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How to Start a Freelance Writing Business in 2022

Are you looking for a way to make money from home? Are you a talented writer? If so, starting a freelance writing business may be the perfect opportunity for you.

In this comprehensive guide on how to start a freelance writing business, we will walk you through everything you need to know in order to get started. We will discuss topics such as choosing your niche, setting up your website, finding clients, and more. So whether you are just getting started or you are looking for ways to improve your current business, this guide is for you.

Setting Up Your Freelance Writing Business: Step-By-Step

It’s possible to become a successful freelance writer and earn a full-time income for part-time work, without relying on content mills for assignments. It takes time to build a reputation and portfolio, but I am proof it can be done, even if you learn as you go as I did.

I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for nearly 15 years – working my way up from bidding sites earning pennies per word to working part-time while I build up this site and earning a full-time income. I earn an average of $4,000 a month from freelance writing, before taxes and expenses.

Choose Your Business Structure

The first step in starting any business is to choose the right structure. This step is especially important for freelance writers because it will determine how you are taxed, how much paperwork you have to do, and what your legal responsibilities are. There are three main types of business structures: sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common type of business structure. With a sole proprietorship, there is only one owner who has complete control over the business. This type of structure is easy to set up and requires very little paperwork. The downside of a sole proprietorship is that the owner is personally liable for all debts and losses incurred by the business. Your personal assets could be at risk if a client were to ever sue you.

I recommend starting as a sole proprietor if you’re still working full time with a writing side hustle. I went straight into become a full-time freelancer and building a freelance writing career out of necessity – I don’t drive because of my cerebral palsy – so working outside the home just wasn’t practical for me.

Partnership

A partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship, but there are two or more owners involved. Partnerships can be either general partnerships or limited partnerships. In a general partnership, all partners are equally liable for the debts and losses of the business. In a limited partnership, only one partner is liable while the other partners have limited liability.

Corporation

A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners. This means that the owners are not personally liable for the debts and losses of the business. Corporations also offer some tax advantages over other business structures. However, setting up a corporation can be costly and time-consuming.

Limited liability companies, or LLCs, are a compromise between a sole proprietorship and a corporation. They offer many benefits for small businesses, including protection from personal liability for business debts and lawsuits. They’re also more affordable than other types of corporations.

Find Your Niche

As a freelance writer, one of the first things you need to do is decide what type of writing you want to do. Do you want to write web content? Blog posts? Articles? Once you have decided on your niche, it will be easier to find clients who are looking for writers with your specific skill set.

One way to narrow down your options is to think about the topics that you are passionate about or have a lot of knowledge in. For example, if you are an avid traveler, you could specialize in travel writing. Or, if you are a pet owner, you could write pet-related articles. The sky is the limit when it comes to finding your niche.

I have a degree in web design, so I started studying search engine optimization, or SEO,(which will help you as a freelance writer regardless of niche) and ended up falling into online marketing and small business as my main niche. 

I have plenty of other interests, such as mental health and recovery, cooking/food, and health, but I find those gigs are harder for me to land, just because I don’t have the strong portfolio like I do with digital marketing.

Create Contracts for Clients

As a freelance writer, one of the most important aspects of your business will be client contracts. Contracts protect both you and your client and should outline the scope of work, payment terms, and any other relevant details. Creating contracts may seem daunting at first, but there are plenty of resources available to help you get started. Once you have a contract in place, be sure to review it with your client before beginning any work. This will help ensure that both parties are on the same page from the start, and can avoid any misunderstandings down the road.

Build a Website

Once you have decided on your niche, the next step is to set up your website. This is where potential clients will go to learn more about you and your services.

When creating your website, there are a few key things you should include:

  • A professional headshot
  • A list of your writing services
  • Your rates (it’s up to you if you want to publish those – I don’t because I customize them to the project – but it can help weed out people who aren’t willing to pay what you’re asking)
  • Samples of your work
  • Testimonials from past clients (if you have them)
  • An easy way for potential clients to contact you (e.g., an email address or contact form)

If you need help setting up your website, there are plenty of resources available online. Once your website is up and running, it’s time to start marketing your services.

Your online presence is important – I have a professional website that shows who I am, where I’ve been published, and how to get in touch with me. I do not maintain it or use any other social media profiles besides LinkedIn, though I do have a Facebook Page. 

Market Your Business

There are a number of ways to market your freelance writing business. Some of the most effective methods include:

  • Networking
  • Attending industry events or conferences
  • Participating in online communities or forums related to your niche
  • Cold pitching potential clients
  • Guest blogging
  • Creating social media accounts for your business

No matter which marketing strategies you choose, be sure to stay consistent and always put your best foot forward. First impressions are important, and you want potential clients to see you as a professional writer who is easy to work with. Over time, you can work your way up to higher-paying clients.

Pros of Starting a Freelance Writing Business

If you enjoy learning about new subjects and nerding out over your favorite thing, freelance writing could be an excellent fit for you. If you have your own freelance business, you’ll get to further research and develop ideas all about your favorite topics, from entertainment to health and medicine to autos. Other benefits include:

  • You can expand your services as you go to include multiple types of copy (sales copy, social media copy, web copy, blogging, ad copy, whitepapers) and services (social media scheduling, SEO strategy, web design). 
  • Employ other writers: It’s easy to practically grow your own writing agency. In busy times, you’ll want to hire subcontractors to help you write, edit, and prepare manuscripts for your clients, which means you’re able to keep your focus on prospecting.
  • Referral network opportunities: Many of your clients and opportunities will come to you via referral. For example, a web designer who isn’t a writer might recommend you to one of their clients, and you’ll do the same for them later.
  • No formal education needed: While an English degree or some certifications might help, you can teach yourself. Plus, you can get started on a HubSpot Inbound certification or a Google certification at no cost.
  • Easy to scale: Starting on the low end of the pay range and moving up is quite possible if you can snag retainer clients early on in your career. Get those anchor clients, then climb up to the ship to get sustainable work.
  • Learn the lingo: Like to learn stuff? Join the world of CTAs (calls to action), H2s (second-level headlines), and more. 
  • You improve as you go: Along with your rate, your skill improves as you go. Writing is one of those crafts that improves the more you do it, and your job will force you (and motivate you!) to stay in practice.

Cons of Starting a Freelance Writing Business

Like any freelancer, instead of one boss, you have many, which means it’s not always easy to please every client. However, it’s doable as you grow your business, refine your message, and meet clients that are the right fit for you. Here are some other drawbacks to starting your own freelance writing business:

  • The only constant is change: In the ever-evolving content writing business, the way of doing business changes. In addition to staying up on the latest trends and algorithm adjustments, you need to keep abreast of the latest niche trends (see cryptocurrency, cybersecurity, and medical marijuana) as well as outdated consumer demands—then sell to reflect what the customer wants, and what works. 
  • Proving ROI: Proving return on investment as a content writer can be challenging, as the best inbound marketing strategies take time. This means a hefty portfolio of existing retainer clients and conversion tracking.
  • Moving past the lowball: Agencies pay as little as 1 cent per word. If you’re a native English speaker with some structure and storytelling talent, you should be going for 8 cents per word or more—but you need to hunt for those clients yourself.
  • Feast or famine: Like any freelance business, you’ll have dry seasons and times when you’re very in demand. You need to create strategies to cope with the lean times. 

Freelance Writing Business: Startup Costs and Resources

If you already have your own computer, starting a freelance writing business is an attainable goal. You can do it for a few hundred bucks, most of which goes to the cost of running a business legally (as an LLC usually, in the US, though you can do it as a sole proprietor) and setting up your own website. We also recommend:

  • Tax tracking software: Get set up to track your income and expenses accordingly. Quickbooks Self Employed is a great place to start.
  • Prospect tracking software: We recommend Pipedrive to stay in contact with your prospects, and don’t forget to enhance your robust network on LinkedIn. 
  • Freelance Writing Gigs.com: Your free gateway to a consolidation of legitimate freelance writing opportunities.
  • ProBlogger.com: Another site with free job listings, though like FWG it is highly competitive.
  • HubSpot Inbound Certification: This free course will teach you how to write inbound marketing copy.
  • Second computer monitor: Lots of freelance writing projects require heavy referencing and research. It’s a big time saver to have a second monitor attached to your computer. You can buy a used one for $50 or less—and remember, it’s a business expense like everything else, and it gets deducted from your taxes like other legitimate expenses.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Start a Freelance Writing Business

Final Thoughts

Starting a freelance writing business can be rewarding and sustainable, but it takes work. If you expect to spend most of your day writing, think again—it’s just as much about prospecting and presenting your talent as it is about cranking out quality copy.  But if you’re ready for the challenge, the rewards are there for the taking.

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