How To Start A Successful Freelance Writing Business
There are many reasons to blog besides making money. Some
people blog as a form of online journal. Other people blog to meet
new people, or to show their passion for a specific activity or product.
You will find some people who say it is improper—perhaps even
immoral to make money off of a blog. But any serious blogger knows
that the time, commitment, and monetary sources put into creating a
successful blog deserve some type of financial restitution.
Once a blogger decides they want to make money—the next
question is, how? While many people start their blogs to promote
their services or products, many other bloggers have no clear path to
monetization. Some blogs simply lack a solid business plan. To be
brutally honest, some blogs are nearly immune to a workable
The internet is full of people making huge claims. After all, that
is what usually draws the most attention. This post will not make
any such claims. Freelance writing is in many ways the least passive
of incomes. You will never make a “quick million” as a freelance
writer. It is a tough job—a job where you make money doing what
other people do not want to, or cannot do.
That said, how great would it be to make money writing? For someone
who is passionate about writing, there are few better feelings than
being paid to hone your craft.
Too often us writers focus on ivory tower ideas like becoming
the next great novelist. Freelance writing will likely not be a path
toward writing fame or glory. But you may be able to make a decent
living working for yourself as a freelance writer. If you want to keep
your day job—which I recommend when you are first starting out— (I
still keep my day-job), then with the tools in this post you should
be able to earn at least a low five-figure side-income. You have to be able
to hustle. You have to be willing to sell. And you have to be a
talented writer (ideally—no cruel comments about my writing, please!).
Although there are few barriers to entry, not
everyone will possess the talent to be paid for their words.
If you have the talent and drive, and if you are struggling to
otherwise make money off freelance writing, then this is the post for you.
This post will cover the basics of turning your blog into a
successful freelance business.
About this Post
This book has three specific sections. It was originally released on my old website as a free e-book. I no longer have my website, so I figured this would benefit the Experiglot crowd. I have tried to keep the
post minimalistic and short. Sometimes I will refer to this post as the “book” as it was once an e-book. Please just ignore that, although I have done some editing.
You should be able to read this in
half an hour to an hour. It’s only 4,000 words or about 20 pages.
The first section of the post defines freelance work and
describes the life of a freelance writer. It also provides some history
on freelance writing. This section asks if freelance writing is for you.
The second section of the post discusses the practical
considerations of starting a freelance business. What equipment and
supplies do you need? How do you find clients? How do you convert
your blog into a successful freelance career? Should you advertise?
What types of assignments do freelance writers take on? And how
focused should your niche be? These are some of the topics discussed
in section 2—which provides the nuts and bolts of a freelance writing
career and how to convert your blog into a successful freelance
The third and final section of this post provides an overview of
my freelance writing rules to live by. This section discusses some do’s
and don’ts that I have learned thus far as a freelance writer. This
section also explains how freelance writing is different from blogging.
Section I – Freelance Writing Overview
1. A (VERY) Brief History of Freelance Writing.
2. Can You Be a Freelance Writer?
3. Should You Be a Freelance Writer?
4. The Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer
5. What Can You Expect as a Freelance Writer?
Section 2 – Day-to Day Freelance Operations
6. What supplies and Equipment Do You Need?
7. How Much Should You Charge?
8. What Should Your Business Blog Say About You?
9. How Can You Convert Your Blog Into a Freelance
10. The Role of a Freelance Writer.
11. To Niche or Not to Niche.
12. The Business of Freelance.
Section 3 – The Do’s and Don’t of Freelance
13. The Do’s and Don’t of Freelance
SECTION I – FREELANCE WRITING OVERVIEW
Chapter 1: A (VERY) Brief History of Freelance Writing
Freelance writing has, in some way, shape or form, been around for
centuries—perhaps ever since there was written communication.
During the 19th century, many writers such as Charles Dickens
published their novels in sections in local newspapers, one chapter at
So, if anyone questions the life of a freelance writer, remember the
proud tradition that you are now attempting to become a part of.
Chapter 2: Can You Be a Freelance Writer?
To quote Bluto in Animal House, “Why not!” Freelance writing is an
easy field to enter. You just need to have one connection willing to
pay you to do their writing for them, and you’re already on your way
to a freelance writing business. To be successful as a freelance writer,
however, there are certain attributes or skills you should possess.
-Passionate about writing.
-Able to accept criticism. (My biggest weakness).
– Technologically savvy.
-Strong Business Sense.
Just because basically anyone can start a freelance writing business
doesn’t mean that they should. A low barrier of entry, unfortunately,
means that many people who are not serious about writing attempt to
enter the field. This makes it difficult for prospective clients to make
hiring decisions. It also negatively affects the pay scale… for
If you’re a successful blogger then you should have what it takes to be
a successful freelance writer. There is so much overlap between the
two that it is not even worth analyzing. That said, if you
have ever guest-posted for another site, then you know there is a
difference between writing for yourself and writing for someone else.
If you’re a blogger, however, then you can probably convert those
skills into a successful freelance writing business.
Chapter 3: Should You Be a Freelance Writer?
Can and should are, of course, two different things. It is difficult
finding clients in the beginning of a freelance writing career. I’ve never had this problem, but I read it is sometimes difficult getting
clients to pay the amount due. It can be difficult charging a high
enough salary to earn a decent living wage and have time to find a
work-life balance all the while writing quality posts handed in prior to
every deadline. Remember that your reputation is all you have as a
freelance writer…and in life.
If you can’t earn a sufficient salary through your freelance writing
endeavors then please, hold on to your day job. If you don’t have
anything to add, then please don’t write just to try and earn a buck.
You will give freelancers a bad name—even
if you have all the talent in the world. It is rare in life that we excel at
things we are not passionate about. If you can marry talent and
passion, then you may have something.
Chapter 4: The Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer
I maintain a busy schedule because I have a day-job that takes up 40-
65 hours per week. How do I accomplish this? It’s probably only because I don’t have any kids.
A lot of your scheduling depends on how efficiently and quickly you
Remember that just because you work 8 hours doesn’t mean you’re
going to bill for eight hours. You might end up billing for only one or
two. There are days where I will work five or six hours without
having a billable hour to show for it because I was marketing, etc.
Chapter 5: What Can You Expect as a Freelance Writer?
Expect even your personal blog’s writing to be more heavily criticized.
Expect clients who will be easy to work with and who will love your
work and then also anticipate clients who will not be so enamored. Expect
to have self-doubt and minor triumphs. Don’t expect to make it rich
as a freelance writer.
Do expect your writing to improve. Do expect to get a better feel for
small business management. Do expect to wish you could spend
more time simply writing rather than doing administrative or social
networking tasks. Expect the business side of freelance writing to
take up as much time as writing.
Expect to be upset. Expect to be happy. Expect the unexpected. That
is what freelance writing is like for me, and should you take on the
challenge, that’s probably what it will be like for you as well. Because freelance writing is my side-business, my experience is in some ways better and in other ways worse than the full-time freelancer.
Chapter 6: What Supplies and Equipment Do You Need?
The below list is assuming you are going to be a full-time freelance writer. It’s meant as a guide rather than a rule, the less you spend the quicker you’ll be able to turn a profit, and until you get a steady flow of clients it’s particularly important to minimize expenditures.
1. Computer – I prefer Mac laptops. ($500-$1,500) — Although
most people have a computer anyway. If you’re already a blogger
then you almost definitely already have a computer.
2. Office Supplies – pens, paper, stapler, staples, ink, etc. ($50-$150)
3. Printer. ($50-$200) (Again, most people already have a printer).
4. Scanner. ($50-$150)
5. Fax Machine. ($50-$150) (Note you can get all-in-one
6. Internet. ($10-$45 per month). (Unless you’re satisfied going to
the public library, a coffee shop, or stealing it from a neighbor (j/k).
7. Dedicated business telephone line. $10-$50 per month)
8. Books – I personally like to have a few books on writing,
copywriting, etc., and inspiration lying around in case I ever get
stuck—which is more often than I would care to admit. This can be
particularly helpful when brainstorming ideas for headlines. ($1-$100
9. Calendar – online and off-line is ideal– all those deadlines start to
blur together real fast without a calendar. ($0-$100).
10. Filing cabinet, files, etc. – I create a file for each client. I will add
to that file each client’s likes and dislikes, the date hired, who referred
me the client, how often I am to post, etc. I also make a 3×5 card with
the login information for each client. ($50-$300).
11. Office – When you’re just starting out a home-office is more than
ideal. Even most well-established freelance writers use a home office.
I love my home office. Just make sure you have a dedicated home
office where life will not interfere too often with work. Hint: Talk to
an accountant about possible tax benefits of a home office. ($0-
$1500 per month)
12. Insurance/tax information/legal formation information – Get
your experts in line and remember that you are the owner now–
nobody will be taking care of these things but you. ($100-$500, or
13. Invoicing – I just do my invoicing through Pay Pal. ($5-$40 per
14. Other software – logo design, Word, quickbooks, invoicing, email
marketing, some or all of these will be necessary with time. ($0-
15. Website/blog. ($10-$30 per month).
16. Business cards and stationary. ($25-$75).
If you have some or all of the above then you should be well on your
way to having everything you need to start a freelance writing
The great thing about starting a freelance writing business is that it
requires much less seed money than most other businesses.
SECTION II: DAY-TO-DAY FREELANCE OPERATIONS
Chapter 7 How much should you charge?
It seems like the standard price you’ll be able to command when
you’re first starting out as a freelance writer is $20-$25 per post. I
personally believe there are better ways to spend your time than
writing posts for $20-$25, but when you’re first starting out there might not be other options.
If you can use the experience, then perhaps you should take on a
lower-paying project; but otherwise, it may be more lucrative to focus
on press releases, sales letters, web copy, e-books, or my personal
favorite: pillar blog posts.
Beware some of these lines you are likely to hear from prospective
1) “We want a free post to see if you’re talented enough to hire.”
2) “We don’t pay much, but the work is consistent.” (oh great,
consistently poor-paying work).
3) “We’re a startup so we can’t pay much now, but later on……”
(later on we’ll be bankrupt and our business dissolved, more
times than not).
Remember that as a full-time freelance writer, it’s up to you to pay
your company’s overhead. That may include your own health
insurance or that of your family.
Remember that you will get stiffed on bills from time to time. If
you’re serious about this as a business then you’re going to have to
stand firm and seek out higher paying clients or admit it’s not a viable
business at this time.
Chapter 8: What Should Your Business’s Blog Say About
Your readers online won’t know if you’re a great person offline. They
will only be able to judge you by what your words say about you. So,
what are your words saying about you? Are your word choices sloppy
or your grammar filled with mistakes? That says something about
you. Grammar is the hardest thing for me as a freelance writer. It is
my Achilles heel, so to speak. That says something about me, and
when I am working for clients I make sure my wife double checks my
work and that I personally go over it four to five times. I read
grammar books constantly to try and improve. And I was an English
It would be nice if grammar and punctuation were everything, but there’s plenty more involved.
I take some solace in knowing that everyone who has ever called me
out on grammar has also made mistakes on their own site. But that is
little solace indeed.
Your online image, however, goes beyond fundamentals such as
grammar or writing technique. People will also infer who you are
based upon your writing. Do you come across as a snob or a jerk? Or
do you instead come across as a confident and intelligent person–and thus–as
someone you would want to hire and work with? This is as important
as your writing, and something I too need to spend more time
When you write, you have a voice, whether you think so or not. So
the best thing to do is: think of it….at all times.
Chapter 9: How Can You Convert Your Blog Into a
Freelance Writing Business
If you have a successful blog then you’re probably a talented writer.
You likely know how to write sophisticated sentences that have an air of
mystery, but are also informative. You have a great “writer’s voice.”
If you are complimented often (by people besides friends/family) on
your blog posts, then you’re probably a good writer.
The trick is to put the word out that you are willing to perform writing
services for other blogs. There are several ways to promote your
Write a great guest post. After the blog owner gives it the go ahead,
mention that you are available for freelance work.
Find Out Who Is Hiring/Cold-Emailing
Not all bloggers can afford to pay a talented freelance writer. I
can’t on my own blogs because I make most of my money by
writing. The bigger blogs generally do some freelance hiring.
Advertising is generally not that effective when you’re first starting
out, but perhaps this is something to consider if you ever look to
expand your shop.
Create A Separate Website
Letting the word out on your own website will never be as effective as
having your own freelance writing home. My website,
never brought in much business and I’ve now gotten rid of it entirely, but it did when I was taking on new clients
solidify my role as a legitimate freelance writer. If people are on the
fence then my site might have sealed the deal, even if it isn’t that great of an
independent lead generator.
Word of Mouth/Referrals
This is one of the basic techniques in almost any business. And still
one of the most effective.
Chapter 10: The Role of a Freelance Writer
Your role is simple: to make your clients happy. In my opinion it’s
also to try and steer your clients in the right direction if they are going
off-course. Ultimately, it’s up to you how you wish to run your business.
I also want to note here that you can’t be all things to all people. Try
and focus on a few things and become great at them. When I first
started I even offered to make logos as part of my business. Anyone
who saw my former site knows that while I can make logos, there are
much better options out there than me if you need that service. You
lose credibility for the services you truly excel at if you also attempt to
perform (or even offer) services that are not really in your realm of
Chapter 11- To Niche or Not to Niche
Although it may seem counterproductive or even against common
sense, it is better to “specialize” in 1-3 niches rather than to write
about everything. Although I’m open to writing across a widespectrum
of subjects, my clients tended to come to me for personal
finance. This helps generate like-minded referrals and
allows you to be the first person that springs to your client’s or
prospective client’s minds when the need arises for a writer in your
You may turn away some business in the beginning, but long-term
you should make more money by focusing on a niche. It goes without
saying that you can eventually command a larger fee if you become
entrenched in a niche.
Chapter 12 – The Business of Freelance
Never forget that freelance is a business. It may be your sole source
of income for your house. This means sometimes you have to put
your own projects on the backburner to make sure you help make
your client’s dreams come true.
Keep track of the jobs you perform so you can bill accordingly. Do
not allow yourself to “get stiffed.” Part of being a freelance writer is
sometimes taking on the role of collection expert. That’s just the
nature of the job. (Hint: make sure your collection practices are
inside the letter of the law).
I recommend seeking proper legal and/or accounting advice prior to
undertaking any business venture. You may be able to write off your
home-office. You may be able to deduct certain business expenses.
And you may be required to file certain paperwork with the state or
county prior to starting a business. Consider how you will deal with potential liability
and insurance issues.
Remember also that you will not receive health insurance or many other
benefits that traditional employees receive. You are a lone-wolf as a
freelance writer, and you may always be that way. Just because you
can work in your boxers doesn’t mean your job isn’t serious.
As stated throughout this section, freelance writing is a business. You
get into freelance writing because you love writing. But you put food
on your table through solid business practices. You need to make
sure you do you take proper business registration and tax
preparations. You need to make sure you keep track of your
invoicing. Again, sometimes you will play the never fun role of debt
collector. Don’t suffer fools and don’t be taken advantage of. If you
did the work then you deserve to get paid.
Again, because I can’t emphasize this enough, make sure you look
into the laws of your jurisdiction and/or speak with appropriate
experts (including an accountant or attorney) to see about your taxes
and business registration. In most states it is not overly expensive to
start a business. There are many different types of business
formations including sole proprietorships and limited liability
companies. An expert will be able to assist you in choosing the proper
form of business for your company.
It is great to get paid as a writer. Make sure you’re getting paid. Make
sure you pay attention to the business side of freelance writing as well
as the creative side. If you do that you will likely find your freelance
writing career to be more lucrative than you ever imagined.
Section III – THE DO’S AND DON’T OF FREELANCE
Chapter 13 – The Do’s and Don’t of Freelance
a) Do: Consider freelance writing.
b) Don’t: Try to be everything to everyone.
a) Do: Seek the assistance of an appropriate business professional
such as an accountant or an attorney.
b) Don’t: Assume your business is so small it doesn’t have to follow
a) Do: Demand a fair wage.
b) Don’t: Be afraid to ask for money you’re owed from clients.
a) Do: Initially consider almost any job.
b) Don’t: Take low paying jobs or jobs you’re not comfortable with.
a) Do: Fire your clients if it’s not working out.
b) Don’t: Be a jerk about it or burn bridges.
a) Do: Consider having your own website.
b) Don’t: Let it be an eyesore like mine was!
a) Do: Consider starting out part-time as a freelance writer.
b) Don’t: Let the freelance work interfere with your main source of
income or quit your job before you can afford to live off your
a) Do: Go after clients aggressively but respectfully, even when
you’re first starting out.
b)Don’t: lose hope if the clients trickle in at the beginning.
a) Do: Try and convert your blog into a freelance writing
b) Don’t take that advice if none of this seems appealing to you.
a) Do: Try and learn everything you can about blogging, writing,
and freelance work. I was helped by reading so many great blogs and websites such as the Financial Blogger, Problogger,
CopyBlogger and Daily Blog Tips.
b) Don’t: Rely upon only one source of information.
Hopefully you have found this e-book helpful as you consider starting
a freelance writing business. It won’t be easy when you are first
starting out, but if you can make the adjustments and find some
clients to develop a decent portfolio with, then with time you may
have to start turning clients away.
If you’re already a successful blogger, then along with this post the
transition should be easy. If not, just make sure you’re ready for a bit
of a learning curve. Anything worth doing is worth learning inside
and out, and doing it right.
Best of luck as you begin your freelance career!