45 Terms You Must Know to Be a Successful Freelance Writer

There’s a lot to learn if you want to become a successful freelance writer. Jumping into this space can feel like a whole new world. You have to position yourself as a professional as you operate your business and clients have their own lingo that they expect you to know. 

Overwhelming, right? 

I’m here to give you a hand. These are some of the terms you should know if you’re a new freelance writer. This glossary will help you look like a pro, even if you haven’t picked up your first paying client yet. 

Ready to be a successful freelance writer? Get comfortable with these terms.


A/B Test

An A/B test is a way of comparing two different versions of something. A client may ask a writer to provide two titles for a blog post, or two subject lines for an email so they can test which one performs better. 

Article

Articles may be published in print or online. Articles may require more in-depth research and interviews than other forms of writing. 

Blog post 

A blog post is similar to an article, but writers design these posts to drive traffic to their own website or a clients’ website.

Byline 

A byline names you as the writer or author of a piece online or in a publication. 

Businesses to business (B2B) 

B2B companies are businesses that sell their product or services to other businesses. For example, a company that sells payroll software is B2B.

Business to customer (B2C)

B2C companies sell their products or services to customers. For example, loungewear companies are B2C.

Call to action (CTA)

A CTA inspires a reader to take action. Example: Click here to get your copy of our report. 

Case study 

A case study covers a customer’s journey with a product or service. This includes the challenge they were facing, the solution they chose and the results they got. Clients may ask writers to interview their customers as part of the case study writing process.

Clip

A clip, also known as a sample is an example of work that you can use to show clients as part of your freelance writing portfolio. 

Cold email 

A cold email or cold pitch is a message you send to a potential client that you don’t have a relationship with yet. This is a form of marketing that both new and established writers can use to get new clients.

Content management system (CMS)

A platform that clients use to manage their digital content. WordPress is the most common CMS. Clients may ask writers to upload the content they deliver to their company’s CMS.

Content marketing 

This is a form of marketing that attracts an audience with relevant, valuable and consistent content. Content marketing may include blog posts, case studies, e-books, infographics and more.

Content mill

A content mill is a platform where customers can order articles or posts for their website. Most freelance writers avoid these platforms because they typically don’t pay well. 

Copywriting 

This form of writing requires you to create advertising or promotional materials that sell a product or service. Copywriting includes writing things like websites, advertisements, brochures, landing pages and more. 

Deliverable 

A deliverable is a piece of work you will submit to your client. You should ensure that you agree on what deliverables you will provide before you start working with a client. 

Editorial calendar 

A schedule of the content that will be published on different channels. This may include the content that your client puts on their blog, posts on social media or sends in newsletters. 

Evergreen 

Evergreen content is always relevant. When a client asks a writer to create evergreen content, they’re asking you to craft a timeless piece. Something that will be useful to their audience today, months from now and in some cases, years from now.

Follow up

A message you send to stay in touch with potential clients or editors. Most commonly, writers send follow-ups if they don’t hear back after sending a cold email or pitching an idea. 

Ghostwriting

When a writer takes a project that is credited to another person. Writers charge more for these types of projects. 

Hook

This is the part of your writing that will draw people in and make them want to keep reading your work. 

Invoice 

A bill that a freelancer issues to their client for their work. This is the first step in collecting payment. 

Job board 

A website where freelance writers can find gigs they can apply to. 

Kill fee

A kill fee is an amount of money that a client pays if they don’t publish your work or cancel the project early. Writers should always include a kill fee as part of their contract. 

Keyword

A word or phrase that is the focus of a page. Clients may ask writers to include a specific keyword in a post to help it rank in search engines. 

Keyword stuffing 

Keyword stuffing is the practice of over-using a keyword in web content. This practice was once believed to help content rank higher in search engines. Today, it makes content look like spam and is frowned upon by clients and readers alike. 

Landing page

A page that is designed to capture the attention of web visitors. This page may direct people to fill out a form, download a piece of content, register for an event or subscribe to a newsletter. 

Lead magnet 

A piece of content that helps people collect leads. This is usually a free piece of content that a website offers in exchange for someone’s email address.

Meta description

A meta description is the summary of a web page. This description can be up to 155 characters and it shows up under the page’s title in search engines. Some clients will ask writers to include a meta description for the blog posts that they deliver.

Non-disclosure agreement (NDA)

A legal agreement between a client and a freelancer. This agreement is put in place to keep freelancers from sharing a client’s sensitive information or trade secrets. 

Newsletter

A form of marketing that allows people to connect with their audience and update them on important events. Most clients distribute newsletters via email. However, some still distribute them in print. 

Portfolio

A collection of your work samples or clips that you can showcase to clients.

Press release 

An official statement that is sent to the media to announce new information about a business, event or product.

Proposal 

A document that describes your product or service. Freelance writers typically send a proposal to potential clients after having a conversation with them in-person, over the phone or via email. 

Query letter

This is the message you send when you have an idea for an article on a website or in a publication. Often, writers pitch these ideas to the editor. 

Retainer 

An agreement between a freelancer and a client. In this type of agreement, the client typically pays in advance for a certain number of hours or deliverables each month. 

Return on investment (ROI)

The financial benefit from investing money. While successful freelance writers typically don’t (and shouldn’t) promise an ROI, they should understand how their work typically impacts a client’s bottom line. 

Revision

This is what a client may ask for if they want you to edit your work after you submit it.

Scope

This is the amount of work that is necessary to finish a project. You and your clients should agree on the scope of a project before you begin working.

Scope creep 

Changing or increasing requirements that are outside of the original scope for a project

Search engine optimization (SEO)

The process of optimizing web content so that it will rank in search engines.

Style guide 

A set of standards that a client may have for their written content. This can include their preferences for tone, formatting, grammar and more. 

Subject matter expert (SME)

A person who has authority in an industry or extensive knowledge on a particular topic. Clients may ask writers to seek or speak to subject matter experts as part of the research process. 

Target audience 

A particular group of people that you aim to reach with your writing. Clients will typically have a specific target audience that they want to market their product or service to. 

Warm email

The term warm email was coined by Ed Gandia. This is a highly-personalized email or pitch that freelancers send to a potential client. 

Whitepaper 

An authoritative, in-depth report that highlights a problem and provides the solution.

Are there more freelance writing terms that you think I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments. 

PSSST… 

Do you want to be a successful freelance writer? You’re in luck. I have a free e-course to teach you how to build a business from scratch. Inside, you’ll learn everything you need to know to launch your career and become a successful freelance writer. You can snag this course right now by heading to this page. See you there!

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