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Do you wish you could start a writing career but you don’t have any degree?
I have good news for you. You don’t have to have a formal degree in order to become a successful professional freelance writer. Lots of people have learned how to become a freelance writer without a degree, and you can too.
Whether you want to earn a full-time living writing or just want to earn some extra income, this post will tell you what you need to know. Keep reading and learn how you can become a successful professional freelance writer without a degree.
Develop good writing skills
Some people are just innately good writers. Most people aren’t. While you don’t need a degree to be a professional freelance writer, you do need good writing skills.
How do you develop good writing skills? When you’re first starting out as a writer, it’s definitely a good idea to take a writing course or two. Even people who have good writing skills often take writing courses to improve those skills.
Universities and community colleges have writing courses you can take. You’ll find a lot of writing courses online too, like on SkillShare. Sign up for SkillShare here and you’ll get a free month of writing courses.
If you can’t afford any writing courses, then practice writing on your own to hone your skills before you start looking for writing work. These writing prompts may give you some inspiration.
The single most important way to develop good writing skills? Start writing and keep writing. The more you write, the better you will write.
Decide on your writing niche or niches
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, you’ll need to choose a niche or two to specialize in. There are dozens of different writing niches, such as:
And lots more.
Different writing niches require different knowledge and even different styles of writing. Choose a writing niche you’re interested in and, ideally, one you know something about. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be an expert in a niche in order to start writing about it! The more you write, the more you’ll learn.
Understand how much freelance writers earn
The income you can earn as a freelance writer varies quite a bit. Some writers make just a couple of cents for every word they write. Some earn six figures a year. Writers with degrees and writers without degrees both have the same income potential. What you’ll earn as a writer depends on:
Get people interested in your writing
Freelance writing is an awesome job. So lots of people are doing it. You need to stand out from the crowd. You need to show potential clients what a good writer you are.
The best way you can show people your writing talent is by creating a portfolio of your writing. How can you have a writing portfolio, though, if you haven’t been published yet? You can start a freelance writing blog.
Start a Freelance Writing Blog
A freelance writing blog is an excellent way to showcase your writing. It’s probably the best way, actually. Fortunately, starting a blog is not difficult.
Blog writing is usually more casual than professional writing. However, in order to create a good portfolio of your writing work before you get published, put the same time and effort into your blog posts that you would as if you were writing for pay. Potential clients will then be able to see how well you can write.
After you begin getting paid writing gigs, you can then create a separate portfolio page on your blog where you can link to your published work.
Guest Post on Other People’s Blogs
Another way to show people your writing talent is to guest post on other people’s blogs. Guest posting is a really effective way to show people what you can do, build a writing portfolio and get your name out there.
Do a search for blogs in your niche that accept guest posts and ask them if they’ll accept one of your posts. After they publish your writing, you can share the link with potential clients. You can also post the link on the portfolio page of your own writing blog.
Know where to find freelance writing jobs
The internet is full of writing opportunities. Many publications pay freelance writers. Many more don’t pay.
You definitely always want to get paid for your writing. Like anything, though, getting started can be the hard part. It can be challenging to find well-paying writing gigs when you don’t have any writing experience.
As a beginning freelance writer, you’ll find that a lot of publications don’t pay writers anything. You should avoid these. You’ll probably also come across sites which offer to pay rates like $10 or $20 for a lengthy article. This amounts to usually about a couple of cents a word. These sites are called content mills. You should avoid these too.
Here are a couple of good ways that you can find writing work as a freelance writer with no degree.
Search freelance job sites
While there are many sites that won’t pay for your writing, there are also many that will. There are lots of freelancing platforms where beginning writers can look for good paid writing work.
As a beginning writer, you can look for writing gigs on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. There are lots of writing jobs on those platforms, but the pay isn’t as much as you can find elsewhere.
There are several other job sites which tend to have higher-paying work for writers. Some of them are general job sites like GlassDoor and Indeed. Others are job sites specifically for freelance writers. These 7 writing job sites are really good places to look for work as a beginning freelance writer.
In addition to looking on freelance writing sites for writing jobs, you can also pitch editors of the publications you’re interested in. Pitching is very important. You need to pitch well in order to be one of the writers who gets the writing gigs. Professional freelance writing guru Elna Cain has lots of advice on how to successfully pitch editors as a beginner writer.
Get paid for your writing
Once you’ve succeeded in getting published in a paying publication, you need to get paid.
Some places are really good about paying freelance writers. Others are not so good. A good contract can ensure that you get paid and get paid on time. You can read about what a good writing contract contains here.
Creating an effective invoice is also important for getting paid. Read how freelance writers can create a good invoice here.
Conclusion to How to Become a Freelance Writer Without a Degree:
Now you know how you can become a freelance writer without a degree. To recap, it’s very important to:
- take a writing course or two if you don’t know how to write
- choose the best writing niche for you
- start a writing blog to showcase your work
- look in the right places to find paid writing work
But the most important thing you need to do when you want to become a successful professional freelance writer? Start writing.
Want to learn more about how to start freelance writing? Take my Get on the Right Path to Freelancing free mini-course here.
(This post was originally published in March 2021.)
Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.