How Does Freelance Writing Work?

Freelance writer typing on laptop from coffee shop

Kristen Curette / Stocksy United

If you're thinking of going into freelance writing, you'll obviously need to have a way with words and grammar. But there are other things to know, such as how to find work and how freelancers get paid. Read on for more details about how freelance writing works.  

Key Takeaways

  • Freelance writers may work in journalism, public relations, advertising, social media, technical writing, custom content, or many other fields.
  • You need to not only be a good writer, but a good marketer in order to continue finding work.
  • Rates may be based on word count, article, project, or retainer fee and you may need to submit an invoice for your work.
  • Clients need freelance writers because they often don't have enough work for a full-time staff person, and they can save money with part-time freelance help.

What Is Freelance Writing?

Freelance writing is the practice of writing for money while working on one's own and not being employed by a company or organization. Freelance writers produce whatever written text is needed by their clients, either working from home or in a rented office space.

Writers can have many different clients, or one very large client with a lot of steady, ongoing work. You can be a generalist, covering topics as diverse as automobiles and architectural design. Or you can specialize in one area, such as the culinary arts. Specialists may find more assignments than generalists because they build a body of knowledge that allows them to work faster, and they get a track record that editors come to know.

How Does the Freelance Business Work?

Freelance writers are not only writers; they are also marketing themselves and their skills to potential clients. Freelance writers are often business owners because they must form a business, whether it's a solo enterprise or an LLC, to separate their personal finances from their business finances.

The successful freelance writer is often a combination of creative wordsmith and shrewd businessperson. Writing well is just the start. You must sell yourself effectively and manage your finances.

Balancing Writing With Looking for Gigs

Freelance writers compose whatever text their clients need—whether it's magazine articles, website copy, press releases, blog posts, newsletters, internal corporate communications, or brochures. . That is the creative side.

But, freelance writers often approach their work like any other business, spending part of their time seeking new business and the other part of their time staying on top of record-keeping.


A Payoneer study found that 77% of freelancers working in writing and translation services spend zero to six hours a week looking for work.

If you've worked in a writing field full time, you may find freelance writing gigs from connections you made during your previous jobs. Starting from scratch requires more effort. You may want to start your own blog or writing project so that you'll have writing samples to show potential clients until you get your first paid gigs. You can search writing sites such as Media Bistro or Journalism Jobs for gigs, and network as much as possible to find out about opportunities.

How Do Freelancers Get Paid?

Every client has its own process and payment type. For one article, a client may pay by the word or by the piece. If it's a project, they may pay an hourly rate or a flat rate for the whole project. At other times, you may be put on a retainer to provide a certain amount of work every month as needed by the client.

Sometimes a client will want the writer to send an invoice when the work is done, or they'll pay half up front and the remainder when the work is handed in. Sometimes, clients simply want a Paypal message reminding them that payment is due, and then they'll disperse a check. Other clients have intricate computer systems that tell them when it’s time to pay a writer, and no action is needed on the part of the freelancer.

Many individuals and smaller businesses like the convenience of Paypal. However, large organizations stick to the more traditional system of sending checks or direct deposit by the due date noted on submitted invoices. 

Whatever kind of payment schedule is used, the writer has to be really good at budgeting and money management because the onus is on them to get paid in a timely fashion.

Why Are There Freelance Writers?

One reason this career exists is that people, or companies, often need only one project done at a time, such as one booklet written to launch a new product. Perhaps a business needs copy produced for its new website. Hence, there’s no reason to hire an employee.

Instead, it’s simpler to enter into an agreement or contract with an individual writer. Even if the business ends up having several projects in a year, it's still less expensive to farm out the work than hire an employee who requires benefits such as health care.


Because remote work has become much more prevalent, many companies are happy to hire individuals who can work remotely, using their own space.

The life of a freelance writer is not only an independent one with a great deal of flexibility​. If you become skilled in the business side (and work hard enough) it can become a financially successful life.


What are the types of freelance writing jobs?

Freelance writers may write articles for media or a corporate newsletter or website; copy for ads, commercials, or other marketing materials; speeches for business leaders, politicians, or other speakers; or blog posts for themselves or an organization.

How much do freelance writers make?

The rate for freelance writers varies dramatically depending on the industry, type of work, and your experience level. Payscale reports that the median hourly wage for freelance writers as of June 2022 is $24.64, and that freelance writers may make anywhere from $25,000 to $115,000 a year.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Keeper Tax. "Should I Start an LLC as a Freelancer?"

  2. Payoneer. "The Payoneer Freelancer Income Survey." Page 14.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "What Writers and Authors Do."

  4. Payscale. "Freelance Writer Hourly Pay."

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