Earning a living as a writer has never been easier, yet more writers are struggling to make ends meet due to increased competition, AI tools like ChatGPT, and cheap writing services.
Nevertheless being a freelancer offers you the ability to make money doing what you love, writing.
Becoming a freelancer in South Africa is really easy, and a lot more people have switched to freelance work over the years due to the freedom it provides and the ability to earn more than just a fixed salary at month’s end.
Here’s what I did to get started as a freelance writer before launching TheFrontline.
You Need Samples
Every writing gig I’ve ever applied to required me to provide writing samples. This is to check your writing capability and grammar. Ideally, you want to share samples closely related to the job poster’s requirements.
Aim to have 3 writing samples at hand and ready to share. If possible content you have written and is accessible on the internet. For example, If I were needing to send a sample of my writing – I could share the URL of this article you’re reading right now.
This showcases my writing while also demonstrating that my writing has been published, which builds trust and gives you more negotiating power when it comes to the costing of your services.
A great way to get your writing samples published is via guest posting. Lots of sites only offer writers to submit guest posts. To find sites to guest post on, simply do a search for ‘sites that accept guest posts’, and ‘guest post’.
Larger publications don’t always allow guest posting – but you can reach ou to them in any case to ask. Preferably write the article first and ask them if they’d like to publish it – if not move on to a different publisher.
Not only will you have samples, but you will generate awareness with your author profile, and resume will grow. In addition, publishers are always looking for top talent and may even become clients of yours.
So, have samples on hand before anything else.
Know Your Niche
A mistake I made when first venturing into freelance writing was not limiting myself to a particular niche. Instead I accepted writing gigs related to different topics and different types of writing.
I was writing in-depth technical guides on different types of blockchains and crypto protocols on one day, and top things to do on vacation in Spain on the next day, while not being a subject matter expert for either.
While the money I was earning was good for a broke student at the time, The motivation and satisfaction that came with producing articles on different topics quickly wore off.
I highly recommend that you spend some time exploring the different corners of the web where your interests are. This will help you narrow down on a specific niche like politics, travel, art, or cars for example.
Not only does picking a niche make writing that much easier as you grow in your various roles as a freelancer, but you will build a reputation in your niche, and tons of experience leading you to become an expert in your field allowing you to let work find you and also charge higher rates.
Which brings us to the next step in becoming a freelance writer.
Know your rates
Freelance writers are primarily paid in 2 different ways.
Firstly, they can be paid on a per-word basis. for example, you could charge R2 per word, which equates to R2000 per article of 1000 words.
Secondly, you can also be paid a fixed rate per post, for example, R1000 per article, regardless if the article is 500 words or 1,500 words.
A great way to know what your potential rates could be is to check freelance websites like UpWork and Friverr, do a search for freelance writers, and try to narrow your search down to include people who write content in your preferred niche.
Do a few estimates and determine how much you would be comfortable charging per article, or per word to make a gig monetarily worthwhile for you and how many articles on average you would have to produce on a monthly basis to reach your desired income goals.
Knowing your rates is especially important wen clients don’t list their offer or available budget. Rather than underselling yourself, know what your time and effort is worth, and be able to share that number at a moments notice.
The last thing you need to become a freelancer writer is to be present online. There’s always someone looking for freelance writers, and if you’re not in the right places they’ll never consider you.
You will get noticed, and opportunities will come your way. Being present and responsive will go a long way as you become a freelancer.
Tip: avoid classified sites like Gumtree etc. for freelance work. During my time freelancing – I’ve come across a lot of scams and people who have been duped into completing freelance work and not getting paid.
Finally, take things one word at a time, and learn as you go – rather than learn, then go.