I’ve been getting many questions from my readers and subscribers about setting up freelance writing business as a beginner. Several specific questions involved the topic of freelance writing for beginners. They basically wanted a resource that would guide them from the beginning stages of starting a freelance writing business until the end product of being an established freelance writer.
I hope that after reading this in-depth guide, you will know what to do and how to do it.
I started writing, and I could not stop. Honestly, I thought about making this into a course or an e-book due to the sheer volume, but I decided against it. Instead, I had to split the post into 2 or 3 parts. Even then it’s pretty lengthy. I hope you find all the information included here useful.
Affiliate links: due to the nature of this post, I am going to talk about several products and make recommendations. I will have affiliate links included in this post. This means that should you purchase anything through my links, I will get a small commission at no expense to you. All the products included in this post I either use personally and love them or have gotten glowing recommendations from other professionals. I do not recommend any product that I do not love. Establishing trust and credibility with my readers is more important to me than earning a few dollars here and there.
Freelance writing’s definition is self-explanatory. Essentially, freelance writing is any type of writing for other people while not being in their employ that you do for pay.
Carol Tice defined freelance writing as “any sort of writing assignment that you do for pay, outside of a staff position.” Yet another definition for freelance writer is “A writer who works on a self-employed basis.”
In a nutshell, freelance writing is when you write for others for pay, but you’re your own boss. It sounds liberating and awesome to not have another person managing you. However, you have to take this seriously to succeed. Otherwise you will be stuck doing a few written projects here and there, and will quit due to lack of planning.
The short answer to this is YES. Freelance writing can be very profitable if you follow certain steps. You need to understand from the beginning, before you even get your first client, that freelance writing is a business. This means that if you treat it as a business, set it up properly, have the necessary tools to run it successfully, then there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make income from it.
Unless you can’t write, of course. But then again, you want to be a freelance writer, so chances are you’re at least an average writer. You don’t need to be an excellent writer to make it in freelance writing. Writing well definitely helps and gives you confidence. However, it’s not necessary. As long as you know how to write coherently, and have the ability to get better with some practice, that’s all you need.
As far as whether you will make income and how much, really depends on you. It all comes back how much effort your put into your business. Read my post regarding my earnings from freelance writing in my first 30 days. There are many freelance writers who get their main income from freelance writing. It takes times time, patience and tenacity to get to that stage, but it’s definitely possible.
Certain steps must be taken by beginners who wish to enter into the freelance writing business. I talked about this in my post How to Start a Career as a Freelance Writer. Read that post as a good starting point for yourself, and a quick overview of what needs to be done.
Before I even begin to talk about what needs to be done, you need to figure out what type of business you want to have. As mentioned, freelance writing is a business. Just like with any business, you need to figure out what type of business formation you want to have. If you want it to be sole proprietorship or individual, then you don’t need to file any paperwork, other than your tax documents when the time comes.
However, if you intend for your business to be a corporation or an LLC, then you need to file some documents, called Articles of of Incorporation or Formation. Each business form has characteristics specific to it. Some of them limit your liability in case anyone ever sues your business, and other have different tax implications. I am not going to go into detail about the different business forms. However, you should do your research before you start and figure out how you want to move forward.
Many freelancers choose to be sole proprietorships, or what is known as individual businesses. You can, of course, decide to change your formation type at any point. However, it becomes more complicated when you do it after operation, rather than from the beginning.
If you’re familiar at all with blogging or freelance writing, then you’ve probably heard the term “niche.” In case you’re not familiar with the term, it means a specialty, a concentration in a certain topic.
Generally speaking, industry leaders and experts always recommend that you niche down and write on a particular subject, instead of being a generalist. It makes sense to niche down. Think about it. If you needed to get a heart surgery, would you go to a cardiac surgeon, who only operates on hearts, or would you go to a general surgeon who maybe does a few heart surgeries throughout the year. Obviously you’ll want the person who has the most experience in that particular field.
The same is true for freelance writers. You can, of course, write about many different topics if you’re getting paid. however, it will serve you in the long run to establish yourself as an authority figure in your field. This means you need to pick a niche, and learn as much as possible about it. Your clients need to see you as an expert or an authority figure in your field.
Moreover, niching down has positive outcomes for your wallet. Writers who are considered experts and authority figures in their particular fields can command and get paid higher rates.
As a beginner freelance writer, you can start writing about general topics, until you figure out your niche. There is nothing wrong with this route. However, you can also select your niche from the beginning and work toward establishing credibility and authority with your clients.
Some writers have difficulty with niching down, and selecting a particular specialty for basing their freelance writing on. To help you niche down, I created a worksheet to lead you through the steps of selecting your niche. Click on the button below to access your free worksheet.
Above we talked about business formation. So once you figure out what type of business you want to have, you can now go ahead and open up your bank account. Since we agreed that you’re going to treat your freelance writing as the business that it is, this means a separate bank account.
You might be wondering if you can use your own personal account for this. Technically yes, you can if your business is formed as a sole proprietorship or individual business. If it’s formed as a corporation or Limited Liability Company (LLC), then you must absolutely get a separate checking account under your business’s name. I, however, recommend getting a separate account regardless whether your business is a corporation or sole proprietorship.
Opening a separate bank account for your freelance writing has a few advantages, aside from the fact that in some cases you’re legally obligated to do that. One advantage is that you know exactly how much you made, who paid and and how much. When it’s mixed up with your personal account, it’s hard to see which amount comes from a client. This makes accounting a nightmare. Another added benefit of a separate account is related to the last point. Your life will be a lot easier come tax season.
Even before you start pitching, and working on your portfolio, you need to set up an invoicing and accounting system. You need a system that is easy, has all the necessary features to make the process as smooth as possible between you and your client.
You need a way of accepting credit cards, direct bank transfers, etc. Moreover, your invoicing and accounting system should allow you to customize your invoices with your logo and colors, have an easy delivery system, have time tracking capability, projects or tasks section where you can track different projects for different clients. Also, a way to follow up with your client directly from the software. I prefer to have a cloud based program because I don’t want to be limited to using my program from a particular computer only. When it’s cloud based, you can access it from any smart device anytime.
My favorite accounting and invoicing software that I use is FreshBooks. This software is robust and full of all the features you can possibly need. Use my affiliate link to get 1 month of free trial (no credit card required). This software is literally made to simplify your life. FreshBooks is being used by majority of self-employed entrepreneurs and small businesses. The software is super simple to understand, and does not require any specialized knowledge. Plus the support system is great if you have any questions for them.
I recommend starting with the Plus plan, as it allows you to grow into your clients, and you won’t have to worry about upgrading anytime soon. However, if you want to save some money initially, then you can absolutely start with the Lite, then upgrade once you have more than 5 clients.
The reason why I recommend setting up an an invoicing and accounting system even before you have any clients is because you don’t want to struggle to find a program when you do get a client. You want to have everything set up and ready to go. As soon as you get a client, you want to be able to send them an invoice. It looks professional. When you’re being a professional, it creates confidence in your client toward your abilities.
Your freelance writing business name is important because it’s the first piece of information your reader has of you. Your business name either has to be something that is creative, hints at what your business is about, or it’s your personal brand-meaning your name.
Creative names are great, and there are a few out there that really impress me. For example, I love Jorden’s Creative Revolt, Copyblogger. Another favorite of mine is Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers. However, the problem with creative names, especially when it comes to beginner freelance writers, is that they don’t have a direction yet. Therefore, some of the names they come up with is almost too creative. You have to make sure that the name at least somehow hints at what your business is about. You don’t want to have the type of name that says nothing about your service. This is a great way to get overlooked in searches.
One other method is to create a personal brand. This means having your name on your business. Many people do it, and it works wonderfully well for them, for example Elna Cain, Neil Patel, and Heidi Cohen. Personal brands are great because they are not limiting. If you want to venture into an additional niche later on, or add a service to your site, you can do that without any issues because your business name is not connected to anything particular.
However, not all the names are suited to being used as business names. The point and purpose of the business name is for it to be catchy, easy to remember, easy to spell to avoid mistakes and no shows. If you have a short and sweet name, that’s easy to remember, that’s great! Go ahead and and create your business name. However, if your name is long, and difficult to spell, like mine (Mariam Tsaturyan), then maybe it’s not the best idea to have your name as your business name because you will lose a lot of valuable traffic due to people not being able to remember how to spell or even pronounce your name.
Once you figure out what name you want for your freelance writing, it’s time to get your domain with that name. Due to the sheer volume of existing domain names today, your preferred domain name might not be available. Keep in mind that when you’re starting out, you should try to gt a domain name ending with “.com”. These domains are easier to remember, and generally majority of people searching online are used to .com endings.
There are many others, of course, such as .net, .biz, .org, .co, .tech, .blog, etc. As a general good practice, however, it’s advisable that you get a .com. You might have to tweak your business name just a little for domain name purposes if the exact one you’re looking for is not available. For example, you can add “writes”, “creates”, “journals” to your business name, or some other noun/verb that makes sense (Example: yournamewrites.com).
Domain names are generally affordable to get, unless you want something short and catchy, that already belongs to someone else. You can usually try to buy domain names from other people or companies, but more often than not it will cost you. For example, Facebook allegedly paid $200,000 for Facebook.com.
For domain registration, there are many available options out there. I have personally bought several domains from Namecheap and I am very satisfied. For most domains you can expect to pay less than $10/year. This is good math for me. Namecheap also offers hosting. However, I only get my domains with them. I haven’t hosted my site on their platform, so I can’t honestly say whether they are good or not. However, for getting your domain name they are excellent.
The main purpose of this post is to help beginner freelance writers to set up their businesses the right way. However, I also included a lot of information here about starting a website. I believe having a website/blog is essential for a freelance writer to be successful and reach new heights.
For that reason this post does go into detail about starting a website, picking a domain name, registering it, hosting and website themes that would best work for freelance writing purposes.
Due to the length of the post, I divided it into sections. You will get the information in connection to hosting and best themes, as well as more steps connected with setting up freelance writing business for beginners. I hope you find value in this detailed guide because this is the exact model I followed and still do for myself, and it’s been successful.
If you do have any questions or comments, please go ahead and let me know in the comments.
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