Here’s your complete guide on earning and finding success as a freelance writer in India
If you're wondering how to become a freelance content writer in India and get paid for freelance writing, we've compiled the ultimate guide for you.
Imagine sitting on a beach in Bali and sipping on your cocktail while penning down a story about a beach holiday. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? With a freelance content writing career, you can do just that and get paid for it too!
So let's jump right into everything you need to know about a freelance writing career in India.
- What is freelance content writing, and what are its types?
- How much does a freelance writer earn in India?
- The salary range for beginners & experienced writers
- Content writer salary range per word & per article
- Freelance writer hourly rates
- Making a rate card
3. How to start a freelance writing career
4. How to get work as a freelance writer
5. Pro tips for a successful career in freelance writing
What is freelance writing?
Freelance content writer meaning
First off, a freelance writer is self-employed and is typically considered an independent business owner. They often work on several projects simultaneously and are paid separately for their work.
What does a freelance writer do?
Freelance writers are required to produce well-researched and adequately written relevant text, as asked for by the client. The conceptualised text could be required for brochures, manuals, blogs, websites, newspapers, or e-books. By the nature of their project, they could be required to work with editors.
They are directly paid for this work by their clients as per the mutually decided rates for the project.
Types of freelance writing jobs
If you're looking to start as a freelance writer, you need to know the major types of freelance writing jobs.
Web content writer
A web content writer writes on and for the internet. The nature of the job could vary from writing content for websites that sell a particular product or service to writing blogs. It requires you to research relevant keywords and skillfully entwine them with your article. Your primary motive is to direct traffic towards the webpage through your writing.
As a technical writer, you need to make sense of daunting technical terms and break them down into comprehensible information or instructions for your reader. Your work here could be writing manuals, guides or relevant articles.
Newspaper or magazine writer
Newspapers or magazines could be territories that you get to chart both offline and online. A writer for a newspaper needs to report about particular events in an objective and unbiased manner. Other magazines or newspapers could require you to review books or movies or put out opinions on a specific topic.
Ghostwriters write blogs, website pages, and e-books, but not in their names. The credits for these write-ups are given to a different person.
How much does a freelance writer earn in India?
A central question asked by most aspiring freelance writers is how to earn money as a freelance writer. It's also essential to understand the prevailing market rates before deciding how much to charge as a freelance writer in India.
Freelance writers’ salary for beginners and experienced writers in India
The average monthly earning of a freelance writer in India is ₹16,000, which means that freelance writers make approximately ₹2 lakh per year. This is according to numbers quoted after a survey conducted by Indeed where they asked users to submit details about their salary.
While writing this guide, the freelance writers we spoke to stated that their monthly salaries as freelance writers were between ₹25,000 - ₹40,000.
The average freelance writer salary for beginners was found to be between ₹10,000 - ₹12,000 per month, while experienced content writers can earn up to ₹20,000 - ₹60,000 per month on an average.
Based on the type of writing, freelance travel writers earn around ₹16,000 on average, while freelance resume writers earn about ₹15,000 a month.
Freelance content writers' salary per word and article
A freelance writers' pay rate in India is based on their charge per word. Freelance writers' charges per word range from ₹6 per word for a 1500-word article to a gross amount of ₹15,000 for a 2000-word, well-researched piece. Based on deadlines, it can be ₹8 per word for a two-day deadline and ₹80,000 per month for a retainer.
Freelance writers’ hourly rates in India based on skills and experience
Based on a survey by Payscale, we present to you their findings on how much freelance writers make, based on their experience.
On average, hourly charges for a fresh, entry-level freelance writer in India are around ₹494 per hour. While the same for a mid-level experienced (1-3 years) freelance writer is around ₹510.
Again, based on the type of freelance writing, a technical writer's hourly rate in India is, on average, ₹275 per hour.
A freelance medical writer's hourly earning, on average, is around ₹365 per hour.
Making a rate card
I was late to the party and only made my rate card this year, but it is essential to do this from the start and stick to it. It’s also easier to respond to clients and potential projects if you already have a rate card.
Of course, each project differs, and you need to leave room for negotiations, but it's good to have a general rate to know where to start. If you're just starting out, talk to a senior freelancer and ask them if the rates you are asking for are good enough or if you need to make some changes.
How to start a freelance writing career in India
If you're a beginner, we recommend that you start with our beginner's guide to freelancing in India, where you'll get all the details on how to start.
An important question might be: if freelance writers need a business license to start working. No, you don't necessarily need to register for any trade license to start as a freelance writer in India.
Skills required to become a freelance content writer
Some skills that could come in help before you begin wading in the sea of freelance writing would be understanding SEO, blogging, proofreading and copywriting.
If you are a technical or medical writer, brushing up on fundamental concepts and meanings is also a good idea.
These skills will help you do a better job at providing your client with the product they need. It will improve the quality of your work, increase your chances of a word-of-mouth recommendation, and eventually positively impact your earnings.
How to become a freelance content writer without experience
Start with finding your niche. What is it that you enjoy writing the best? You have a wide range to choose from, from beauty articles and SEO-friendly pieces for an e-commerce website to writing copies for social media.
Unlike a full-time job, you get a lot of opportunities to test your writing skills as a freelancer.
When you're just starting out, it is crucial to take up various projects - from lifestyle writing to social media writing and whatever you can get your hands on. Use this experience to determine what works best for you and find your niche.
Also, play to your strengths. I've realised that writing about beauty, fashion and relationships comes naturally. But articles on finance, legal issues or even sales and social media copies take longer. Hence, I've divided my projects into an 80:20 ratio - 80 per cent of lifestyle writing that I can finish quickly to take up more projects. And the rest 20 per cent for writing stuff that takes longer to complete and requires more effort.
How is freelance writing as a career? Scope and future prospects of freelance writing
As you gain experience as a freelance writer, you might want to know what other career paths you could take to specialise or diversify your career.
Most freelance writers can move on to areas of content strategy, content management and instructional designing. You could continue to freelance for clients in these roles or eventually choose to associate yourself with an organisation for the same.
How to get work as a freelance content writer
The best way to answer this question is by getting freelancers to let you in on their secrets. We spoke to seven freelancers, and here’s how they find work.
Cold pitching is a method by which freelancers can email targeted strangers who may be potential employers to convince them to partner with them. They provide a pitch as to why it is beneficial to work with them and might mention examples of their previous work.
We spoke to some freelancers about cold pitching.
"I find work primarily by cold pitching stories to the online media outlets I wish to work for. And I also use connections from my university, the organisations I've worked for, and offline media-related events to find new projects to work on," said Rasika Rane.
Another freelancer, Ainee Nizami, said, "I have a lot of industry contacts to fall back on. While I was hesitant initially to approach organisations and cold pitch ideas, I got over that pretty soon (especially when the money ran out). I schedule one day in a fortnight where I spend time looking at the work that everyone is doing – including the fellow freelancers I follow on social media - and then I write my cold pitches to send to organisations or people that I wish to work with. For me, more than job portals and websites that offer work, social media has been the go-to place to find projects. I've done it all, from freelancing job communities on Facebook to personal messages on LinkedIn."
"I think cold emailing the people I wish to work with has also worked best for me. I also have a very active presence on the internet. People can even check my Instagram to get an idea of my work," says Smriti Notani.
Networking and referrals
Many freelancers actively network on various career and networking sites to look for potential clients. Referrals also work like a charm when a particular client recommends you to other prospective employers after doing a fantastic job with them!
Freelancer Aditi Srivastava said, "Sending pitches to the people I wish to work with and networking with people has always helped me find work. I usually network through online groups and local events, and I use LinkedIn, Instagram and work-related WhatsApp groups to market my work."
"Pitching and networking have been the best ways for me to find jobs. I have also been helped by people of influence in the portals I work in. When I approached one, the other approached me," claims Radhika Oltikar
Meeting a client for work
For their writing, some freelancers meet clients to seek projects.
We talked to Anamika Joshi, who said, "I either pitch to clients or get my projects through word-of-mouth or references. I don't pursue much online pitching. The kind of content work I do, I generally meet the client, and we take it forward."
You can also sign up on freelance work websites like Fiverr.com, Upwork.com, Freelancer.com and Worknhire.com. But be sure to check each project thoroughly before committing; you don't want to be cheated, or worse yet, be underpaid.
What does it take to become a successful freelance writer in India? Pro tips on finding success as a freelance content writer
Stop treating freelancing as a second job
If you're serious about having a career as a freelance writer in India, you need to stop treating it as a second job or an alternate option. Figure out how much money you need to make to support your lifestyle and leave room for savings, and go out there and ask for that money.
If you're not making enough right now, hustle! Keep some time aside purely for networking and finding work daily. I remember a piece of advice a fellow freelancer friend gave me when I started freelancing full-time: "I started freelancing while I was staying in a posh area in Mumbai. Keeping my low income in mind, I moved to an area with cheaper houses. I think it was the biggest mistake I made. Don't ever downgrade your lifestyle to supplement your low income; rather hustle, find work and make sure you make enough money while you had a full-time job, or even more."
Know your value
Becoming a freelance writer in India might not always be one of the easiest tasks, but you need to know your value. No one will come up to you and offer you ₹10,000 for a project; you need to ask for it. Stop undervaluing your work, and ask for what your work is worth. You are spending a considerable amount of time and energy on this project, and it's your right to get reasonably paid for it.
Say NO to bad jobs
Not just underpaying jobs, but jobs that don't excite you. Sure, you may think that any work is better than no work, but trust me, it's not worth it. The amount of time you spend working on a crappy project could be spent looking for an awesome project that pays ten times what you are currently making as a freelance content writer.
Have money to fall back on
One of the biggest mistakes we all make is not having enough money to ride over in the no-projects months. It happens all the time. One day you have so much work that you're turning away clients, and the next, you have zero work, and no one returns your calls. It's best to keep aside a part of your income monthly to deal with the no-work-no-money days without falling prey to taking up bad projects or jobs.
Ask for a contract
It's best to ask the client to send across a contract so that you don't have to struggle with the issue of non-payment later. However, if a client refuses to issue a contract for freelancing work, put all the agreed-upon terms in an email. Apart from the basics like the names of the client and you, and details of the work, talk about the payment you agreed upon, the payment schedule (and the issue of late payment fees), the deadlines, cause of termination, and confidentiality.
Mark a senior person – business or HR head in the email so that if the person you are coordinating with leaves, you still can communicate with someone else – and wait for them to send a reply to the email before you start working.
Treat yourself like a business
No matter how many clients you have, you are working solely for yourself as a freelancer. So, include all expenses like transportation, buying software for your work, like Grammarly, and money spent on research – meetings, interviews, etc. – in your quotation.
Freelance writing frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Do freelance writers need a business license?
You do need any business or trade license to become a freelance writer in India. For more information on the legal aspects of freelancing, read this guide.
Can you make money as a freelance writer?
Yes, a freelance career provides you with opportunities to earn through your work. Read up more on this here.
How much do freelance writers make a year?
On average, freelance writers earn around ₹3.7 lakhs per year. You can read more about their monthly and hourly earnings here.
Can you become a freelance writer without a degree?
Yes, one can become a freelance writer without a degree or, at times, with a degree that is not necessarily aligned to the field of writing. You just need to love writing and know your grammar well!
Research credit: Devika Awasthi
Additional credits: Dimum Pertin, Kritiksha Sharma, Ashutosh Bharadwaj & Shayri Bhattachary