5-Day Freelance Writing Foundation Crash Course

So you took your first steps towards becoming a freelance writer. Great!

Now let’s talk about laser hair removal.

Okay I’m kinda kidding, but hear me out…

So a few years ago I was sitting there working on my now-deceased 6-year-old Macbook, churning out a 4000 word article about all the different ways that you can permanently remove hair from various parts of your body.

(I had no idea what I was writing, seriously.)

I’d got the job from one of those micro-writing-gig sites – oDesk (now UpWork).

Now don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of decent jobs on these types of sites if you know what you’re doing, but… I didn’t.

Actually it was my 4th job on the site, but because I was still pretty new and with few reviews – I was largely restricted to the ‘dross’ of writing jobs; writing long articles on topics I knew nothing about.

Face, meet palm.

The client paid peanuts, and even though I was now a self-researched hair removal ‘guru’ – I was pretty sure I’d done enough hair removal writing to last a lifetime.

There was no way I’d be applying for a gig writing about that topic again…

Which brings us to the subject of today’s lesson: niche selection.

Day #1

Of course, there are no hard-and-fast rules here, but I always recommend casting a reasonably wide net in the beginning, and then gradually reducing the variety of niches you’re willing to write about as time goes on.

At the start – you’re really just looking to ‘get your feet wet’. Paid writing work in any niche will serve to (among other things):

  • build up your references/testimonials
  • build up your confidence as an independent freelance writer
  • streamline your internal processes (managing invoices, client management, etc)

At this point it’s less about the money you earn and the topics you’re writing about, and more about just getting yourself ‘out there’ and setting yourself up for success as your own business.

So right now, get a pen & paper, and brainstorm:

  • At least 5 niches you have a strong interest in and would be happy to write about on a regular basis
  • At least 5 niches in which you are an expert, or that you could learn about quickly/easily

Need inspiration? Think about…

  • Your hobbies/interests
  • Your qualifications
  • What you do for a living, and past jobs that you’ve had
  • What type of websites you visit on a regular basis
  • What type of (non-fiction) books you read

Remember though – it’s not all about what you’re interested in or where your expertise lies.

You also need to choose niches in which prospective clients would be willing/able to pay you a good great rate.


(Check out my mad Photoshop skills)

Once you’ve got a handful of jobs under your belt and you start to feel like ‘yeah – I got this‘, then you start focusing (and laser focusing!) on a small selection of niches.

In the long term – you’re going to position yourself as an expert, an authority, in a small number of niches, and if possible – just 1 niche.

Think about this from a client’s perspective…

If a client wants someone to write some articles about travel (for example) – which of the following are they going to choose?

  • Writer A : Extensive experience writing about many niches.
  • Writer B : Extensive experience writing about the travel niche

Of course they’re going to choose Writer B because they’re probably a travel expert. And do you think the client might also be happy to pay a little more for that extra level of expertise?

Hell yeah they will.

In the long term it pays to focus on a specific niche (and on that note, there aren’t many niches more lucrative than the travel niche, seriously).

Lesson Bonus

Oh boy! It’s free bonus time.

So one of the most common questions I get asked is – will I be able to make enough money from writing about [niche] ?

The truth is – anyone can make money writing about anything on the internet – there’s a ‘market’ for everything nowadays.

Just recently I saw a site dedicated to providing tips on how to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Yup, someone somewhere wrote that content.

But, there are of course some niches which are more lucrative than others, and with this in mind – our research minions at Writer’s Edit have gone out and collected 217 of the most lucrative niches for freelance writers.


By all means feel free go back to the exercise above and add a few more niches to your brainstorms.

Tomorrow, we’re going to be looking at creating your first writing samples for you to send to potential new clients, and the methods I myself use to make my samples stand out from the competition.

Already have some samples written? Sweet! Here’s hoping you’re not just sending them as boring Word documents…

Day #2

Welcome to Day Two.

The focus of today’s lesson is going to be on preparing samples of your writing to send out to potential clients when applying for writing jobs.

Note how I said ‘preparing’ here as opposed to ‘creating’; just because you may already have a collection of writing samples you could send to a client, doesn’t mean they’re adequately prepared.

But before I delve deeper into this – I quickly want to address the possibility that you haven’t yet produced any samples that you’d be happy to send to clients.

Y’know – it’s actually pretty easy. Here is my exact 3-step process that I use to create new writing samples from scratch – it’s all yours:

Step 1

Pick a niche from Day One which you would be happy to write about on a regular basis.

In this example – I’m going to use Future Technology.

Step 2

Go to BuzzSumo.com, and paste your chosen niche into the search box.

By the way – BuzzSumo is an awesome resource. It acts as a search engine, into which you type a keyword or phrase (such as our niche), and it ranks the results in order of social media shares.

What does this mean? It means that the articles that appear first are the most popular of their kind online, and therefore are probably the most interesting!

So instead of coming up with a random topic that you think might be interesting, you’re using existing social proof to arrive at a topic choice that you definitely know is interesting, because folks are already sharing it in abundance online.

Step 3

Pick one of the top results, and use that topic as inspiration for a writing sample of your own.

I just searched for “Future Technology”, and found this Infographic -> http://bit.ly/2qZxC2C

It’s a predicted timeline of technology innovations over the next 40 years.

Now, If I created my own writing sample based on this article, and then sent it to a potential new client in the Technology niche – do you think the client would find the article legitimately interesting?


After all, they’re probably a tech head, right?

Step 4

So what about the writing sample itself? Let’s go ahead and map out a checklist right now. I like checklists.

By default, each of your samples should:

  • Be as relevant as possible to the niche of the prospective client
  • Have a catchy title (this is a whole sub-topic in itself. Check out this article for tips -> http://bit.ly/2qZQ23b)
  • Be split into 4 sections of 250 words, each with an appropriate sub-header (this recommendation is in line with Google SEO best practices)
  • Be approximately 1000 words in length
  • Contain a minimum of 1 image per 500 words
  • Have perfect spelling and grammar!

Of course – if a job listing has specific requests regarding samples – you should quickly adjust your sample accordingly. But if nothing else is stated – the above checklist should suit you just fine.

Step 5

Last but certainly not least, your sample should be presented as a PDF document that makes your sample stand out from all the other drab samples the client received from other writers.

That is – it’s no longer enough to send samples as a plain old Word document.

#Boring. You are a creative, so get creative.

Imagine your client has opened 100 other samples before they get to yours. You want them to see your sample and go ‘holy moly – this looks great!!‘, before they’ve even read it…

All other factors being equal – the sample(s) that most resonated with them will be the ones they re-visit.

Now I could harp on about how to make your samples look schmick, but because you’re so darn fabulous…

I’m going to let you in on my super cool secret shortcut to sample awesomeness, as part of today’s bonus.


All you need to do now is go through this whole 5-step process as listed above, for each of your chosen niches. I recommend preparing at least 3 samples to start with, and then adding to them as time goes on.


So now that we’ve got some samples together and they’re looking great, we need to think about the methods needed to get our samples ‘out there’.

I’m not just talking about distributing them to every man and his dog (although we can do that too), we also need to get them published online so that potential clients can find us.

We need a website.

We need to build some online awareness of our services.

We need to find out how to get paying clients from all over the world seeking us out, even when we’re asleep.

Tomorrow’s bonus is a cheat-sheet which shows you exactly how the pros do it.

Don’t miss it.

Day #3

So today is all about getting ourselves ‘out there’, or ‘on the line’ – a phrase taken from one of my fave movies; The Internship.


Have you seen it? It’s pretty funny.

Essentially, the characters played by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are tasked with inventing an app.

They’re paired up with a team of wannabe Google engineers and end up overcoming their amusingly limited technical knowledge to concoct an actually useful app concept.

I guess the moral of the story here is that even if you have limited technical knowledge – you can still produce something reputable for promotion online.

Thankfully you don’t need to build an app, but you do need a website.

Of course – building a website isn’t something that can be easily ‘taught’ in the space of a single email. That would be both impractical and ineffective.

But never fear, my writing apprentice. For today’s bonus is upon us…

Behold: exclusive access to a single lesson from our flagship freelance writing course, which is a real-time screencast of our Head of Tech Dave, setting up a writer’s website from scratch.

The lesson shows you the whole process from start to finish:

  • Buying a domain name
  • Purchasing hosting to host your website
  • Installing WordPress
  • Choosing and installing a WordPress theme (template)
  • Creating your core pages
  • Installing a WordPress plugin and contact form

Fair warning: the lesson is 40 minutes long, so grab yourself a cuppa and get comfortable.


You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better resource for writers needing to learn how to build their own website.

And all while listening to a wonderful British accent no less!


Okay, now we’ve got that down – it’s a good idea at this point to set out a basic schedule to publish a blog post on your website on a regular basis.

The more often you post, the more you’ll be able to vary the self-promotion you’re going to be doing across the internet.

Let’s look at how best to promote our writing and ultimately – our services, across Social Media and the broader internet.

Now remember – spreading yourself too thin across many different methods of self-promotion will more than likely result in burnout, and with diminishing returns.

You’re far better off focusing your attention on ‘nailing’ just a handful of the most efficient and effective methods.

With this in mind – here are some of the most recommend strategies the pros use to get the word out about their services.


Ah yes, the all-knowing, all-time-consuming centre of procrastination. Damn you and you’re highly effective algorithms.

Facebook is, for the most part – a ‘pay-to-play’ platform. Don’t expect free traffic/likes/fans without injecting a meaningful amount of cash and/or time.

And on that note, in the beginning – don’t bother creating a ‘business page’ unless you’re willing to pay money to promote it – your time/effort is better spent elsewhere.

Without a doubt the best method of getting free traffic and freelance writing work on Facebook is through Groups.

You can join writing groups of course, but clearly they’re full of other writers (your competition).

Instead, look for entrepreneurial groups; groups full of bloggers, business owners, internet marketers. Think about it – these kinds of people are always in need of content.

Some entrepreneurs in these groups own hundreds(!) of websites, and you can be sure as night follows day that they need content written, and on a regular basis.

Target these entrepreneurs as clients and they might well end up paying you month after month, year after year.


Bonus points if you already have a LinkedIn profile.

Many writers don’t – they see it as a social network for corporate/office people only. They’re absolutely right of course – that’s exactly what it is, and that’s exactly where you want to be.

Get yourself a LinkedIn profile today, and again start networking with business owners and entrepreneurial types who might need your services.

Accept and make ‘connections’ – every one of them could be a potential paying client.

LinkedIn also has a busy jobs board which you may as well browse while you’re there.

(We’ll go into much more detail about jobs boards tomorrow).

Blog Commenting

Now this one is potentially something you’re already doing. At least – there’s a good chance that you’re already browsing established writing websites, such as our very own Writer’s Edit (come say Hi!).

What you need to do here is set aside a chunk of time on a daily/weekly basis, to check out the most recent posts on a selection of the most visited blogs in your chosen niche(s), which allow comments.

Read the post, then leave a relevant, meaningful comment that adds further value to the article, and be sure to use your real name and link to your website in the relevant fields.

Guest Posting

Once you’ve added a few blog posts to your website, and have started to leave comments on other blogs, this makes for a good time to start doing something called Guest Post Outreach.

What you want to do is start searching for websites which allow other people to write blog posts for them. The other website gets a free piece of content (written by and credited to you), and you get a free link pointing to your website.

Everybody wins.

Now, regarding both blog commenting and guest posting;

If you do these 2 things on a regular basis for a prolonged period, over time your name will pop up again and again, and people will start to see you as a figure of authority and remember you.

Business Cards

One last thing I wanted to raise awareness of at this point is that promoting yourself doesn’t have to be restricted to online only.

I would strongly recommend that you get a couple hundred business cards produced so you can give them out to anyone who could be a potential client.

On that note you should be taking the opportunity to tell everyone that you offer writing services. You never know when you might stumble across a business owner who needs content written, or a friend who could refer you to a business acquaintance, etc.

My recommended websites for business cards are:


Okay, now that we’ve begun sprucing up our online presence, tomorrow we’re going to be talking about how to go out into the big wide world to pro-actively seek the high-paying jobs with minimal effort.

We’ve also got some pitch templates for you to use.

(It’s gonna be swell.)

Until tomorrow…


Day #4

Today’s lesson is my favourite.

This is where we start to get really hands-on with finding paid writing work online, and y’know what?

It’s really not that difficult.

But it can be a massive time-zap, unless you follow a step-by-step system. And in classic Helen fashion, I just so happen to have one lined up, especially for you.

Step 1

Begin by allocating a 1-hour slot of time, every day, to finding new writing jobs. Yes I said every day.

Even Sundays.

I recommend doing this in the morning, and do it daily until you have ‘enough’ work on at that moment.

However, don’t go ‘overboard’ and end up with too much work, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Step 2

Create a new folder in the favourites/bookmarks bar of your internet browser, and into that folder, save the following jobs boards for writers:

  • ProBlogger.com
  • BloggingPro.com
  • FreelanceWriting.com
  • FreelanceWritingGigs.com
  • Online-Writing-Jobs.com
  • WritersJobBoard.com
  • WritingCareer.com

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and in fact the list as a whole is actually inferior to the ‘secret sauce’ method that I’m going to tell you about later.



Thanks Bill.

Step 3

Spend your 1-hour of time each day, looking through these jobs boards to find jobs for which you think you’d be a good fit.

Pro tip: open each new job in its own browser tab – we’re not pitching just yet though, that comes in Step 4

Where possible, you’re looking for the job listings which:

  • Are ‘ongoing’. One-time jobs generally pay better, but in the long term you’re far better to source clients which will pay you regularly – it means you don’t have to continually pitch for work, and once you have a handful of regular-paying clients – you’re all set.
  • Are low-maintenance. You want the jobs which are linear, straight-forward jobs that rely on you alone. Try to avoid jobs which will require you to interact with multiple different parties across different mediums across different timezones.These high-maintenance jobs will see your otherwise superb time-management go out the window, along with your respectable hourly wages, and your sanity.
  • Clearly define the scope of the project; how much work is required, how often, if there’s research involved, and word/article/page count requirements.
  • What the pay-rates are. Some clients are looking for low-quality work done for $3 per hour. If they haven’t stated how much they’re paying, it could mean they’re paying peanuts, or in fact – nothing at all!

Finally – always read the description. Some clients require applicants to have specific qualifications, others want to see you include random words/phrases in the pitch in order to prove that you’ve actually read the listing.

Mildly-interesting fact: when my mate Dave (Writer’s Edit Head of Tech) recruits writers for his projects – he asks applicants to include the word “Donuts” in the opening sentence of their pitch.

So here’s the ideal job listing (if you’re interested in Future Technology) – the ‘Holy Grail’ of freelance writing jobs, if you will;

4 x 1000-word blog posts per month, about Future Technology @ $150 per article. Ongoing.

Why is this such an awesome writing gig?

  • It’s a set number of articles every month – you will either submit 1 article per week, or 4 all together once per month. Either way – you can plan your time accordingly.
  • You know how long each article needs to be, and therefore how long it will take you (example: 3 hours @ 333 words per hour)
  • You know what the pay is per article, and therefore what your hourly rate will be (example: $150 pay / 3 hours = $50 per hour)
  • You probably won’t need to rely on anyone else in order to complete/submit the article.

As long as your work is sufficient – this client will likely give you $600 per month, every month with very few headaches.

Think about the maths here. If you get just 5 of these jobs – you’ll earn $3000 for just 60 hours work, per month!

And you no longer have to source or pitch to new clients.




Umm yeah thanks again Bill, I guess.

Step 4

Okay, here’s where we pitch.

Now look, I could dedicate a whole lesson to this on it’s own, and I‘ve done just that in our premium freelance writing course.

Pitching effectively is an art which is best perfected over time, and the good news is that you don’t have to start with a blank slate!

Today’s bonus is a couple of downloadable pitch templates which you can use when applying for jobs you found in Step 3.


Of course – you will need to personalise and amend the pitch template to some extent depending on the job you’re applying to, but you could do far worse than to begin with what I’ve given you here.



Damn it, Bill – stop stealing my thunder!

Step 5

This step is so so important, and yet is so often missed by freelance writers just starting out =(

As much as 30% of my freelance work comes from follow-ups. Yup – when you’ve pitched for a job/client – be sure to send them a touch-base email a short time later to see if they still require your services.

Of course – in order to do this you need to keep track of the jobs/clients you’ve pitched to, and for that it’s best to use a spreadsheet.

It doesn’t have to be complicated – just record information about each of your pitches in a spreadsheet (including the date on which you applied), and then ~7 days later – send them a quick email to see if they’re still looking for writers.

Then, 3-months later, send them another touch-base email to see if the situation has changed.

You’d be amazed at how frequently you’ll get a response with something along the lines of ‘actually yes we are looking for a content writer for an upcoming project – can you send over some samples?’.

Aaaaaand you’re in.


Boy, that was a beefy lesson, wasn’t it?

I love step-by-step processes; systems which you can follow over and over again like clockwork – it’s undoubtedly the most efficient and effective way to land paid writing jobs online.

Umm so when can I quit my job?

Woah! Down boy. We’re not there quite yet.

But seriously, it probably won’t take you as long as you think.

Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how to fire your boss.



See you there.


Day #5

I think congratulations are in order for making it this far, don’t you?

We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last 5 days, but really this is just the beginning.

The advice in this lesson is short but it is nevertheless, the most important advice of this entire course.

See, I get so many people coming back to me with great feedback about this course and how they used it to kick their freelance writing ‘into gear’.

That’s fantastic, great!

But y’know – I get so many more people who finish this course and then do nothing about it.

They go straight back to their day job, reporting to a frustratingly incompetent boss, with no real control over their time and money, and no real action plan to make that situation better for themselves.

Listen: life doesn’t have to be that way.

You can get out of bed when you want.

You can go on holiday when you want.

You do not have to work yourself into the ground for 40 years and then retire with only-just-enough money to live out the rest of your life.

I’m serious.

This is absolutely all possible when you take control of your own time, and your own financial success. And with that, comes Freedom

But to get to this point there is one thing that you absolutely positively must do. And that is…

Take. Action.

So far you’ve committed 5 days to this course, commendable no doubt. But remember…

Theory is worthless without execution.

Let’s recap what you need to do:

  • Pick your preferred niche(s)
  • Create some high-quality writing samples
  • Setup your website
  • Begin building an ‘online presence’
  • Begin pitching to listings on jobs boards
  • Fire your boss within 12 months

Admittedly there’s a lot to be done before you can get to the last point, and there’s a lot more that you can do that I haven’t had the space to outline in these lessons.

Actually, what I’ve shared with you over the last 5 days is just the tip of the iceberg really.

What I’d really like for you to see is the fully-fledged, proven, step-by-step system that I used to fire my boss within 3 months.


Fair warning: it’s not for the faint-hearted. Setting yourself up to earn a legitimate living writing online from scratch is a challenging one.

But believe you me, there is no greater satisfaction than getting to the point where you’re receiving emails from businesses you’ve never heard of, asking if you can write for them.

Clients be like:


So if you’re ready to take the next step towards earning a living on your own terms, writing about what you love – click the link below to get started.


See you on the other side.

Dave Hickman

Originally from the UK, Dave is a 28-year-old Digital Marketing Specialist who relocated to Sydney five years ago. He assists with the technical side of Writer's Edit, and loves all things SEO and digital marketing. He's a life-long Aston Villa supporter and enjoys watching 'boy movies' such as Transformers and The Expendables.

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