Freelance Writing for College Students: Your Step-by-Step Guide 93

Freelance Writing for College Students: Your Step-by-Step Guide

This is a guest post by Steven Wesley, an ESL teacher, ed tech enthusiast and education blogger. He is interested in educational, technological and political issues and believes in the mighty power of the pen to change the modern world.

Today, I look back on my time in college and feel extremely happy, but it takes just a little bit of digging to see that it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. I can also recall some of the tougher times, when I was pinned down by obligations, but even that’s ok.

What I do remember even better is how it feels to be completely broke. College is supposed to be fun, as well, and in order to have fun, I needed money.

My decision was simple. Cash in on any talent I have in order to make my life better.

My choice of work: freelance writing.

Turns out it was the best decision I ever made, because that’s what I’m doing now.

The reason why I am writing this article is because I want to help out someone else, some poor college kid who’s struggling when they don’t have to. If you have at least some writing talent, here is what you need to do to turn things around.

1. Build a Stunning Portfolio – Fast.

After writing crappy articles for next to nothing for months, I realized that I needed to adopt a different approach.

First of all, I had to discover my niche. I focused on a niche that I was familiar with, and so should you, because it will take you less time to research it, which leaves more time for you to party, or study.

Share your valuable personal experiences and try to figure out how your skills may be valuable to others, and turn them into an intriguing body of work.

Try and think of yourself as a professional providing a solution to your clients, and not a mere job seeker. You may want to start a blog, or work on a few projects for free, just until you have enough stuff you can put inside your portfolio.

2. Picking the Type of Freelance Writing Job.

Pretty soon I decided that boring technical writing and user manuals weren’t for me, even though their price tag was pretty tempting.

It just wasn’t working for me. And if you think you cannot be picky when you’re a desperate college student, think again. You can still earn a pretty penny regardless of the kind of writing that you decide to do.

Creative writing? No problem. Blogging? Even better. IT, lifestyle, or product review articles? Bingo.

There is a whole goldmine out there, waiting for you to tap into it.

Now, I’m a bit of a pessimist, so naturally I thought that nobody would pay me money for my work, but trust me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Keep that in mind.

3. Landing Your First Writing Gig.

speak successfully

At first, I signed with one of the numerous sites connecting freelance writers and potential clients (which was BestDissertaton, by the way). It was fine, because I was able to find some regular work with clients that paid a decent amount of money.

I also went and created my own website, showcasing my skills.

Now, I can’t suggest that one is better than the other, because I was doing both at the same time, so I can’t really tell what did it. But, keep in mind that, even though you are a rookie, that doesn’t mean that you should work for pennies.

It all boils down to writing a killer pitch, which should be short, but precise. And should always contain links to your previous work, as well as your background in the niche which may be relevant.

The right client won’t care if you are a newbie once they see the work you have done.

4. Building Strong Relationship with a Client.

During the first few months, it was hard for me to meet deadlines. Also, I didn’t really understand why my clients were so upset about it, because how can you be late online? Well, it turns out, you can.

Your clients have their own plans and goals, and they make their living through content marketing.

You should respect that, just like they should respect the fact that you did work for them, and pay you on time.

They are people like you, with their own problems and worries. This also means that most of them will understand if you are unable to turn in your work on time, but only a couple of times. After that, if it becomes a regular thing, they will hire another writer.

5. Writing Effective Posts.

There are some things you can do to make your writing even more effective.

For example, try and put yourself inside the minds of others. What problems do they have? What kind of solution do you have to offer that will make their lives easier? Or perhaps you can provide answers to their question.

Also, before you can start writing, you need to decide on the topic of your post.

You can decide on the title later. But you need to figure out a specific topic, so that your writing is more tightly focused on the subject matter.

In addition to that, break up the content into sections, so that it’s easier to read. You can work with bullet points, numbered lists, subheadings, or just about anything else.

6. Managing Your Time like a Pro.

mindfulness while commuting

There are only so many hours in a single day, which means you will have to become the master of time management in order to be able to study and work as a freelancer.

The first thing I did was to abandon my procrastinating ways, something which I was quite fond of.

Those lazy afternoons after class? Forget about those. Those are one of the reasons you are broke.

Also, shake up your study routine and maximize your efforts by adopting a different model.

I know that college life is full of parties, too. Now that you are freelancing your way through college, though, make peace with the fast that you won’t be able to attend every single one of them.

Your studies come first, and your job comes second. But, reward yourself with some downtime after you have passed a test, or completed a project for your client every now and then. It will help keep you motivated in the future.


If you are a college student and you need money, freelance writing is a great way to earn it. Not just because you can create your own schedule and earn as much as you want, and certainly not because I am telling you that it is. But because it can also turn into a backup profession while you are looking for that dream job.

It allows you to focus on your studies, while still giving you the chance to earn a living. That’s about as good as it gets.

It worked wonderfully for me, and it can work the same for you.

Are you ready to start a blog?

If you are, you can sign up for Bluehost today by clicking here.

They are the hosting company I’ve been using on Let’s Reach Success since day 1, and one of the most popular ones worldwide. Famous for their one-click WordPress installation (I’ve described here how exactly to set up a WordPress site with Bluehost), free domain name, and affordable packages for beginners.

By starting a website with them through my link, I’ll earn a small commission. This adds no cost to you, but helps keep this site sustainable.

If you wanna know how exactly to start your first blog, here’s a guide for you.
My Resources page might also help you when choosing the tools you’ll use down the road.

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How I Became a Location Independent Freelance Writer 54

How I Became a Location Independent Freelance Writer

Writing is what I love doing and I managed to turn it into my career. But that wouldn’t have been as enjoyable without having the freedom to work from anywhere and move to my favorite country. So after I became a freelance writer, I also took a few steps to become location independent.

Let me share how that journey looked like for me and maybe inspire you to take the leap and not just become a freelancer but also travel the world or just leave your home country and never look back.

Stage 1: Overcoming The Doubts

I believe all change happens on the inside first. In the case of becoming a freelance writer and a lifestyle designer, you’d first need to do a couple of things related to developing a strong mindset.

To begin with, define what you don’t like about your current lifestyle. Be clear about it and see yourself living a better life some time from now. This vision will also help you realize what you truly desire.

For me, it was freedom and independence but in a specific way.

I mean, I don’t really need to travel the world. It was enough to spend a few weeks in Thailand and to always have the chance to get back to a destination like that if I feel like. But what I truly desired was to leave my home country, Bulgaria, and instead move to the Netherlands.

However, my transformation started many years ago, before I even knew that’s where I wanted to live. First, I wasn’t satisfied with my life back then. I was already in my 20s and I always felt like I wasn’t spending my time right. So something had to be done.

Doubts are scary.

In fact, they are one of the reasons why so many people all over the world never start a business, end a relationship, travel or else.

Once you get through that stage though, you start having hope, you visualize a better life, and you finally take action. And once you take the first step, magical things begin to happen.

For me, that first step was to define my passion (personal development) and combine it with writing, which I simply loved doing and felt like it was the right way to spend my time.

English is just my second language. I had no official degree in what I’m doing. I wasn’t tech-savvy and had no idea how the Internet actually worked.

But the desire for a different life and more meaningful activities was stronger than any lack of knowledge or experience. So I dedicated the 4 years of my life during university to building the foundation of my online business and the lifestyle I enjoy today.

Stage 2: Getting The First Clients

This is How I Became a Top Rated Upwork Freelancer

I began writing, first on my blog (more on that below), then for others. But the magical ingredient here is reading.

I spent a ton of time (still do and probably always will) reading about people who were already living the life I was after. And that changed it all. I overcame all the doubts because I saw all that I wanted was possible. If other people were living like that and they all started from nothing, then it’s just a matter of time till I get there too.

That encouraged me. And my motivation never decreased because of some people I started following consistently and seeing their progress kept me action-oriented too.

It was time to earn my first dollars freelancing.

The good thing about the Internet is that you don’t have to be anyone in order to land your first gig. Once you do, the second one is easier. You just need someone to pay you for your freelance services so you can have confidence in your abilities and improve your skills.

I never thought I’d be able to call myself a freelance writer, not to mention be location independent together with that. But I left the big picture behind for a while and focused on simpler things. Such as:

What can I do today to land my first client?

After researching, I realized there are sites for freelancers where employers post jobs and I can apply to each that seems like a good fit for me. And so I did.

I created my profiles, had low rates (because any money was good money for me then if it was online), and applied for a few jobs. I had no idea what to say exactly so I just went with what felt right.

I introduced myself when pitching clients and told them how I can help them with their project. Rejection here is normal as there’s a ton of competition.

Eventually, someone hired me for a job and I made my first $20 or so.

It was a short and sweet gig and I did a good job. The communication with the client was smooth.

It’s hard to land someone for the first time, especially in my case. On my profile they could see Bulgaria and that English isn’t my native language. Also, that I’m new to the site and have no previous feedback. Basically, not the most trustworthy freelance writer to hire.

But there are new employers to such platforms too and they are ready to hire you as long as you have something to offer them.

So if you want to make money online and eventually turn that into a business, become location independent and work remotely, or just want to do what you love freelancing, then create your profiles on sites like Upwork, Guru, Freelancer and PeoplePerHour and start pitching.

Stage 3: Building a Blog and a Brand

5 Tips to Negotiate a Higher Salary in an Interview

The 3rd crucial step in my journey to becoming a location independent freelance writer was this blog.

Let’s Reach Success started as a personal blog on self-improvement. But consistency was the key and I seemed to be good at this. It’s because I love writing too of course. It eventually turned into my biggest project and today it’s my portfolio.

There are more than 1600 articles in the archives, a whole book store, proper design (thanks to this premium theme), authority, and a story behind it. Which makes me and Let’s Reach Success kind of a personal brand.

If you haven’t started a site yet, you’re wasting time. Whatever it is that you wanna do online, you need that one platform.

I’ve written a quick guide on how to do that. Check out How to Set Up a WordPress Site on Bluehost. Don’t worry, the technical aspect is easy and I’ve outlined the few simple steps you should take to have your site up and running in less than 30 minutes.

Blogging is a must for every freelance writer. Here’s why:

First, you get to showcase your work. You can write articles all the time and show them to clients. Whenever you want to start writing about a new topic, you’ll simply start covering it on your blog and then provide samples to employers.

You become known as an expert. If you stay consistent and provide unique and quality content frequently, people will know you’re the go-to blogger in the niche. Together with your unique voice and all other things you’re doing on the side, you can build a name for yourself. That means clients will start finding you soon.

Blogging is a learning experience. There’s a lot going on in the archives on my blog. If I go back, I can even see how I’ve grown over the years. Your writing will change too and that’s okay. Your site becomes your biggest project, especially if you’re a writer yourself. Also, it’s thanks to wanting to improve Let’s Reach Success that I’ve learned so much about optimizing content, making money from a blog, and more.

Stage 4: Setting Up an Online Business

Now that you’ve overcome the doubts, have landed your first freelance client, and have your own blog, you can turn that into an online business soon.

First, of course, you’ll need to have some decent income monthly to be a proper location independent freelance writer. Although plenty of people register a company from the beginning and then slowly grow their freelance business.

However, in the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. I was paying taxes and fees for the freelancing platforms I worked with and that was enough. I wasn’t sure how much more I could make each month.

When I got to a few hundred dollars monthly, though, (which is an amount you can live with back in my home country if you aren’t paying rent), I decided to fix the legal part and register as an independent worker there and start paying my taxes.

Over the next months, I truly believed I’m now a freelance writer earning money from my craft and loved it. Of course, I also wanted to grow, build skills, land better clients, improve my site and see what else I could be doing online.

Stage 5: Choosing Your Ideal Destination and Moving There

amsterdam - the dream location

When I was making $1000/month from my blog and freelance writing services, and because the business was online, I finally felt like I could soon move away and start a new life.

The country I wanted to live in was the Netherlands. I already had friends there and knew it was the place to be for me. So I booked a place in Amsterdam with AirBnB and dedicated these 10 days to finding my new home.

I needed it to be affordable and in a good neighborhood and that’s exactly what I got.

Because I wanted to be there so much and worked hard for it, there hasn’t been a day since I moved that I didn’t wake up with a smile on my face.

That’s one of the main aspects of lifestyle design. Doing work you love and making just enough to be able to live the way you like.

Of course, Amsterdam isn’t cheap so I had to limit my expenses and change things.

Stage 6: Living The Location Independent Lifestyle

I did some traveling too. Spending 5 weeks in Thailand cost me a lot in terms of money (although it could have been cheaper too but I didn’t prepare well) and focus. But it’s safe to say these weeks have been the craziest and most adventurous ones in my life.

I might go back there, but that’s not necessary. I love my daily life too and don’t need an escape from that. The important thing about being a location independent freelance writer is that you have to enjoy the freedom of being where you are. And if you earned your chance to get there, it tastes even better.

Stage 7:  Mastering Working Remotely and From Home

Location independence and freelancing aren’t for everyone as it’s not easy, there are sacrifices to be made and plenty of challenges. One of them is getting distracted and not doing focused work on a daily basis.

One thing I did right though was to build some good productivity habits and eliminate procrastination and distractions early on. In fact, that was when I started making my first money as a freelance writer.

It’s nice to imagine how you can live and work from anywhere 6 months from now. But if you don’t build the discipline in advance and learn how to structure your day so you can do your best work, you won’t make it.

Here are some things that can help:

My Best Productivity Principles

How to Stay Productive While Living The Laptop Lifestyle

Stage 8: Growing The Freelance Writing Business

My focus is on increasing my income now. I got to over $3500. These come from sponsored posts here on Let’s Reach Success and freelance writing for clients.

I’m working on other things too such as increasing book sales and building systems to earn passive income from affiliate marketing. But these don’t come naturally to me so it takes time.

So that’s how I became a location independent freelance writer and how you can do the same.

Here are the exact steps I took to become a location independent freelance writer: