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3 Types of Freelance Writers: Which Are You?

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Updated 6.13.24

There are three types of freelance writers. Only one builds a successful writing business. That’s a bold statement, I know — so let me elaborate.

By “building a successful writing business” I mean that you, Mr. or Ms. Freelance Writer, generate enough income to earn a good living. Just take a look at the statistics. In a recent survey of more than 1,400 freelance writers, about one-third earned less than $10 an hour in their first year. The same number stayed below $20 an hour during their second year.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to be among them.

Building a successful writing business does not mean you need to be a New York Times best-selling author. If you like to write, you can support yourself by using a combination of income streams. You can earn paychecks by writing content for clients … affiliate fees … eBooks … online courses … teaching writing clinics … more. Put them all together and your bank account is healthy. (I place myself in this multi-income-streams category.)

Plenty of writers do so. But one key factor increases your chances of being among those who make a living with your words: successful freelance writers publish their own email newsletter.

Just take a look at BookBub’s recent survey. 85% of authors who responded have a newsletter.

3 types of freelance writers: which are you? with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #FreelanceWriting #WritingTips #EmailMarketing

3 types of freelance writers: which are you?

The 3 types of freelancers are:

  • Group #1: Freelance writers who use their newsletter to build their brand and sell their content.
  • Group #2: Freelance writers who don’t know how to grow their newsletter to build their brand and sell their content.
  • Group #3: Freelance writers who don’t have newsletters and are missing out on building their brand and selling their content.

If you’re a freelance writer in Group #1 …

If you’re a freelance writer who publishes a newsletter, congratulations. Of the three types of freelancers described here, you have the greatest chance of building a successful writing biz because …

  • You’re proactive. You speak directly and personally to your subscribers through your newsletter. You’re not waiting for readers to land on your site or seek you out on LinkedIn or get referred to you by a third party (although those are all good and will happen as you build your biz).
  • You are a publisher. You own your list and manage it in an email list manager (ELM) like Constant Contact. Your email newsletter gets delivered to your readers on your schedule — not on the whims of a social media algorithm.
  • You provide value. You give your subscribers something they need or want, whether it’s helpful tips about your niche or compelling offers for products and services they’re looking for. Subscribers choose to stay with you rather than opt-out.
  • You build traffic. You continue to produce fresh, quality content for your newsletter, linked to your online home — which means your website or blog continues to grow as you add new pages or update old ones. Subscribers click through your newsletter and land on your site. And they often stay awhile.

28 ways to build your email list

Build your email list with this FREE checklist.

28 ways to build your email list

If you’re a freelance writer in Groups #2 or #3, you’re in luck!

If you’re a freelance writer who doesn’t know how to grow your newsletter — or if you don’t publish one — you’ve got an amazing opportunity. You can join the 31% of marketers who use an email newsletter. You CAN build a newsletter that builds your freelance writing biz. Other writers do it. Why not you?

Only two things are stopping you: getting started and sticking with it.

You won’t know everything about the process ahead of time. And you’ll learn plenty along the way. That’s okay. If you want to build a successful writing biz, get moving by taking these simple steps.

  • Be proactive: choose an email list provider. There are plenty of them out there. I use and love Constant Contact. Most email list managers offer you a free trial period — in fact, you can publish a newsletter on Substack at no cost. Take advantage of these offers.
  • Become a publisher: start your email list, even if your first subscribers are your mom and your roommate. Ask people you know to subscribe. Building an email list is a long-term project. But readers can’t subscribe if you don’t have a list and if you don’t publish.
  • Provide value: write a piece of helpful content for your target readers and send it. Then do it again. And again. Whether you publish your newsletter once a month or once every two weeks or once a week doesn’t matter so much, at least at the beginning. What does matter is that you start a publishing schedule and stick to it.
  • Build traffic: add an opt-in page to your online home. Yes, it’s ideal if you can offer an enticing freebie on your sign-up page. But if you don’t have one right now, don’t get bogged down. Get a sign-up page on your website or blog ASAP. Then, make it one of your priorities to add a special lead magnet freebie as soon as you can.

Be one of the freelance writers in Group #1

81% of successful small businesses rely on email to build their reach. Make sure you’re among them. Just start. Then, stick with it. Build your email newsletter steadily over time.

And you have a much better chance of landing in Group #1.

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