10 January, 2024
8 Tips on How to Become a Professional Freelance Writer in the UK
Today, freelance writing activities take place on virtual platforms, where distance is never a barrier. However, working as a freelance writer isn’t without its challenges. While calling the shots in your career sounds great, it takes hard work, incredible focus, and dedication, with no guarantee of pay or success.
In this article, we’ll share insights from 5 top UK writers with over 50 years of combined writing experience and approximately £100k+ MRR on how to start a freelance writing career. We’ll show real success tips on getting your first freelance writing gig, building your writing brand as a freelancer, and charging what you’re worth. So, be sure to stick around.
Main Types of Freelance Writing Business You Should Know
Before taking the plunge, you need to determine a specific writing style and the form of engagement you’re excited about. Here are the most common types of freelance writing business in the UK:
1. Content writing
Content writers create interesting content for informational purposes, primarily used to instil trust in customers and improve SEO rankings. Writing style and format and length vary, depending on the specific client and their search engine optimisation goals. Common examples of content writing include social media copy and blog articles.
Copywriters are marketers with great writing prowess. They create sales copies that drive conversion and generate revenue. However, copywriters should be conversant with the buyer’s journey business model to target a specific audience with such a copy. Examples of copywriting include email copy, product descriptions, and reviews, case studies, offer pages, etc.
3. Freelance journalism and news writing
Freelance journalism and news writing are for people who are keen on researching and sharing factual information with the public. You’re expected to do field work, get pictures, collect info, and write a publication.
Ghostwriting is the process of writing content for other people without taking credit. This means you don’t get by-lines or have any evidence you wrote the content. You’ll work with clients who have a story to tell but don’t have the right words to put it on paper or are just too busy to do so.
5. Other forms of writing
Other freelance writing types include:
- Editing and proofreading
- Social media writing
- Academic writing
- CVs writing
Main Skills a Freelance Writer Needs to Succeed
Not everyone in the UK is cut out to be a freelance professional writer, but if you have the following five must-have hard and soft skills, you have a better shot at succeeding:
- Good writing and research skills: Writing is not only about putting words together to make grammatical sense; your content should be logically presented and supported by various studies. Veteran freelance writers always advise newbies in the game to read their writing aloud. If you do this exercise, and it doesn’t flow naturally, it still requires fine-tuning.
- Proofreading and editing skills: As a freelancer, submitting your best work at all times means editing and proofreading your content before submission. This cuts across checking correct punctuation use, great tone, and style if you want to hand over a clean and crisp copy. You can partially automate this process using editing tools like Grammarly and Hemingway, but you shouldn't rely on them too much.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) skills: It’s critical to have a good grasp of basic SEO knowledge, including keyword research, infusing keywords naturally into content, developing meta descriptions, and optimising web copy for SEO best practices.
- AI skills: Knowing how to use modern artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT is a huge plus. These tools will help you automate certain parts of your writing process.
- Soft skills: Other skills you need to succeed as a freelance professional writer in the UK include prompt communication, self-discipline, networking, responsiveness, time management, and the ability to meet deadlines, accept and learn from criticism, and handle rejections well.
How to Start a Freelance Writing Business: Top Tips for Taking the Plunge
Now, let’s spill the tea on how to become a freelance writer in the UK with no experience:
1. Choose your niche
The only thing UK professional freelance writers are doing differently is writing consistently and being audacious about their art on social media. We recommend you do the same and write daily about anything that interests you and post it on your social media or website.
However, we’ve noted that many up-and-coming writers stray at this point and write about areas with zero client base. While you should still be excited about the topic, it's better to choose trendy areas like finance, lifestyle, travel, tech, or health. This also helps you build up experience to jumpstart your career.
2. Take a writing course
Before you work as a freelance writer, it’s important to take online writing courses to sharpen your writing skills. Otherwise, only low-budget clients and content farmers will hire you for peanut-paying jobs. It’s not even necessary to invest in paid writing courses if you have the time, motivation, and a plan to learn and practice through the wide range of free online courses available. Some examples of valuable free writing courses include Surfer SEO’s writing masterclass and Hubspot’s free content strategy course. If you want your SEO skills to go from zero to hero, you can go crazy with Aleyda Solis’ free learning SEO roadmap.
3. Make a working portfolio and a website
Almost every client wants to see past work samples when hiring a freelance writer. As such, you need to create a professional-looking portfolio that showcases your expertise. You can take advantage of freemium portfolio builders like Journo Portfolio and Muck Rack. It will help you maintain a professional look, demonstrate your skills, and impress clients. Here’s a good example:
Important mention: While creating a website is optional when testing out the freelance writing world, many successful writers swear by it. It doesn’t have to be designed with over-the-top layouts and can be a pretty simple page for showcasing your personal blog, testimonials, and contact info.
4. Register your freelance writing business
If you become a freelance writer in the UK, your business category is designated self-employed. You’re expected to register your business and fill out tax returns. Be sure to tick all the boxes in the following checklist:
- Register with HMRC for self-assessment
- Set up a free UK business bank account
- Ensure good bookkeeping hygiene for proper tax filling
- Set a budget
- Set up a business insurance. Use our superscript discount code to enjoy 10% off your insurance premium
5. Start pitching
Pitching an article means reaching out to potential clients with content ideas. You can research the brands and send them pitch ideas featuring your writing samples and a proposed deadline.
The freelance writing community strongly kicks against writing for free. However, if you must, we recommend doing it for top websites with a domain authority of at least 80 to give your portfolio a good clout.
6. Start networking
Top tips on how to become a freelance writer should feature networking and mentorship. Go where your clients and other freelance writers hang out, including LinkedIn, X (formerly Twitter), Facebook freelancing communities, and Slack groups. Apart from pitching, another sure-fire way of landing writing roles is by getting fellow writers to recommend you.
7. Actively search for roles
Platforms where you can begin writing articles for money in the UK include OnSite for content writing, Journalism.co.uk for freelance journalism, LinkedIn, Upwork, and Contently. As you get more work and recognition, we recommend niching down to a specific writing field. As we always say, niche is where the money is.
8. Get a virtual office
If you choose to become a freelance writer in the UK, you’ll run into old-fashioned clients requiring in-person meetings from time to time. If getting a physical space is above your means, you can simply get a virtual office in London or a co-working space. Apart from looking professional, other benefits of a virtual office for freelancers include reduced overheads and improved privacy.
Freelance Writer Average Income in the United Kingdom
Based on 200+ salary entries sourced from salary surveys and databases across the country, the average freelance writer salary in the UK is £22.93 per hour or £44,720 per year. However, many A-list UK freelance writers reported earning as much as £120k per year. But it’s also possible to earn less than £100. Basically, to be employed as a writer means earning based on your experience and brand authority.
Top-of-the-shelf advice on how to be a freelance writer is to charge what you’re worth. First, work out your rates, add 20% to compensate for taxes, and choose your payment methods. Since you’re just starting, charge per word and eventually raise your rate to match your expertise. You can also charge per project, but be sure to calculate the time and labour it requires before giving a quote.
Consider The Hoxton Mix as Your Trusted Partner
Unleash your creativity! Get access to our virtual office space and increase your chances of receiving more money from prospective clients. If your home office feels like it's closing in on you, get away and work with like-minded people in our co-working space on Old Street. Sited in natural environments, our flexible virtual office rooms are a breath of fresh air for freelance writers stuck in a rut and dealing with writer’s block. Contact us today >>>
Starting and running a successful freelance writing business in the UK takes careful planning, practice, networking, and consistency to reach the mark. Yet many have done it and are still doing it, so you can, too. Ignore the imposter syndrome crawling into your head and just write. As the famous quote by Hemingway goes, “write drunk, edit sober”. Maybe don't take this advice literally, but don’t forget to proofread your work at least twice. Go n’ grab high-paying clients; we at the Hoxton Mix can’t wait to share the creative space with you.
What degree or qualifications do you need to become a freelance writer in the UK?
All you need to become a freelance writer is good writing and research prowess, an understanding of content marketing, and a basic SEO background. Most successful freelance writers in the UK didn’t receive further or higher education.
How can I start a freelance writing career in the UK?
Before setting the balls rolling in your freelance writing business, determine your desired type of writing, write every day, take courses, network with like-minded people, and get a quality portfolio.
What types of freelance writing can I choose?
Freelance writing offers a diverse range of opportunities to choose from, depending on your passion and area of expertise. That is, you can be: Content writer, Copywriter, Journalist, Ghostwriter, and many more.