This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can find my full disclosure page here.
Do you enjoy writing?
Do you want to earn money while working from home?
Are you willing to hustle?
If you answered yes to these three questions, a freelance writing business could be for you. If you’re thinking about starting your own business, let me walk you through a few essentials steps. These are things you have to think about before you begin.
1. What’s Your Why?
Why do you want to start a business in the first place? Seriously take some time to consider this and write it down. Keep it where you can see it, and pull it out whenever you get discouraged.
Your why is your foundation. It’s what your entire business will be built on. If you aren’t sure why you’re bothering to start a business, your foundation will be crumbly.
It doesn’t take much discouragement to knock down a building on a poor foundation.
But, if you have a solid why, if you really know why you are starting this business, you will have a solid foundation. It’ll be able to withstand some heavy blows and not crush you.
So before you do anything else, write down your why.
Here’s a post explaining my why. It was one of my first posts here on the blog.
2. What Do You Enjoy Writing or Learning About?
Now that you know why you’re going to be writing, it’s time to narrow down what you’ll be writing about. This is known as defining your niche.
What do you enjoy writing about? What do you enjoy learning about? What did you do in previous careers?
These are all questions to help you find niches you enjoy.
You don’t have to get uber specific right now. Your niche (or niches) will probably change over time. But, you want to have a sense of what you’d enjoy so when you start pitching you’ll be able to focus in on your skills, experience, and expertise.
3. When Will You Write?
I don’t like having a strict daily schedule. However, I know there are certain times of day that work better for me to write.
For instance, when I try to write first thing in the morning, it doesn’t usually work. By the time I get chores done, the kids are getting up and they need my attention.
It’s much easier for me to be productive during our family writing time, quiet time, and in the evening when my husband is home.
Your daily routine is going to be different than mine. When can you fit writing in?
If you don’t have any time ever that you can devote to your work, starting a freelance business probably isn’t for you right now.
4.Start a Blog
I started with a free Blogger blog several years ago, even before launching my business. It gave me plenty of writing samples to send along with pitches.
Once I started earning money, I saved up my profit and invested back into myself with this fancy self-hosted WordPress site.
But, having the free blog was essential to me getting in the habit of writing. When I look back over my early posts, I’m able to see much improvement over time. That’s always encouraging.
So start your blog and start finding your voice. You’ll be gaining valuable samples that will help you grow your business.
You’ll also get valuable blogging practice. You’ll get faster. Your writing will get better.
So start a blog and write.
5. Know How You Will Keep Track of Deadlines
Once you start pitching and landing gigs, you have to keep track of your deadlines. It doesn’t really matter what method you use for tracking, but you better make sure you write down each and every deadline.
Otherwise, you may end up forgetting an assignment. That’s never good.
So before you start landing gigs, get a system in place. Use it to track your own writing. You should treat yourself like a client or you’ll never get any new posts up on your blog.
I still use Excel to track deadlines. Other people use apps on their smartphone, Google Calendars, or project management software. Find something that works for you and start using it regularly.
Your clients will thank you!
6. Build a Social Media Presence
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a social media newbie. I’m a late adopter to Facebook, and all of my other accounts are still under a year old.
But, having a presence is important to marketing your services. So start a basic account with at least one or two. Then each time you publish a blog post, have it publish on your social media accounts.
Spend a few minutes each day looking for quality content to interact with and share with your audience. Your audience will grow, and you can find new clients on social media.
Social media is also a great place to connect with fellow freelancers. You can build a tribe of people who understand the unique struggles, and who can offer encouragement. You don’t want to feel alone!
7. Start Pitching
My first pitch wasn’t fancy. I undervalued myself greatly. But, I landed the gig and earned some money. I made some traction and confidence in my ability.
You can read how to create the perfect pitch all day long, but if you never actually implement the advice you get you’ll fail.
Here’s what your pitch needs:
To briefly explain why you’re the best writer for the job.
That’s about it. There are checklists and to-do lists all over the web, but pitching is really just showing the client how you meet their need.
So jump in and give it a try. Without spending any money on paid job boards, you can find places to pitch at:
Craigslist (check the gig section in major cities)
Once you start earning money you can spend some on job board subscriptions if you’d like. I’m a Contena member, and enjoy saving time by finding jobs in one place. But, a paid job board is definitely a want not a must in this business.
And don’t wait until you have everything perfect to pitch. If you’re anything like me, you’ll never be completely satisfied with your business. There’ll always be room to grow.
Don’t let your quest for perfection stop you from achieving good or great. You can do it!
8. Figure Out Financials
If you wait until the end of the year to track your financials for taxes, you’ll be overwhelmed with paperwork. Instead, get a system in place and start using it.
Track your receipts and payments. Track your expenses. Have a plan to set aside money for taxes.
I use a combination of Excel and Wave for this. I track expenses and do my profit and loss inside of Excel. I use Wave to create professional looking invoices (it’s free for what I use it for!)
I could keep track of everything in Wave, but I had already been using Excel for quite a while when I started using this, and didn’t want to transfer everything over. Excel is working for me.
There are other free financial systems you can use. Here are two I’ve heard good things about:
9. Talk to Your Family
If your family isn’t on-board with your business, you won’t be as successful. Keep your family in the loop. Celebrate victories together.
Are there kids in your house? Integrate them into your business. Once you’re working as a team, you’ll do far more than you ever could alone.
It’s essential to streamline your other responsibilities so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Get your housework and meals on a schedule so you don’t have to stop and think about what to do next.
If you need help with that, there are plenty of posts on my site on balancing life and freelancing.
10. Evaluate & Make Changes Regularly
It’s important to set goals for your business. But just setting them isn’t enough. You need to regularly look at your business and see what’s working and what’s not.
Look at your growth. See if there are any places you can streamline. Reevaluate your goals.
Make sure your business is still working for you.
You’ll want to have a mini-evaluation every month. I use my freelance income reports to do that. Then a couple of times each year I really dive into my goals and see what is working and what isn’t.
Have a plan in place for evaluating before you begin. Otherwise you’ll never know if you’re on the right track or not.
Do You Have a Freelance Writing Business?
What steps can you add? Is there anything you wish you’d have done differently when you started?
If you’re just thinking about starting a freelance writing business, what’s holding you back? Is there something I can help with? Chime in in the comments section and I’d be glad to help if I can.
Updated 12/21/2016 to add:
Check out this amazing infographic that Invoice2Go created. I was honored to be included.
If you’re thinking about starting your own business, definitely give it a read!
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.