First Year Freelance Writing: 12 Lessons to Survive your 1st Year.

How is your first-year freelance writing?

I get these questions all the time: “can you survive as a freelance writer?” “Is it possible to earn money writing online?”

Well, today I’m going to be talking about the valuable lessons I learnt from my first year as a freelance writer.

In case you don’t know, I hit one year writing online as a full-time freelance writer and blogger this April.

It’s been a journey full of sweat, blood, tears, sleepless nights and success stories.

Just like you, I let fears take the better part of me for far too long.

I’d heard about freelance writing in 2017, tried my hands on it in 2018 and finally gave my all in 2019.

I’m not there yet as a freelance writer, but at least I’m making progress, growing my business and brand every single day.

My audience is growing, and I thank you for being a part of my awesome community. I created this blog because I wanted to connect with you.

Below are the most crucial lessons I’ve learnt and can help you, too, to survive your first year as a freelance writer.

1. Put your best foot forward.

When I started, I was a clueless freelancer, but I was willing to learn and earn immediately.

Let me tell you, last year a time like this, I borrowed a laptop and Ksh 4,000 to start my freelance writing business.

I had no one to help me out, but Google.

And I was determined to earn money online working at home like any other freelance writer.

I went straight to the shop and bought a laptop charger, modem, and data bundles.

With all the tools, I was set to go.

The good thing is that I’d done the research and knew what to look for, the blogs to read, and job boards.

After a day of research, and getting myself ready to write for money, I landed my first writing job and earned $25.

I did the best and delivered quality articles over the period I worked with that editor.

You might be going through the same situation.

You have no client at the moment, and nothing seems to work.

Well, let me tell you, it will work out if you put in the efforts.

Put into practice the tips you get from successful freelance writers.

Learn how they established their business and what worked for them.

Trust me; if you use the right strategy, you will start seeing business results.

2. Have a plan.

Freelance writing is not a hobby. It requires a plan and commitment.

Over the past year, I’ve learnt that having a plan is crucial to your freelance writing business’s survival.

When I started, I created a plan. I set time to learn, time to write and a time to look for freelance writing jobs.

Also, I invested in a monthly internet connection plan. This is because I didn’t know when I could land a writing job.

In anything you do, have a plan.

Buy enough data bundles to last you at least a month. You will have enough time to learn and search for freelance writing jobs.

When you have a plan, you can survive as a freelance writer.

3. Invest in your freelance writing business.

Another important lesson I learnt is to invest in my freelance writing business.

Business investment can be in terms of time, money or both.

During my first month as a freelance writer, I spent time learning how to set my website and establish my online presence.

Additionally, I spent money setting up my blog.

You see, having a website makes a whole difference between a freelance writer and a professional freelance writer.

After spending money on my website, paying for hosting and plugins, I started landing high-paying jobs.

I moved from $25/article to $150/article writing for an authoritative self-publishing blog only two weeks after setting my blog.

Don’t hesitate to invest in your business. And I can assure you that you will see ROI soon. It is so worth every penny.

4. Market your freelance writing services the right way.

Listen, businesses need your services so badly, but they are not aware that your business exists.

Market the hell out of your business. Create impeccable portfolios and establish your online presence.

Start blogging because your blog is your #1 marketing platform.

Blog for other blogs and get on the client’s radar. Snag guest posting opportunities and get em by-lines.

If you can check on my home page, you will see the sites I feature in as the author.

You need those author-by-lines now!

Create your LinkedIn profile and use it to market your freelance writing services.

Know that you are the best and don’t shy away from letting people know about your services.

Join Facebook groups and be super-duper active.

Scale up your networking game as a freelance writer.

People will notice you and come knocking in your inbox.

5. Be confident

Confidence is crucial to your freelance writing business.

Listen, writer friend, you are the best writer out there. No matter what people say, you do your best.

You are unique with the most in-demand skills on internet-writing skills.

Creativity flows in you, and you can quickly get away with words.

And you should charge to write.

Don’t let negative criticism put you down.

I’ve gone through that situation. It is a part of growing your business and career.

You make mistakes and learn from them and move on.

As a freelance writer, I’ve met not such cool clients.

I could write quality articles, send them in and the editor returns them full of red-underlines.

I had to re-do everything for a very low pay-$20/1800-words article.

But you know what? That didn’t stop me. I took the criticism positively.

Be confident and face your challenges head-on as a freelance writer. Don’t let fear get in the way.

You need the confidence to fire those horrible clients and focus on getting the right clients.

Don’t let anyone treat you bad or under-pay because they pay you to write.

Image source: pexels

6. Keep looking for freelance writing jobs.

Another lesson from my one year of freelance writing is that you must keep looking for jobs no matter if you have enough.

Freelance writing can be quite challenging with inconsistent income, especially the first year.

You need to keep looking for freelance writing jobs.

During my first six months as a freelance writer, I had on and off clients.

My income was not consistent as it should, but at least I could manage. Eventually, I hit my first $1k/week writing.

7. Set goals.

Start setting your freelance writing goals if you haven’t.

My goal when I started freelance writing was to hit $500/month working part-time.

Your goals can be to hit that certain income level, complete a course or even set a website.

Whatever you want to achieve, set goals and crush them like a pro.

8. Value your skills

Writing is a valuable craft, and the fact that you can coherently piece words together means that your skills are useful.

Many beginner writers come into the business with a mindset of making money. It doesn’t matter how clients treat them.

Trash this mentality because if you don’t value your skills, then no client will appreciate you to do business with you.

Set realistic rates that you want to charge clients. Don’t settle for low paying jobs.

Aim for the excellent pay because you deserve it.

9. Be professional

The fact that you work online doesn’t mean you can be casual.

Professionalism in the business is a must if you want to work with big companies.

Present yourself as a professional freelance writer. This means that you should have complete social media profiles with your professional picture.

Add a professional image of you to your website and LinkedIn.

Create an LOI (letter of introduction) to use when you are reaching out to a potential lead.

10. Know when to say NO

I know this can be quite tricky to a beginner, but it is very crucial to know when to say no!

During my first year as a professional freelance writer, I learnt that not all clients are reasonable.

You need to draw the line when a client seems to want more for less.

Be sure of the number of revisions you can provide. Some clients will want you to do several unnecessary changes.

Politely reject clients who want to waste your time for little payment.

You’re worth better writing gigs.

11. Learn, learn and learn more

It is your first-year freelance writing, and you need to learn a lot about the business.

This is also the time you are trying to find your perfect freelance writing niche.

Learn more on how you can improve your writer website. The WordPress Beginner is super resourceful.

Keep learning and implementing. Read the best blogs for freelance writers.

12. Keep writing.

Finally, keep writing and honing your craft. Create more blog posts for your website. Publish LinkedIn and Medium articles.

Create content for your social media accounts.

My 12 first year freelance writing lessons to survive.

Your first year as a freelance writer can be a roller coaster. There is so much to do besides proving yourself as a competent writer.

Are you in your first year as a freelance writer? How is your freelance writing business doing?

Let me know in the comments.

Are you new to the world of freelance writing? Take my free 5-day freelance writing course today.


Charity is a freelance personal finance writer and blogger for hire. She specializes in personal finance, digital content writing and marketing, blog post writing, and intriguing history articles. She's written for major brands and blogs like The Penny Hoarder, Autonomous, Self-Publishing School, Penny Calling Penny, Inkwell Editorial, Freelancer FAQs, and more.


  1. Wangui Hinga
    May 22, 2020

    Thank you Charity for this amazing tips.
    I’m in my first year of freelancing and it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. ButI’ll keep trying because we learn best from our mistakes.
    Thanks again.

  2. Charity Jerop
    May 25, 2020

    Hey Wangui,
    The first year freelance writing is not easy for sure but it gets better as you learn. Keep writing and learning.

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