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 guide to starting your freelance writing business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
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 startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
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.
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.
Who 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.
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.
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.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Freelance Writing Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your freelance writing business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
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.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
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.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
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.
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.
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.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for 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.
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.
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.
Start A Freelance Writing Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
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.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
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 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 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.
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Take the Next Step
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.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
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.
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.