Freelance writing as a side gig is a popular idea and a simple prospect. Setting up a legitimate freelance writing business, however, is a little bit more of an endeavor.
It’s a process that may involve everything from developing a writing style, to winning over clients, to creating freelance writer business cards and a business website. But done properly, it can also be very rewarding work.
There is a lot of diligence and effort involved in building up a successful freelance writing business. But if you take advantage of the following tips and advice, you’ll have a good chance of making it happen.
Determine Your Skills
Before you actually attempt to set up a freelance writing business, you should take some time to do some self-assessment. This means determining whether or not you have the skills needed to succeed at freelance writing. These include, but are not limited to:
- Writing skills (good grammar, a strong vocabulary, the ability to express ideas clearly and succinctly….)
- Ability to meet deadlines
- Ability to take criticism & make adjustments
- Self-starting capability
- Comfort marketing yourself & communicating with clients
All of these skills will come into play in the course of running a freelance writing business. In fact, you’ll learn more about how they come into play as you continue reading below. But your first step should be to consider to what extent you possess these skills to begin with.
If you think you’re lacking in a given area, it’s okay! This doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful freelance writer, nor that you necessarily need to change course. Rather, it just means you’re aware of what you need to work on.
If you don’t feel you write well enough, try practicing with a private personal blog, or even a journal — and read work from other writers doing what you’d like to do.
If you don’t think you’re good at networking or seeking out clients, study up on some strategies and work on your general communication skills by being a little bit more sociable in your personal life. Whatever the specifics, these are skills you can work on, and which you should feel confident in before you set about starting your freelance writing business.
Set Up Your Freelance Writing Business Structure
If you’re confident you have the skills needed to succeed with full-time freelance writing, it’s time to give some thought to the structure of the business. This involves both tangible and intangible steps, including setting up your platform, defining your business, considering your areas of focus, and working out an outreach strategy.
In setting up your platform, you should focus on three specific things: a website, a suite of social media platforms, and a go-to bio or byline.
Your website doesn’t need to be particularly involved, but it can serve as a platform where clients can find you, where you can showcase some of your work, and where you can easily direct prospective new clients considering your services. Social platforms can be simple as well, but you should keep them active, sharing your work and thoughts and interacting with others relevant to your work.
And you should always have updated bios and bylines ready, so that you’re prepared to stamp them on any work you contribute, no matter where it may be.
You should also give some thought to the actual structure of your business. While not all freelance writing is necessarily ghost writing (indeed, much isn’t), one piece on setting up a ghost-writing business frames this decision as one between an LLC and a sole proprietorship, and this is a good way to think of a broader freelance writing business as well.
A sole proprietorship is maybe the easiest way to set up a business in the early going. But if you plan to grow, you may want to explore the tax benefits and liability protection an LLC provides. If you really set up a business, rather than just the occasional side writing gig, these structures can protect you financially and offer some tax breaks.
When you have your platforms and your structure set up, it’s time to turn your attention toward the work itself. This first means deciding on your area of focus. Are you going to write guest articles in a particular niche? Would you prefer to ghost-write eBooks?
Are you hoping to build your own site into your primary source of writing income? It’s okay if you have multiple focal points, but deciding on a few niches will help your business to define itself in the early going.
Figure Out Your Spending
When you have your internal structure and approach figured out, you need to address what is often the elephant in the room for any new business: spending.
While a freelance writing business is not typically among the more expensive entrepreneurial ventures you can take on, it is also a mistake to think you won’t have any overhead.
You should start out in general terms and figure out some ways to save startup costs in general. Some popular options in this regard include:
- Buying used equipment
- Keeping overhead low
- Avoiding unnecessary labor
- Tracking your time
Those strategies can apply to visually any startup venture, and if you keep them in mind you can make sure you aren’t spending more money than you need to. You can also ensure that you aren’t de-valuing your own time by putting in work disproportional to your pay. This is not a direct expense, but it hurts your business (and personal well-being) all the same.
You should also take some time to familiarize yourself with reasonable tax write-offs associated with your business. Again, you may get some tax breaks depending on how you structure your business in the first place.
But freelancers are also typically able to write off research materials, writing-related tools, and even in some cases, office space. You could read up on this matter carefully and perhaps consult a tax professional to make sure you’re getting as many breaks as you can. They ultimately amount to money saved for your business.
Find Your Clients
As you finally look to get started with your actual freelance writing business, your first, and perhaps most significant challenge will be finding your clients.
A lot of people who consider freelance writing as a business feel confident in the actual writing, but are less experienced with client contact and acquisition. But there are some steps you can take to make it more likely that you will begin to bring in steady freelance writing jobs.
The first step should be to acquaint yourself with job websites for freelancers. There are a lot of them out there, and while they vary in structure and success rate, many of them can be quite helpful. You can use these sites to keep up a steady stream of contact with potential clients, and ultimately land some of your earliest jobs.
Even if you hope to ultimately operate more independently, this can be a good way to build up some experience, references, and early income.
This is also where you should start making use of your social media platforms. Use them to follow any and all accounts that may be relevant to your business: writing platforms, other freelancers, early clients you’ve dealt with, and even people who work for sites you might want to write for.
Simply by doing this and maintaining activity, you may put yourself in a position to gain contacts and opportunities.
In the course of doing all of this, you should also make an effort to contribute broadly in the early stages. While it’s generally a bad idea to de-value yourself by writing for small platforms or low rates, there is something to be said for getting your byline visible in as many places as you can.
This is a simple matter of exposure. If you have articles on 50 sites in the first month, as opposed to 10, you’ll have 40 extra chances to spark new clients’ interest.
Lastly, as you do your early jobs and expose yourself as much as possible to potential clients, remember to update your own web platform as well. Check with clients to see if they’ll offer satisfied testimonials, or allow you to link to the work you’ve done for them.
Then, make these positive reviews and examples visible on your own website. This way, when your byline is seen, or someone looks at your freelance writing business cards or a link to your site through social media, there will be meaningful material there.
It can be the most efficient way to let potential new clients know that your business does quality work.
Develop Successful Habits
If you follow all of the tips and advice above, you’ll be well on your way to establishing a freelance writing business — at least from the standpoint of fundamentals. But of course it’s your actual writing that will largely determine how successful this venture is.
The good news is that aside from basic grammar and rules, there is no precise definition of “good freelance writing.” To be successful, you merely have to develop personal qualities and habits that make your work broadly appealing.
There is no exact blueprint for this. But if you let your own voice show, avoid careless errors, and read over your own work to ensure you aren’t falling into bad habits, you’ll be off to a good start.
And that, really, is the final piece of the puzzle. Mind you, all of this work is ongoing. You need to keep searching for clients, keep updating your platforms, and keep developing and improving your work for as long as you intend to stay in business.
But by paying close attention to these fundamental steps and building blocks, you’ll be able to set up the foundation for a thriving freelance writing business.
Keep the conversation going...
Over 10,000 of us are having daily conversations over in our free Facebook group and we'd love to see you there. Join us!