Starting a business when you're broke is challenging. But, it's not impossible. Here's the steps I used to help pull my family out of poverty through writing.

How to Start a Freelance Business When You’re Broke

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Being broke isn’t fun! When I left the classroom a few years ago, our income took a massive cut.

Well below the poverty line, we struggled to make ends meet. We slashed our expenses and watched ever penny. It was hard!

We knew something had to change, but I didn’t want to go back to teaching because day care would eat up my entire pay check. Literally.

Since working outside the home wasn’t a viable option, so I started looking into ways to earn money from home, praying that the Lord would help me avoid scams and find something legit.

And not long after, He answered!

Freelance Writing

I stumbled upon a post written by Gina Horkey, and learned that people were getting paid to write content for the web.

I’d been blogging for fun over on my Maggie’s Milk blog, so the wheels in my brain started turning. Could I really earn money writing online?

I started reading all the free material on freelancing that I could. After scouring the job boards, I sent my first pitch within a couple of days.

I got the gig!

It didn’t pay well (only $20), but that money made me realize that I could do this. I could help our household financially, without having to give up on homeschooling or put the kids in daycare.

That first gig back in 2015 was my baby step into the world of freelance writing. And the money has been coming in ever since.

If you’re struggling financially today, I want you to know that I understand! I know how it feels to be so broke you can’t just “give up your daily latte” to save money to make a purchase you want.

But, I’m not going to leave you hanging. I want to help!

Here are the steps I took to launch my freelance business, without touching our household budget.

Decide to Act

Until you decide that it’s time to actually start your freelance business, no amount of reading, learning, or thinking will count.

Make a proclamation that you are going to do this. Commit to spend time each day growing your business.

Because if you don’t decide to act, you’ll probably still be broke a few months down the road.

Start Small

Do you know what I had for my business when I launched?

A cheap laptop computer, really slow satellite internet, and a freebie blog over on Blogger.

I didn’t have a dedicated freelance website, or money to start one.

Classes were on my “someday” list, but I couldn’t afford to purchase any.

Don’t be afraid to start small. You don’t need a lot to make it as a freelance writer. Too often, I hear excuses like these:

  • “I don’t have a website.”
  • “No one knows who I am.”
  • “I don’t know where to go to look for gigs.”

You know what? I didn’t either! My online presence (other than my freebie blog) was extremely limited. I didn’t even have a personal Facebook profile prior to launching!

And while perhaps my progress has been slower compared to others who started with more, I didn’t take time to stop and make comparisons.

I started small, with what I had, leveraging my skills.

So once you’ve decided to start a business, take stock of what you have. That’s all you need to get started.

No internet? Go someplace with Wi-Fi.

No computer? Our library has several, and I live in the middle of nowhere, so I’m pretty sure yours will too.

Stop making excuses and find a way to make it happen. It will be hard. But, it will get easier if you keep taking these steps.

Don’t let being broke stop you from launching a freelance writing business. Here’s a step-by-step guide to bootstrapping. #bootstrap #freelancewriting

Get Your Name Out There

Remember how I said my first paid gig was for $20. That was for a 1200 word post.

Today, I charge $120 for the same length. Big difference.

But, when I was first starting I didn’t have the luxury of being picky. I needed money and samples.

So if you’re broke and just starting out, take what you can. Remember you won’t be at that rate forever!

Start getting your name out there, and pitch away!

No matter what you are being paid, always do your best work! Seriously, I don’t care if you’re getting less than a penny a word. If you agreed to write a post for a rate, do it to the very best of your ability.

Wondering where to pitch? Check out these resources from other amazing freelancers and bloggers:

I’m sure you’ll find something there. But if not, here are some other places to find your first gig:

Craigslist – the “Gigs” section. Check the big cities (New York, LA, etc.)

ProBlogger Job Board (free, and where I found my first gig!)

You can also create an account on a site like Hubstaff Talent and look for clients who may be a good fit.

Unsure What to Say in a Pitch? Here’s help…

How to Pitch without the Right Samples

The Anatomy of My First Freelance Writer’s Pitch (that Landed the Gig)

Save Every Penny, Even Though You’re Broke

Look, I know how tempting it is to go spend that money you just earned. You’re broke, and really could use the money on X,Y, or Z.

But you can’t.

At least, not right now.

First, you have to invest in your business. Otherwise you’ll be stuck writing $20 posts forever. And no one wants to be there.

So save all of your money (at first!)

When you’ve saved enough, take an entry-level course to learn even more. My first freelancing investment was 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success (aff. link).

The course helped me learn:

  • How to improve my pitch
  • Ways to leverage my past experience and education as a freelancer
  • Confidence in my ability
  • And loads more

I’ve never regretted investing in this course, and have easily made back WAY more than I spent.

But until you’re there, don’t give up on improving yourself.

Keep reading all the free material you can. Subscribe to helpful blogs and read about areas you’re struggling with.

Remember to implement what you’re learning too! Keep saving, and then you’ll be able to take a course.

The course I took gave me the confidence I needed to pitch more. I landed a $40/hour gig from Craigslist writing texts that teachers could send to improve parental communication.

I took that money, and bought my domain and hosting. This website was born in September, just a few months after starting my business.

Slowly Scale Back on What You Save

Once I had more knowledge and a functioning website (it doesn’t have to be perfect!), it was time to start taking some of my income and applying it to the household budget.

Being able to actually do something with the money was motivating. When you’re saving everything to get your site up, it’s really hard. The tangible benefit isn’t there to the same extent.

My first step back was to save 50% of my income. After investing in a few more essentials, I reduced that to 25%. But, I ended up spending the money I saved for taxes so I’m up to 35% now.

How to bootstrap a freelance writing business. #bootstrap #freelancewriting

Watch for Amazing Deals

I’ve learned the hard way that you really do have to invest in your business to keep growing. So now I’m always watching for amazing deals that align with my goals.

I’ve subscribed to several “waiting lists” to be notified of any flash sales for courses I particularly want to take.

Pay attention to the amazing bundle deals that become available, and sign up to be notified. Then tuck some funds away so when they appear you can make the purchase guilt-free.

Watch for Black Friday sales. Often companies will have Anniversary sales as well.

If you find something you want, have patience and try to get it at the lowest price possible.

Find Time to Grow a Business

Wondering how you’ll find time to grow a business from home? You’ll have to make it a priority.

And you need to do it as a team. Your family won’t understand why you’re suddenly spending more time on the computer unless you tell them. So get your family onboard!

Work while your kids are doing homework.

Start Family Writing Time.

Streamline your meals and cleaning to make time.

Have a daily quiet time or nap time and write then.

Get up early.

Stay up later.

There are so many ways to find time, even if it means getting a bit creative.

You can do a lot with a part-time freelance business, so don’t let a lack of 40 hours a week stop you.

Continue Pitching to Avoid Famine

Once you’ve landed a client or two, it can be easy to forget to pitch. After all, you’ve got more client work to keep you busy.

But, eventually that gig might dry up. Then you’ll be left without that income.

So make pitching a permanent part of your game plan, at least for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, you’ll be right back to where you started with no money.

Freelance famine is a roller coaster you don’t want to get on!

Make Connections

Do you know where most of my leads come from?

From other freelancers.

That’s part of the reason I love the mastermind group I was a part of for a couple of years. I’ve also gotten leads from different Facebook groups.

Take time to make connections and build genuine relationships. Give more than you take, and be willing to help others. You won’t regret it. Or at least, I haven’t!

Other freelancers are not your enemy! Learn all you can from them and help them out too. Be genuine and patient!

Be Willing to Do Something New

I never planned on being a virtual assistant when I launched my freelance writing business. But, the door opened and I walked through it. Now I have a couple of VA clients, and love the variety!

So as you’re working, don’t get so focused on what you’re doing that you completely miss a good opportunity. Say yes to new things when you can, because you never know where they’ll lead.

Don’t Give Up

Bootstrapping your freelance business is challenging. But, it’s also rewarding, and can help you move past broke.

Don’t give up when things get tough. You can do this!

If you’re struggling with something in particular, feel free to contact me. If I’m able to help, I will!

Conclusion

Starting a freelance writing business doesn’t require a lot of capital. In fact, if you already have a computer and internet access, you can get started today.

Remember to save your money, and invest it back into yourself. Watch for deals so you can still save money while investing! 😀

Be willing to work for less at first, because you won’t be at that rate forever.

Find a community and get involved.

If you’ve started a freelance business when you were broke, I’d love for you to chime in. What other advice can you add?

A freelance business requires very litte capital, making it a great business to start when you're broke. Here's how I did it.

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Mompreneur - Freelance Writer & VA, Blogger at Lisa Tanner Writing

Lisa Tanner loves helping busy moms find time to grow their own business. As a homeschooling mom to nine, she knows a thing or two about balancing diapers and deadlines.

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