per word while building a lasting name in their industry.

2. Learn

One thing you need to keep in mind before starting your freelance writing career is that web writing is entirely different from book or even essay writing. You need to build the right skills before you can get hired and paid. This is critical. When you write for the web, it's less about wordsmithing to satisfy your readers' literary cravings, and more about catching attention and competing with the go-go world of hundreds of digital media distractions. More often than not, good web writing also involves SEO-optimization and content strategy.

The good news is that it's not difficult to get into the zone and learn how to create powerful web copy. Here are resources I recommend.

3. Build your portfolio

Before clients or agencies hire you, they'll want to see your work in action. To make it easy for them, take a few days to build an attractive website for yourself. Plug in your writing samples, photos of yourself and landing-page copy selling your services.

Related: 5 Freelance Careers with the Easiest Learning Curve

4. Pitch for projects

By now, you're ready to contact potential clients and ask them if they want to work with you. If you're just getting started, platforms like UpWork and Fiverr are diverse freelance marketplaces where you can connect with clients and land freelancing gigs.

5. Rinse and repeat

When it comes to freelance writing, getting started is one of the most difficult parts you'll come across. But the moment you land your first freelancing gig, you'll snowball from there, gaining experience, collecting reviews and building your reputation as a web writer.

Julia McCoy

Creator, Content Hacker™

Julia McCoy is the creator of The Content Transformation System and The Content Hacker. Starting at 19 years old, she built a brand from $75 to over $5 million in gross revenue. She's also a six-time bestselling author and host of The Content Transformation podcast.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick


Are Your Business's Local Listings Accurate and Up-to-Date? Here Are the Consequences You Could Face If Not.

Why accurate local listings are crucial for business success — and how to avoid the pitfalls of outdated information.

Money & Finance

Day Traders Often Ignore This One Topic At Their Peril

Boring things — like taxes — can sometimes be highly profitable.


Want to Be More Productive Than Ever? Treat Your Personal Life Like a Work Project.

It pays to emphasize efficiency and efficacy when managing personal time.

Business News

'Passing By Wide Margins': Elon Musk Celebrates His 'Guaranteed Win' of the Highest Pay Package in U.S. Corporate History

Musk's Tesla pay package is almost 140 times higher than the annual pay of other high-performing CEOs.

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.

Starting a Business

I Left the Corporate World to Start a Chicken Coop Business — Here Are 3 Valuable Lessons I Learned Along the Way

Board meetings were traded for barnyards as a thriving new venture hatched.