Technically, you don’t need to spend a dime to find work as a freelance writer. If you have a computer, internet access, and at least one hand (or dictation software), you should be able to find work. However, there are also hidden costs you may not have considered, such as setting up a portfolio.
In some cases, spending a little extra money can help you to deliver better work or look more professional to clients. It’s all a matter of balancing costs and figuring out if you can afford some of those extras.
For this article, we’ll break down the hidden costs of finding work as a freelance writer. We’ll talk about portfolios, freelance platforms, and more. Let’s get right to it!
How Much It Costs to Set Up a Portfolio
If you read this blog before, you know you need a portfolio. There are a lot of ways you can set up one for free. For example, you can use free Github Pages to set up a static portfolio or use a platform such as ClearVoice:
In either case, you don’t need to spend a cent. However, you will need to write and publish enough content so there’s something to see in your portfolio.
The free approach works, but if you can swing it, setting up a website of your own affords you a lot more choices. You can style your portfolio any way you want, link and publish articles without limitations, and much more:
To do that, though, you’ll need to spend a little money. Let’s break down the costs associated with setting up a website:
- Domain: A .com domain will cost you around $10 per year.
- Hosting: You can find fantastic hosting plans starting at less than $5 per month (we recommend using Bluehost).
That’s pretty much it. If you use WordPress to set up your portfolio, you don’t need to pay for any extras, unless you want to use fancy themes and plugins (which you don’t need to).
You can always spend more on a website, but a portfolio doesn’t need to be a massive project. It needs to look professional and you need to keep it up to date – that’s it. Plus, the whole point of a portfolio is to help you find clients, so it pretty much pays for itself.
Do You Need to Pay for a Professional Email Address?
I have a professional email address, but I’ll be honest, I never use it. I’m already juggling multiple accounts, so I like to keep all my work confined to a couple of emails, both using Gmail.
In my experience, no client will blink twice at you for using free email. Personally, I will judge you if you have a Hotmail or AOL account, but that’s just me (shame on you, though).
If you’re going to stick with a free email for freelance writing work, there are two quick rules to abide by:
- Make it sound professional and preferably use your name.
- Set up an account that’s just for business, to avoid confusion.
For freelancers, that’s pretty much it. On the other hand, if you want to operate under a business name, then you should get a professional email address. It’s a silly thing, I know, but a lot of people will judge a business if they use a free email account.
To get a custom email address, you’ll need a domain and email hosting. If you already have your own portfolio site, then the domain part of the equation is ready.
Email hosting by itself can be pretty cheap. You can find plans for as little as $2.75 a month:
If you’re just starting off as a freelance writer, don’t worry too much about this. Stick with firstname.lastname@example.org until you can upgrade to email@example.com and no one will bat an eye.
Should You Pay for Freelance Job Platform Subscriptions?
Most freelancers start by looking for work on platforms such as Upwork because that’s where most of the action is. By most of the action, though, I mean the worst-paid jobs:
You can find great gigs on freelance platforms, but they’re usually not the norm. In most cases, unless you’re a very well-reviewed freelancer, competing on those platforms is an uphill battle.
Most of the platforms require you to pay a nominal fee to submit applications for new jobs. Despite being low, those fees can add up and for most people, and those expenses don’t always pay off in the long term.
Quick note: You can get some mileage out of Upwork if you use it as a secondary source for jobs and set a clear budget for connects each month.
The best places to find freelance writing gigs, bar none, are job boards. In most cases, you can find more than enough work to keep you busy and well-paid in the free boards.
If you spend time in freelance writing circles, then you’ll eventually run into private job boards. Those usually require a subscription and, in exchange, they filter jobs for you. Private job boards can be worth it if you don’t have the time to sort through dozens of websites on your own, but they’re by no means a necessary expense.
To sum it up, you shouldn’t need to pay to find freelance writing work. It all boils down to how persistent you are and how often you check public job boards and writing groups. The work is there, you just have to wow potential clients more than your peers.
In a nutshell, you don’t need to spend any money to find freelance writing work. You can use platforms such as Upwork to find work, but in my experience, the best offers for freelance writers aren’t behind paywalls – they’re on job boards.
As far as your portfolio goes, you can start off using a free platform and then build your own later, which doesn’t cost that much. With a domain and hosting, you’ll also be able to use a professional email, which adds a nice touch but it’s not a deal-breaker for most clients.
Do you have any questions about how to find work as a freelance writer? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.