I'm a fairly prolific writer and have been published by several free publications and journals, and I want to try my hand at freelancing. The only problem is that none of the freelance platforms I have tried seem to be anything but "Facebook for con artists." Up-work, freelancer.com, Guru etc etc all only net me a ton of guys from India either promising me pennies on the dollar for my work, or just outright phishing for bank data. Whats worse, on freelancer I was finally contracted for a $500 short story project. When it was completed the person simply accepted the submission and deleted their account. I never got paid. This didn't stop Freelancer.com from forcing me to pay them the 10% commission I "owed" them even though I wasn't actually paid anything by the client.

So, where does a person actually get started as a freelance writer nowadays? I cannot find anywhere at all that isn't complete trash or a scam.

  • 1
    Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have been working as independent freelancing authors and blogging about their experience for a long time. Rusch has even collected her advice into a book, The Freelancer's Survival Guide. I strongly recommend you check out their blogs and maybe the book.
    – user29032
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 5:53
  • There's a good answer here, I'm merging this with freelancing question. Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 14:05

4 Answers 4


To make money as a freelance writer you have to have expertise in something other than writing. Anybody who tells you otherwise is blowing smoke.

That can be expertise in addressing a particular audience for a particular purpose, such as an advertising copywriter or a PR disaster recovery specialist.

It can be expertise in a particular subject area, such as a science writer or a medical writer.

It can be a combination of the above, such as a technical writer who knows how to write instructions for software or machinery.

It can be expertise in researching particular topics, such as a journalist who knows how to find and maintain sources.

It can be expertise in any field that the public is interested in, such as politics or acting or science, which gives you a public reputation (celebrity) which you can then parlay into commenting both on your field and things outside of your field. (Actors commenting on politics, for instance.)

Any of these combinations of writing skill and expertise will get you freelance work that pays more than a pittance. Writing skill alone will not. If you have such expertise, always lead with your expertise when marketing yourself. Companies can always find writers (on those online services, if nowhere else). What they struggle with is finding writers with the appropriate expertise.

If you don't have any expertise, go get some.


It's simple really. Write about anything that interests you Write something, proof, rewrite repeat. Submit wait, wait, wait, deal with rejection. Start over if you repeat this process while writing something that matters to you. It will eventually pay off. At this point you can go back through all your rejected, non-time-sensitive material. Proofread, reflect on how different your past self was to present. Heck if you passed by on the street. You might even feel like slapping your former self. Then rewrite, submit, repeat. Keep in mind however, This could happen later rather than sooner, and most published writers have a day job. Good luck. I'm now editing myself. I didn't include original statement. There's a reason why it's called freelance ha ha. Seriously I can't overstate importance of proof-reads!


Everyone starts as a newbie, and there's no requirement of a writing degree to be a professional writer. However, you'll likely need to start at the bottom and work your way up, like the majority of other people.

Phase I: Write articles for free (or little compensation) for local news outlets, guest posts on blogs and content aggregators like Medium.

Phase II: Once your skills have matured a little, and you have a few writing credits under your belt, you can start submitting to larger outlets and publications, both print and online. Once you make this transition, you'll probably want to stop doing work for free. Note: A lot of the better paying freelance writing jobs are non-glamorous, functional content for niche publications and trade journals, that may have a low profile, but still have large audiences. You can also potentially do content work for corporations, advertising firms and textbooks.

Phase III: Once you've been in the trenches long enough, you can gradually work your way up to the prestige outlets --big blogs and name-brand magazines.

The one place you're not likely to get to without a journalism degree is print newspapers. Given how badly that industry has been damaged by online competition, there's few enough paying jobs left in newsprint, even for the best educated columnists with the best resumes.


Your best bet is to build from your previous experience working for magazines and journals by submitting to ones that pay. In addition to the big, general interest publications, there are a lot of niche publications, some of which have healthy budgets. If you're a good researcher, you might be able to make yourself a quasi-expert in a niche area, or at least become well informed enough to write cogently about it.

Fiction is a tougher market, but if you can write genre fiction (science fiction, mysteries, romance, etcetera) you'll be able to find publications that pay for good freelance stories.

You should also get a copy of Writer's Market --you'll find legitimate freelance writing opportunities listed there (as well as magazines, publishers and contests).

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