Are you interested in starting a freelance writing business online? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a freelance writing business with NO money and NO experience.
Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample freelance writing business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample freelance writing service marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for freelance writing businesses. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a freelance writing business with no experience. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.
The world has gone really verbal than the 60s through to early 2000, which have created enough writing opportunities than what full time writers can handle. Hundreds of thousands of writing opportunities exist today. Making the most of them is where the art of the freelancer really comes into play.
What is a Freelance Writer?
A freelance writer is someone who writes without belonging to any single company or entity but acts like a small business or an independent contractor. Freelancing does not relate only to writing but also to issues such as web development, graphic designing, data analysis and many other fields.
It’s very possible to become either a full-time freelance writer earning a living, or to be a part-time freelancer supplementing a regular paid income. Another role is to simply do it for fun or to build up a broader portfolio of skills. In this article, you’ll get the basics on what it takes to ease your way into freelance writing as a career or to be put properly, turn your writing hobby into a career that doesn’t affect your day job.
What Does It Take to Start a Freelance Writing Business Successfully?
Be sure that you’re comfortable with writing, have a believe that it is a medium in which you can express yourself with ease and clarity, and that it is something you don’t mind doing almost every single day of your life without respite. If you don’t already have writing qualifications, consider doing a college degree in journalism or English, or taking a workshop so that you’re at least aware of the major requirements in writing, and the terminology used.
If you’re planning on making a career from writing freelance, you’ll need to have a good sense of responsibility toward your clients or employers and yourself. There are writing groups and freelance writer associations in many countries and it’s a good idea to belong to them so that you can meet other aspiring and established writers, get information and seek career advice, and establish your credentials as a writer. A quick search using search engines and social media should find organizations in your local area or country.
- Industry Overview
According to the 2012 Freelance Industry Report compiled primarily about North America freelancing, nearly half of freelancers do writing work, with 18% of freelancers listing writing as a primary skill, 10% editing/copy-editing, and 10% as copy-writing. 20% of freelancers listed their primary skills as design.
Next on the list was translating (8%), web development (5.5%), and marketing (4%). Elance, a web platform that connects freelancers with contractors, surveyed its members and 39% listed writing and editing as their main skill set.
- Interesting Statistics About the Freelance Writing Industry?
Depending on the industry, freelance work practices vary and have changed over time. In some industries such as consulting, freelancers may require clients to sign written contracts. While in journalism or writing, freelancers may work voluntarily without payment or do work “on spec” to build their reputations or a relationship with a publication. Some freelancers may provide written estimates of work and request deposits from clients.
Payment for freelance work also depends on industry, skills, and experience. Freelancers may charge by the day, hour, a piece rate, or on a per-project basis. Instead of a flat rate or fee, some freelancers have adopted a value-based pricing method based on the perceived value of the results to the client.
By custom, payment arrangements may be upfront, percentage upfront, or upon completion. For more complex projects, a contract may set a payment schedule based on milestones or outcomes. One of the drawbacks of freelancing is that there is no guaranteed payment, and the work can be highly precarious.
In writing and other artistic fields, “freelance” and its derivative terms are often reserved for workers who create works on their own initiative and then seek a publisher. They typically retain the copyright to their works and sell the rights to publishers in time-limited contracts. Traditionally, works would be submitted to publishers, where they would become part of the slush pile, and would either elicit an offer to buy (an “acceptance letter”) or a rejection slip.
The total number of freelance writers in the United States is inexact and based on estimation, as the most recent governmental report on independent contractors was published in 2005 by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2013, the Freelancers Union estimated that 1 in 3 workers in the United States were self-employed (approx. 42 million), with more than four million (43%) of those self-employed workers members of the creative class, a strata of work specifically associated with freelance industries, such as knowledge workers, technologists, professional writers, artists, entertainers, and media workers.
Starting a Freelance Writing Business – Market Research and Feasibility
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic component of those who need the services of a freelance writer spreads across the public sector, the organized private sector, and individuals from different strata of the society and from all walks of life but most importantly the publishing industry. Below is a list of the people and organizations that will need the service of a freelance writer;
- Television stations
- Radio stations
- Freelance Market space
- Consulting firms
- Private individuals
List of Niche ideas in the Freelance Writing Industry That You Can Specialize in
The freelance writing industry is not so very large, but it is large enough to have branches and niche. Here are still specializations in the field that can be considered;
- Ghost Writing
- Letter writing
- Speech writing
- Content writing
- Editing and Proofreading
- Report writing
- Technical writing
- Screen writing
- Lyrics writer
- Resume writing
- Biography writing.
The Level Of Competition in the Freelance Writing Industry
There’s always going to be competition. Some of it will be good for you, and some of it will be bad for you. Accept it as part of life. Just keep in mind that you’re in business because you feel you can do a better job; you can do it more efficiently; and you can do it with greater satisfaction to your customers than anyone else. Be aware of the competition, but don’t worry about it.
Just stick to your own business plan and you’ll be okay. Yes, other writers will be out there, putting up kick-ass writer websites and writing query letters and going to in-person networking events and sending in several Mails to potential clients and answering online job ads, and all that. If you spend all your time thinking about that, you are going to crawl into a hole, put a blanket over your head, and never come out. There is room in the multi-billion dollar world of freelancing for one little old you to carve out a living. If you want it, and go after it.
List of Well Known Brands in the Freelance Writing Industry
Apart from well-known freelance writing market spaces such as fiverr.com, elancer.com, freelancer.com, guru.com, and many more. There are also known names in the freelance writing business such as;
- Sean Platt
- Carol Tice
- Cameron Crowse
- Lynne Truss
- Ed Gandia
- Claire Piddock
- Richard pels
- Matt Walsh
- Squidoo by Seth Godin
- Onibalusi Bamidele of Writers-in-Charge.com
There are more graduates than ever entering an increasingly diminished job market. With opportunities in the arts and media as scarce as they’ve ever been, graduates have to be more creative in the ways they earn money and gain experience in their chosen field. Although for many, freelancing is synonymous with living in your pajamas and rejoicing you’re not stuck in a 9-5 job, this wears off pretty swiftly, usually around rent day. However, for those with a flair for the written word, freelance writing can be worthwhile.
Everyone’s path to getting freelance work is different, but as long as it leads to money in the bank, they’re all just as viable. When starting out, many people turn to websites such as Freelancer, Elance or oDesk where you can bid for work. These can be great for building experience and a portfolio while getting paid for it. Just make sure the employers are verified to avoid getting into a situation where you’ve spent hours on work for them to conveniently disappear.
Is the Freelance Writing Business Worth Starting from Scratch or is Buying a Franchise Better?
Personally, I don’t see the need for you to even consider buying a franchised operation. There’s just too much real help available for the “independent” to go to the considerable expense and obligation of a franchise. Starting from scratch, and as an independent, this is most assuredly a low-investment, low-overhead type business the kind we recommend for anyone and everyone who’s determined to make it on his own.
In this business, buy buying a franchise means signing on to a freelancing market place where you paid little amount of your income. But starting from scratch means you source for the jobs yourself and you don’t pay premium to any market place.
Both approach has its own pros and cons but based on experience, starting your own freelance writing business is more profitable and safe than franchising. Imagine one of the market place disappearing after you put in hundreds of hours working on your laptop thinking and writing.
Possible Threats and Challenges of Starting a Freelance Writing Business
Most freelance writers often earn less than their employed counterparts who work full-time. While most freelancers have at least ten years of experience prior to working independently, experienced freelancers do not always earn an income equal to that of full-time employment. Based on feedback from members, it soon becomes apparent that web portals such as Freelancer.com and other freelance market spaces tend to attract low paying clients even though always demanding for very high standards, paying ~$10 per hour or less.
Low-cost suppliers frequently offer to work at rates as low as $1–$2 per hour. Because most projects require bidding, professionals will not bid because they refuse to work at such rates. This has the effect of reducing the overall quality of the services provided.
One of the biggest challenge any freelance writer faces is finding clients. When many people hear about freelance writing, what come to their mind are those struggling to get jobs on freelancing portals like Elance.com and Guru.com. The thing about finding clients as a freelancer is the competition, and there really is no competition if you follow the right approach. Time can be one of the worst nightmares of a freelance writer, and it seems you just can’t ever get enough of it.
As a freelance writer you are paid based on your time and you also have other responsibilities fighting for your time. The problem becomes compounded if you’re an independent freelancer doing a lot of tasks outside your field such as coding your website, tweaking your themes, designing your graphics and things of that sort.
Starting a Freelance Writing Business With No Experience – LEGAL ASPECT
- Best Legal Entity to Use for a Freelance Writing Business
Choosing a legal entity for a business is a huge determinant of the size the business will grow into, so choosing the right entity is very straightforward especially if you decided to grow the business big in the long term. While many business owners remain as a sole proprietor, there are others who form a corporation or a Limited Liability Company (LLC).There are a number of tax and legal protections that you are afforded when you do so.
Therefore, check with a tax or legal professional on the benefits of the different types of business entities and whether you should consider having your business become such an entity. Most freelancers are sole proprietorship while some are into partnerships. You should thoroughly think about the legal entity before you dip yourself into the depth. You can also run a marketplace for hiring writers either virtually or on the internet. This can also be a very profitable venture.
- Catchy Business Name ideas for a Freelance Writing Business
Your freelance writing business name will be the first impression for your business. Whatever the name is, it must stick and be memorable. Consider the following names for your start-up;
- Boston Cover Letter
- Campus Circle
- Editorial Freelancers
- Enlighten Writing
- Freelance Now
- Garden Wall Publications
- Heavy Pen
- National Writers Union
- Norton Writing Services
- Paper Masters
- Pen Slingers
- Sweetland Freelance
- The Long Beach Writing Company
- The Los Angeles Writing Group
- The Pen
- The Type Writers
Best Insurance Policy Needed for a Freelance Writing Business
Purchase business insurance such as general liability, workers’ compensation if hiring employees, product insurance or home-based business insurance to protect business assets in the event of a lawsuit or settlement. Worker’s compensation insurance covers employee accident or injury while on the job.
You may also need to purchase a surety bond. A surety bond helps promote an honest relationship between business owner and customer. In the event of a lawsuit or settlement, the state may use the bond to pay for legal expenses.
- Intellectual Property Protection and Trademark
If you are considering starting your own freelance writing firm, then you should consider filing for intellectual property protection. Filing for intellectual property protection for your firm is not only limited to your company’s logo and other documents, and but also protecting of course the name of your company.
If you want to file for intellectual property protection and also register your trademark in the United States, then you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO. The final approval of your trademark is subjected to the review of attorneys as required by USPTO.
Is Professional Certification Needed to Start a Freelance Writing Business?
Certifications are not just for the employed because they can be equally beneficial for those that are self-employed, such as freelancers. The benefits of getting a certification can include enhanced knowledge, more clients, more authority in the field, and more income.
Some creative do not have certifications available to them. Certifications are generally not required by most clients, but some of them will prefer to hire certified professionals because they view them as being more qualified, higher skilled, and more reliable.
There are very few certifications available for writers and editors, but if you interested in getting a certification in this area this would be a good one to start with. Media Bistro is one of the most well respected educators for media professionals and they offer a number of programs related to copywriting and copyediting. The copyediting certification will improve your editing abilities, especially if you want to work for a media organization like a magazine, television station, or newspaper.
- List of Legal Documents You Need to Run a Freelance Writing Business
Register your business with the government. Laws vary by state. Talk to your local Department of Commerce and Department of Licensing to receive the forms that you need to establish your business and to learn if you need a license to do bookkeeping. You can notify the federal government of your business by applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can also create a business name for yourself and file a “Doing Business As” or “DBA” notice.
These are some of the basic legal document that you are expected to have in place if you want to start a freelance writing business in the United States of America;
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Business License
- Business Plan
- Non – disclosure Agreement
- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
- Employment Agreement (offer letters)
- Operating Agreement
- Company By laws
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Insurance Policy
Writing a Business Plan for your Freelance Writing Business
As an aspiring freelance writer, you must have heard quite a lot of humdrum involving business plans. The reason for that is that they are extremely important especially in a freelance writing business. Consider it a roadmap for your business, one that will show you where to go during which stages. For now, however, we’ll have a look at those initial figures you’ll need to get yourself going.
Now, setting up a business plan to help start a freelance writing business can be hard but isn’t rocket science and does not necessarily involve a business consultant’s input as you are a consultant on your own and would later have to write business plans and proposals for several start-up firms later. The key to any business plan is to make a list of those things you will be spending money on and how much you will be getting in.
You might wonder why you need to have a business plan. You already know what kind of services you could offer. All you need is to find your first client to start your freelancing business. If you need to do some marketing, you might say “I will think about it along the way”.
However, one of the most important management functions is planning. Without planning, you don’t know which way your business is going and you cannot measure your progress. A lot of small businesses fail because of poor planning.
Here is a list of items in your business plan to consider:
- Summary of Business Plan
- Management and Operating Plan
- Competitive Analysis
- Market Analysis and Marketing Plan
- Financial Plan
- Summary of Business Plan
In summary, you should include the legal structure of the business, internal and external management and your analysis of competitors and the market. Also, you need to summarize the financial situation of your practice. As a professional bookkeeper, you are a part of external management for your clients; however, as a business owner, you need to have external management as mentioned above.
Detailed Cost Analysis for Starting a Freelance Writing Business
The cost will depend on where you are starting business from either your home or an office, as you can choose to start on a small scale from your garage since it does not require a large space. If you are starting from home this will immediately cut down costs because there will be no office rent to pay.
- The Total Fee for incorporating the Business in United States of America – $750.
- The budget for permit and license – $1,500
- The Cost of Launching an official Website – $700
- Additional Expenditure (Business cards, Signage, Adverts and Promotions et al) – $2,500
- Business cards: If you want them, you can get a starter pack for around $25. So the price will range from $0-$25.
- Desk and chair: You can get a decent desk with chair for around $125: This makes the investment cost from $0-$125.
- Reference Material: It helps to have some books and magazines to learn the trade of writing and business. Assuming you start with two books in both topics at $15 per book, you’re looking at $60 for books.
- Insurance: Business liability insurance will help protect you if the client charges this back to you. Liability insurance prices are all over the map. You can get this between $270-$1500 per year.
- Computer: A decent laptop or even better desktop can run around $500. Since computers are so commonplace, odds are good you already have what you need to get started.
- Printer: A decent printer/copier/fax all-in-one can be had for $40. This is another item that you probably already own.
- Word Processor and Other Apps: There are lots of good choices for word processors. The standard for business is (arguably) Microsoft Word. The average is around $80. You can also get Word as part of the more expensive Office. Since this is a home office and a small business, you can probably get by with the home edition. The downloadable home edition runs around $115. There are other options that are free. For example, LibreOffice is a free Office suite. And don’t forget Google Drive! You just want professional-level features with formats that your clients prefer.
- Business plan: You can, and in my opinion should, write your business plan yourself. This is the kind of research and writing that freelance writers are going to be writing anyway. Writing it yourself helps you set your own goals for your business; helps you understand your business, and help you make decisions and plans. For this reason, I’m not including it in the cost. Your cost will be time.
- Advertising and Marketing: You can market your business with or without buying ads (both online and offline). Usually it’s best to start by doing legwork: hit the phones, send a million emails, post on social media, build your network, and make contacts, etc. Some like to visit tradeshows. I recommend spending more time than money at startup since you’ll have to build your network and make contacts anyway.
The total for Your Offline Workspace and Equipment to kick start your freelance business is within the range of $585 – $2680
- Financing your Freelance Writing Business
Beyond traditional financing, you have a range of options when it comes to raising money. Some suggestions:
i. Your own resources-: Do a thorough inventory of your assets. People generally have more assets than they immediately realize. This could include savings accounts, equity in real estate, retirement accounts, vehicles, recreation equipment, collections and other investments. You may opt to sell assets for cash or use them as collateral for a loan. Take a look, too, at your personal line of credit. Many a successful business has been started with credit cards.
ii. Friends and family: The next logical step after gathering your own resources is to approach friends and relatives who believe in you and want to help you succeed. Be cautious with these arrangements; no matter how close you are, present yourself professionally, put everything in writing, and be sure the individuals you approach can afford to take the risk of investing in your business. Never ask a friend or family member to invest or loan you money they can’t afford to lose.
iii. Partners: Using the “strength in numbers” principle, look around for someone who may want to team up with you in your venture. You may choose someone who has financial resources and wants to work side-by-side with you in the business. Or you may find someone who has money to invest but no interest in doing the actual work. Be sure to create a written partnership agreement that clearly defines your respective responsibilities and obligations.
iv. Government programs: Take advantage of the abundance of local, state and federal programs designed to support small businesses. Make your first stop the U.S. Small Business Administration; then investigate various other programs. Women, minorities and veterans should check out niche financing possibilities designed to help these groups get into business. The business section of your local library is a good place to begin your research.
Choosing the Best Location for your Freelance Writing Business
One of the hottest business trends today is to be home based, and freelance writing is ideal for this type of setup. After all, your customers will likely never come to your facility since all your work is done on their premises. But that’s not the only issue influencing your decision to operate from a home based office or a commercial location.
Many municipalities have ordinances that limit the nature and volume of commercial activities that can occur in residential areas. Some outright prohibit the establishment of home based businesses. Others may allow such enterprises but place restrictions regarding issues such as signage, traffic, employees, commercially marked vehicles and noise. Before you apply for your business license, find out what ordinances govern home based businesses; you may need to adjust your plan to be in compliance.
Starting a Freelance Writing Business – Technical & Manpower Details
Your manpower need as a writing firm depends on the scale at which you plan to operate, if you choose to operate on a small scale, you will only be the one running the business solely but if you choose to expand and go medium then you will need at least 4 more workers, anything above 4 employees means you are operating on a large scale.
Whichever scale you wish to operate will determine your manpower need and it is important for you to know that the business is not physical but very technical, it need creative and efficient people,
List of Equipment Needed to Start a Freelance Writing Business
Freelance writing does not entail so much equipment in running. Most of this equipment can be bought either new or fairly used; it’s just like a normal office that needs the following items;
- Functioning and fast computers
- Internet facilities
- Tables and chairs
- Filing cabinet
Starting a Freelance Writing Business – THE MARKETING PLAN
- Marketing ideas and Strategies for a Freelance Writing Business
Initially it is important to establish your credentials and build a portfolio. It may be simplest to begin by writing for small, non-paying publications and websites. By writing articles for smaller publications, you will gain experience, get known, and get a bunch of published articles with your name on them that you can use to show clients and employers. You need that portfolio for established publications to take you seriously and hire you. Visit your local library to get lists of publishers and ideas for whom to contact.
Submit a poem or story to a children’s magazine such as Owl if you’re a young person. If you’re a teenager, join your school’s yearbook committee and submit articles to the school newspaper. Regard this effort as good practice for your future freelance career.
If you’re a college or university student, craft strong, well-written essays for class that you might be able to later get published. You can also offer your services at the writing lab, and write articles for the student newspaper, literary magazine, and alumni magazine.
For an adult, start with reputable online sites that accept articles – make contact with the owners of sites and blogs that you admire and explain that you’re building up your portfolio and would like to write some pieces for free in return for your name being publicized. If you have your own blog or website, this can help you as you can include it as a backlink with your name.
Non-profits are also excellent places to find writing work. Donate your time and effort and get your work published in their newsletters and publications and use those as part of your portfolio. Turn your best articles into PDFs that can be easily emailed to potential employers or clients.
Possible Competitive Strategies for Winning Competitors in the Industry
Winning over competition in the freelance writing industry is an easy process if you follow the following steps;
a. Read your competition’s bio. If this particular freelance writer has 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies, and you focus on micro-business content for consumer magazines, move on. You already know their client list isn’t going to suit your needs. You need to find someone who is in your niche, or in a niche you want to occupy.
b. You should also check your competition’s portfolio and skim through their roster of clients periodically. This is a great way not only to find new clients, but also to figure out how big your market is. You might want to write exclusively about tennis, but may realize that all your competition works for the same three publications. With so few markets to choose from, it’s time branch out into other sports or industries.
c. You can also get enough ideas from competitors by reading through a few of your competitor’s clips to get an idea of what the client looks for. Many ideas can be gleaned from competition not just about new publications and ideas, but also about new markets. This is like getting into your competitors head as a clairvoyant to know what they are thinking.
d. Search for testimonials to see exactly why a client loved your competitor’s work. Every writer wants to get inside an editor or client’s head to deliver the best work possible. Testimonials can shed light on everything: how the editor loved your competitor’s fast-turn around, professionalism, ease to work with, wit or fresh ideas.
e. Review your competition’s list of services. Writers often moonlight as editors, fact-checkers or marketing consultants. Look at what publications or materials your competition edits to get new client ideas. But this step also reveals new types of services that you could charge for, like social media consulting, for instance.
Possible Ways to Increase Client Retention for your Freelance Writing Business
There are plenty of possibilities in both print media and online media. The difficulty will always be the competition, so you’ll need to keep your style sharp and interesting, your list of contacts detailed, and your motivation stoked. Keep improving your writing skills by reading widely, attending relevant talks and seminars, and staying up-to-date in the areas you’re writing about. This is especially important if you’re writing in areas that change rapidly, such as technology and fashion.
Update your portfolio every time you have an article published. Learn from your editor’s comments. Fix your grammar quirks, mend your heavy prose, and celebrate the fact that someone is giving you golden advice on how to improve your writing skills.
Strategies to Boost your Freelance Writing Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate identity
If you intend writing for a newspaper, send a query letter to the city/lifestyles/sports editor of your local newspaper asking if they’re interested in publishing an article on the topic. Include the first paragraph of your article and an outline of the rest. Call in two weeks if you don’t get a reply. Another approach is to send in a completed article for them to consider “on spec”. In this case, the editor will read it but doesn’t have to publish it.
If you are looking towards a magazine, newsletters, periodical or other major publication, be sure of something captivating you’d like to write about, then mail them a query letter to the editor of a pertinent major publication asking if they’re interested in publishing an article on the topic. Include the first paragraph of your article and an outline of the rest. Call in four to six weeks if you don’t get a reply.
With the surge and increase in the number of online platforms, check online job boards for columnists, bloggers, web content creators, and other writing jobs. Use a query letter approach in an email if it seems appropriate, or simply respond in a straightforward manner to the job’s description.
For guest blogging, make it clear you have read and enjoyed the blog in question and keep your suggestion short and sweet. Good blogs get and an overwhelming amount of requests and yours needs to stand out to make the blogger want to even read it.
For article sites, if they require you to apply to be an approved author, then do so and supply all the needed background information and proof of your qualifications. For those sites that don’t need anything more than joining, get on with it and join but don’t rely on these sites to make a living.
Creating a Distributors/Suppliers Network for your Freelance Writing Business
This can be coordinated solely by you or by joining and searching through freelance market places and blogs for writing jobs. As a service provider, you deal directly with your clients or editor and deliver directly to him. Any other link can result to the plagiarism of your work and you will be at the losing end.
Tips for Running a Freelance Writing Business Successfully
When you specialize in a particular industry or service, you are much more in control of your time, since you already know the ropes. It allows you to focus on being the best in your niche and provide high-quality services efficiently and profitably. It’s a win-win scenario. In reality, your business will naturally grow and change. You can always experiment with new service offerings. It’s perfectly acceptable to change your services (and clients) as you grow.
No matter how much you love writing; there will be occasional and odd writing jobs that you’ll hate doing. In this situation, you’ll need to learn the art of “just doing it” regardless of your feelings, your desire to procrastinate, and your temptation to rush through it.
You need to master pushing through the dislike barrier by treating it as the work that it is and looking forward to the more interesting writing coming up. Some freelance writers find it helps to maintain their own writing on the side, as a means for ensuring that at least something they’re writing remains a pure joy.
Founder / Publisher at Profitable Venture Magazine Ltd
Ajaero Tony Martins is an Entrepreneur, Real Estate Developer and Investor; with a passion for sharing his knowledge with budding entrepreneurs. He is the Executive Producer @JanellaTV and also doubles as the CEO, POJAS Properties Ltd.