Start a freelance writing business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your freelance writing business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the initial costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you. Skip on ahead to the Business Overview for more detailed answers to all your questions.
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your freelance writing business is sued. Consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand.
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Freelance writers generate written content about a variety of topics for readers of websites, newspapers, journals, magazines, books, and other publications.
Who is this business right for?
This business is right for an individual who has an affinity for the written word and language in general. If you are a voracious reader, enjoy expressing yourself, and have a way with words, you should give consideration to working as a freelance writer. This line of work is also ideal for those who enjoy autonomy. The typical freelance writer does not have to deal with an overbearing boss. However, freelance writers must meet tight deadlines, satisfy clients' nuanced demands, and create captivating content.
What happens during a typical day at a freelance writing business?
This individual reviews assignments for acceptance or rejection. He researches subject matter for the assignments he accepts. Freelance writers craft intriguing and informative content based on their research, personal opinions, existing knowledge, interviews, and other sources of information. Part of the day is spent interacting with clients. Another portion of the day is spent deep in thought, brainstorming content that will appeal to readers. Freelance writers are also tasked with finding new clients and searching out online platforms for writing opportunities. Most of the day is spent writing.
What is the target market?
The ideal client type is an organization that requires a steady stream of written content. Examples of such clients include online content mills, newspapers, magazines, and owners of small to medium-sized businesses who need online content optimized for search engines.
How does a freelance writing business make money?
Freelance writers make money by charging clients for the creation of content. The price of a piece is usually based on cents per word. Alternatively, it is possible to charge a client a specific price for an individual project regardless of its length.
What is the growth potential for a freelance writing business?
This business has plenty of upward momentum. Freelance writers who specialize in producing online content have the opportunity to grow their business quite rapidly. As time progresses, people are consuming more and more web-based news, editorials, reviews, and other online material. Yet, there are also opportunities for traditional freelance writers who create offline content for newspapers, magazines, journals, scripts, books, etc. If you have an expansive vocabulary, a unique tone of voice, and a willingness to work hard, your freelance writing business will grow quite rapidly.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful freelance writing business?
You should have an expansive knowledge base that empowers you to write insightful content about all different subjects without performing time-consuming research. However, some topics will require a considerable amount of research. If you are an excellent web sleuth who enjoys uncovering information, whittling it down to what matters the most and subsequently crafting completely unique content, you will thrive as a freelance writer. You should also have excellent time management skills as this is a deadline-based business. A formal degree in English or writing can help you gain the skills necessary to succeed at being a freelance writer; however, you can also take classes online or at a local community college if you are looking for a more affordable, less time-consuming writing education.
It will also help to type at a fast rate of speed. The best freelance writers are able to express themselves in an efficient manner. These professionals typically type between 80 and 100 words per minute. As with writing, there are many affordable online options for training your typing skills. The bottom line is that you will be paid according to the quality and quantity of your output.
What are the costs involved in opening a freelance writing business?
You must have a computer, a high-speed internet connection, a desk, and possibly a printer. A laptop, depending on the brand you choose and the word processing software that you use, purchasing a computer can cost up to around $1,500. Wireless internet connect costs an average of $50/month, but the cost can be significantly higher or lower depending on the wifi provider that you use and the speed of the connection that you desire. A desk and a printer are both optional purchases that can be bought at your preference.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a freelance writing business?
Establish a presence on multiple online content platforms. This way, if one platform lacks a steady flow of work, you can secure new writing projects on the other platforms. Get a set of business cards to pass out to those you meet. All sorts of businesses can benefit from an alliance with a freelance writer. The online content you produce for a new friend's blog, social media page, website homepage, or print publication just might end up paying a portion of your monthly rent. Establish as many relationships as possible. You never know if a friend, colleague, or other acquaintance will befriend someone who requires the services of a freelance writer. The quality of your work is of critical importance. Focus on generating high-quality pieces and submitting them by the deadline. A track record of successful pieces submitted in a timely fashion will convince clients that you are worthy of subsequent projects.
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Growing Your Business
How to promote & market a freelance writing business
Press the flesh with local business owners and managers as well as those who are involved with local newspapers, magazines and other publications. Pass out your business cards to these individuals. Offer to write an initial piece at a reduced rate to prove your merit as a content creation specialist. If you work for online content mills, be sure to fill out your profile from beginning to end. Many of these profiles can be searched by clients who are on the prowl for new writers with specific talents, interests, and specialties. It will also help to establish social media accounts where you can post links to your published pieces. A friend in your social media circle just might pass on your link to someone who requires online or offline content for his business, website, or other endeavor.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
Take every opportunity to show potential clients examples of your work. Build profiles on social media platforms, online content mills, and other online venues to show off your writing prowess. Retaining customers is as simple as generating thoughtful content that is free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Be sure to submit each piece before the deadline to keep your clients happy.
How and when to build a team
There is no need to build a team unless you are so successful that you become overloaded with work. Though it is possible to outsource writing projects to others, it is not advisable. The bottom line is that your name is attached to your submissions. If you outsource the work and the writing is low in quality, you probably won't receive repeat business from the client.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a freelance writing business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
How much can you charge customers?
You can charge a wide range of prices per word or project. The exact price hinges on the client's budget, the nature of the piece, your experience level and your desire to write about the project in question. In general, a 1,000 word article will pay between $25 and $175.
What are the ongoing expenses for a freelance writing business?
Writers must pay for high-speed internet. This costs between $30 and $60 per month. Computer maintenance, repairs and replacement are also necessary. Budget at least $50 per month for these expenses. Ink for a printer will likely cost $20 to $50, depending on how frequently it is used. Certain online content mills force writers to pay fees to obtain access to clients. If you take this route, you will spend between $10 and $50 or more per month to gain access to clients.
How much profit can a freelance writing business make?
A freelance writer can make upwards of $20,000 or more in his first year. Stick with the business and you can earn $30,000 or more in subsequent years. Continue to add clients and you might reach the $50,000 mark or higher after several years of hard work.
How can you make your business more profitable?
If you work for an online content mill that gives clients the option of rejecting pieces, do not delete those articles. There are other online content mills where you can post such rejected articles for purchase. Some busy freelance writers decide to outsource certain projects to other writers and skim a percentage of the pay off the top as a “finder's fee” of sorts.