How to Start a Freelance Writing Business

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How to Start a Freelance Writing Business

Are you passionate about writing?  Maybe you’re working on the great American novel, but you need a way to make money in the meantime.  Why not start a freelance writing business to use your skills to make a living?

Business Overview

A freelance writing business writes various pieces for companies or individuals, including articles, blog posts, whitepapers, letters, and more.  Some specialize in writing about certain subjects such as business or fashion.

A freelance writing career is an ideal type of business because it provides time flexibility and deciding on what work to take on. Some writers focus on specific topics, niches, or target audiences, while others vary the topics they write on.

Industry Summary

According to Statista, there are 67.6 million freelancers of various types in the United States.  It is projected that the number will be 86.5 million by 2027, just over half the U.S. workforce.  It is difficult to estimate the total revenue for freelance writers because freelance writing businesses are small and private companies.

Industry Trends

The industry is growing due to people wanting job flexibility and because the demand for freelance writers is growing.  It is estimated that 48% of companies hired freelancers in 2018, and that number is steadily increasing.

Target Market

Your target market will be companies or individuals who need writing services, particularly in your chosen specialty.

Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Freelance Writing Business

There are several specific skills that you will need to open a freelance writing business.

  • Experience.  Experience writing in formats such as articles is valuable.  Knowledge of SEO is also very important.
  • Education.  A degree in journalism or your area of specialty will give you an advantage.
  • Business knowledge and experience.  You will need to have a basic understanding of marketing, finance/accounting, and human resources.
  • People skills. You’ll need to build rapport with your clients so that you retain them as customers and keep them coming back.

Costs to Start a Freelance Writing Business

The costs to start a freelance writing business is very inexpensive, and you probably already have what you need.

  • Setting up a business name and corporation costs – $0 – $500
  • Business cards, brochures, postcards for marketing $200 – $300
  • Website setup $100 –$200 for a basic, do it yourself website, $1000 – $2000 for a professional site
  • Reliable desktop or laptop computer $500 – $2,000
  • Strong internet connection – $30 – $50/month
  • Initial marketing such as Facebook ads or search engine optimization for your website $500 -$1000

Steps to Starting a Freelance writing business

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your freelance writing business should be to write a business plan.  The business plan will make you focus on some critical aspects of the company, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, your value proposition to use for marketing, and more. You’ll also need to do some research to calculate exactly what your startup expenses will be and what your ongoing expenses will be.

Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan if you need financing, but multiple studies have shown that having a good business plan increases the odds of starting a successful business. Writing the plan helps you think through all the aspects of the business and then serves as a guide as you begin.

How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2: Name the Business

Finding the perfect freelance writing business name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name.  Your name should make you stand out, reflect your brand, and tell potential customers exactly what you do.

Step 3: Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).  Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

RelatedComparison of Business Entities

Step 4: Select your Location

Most freelance writers run their business from home, however, it’s important to check city ordinances to ensure a home-occupation license isn’t required.

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

You may need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. Check with your state for specific license and permit requirements for your freelance writing business. Some other common local, state, and federal registrations a freelance writing business may need include a sales tax permit and an Employer Identification Number.  

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

Step 6: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the business.

Step 7: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

A freelance writing business will need to set aside a budget to cover marketing costs on a continuous basis. Common marketing techniques for a freelance writing business include social media marketing on platforms by creating a LinkedIn profile and Facebook. Also, sending potential clients to your website so they can see some writing samples is another great way to market freelance writing business.  Another way to build your website is to add your own blog posts to demonstrate your writing.

To get started, you can quickly find writing jobs on job boards like Upwork, Fiverr, and ProBlogger, where people and companies post freelance jobs.  After you build up a good reputation,  You will just need to set up a good profile and have an effective cover letter.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 8: Get Insurance

A freelance writing business needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.

Professional liability insurance protects you from claims of professional errors or negligence that result in a financial loss.

Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.

Insurance policies will vary. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.

Related: Common types of insurance a business may need

Step 9: Hiring Employees

You may need employees to help you run your freelance writing business.  Make sure that you select people with appropriate experience and training.

In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 10: Set up an Accounting System

Setting up an accounting system for your freelance writing business is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.

Related: Setting up accounting for your business

How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning a Freelance Writing Business?

Once you have established yourself, you can make anywhere from $15 – $40 per hour or more.  If you make $25 per hour and get enough business to work 40 hours per week, you will make $52,000 per year.

Things to Consider Before Starting a Freelance Writing Business

Running a freelance writing business or any business will have its challenges.  You need to be prepared and make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

Marketing and acquiring customers will be your biggest challenge and an ongoing expense.  Your best sources of finding clients will be LinkedIn and freelancer sites where jobs are posted.

You will face competition, so you need to be a great writer!

Some writing platforms take care of billing the customer, but some writers will work directly with clients. When working directly, the writer will have to send an invoice before getting paid. Many new freelance writers struggle with sending invoices on time (or forgetting to send them at all), so be sure to set up a system to make sure and get paid for all of the work you did.

Talk to other small business owners and other freelance writers on Facebook groups for tips on starting a business and lessons learned to help you become a successful freelance writer faster than learning these lessons the hard way.

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