How to Start Freelance Writing

Every experienced freelancer has their own list of tips and suggestions for new writers wanting to begin their freelance writing career. Many of these tips are achievable while others you may want to keep in the back of your mind for a rainy day. Regardless of which suggestions and approaches you try, you should always – I repeat, always – remember that you are working for yourself. Your commission, time investment, expenses, etc. are determined by you. You are responsible for all overhead costs, including personal expenses such as health insurance and taxes.

Keeping these things in mind, freelancing can be quite empowering and rewarding. As a freelancer, I have noticed that I feel more excited over landing a major contract or receiving a great client review than I ever did as an employee working at a J.O.B.

All of this said I wanted to share a few of my own, personal tips on how to start freelance writing.

1. Develop a Business Plan

Every successful business develops a business plan, and your freelance writing business should be no different. Include in your plan the various services that you want to offer, your hours of operation, your hourly or per-project fees, and any overhead costs that you may anticipate. Don’t forget to also factor the amount of money you will need to set aside for paying taxes and health insurance. Also, you should develop a marketing budget and factor these figures in as well. Here are a few things that I always consider when I evaluate my business plan every year. This list does not include everything that I consider, but it will give you a general idea.

·         My rate

·         Total monthly fees for products I may use to complete projects (such as Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox storage, Copyscape Premium, Basecamp Project Management Program, Grammarly, etc.)

·         Approximately how much time I spend, on average, on each writing project (of course, this is just an estimated figure since each project is different. The more experience you gain, the better you will become at estimating this figure.)

·         30% set aside for taxes

·         Average monthly advertising expenses

·         Website/domain fees

·         Additional expenses such as the cost of internet, electricity, etc. (Yes, you should consider this in your business plan and fee scale. After all, you can’t work online without electricity or the internet, can you?)

·         My skills, experience level, and relevant education

Each freelancer’s plans may vary slightly, but I would bet that nearly all freelancers take the above-mentioned things into consideration when developing their business plan. Personally, I evaluate my business plan every December while I’m evaluating my fee scale. Yearly evaluations of these two things help me better pinpoint what aspects of my yearly business I need to change or improve in order to provide my clients with the best quality possible at a rate that I can be happy with.

2. Determine Your Rate

This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the previous step, but it bears repeating and having its own sub-topic. When determining your rate, it is always wise to do your own research, especially if you’re new to writing for a living with no previous professional writing background (such as journalism). There are literally dozens of websites that will provide you with varying estimates on what you should charge for your freelance writing services. Some of my favorites are Writers Market and the Editorial Freelance Association. Freelancer’s Union is also another great source to explore and offers a wealth of information on virtually every aspect of freelancing.

3. Build Your Website or Online Portfolio

As a freelance writer, your portfolio is the key to unlocking your earning potential. Most buyers won’t even humor the idea of hiring a contractor if they do not provide some sort of sample pieces or examples of previous work, and those that do are generally more willing to pay peanuts for your work. If you really want to hit the ground running in this business venture and find higher paying clients who value your work, then you need to value your own work as well! Show off that awesome press release that you wrote for a previous client or guest blog post that got accepted on a high authority blog. Take pride in your work and accomplishments!

Of course, if you’re brand-spanking-new to the writing industry, you may not have any published work to show off. In this case, you should consider creating a blog yourself and use it to demonstrate to clients your level of skill and value.

4. Develop a Marketing Plan

Now that you have your business plan developed, have set your rate, and built your amazing website or online portfolio, you are now ready to start marketing your services to potential buyers! When it comes to marketing and advertising, each freelancer’s preferred methods may be different or achieve different levels of success. One thing that I have learned in my previous online business ventures is that there really is no set-in-stone method of advertising that will achieve the desired results 100-percent of the time. Marketing and advertising are fickle, fickle games because you simply do not know exactly what is going through the buyer’s mind at the exact moment that they see your advertisement. An advertising method that worked incredibly well for you 3-, 6-, or 12-months ago may not work as well now or in the future.

That said, there are two key areas that you need to consider when developing your marketing strategy. (1) Who is your target audience? (2) Do you want to provide your services locally, nationally, or internationally?

Answering these two questions will help you develop a marketing plan that works for your specific needs. Once you’ve figured out the answers, you can begin considering your advertising options. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

·         AdWords/PPC advertising

·         Learn the basics of SEO and begin a blog to help drive traffic

·         Word-of-Mouth advertising – the best form of advertising. You simply cannot beat having your clients recommending your services to other clients!

·         Distributing business cards, flyers, and brochures

·         Networking with other professionals

·         Write a guest blog and include your website URL in the bi-line

Of course, your marketing strategy may take a little time to really take flight and bring you enough business to live comfortably. If you’re a new freelancer, you may want to also market yourself online through various freelance job platforms such as Upwork, Guru, and Freelancer as well as keep your eyes peeled on other websites and job boards such as Craigslist or Indeed. Keep in mind, though, that many of the job platforms often have clients posting job “offers” for peanut pay, so filtering your searches and carefully evaluating each job and client on those platforms is crucial to your freelancing success.

Your Turn!

What tips would you offer to a new freelance writer looking to get their feet wet in this market? What marketing strategies have worked for you? What do you consider when developing or re-evaluating your business plan and rate schedule? Have another idea you want to share? Let’s hear it! Leave me a comment in the box below!