Great Freelance Writing

Since January 2014 I’ve been in charge of building out a corporate blog as part of my part-time consulting duties. It’s been a good challenge that has effectively lowered marketing costs for the company, improved the company’s authority, and allowed the company to tell their story the way they want. So far so good.

Instead of hiring tons of writers, I wanted to hire only a handful of writers who I felt could each bring a different perspective on various topics. I also wanted each writer to be able to write with authority due to the experience he or she has. There would be no such thing as someone writing a post based off pontification under my leadership.

With a healthy budget, I got to work finding quality over quantity, which I think all of us at the Yakezie Network believe in.

Let me share with you what I think makes a fantastic freelance writer for those of you interested in freelance writing part-time or as a career. My perspective comes from not only being a managing editor of a corporate blog, but also as a blogger who has survived through all the Google land mines over the past five years and makes a viable income stream online.


1) Be a fan of the site you are writing for. Being a fan means reading everything there is on the site so you understand the site’s tone, style, and formatting. I want a freelance writer who can say, “Sam, you’ve written a lot about X lately, how about writing a little bit about Y and Z to mix things up a little bit? Here’s where I think I can provide value.” A freelance writer who regularly read all the material is a dream come true because they feel more like a teammate, rather than a hired gun.

2) Build up your own following. It’s become increasingly true that great freelance writers also have a great following to share their work over social media and their own websites. Writing great content and getting as many eyeballs as possible on the freelance piece is what it’s all about. If you are a great writer, but don’t even have a website or a social media following, you will probably lose out on an average writer with a large following. Work on building your social media count and website. These may be painful to do, but it’s a necessity if you want to be one of the best freelance writers.

3) Be a super sharer. It’s not enough just to share your own work over social media. Part of being a fan of your client’s site is to also share other works written by other writers. This shows you are constantly engaged. A Tweet can go a long way in the editor’s eyes. A link back is huge.

4) Offer a smorgasbord of ideas. Editors are constantly looking for great ideas. The more great ideas you can provide with some brief outlines, the better you will look. Be careful not to pitch an idea that has already been written about within the past six months to a year. That will show you haven’t been following along or doing your research very well. You want to make the managing editor feel like all the ideas are for his or her eyes only, even though you may be pitching the ideas to other clients.

5) Consistently beat deadlines. If you say you will submit a rough draft within two weeks, deliver it within 10 days. Under-promising and over-delivering again and again will win you big brownie points. An editor will gain confidence that s/he’ll always be able to count on you during crunch times. There are always crunch times.

6) Provide HTML and Visual formatted versions. Sending over a first draft in a Word document is OK, but due to formatting translation issues it is much better if you also send a draft in HTML so the editor can simply copy and paste your draft in the Text editor. Even better is if you format your post directly onto WordPress and e-mail your editor a heads up that your draft has been saved. Definitely don’t hit publish if you have that authority without approval! That happened once to me and it was a fire drill.

7) Be very proficient in WordPress. Freelance writers who know how to upload a post on WordPress, format a post with the proper titles and subtitles, fill out basic SEO information, insert relevant links, and come up with an interesting or helpful title are highly sought after. This is why it’s another good idea to have WordPress experience as a freelance writer. You should do as best as possible to be an extension of the managing editor.

8) Identify the existing whale posts. A great freelancer will understand which are your site’s most popular posts by comments, page views, and/or conversions. If you don’t know, simply ask the editor or the webmaster. Look to not only replicate the formula that made such posts a success, look to naturally build relevant links in your freelance articles back to those posts. A website who hires freelance writers is almost always looking for a return on their investment. The more you can help them convert and make money, the more you will get paid.

9) Send your invoices after publication. Every editor wants to get you paid promptly. In order to do so, usually an invoice must be promptly submitted with all relevant detail about what the invoice is for. If you haven’t been paid within the guided window, definitely e-mail the editor to ask for a follow up. The way invoices work is that once you send the editor the invoice, the editor then needs to get it signed off by a department head. The invoice is then submitted to accounting. If the accounting department is competent, payment will be sent. But things fall through the cracks sometime. Definitely don’t e-mail the editor before that window is over as that action will simply annoy the editor and show that you are quite mercenary in your ways.

10) Your first draft should be your final draft. Don’t actually send in your first draft. Send in your final draft after you’ve looked at your article at least three times and made necessary edits. The best freelancers are those who submit work that hardly needs any editing. If the editor spends as much time editing the post as she would writing the post, then productivity is lost.

Bonus: Refer other great writers or folks who want to guest post. An editor is always looking for great writers who can meet all the above criteria. Great writers generally know other great writers. The more great writers the merrier!


A great freelance writer could easily earn $1,000 a month writing four to five articles a month. I write 14 articles on average a month on FS alone, so that means I could theoretically earn ~$3,000 a month freelancing. Not bad, and a good mathematical exercise you should calculate if you want to see what your blogging time is worth or what you need to make at a minimum via your blog to not be a freelancer.

It’s very hard to make a living only from the advertisements from your website. In fact, I think it is 10X harder to make a living from a blog than from being a freelance writer (See: Why You Can’t Blog Full-Time). But freelancing is a great way to supplement your blog income or day job income.

Besides the money, there are three other benefits I’ve found to freelance writing:

1) You can practice writing for a different audience. We often create a bubble around our own work and respective websites. We become more well-rounded individuals if we practice writing for different people.

2) You can gain exposure to a new audience. Each website has taken time to cultivate their community. Freelance writing allows you to immediately tap into a new audience who will provide new perspectives.

3) You can build back links to your site, at least through your author bio. Links are the currency of the web. It’s nice to get paid to write and get a link back too.

You never know what type of opportunities freelance writing can produce down the road. The most obvious opportunity is more freelance writing offers. But anything can happen – like being “discovered.” It’s great to expand your writing destinations beyond your existing genre as there is plenty of relevant overlap.

Know your worth if you are a great writer with a solid community. Don’t be afraid to negotiate or walk away from a job if they aren’t paying you what you believe is fair. For those of you just starting off, freelance rates are just like day job incomes. You start low and methodically build your resume before you can move up the rate chart.


It’s been over six years since I started Financial Samurai and I’m actually earning a good passive and active income stream online now. My online presence has allowed me to pursue other things, such as consulting for various financial tech startups as well.

I never thought I’d be able to quit my job in 2012 just three years after starting Financial Samurai. But by starting one financial crisis day in 2009, Financial Samurai actually makes more than my entire passive income total that took 15 years to build. If you enjoy writing, creating, connecting with people online, and enjoying more freedom, learn how you can set up a WordPress blog in 15 minutes like this one. 

Leverage the 3+ billion internet users and build your brand online. You never know where the journey will take you! This post has been updated for 2017 and beyond.