How to start a freelance writing business from home
If you’re considering a career change or want to devote more time to your writing side hustle, you may be wondering how to start a freelance writing business.
Starting a freelance writing business isn’t an easy feat, but it has the potential to pay dividends. With the right plan (and some major dedication), you can get steady work, earn more money, and create your dream schedule.
Below, we’re sharing our step-by-step guide to starting a freelance writing business from home, including what you need to know before taking the leap.
What to consider before starting a freelance writing business
Starting a freelance writing business isn’t as simple as quitting your 9 to 5 and applying to a handful of online writing gigs. In addition to writing, you also have to dedicate time and energy to branding, networking, marketing, admin work, and financial management.
Before you throw yourself into building a writing business from scratch, take some time to weigh the pros and cons.
Pros of starting a freelance writing business
- You don’t need a degree in business or writing to get started.
- You don’t need much equipment or money to build your business.
- Overhead expenses are low.
- You can brand your business however you want.
- You can build a roster of regular clients.
- You can write full time.
- You have the option to work with a wide range of clients or stick to what you know best.
- You may gain more credibility as a writer.
- You can outsource tedious tasks or hire people to help you.
- You can create a flexible work schedule.
- You are your own boss.
- You can potentially work from anywhere, as long as you have a laptop and internet
Cons of starting a freelance writing business
- It’s time consuming.
- You have to be comfortable with business management and administrative work.
- You need to pay business taxes.
- It can take time to become profitable.
- You may have to specialize in a particular subject or assign yourself one distinct niche to get traction.
You should consider starting a freelance writing business if:
- You’ve already been freelancing for a while and have regular, well-paying clients.
- You want to turn your freelance writing side hustle into a full-time gig.
- You want to separate your personal finances from your business earnings.
- You have business management experience and happen to be a good writer.
- You want to start a business you’re passionate about.
- You want to have a more flexible work schedule and freer lifestyle.
- You have the time and energy necessary to build a business.
- You’re skilled at client communications and negotiation.
- You enjoy a challenge.
- You want to use your writing skills to help people.
- You have three to six months worth of savings.
14 steps to starting a freelance writing business from home
There isn’t just one path to success when it comes to starting a freelance writing business. The route you choose depends on your background, writing experience, and goals.
That said, there are certain key steps you need to take if you want to succeed—and our comprehensive guide outlines them all. Ready to get going? Follow these 14 steps to build your own freelance writing business from home.
1. Clarify your intentions
Identifying why you want to start a writing business is essential to building a business plan and setting realistic goals. Start by trying to pinpoint the driving force behind your curiosity and motivation.
Do you want to double your earnings as a writer, for example? Are you craving more freedom to spend time with your kids or pursue hobbies outside of writing? Do you want to help small businesses draw more customers to their websites?
As you reflect, consider the following questions:
- What’s your mission?
- What’s your dream work schedule?
- What’s your goal income?
- Which writing services do you want to offer?
- Which niches do you want to specialize in?
- Who are your ideal clients?
Your answers will do double duty as both guideposts and sources of inspiration when things get tough.
2. Do your research
Before you start marketing or building a website, you need to figure out whether or not your business idea is viable.
First, browse the websites and social media handles of the companies and business owners in your niche. Next, check out a handful of freelance writing job boards and employment sites to see which types of companies are hiring for the writing you want to do—and how much they’re willing to pay.
It’s also a good idea to search for annual marketing reports related to your niche and read up on the latest trends in marketing strategies and budget allocations.
Finally, take a cue from other freelance writers who have writing businesses. Search phrases like “copywriting company + [your location]” or “technical writing services for hire,” then browse other writers’ websites to see which types of writing they do and which clients they work with.
The information you gather should help you answer the following questions:
- Is there a demand for your writing services?
- Who are your target clients? What are their problems and goals?
- Do your target clients need writing help? If so, what kind?
- How much are your target clients willing to pay for the services you want to offer?
You might discover, for example, that small businesses in your niche are spending more money on blog posts and SEO than email campaigns. Or you might learn that the companies you wanted to target don’t actually invest in content marketing. From there, you can decide whether you want to embrace your initial business idea or pivot to something more lucrative or in demand.
3. Create a business plan and set goals
You may think you only need a business plan if you’re searching for business funding, but that’s not true. Writing a business plan is a great way to nail down your business’s offerings and outline an effective growth strategy. It doesn’t have to be long or complex, either. A detailed one-page business plan will do the trick.
Here are five components to include in your business plan:
This is where your elevator pitch goes. Depending on the direction you take, you might be a “full-service content marketing writing company that serves small businesses in the organic food service and beverage industry.” Or maybe you “provide technical writing help to emerging SaaS startups.” Or maybe you “specialize in creating tailored SEO landing pages for companies that need to attract and retain more customers.”
Describe your business in a nutshell, then explain what makes you unique. Are you a software engineer turned technical writer, for example? Do you offer content strategy consulting in addition to blog and article writing? Use this section to articulate your mission and services.
2. Market analysis
Drawing from the research you conducted in step two, use this section to talk about your client demographic. Briefly explain who they are, touching on their pain points and goals, then explain how your writing services can help them. Make sure you incorporate relevant data and statistics, like if you find out that customer success stories help B2B tech companies gain 15% more leads, for example.
3. Marketing and sales strategy
This section is a chance for you to explore how to position your writing services to your ideal clients. First, define your value proposition—which is the unique value you promise to deliver to your clients—then outline the different strategies you’ll use to market or sell your services, such as cold emails, blog posts, or social media ads.
4. Pricing strategy
Consider what you need to charge for your services in order to turn a profit. You can pull data from other writing businesses and look to resources like Who Pays Writers, ClearVoice, Contently, Salary.com, Indeed.com, and the Editorial Freelancers Association to get an idea of what writers charge.
Make sure you also list the different factors that influence your rates, including the type of writing in question, your expertise, how much research or specialization is required, how much time the work takes, and the cost of living in your location.
It’s fine if the pricing portion of your business plan is vague for now. You can always add more concrete information later.
The final section of your business plan should outline your business goals. Make sure all your goals follow the SMART format, meaning they’re specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Set one or two long-term goals, like earning six figures within three years, as well as a handful of short-term goals, like acquiring five new clients by the end of the first quarter or getting 500 followers on your business’s Facebook page. For each goal you set, list the steps you’ll take to achieve it and explain how you’ll measure your progress.
4. Decide how you want to structure your business
You have two options for structuring your freelance writing business: 1) You can operate as a sole proprietor or 2) You can start a limited liability company (LLC).
With a sole proprietorship, there’s no distinction between you as an individual and you as a business owner. You own the business, receive all the profits, and are personally responsible for all your business’s debts and liabilities.
With an LLC, you’re taxed like a sole proprietor but get the liability protection of a corporation. That means your personal assets (like your house or car) aren’t at risk if you default on a business loan. With an LLC, you can also be a sole owner or one of multiple owners.
The structure you choose depends on your business goals and preferences. Here are some factors to consider:
- Your finances: If you want a distinct separation between your personal and business finances, an LLC can help.
- Your time: When you incorporate as an LLC, you have to register with your state’s Secretary of State and file annual paperwork. When you’re operating as a sole proprietor, there’s no paperwork necessary to start your business.
- Your business name: As a sole proprietor, your legal name is your business name. If you want to use a different name, you have to file an application for a DBA (“doing business as”). With an LLC, you can choose a different business name than your legal name.
- Your hiring goals: You can hire employees as a sole proprietor, but there is more paperwork—and potentially more legal complications—involved. In general, it’s easier to hire employees when you’re an LLC.
- Your ownership: If you want to start a freelance writing business with another person and share profits, you need to become an LLC.
- Your protection: If you think you might face a lawsuit or have issues paying back a business loan, you may want to file for an LLC to protect your personal assets
5. Brand your business, choose a name, and build a website
The way you brand your freelance writing business will dictate how you structure your website, how you market your services, and how you reach out to potential clients.
Keeping your niche and target clientele in mind, consider what makes your business stand out. Try describing your writing style and strengths to a friend, or do some freestyle journaling or mind mapping to see what comes up.
If you’re marketing your copywriting services to apparel and lifestyle companies, you might want to brand yourself as fun, adaptable, and culturally savvy. If you’re doing content marketing writing for tech companies, you may want to sell yourself as a friendly but authoritative voice.
Remember: Your business’s brand doesn’t just relate to your value proposition and the writing you produce—it also informs your business name, website aesthetic, communication style, and work process.
Business name and email
Your business’s name reflects your brand and gives potential clients an idea of what to expect when they work with you. When you’re starting a freelance writing business, you can either operate under your legal, professional name or choose a specific business name.
If you opt for a new name, think carefully about the possibilities. Your business’s name should:
- Be easy to pronounce and remember
- Align with your brand
- Match your website URL and professional email address
- Boost your search engine visibility
- Have lasting power
If you’re stumped, try searching different domain names and phrases on GoDaddy to see what’s available and what’s taken. Once you decide on a name, you can use Gmail, Zoho Mail, or GMX Mail to create a corresponding email account.
Once you have a brand and business name, it’s time to build a professional website that showcases your writing skills and convinces potential clients to take action.
When you’re mapping out the pages and sections to include, put yourself in your target client’s position. What information are they looking for? What do they need to see in order to trust you? What will make them continue clicking around?
Your website should be informative, interesting to look at, and easy to navigate. Potential clients should walk away from your website with a clear idea of who you are and what your business offers. Consider including the following sections:
- Landing page: Hook your website visitors with interesting visuals and compelling copy that explains your value proposition.
- About page: Briefly share your background and list any writing or niche-specific credentials you have.
- Services: This is where you list the writing services you offer and explain the value each one of them brings. You may also want to include pricing here.
- Testimonials: Peer recommendations are highly influential. If you have glowing testimonials from previous writing clients, include them here. If not, keep this page private for now until you gather a handful of positive recommendations.
- Portfolio or writing work: Share a few samples of relevant writing projects you’ve done. If you don’t have any yet, consider doing some spec or volunteer work to get some.
- Contact: Include your business’s email address and any other details a potential client would need to get in touch with you.
6. Set up your business’s social media profiles
Social media is a great place to connect with potential clients and build a reputation as an expert in your niche. Depending on your clientele, you may want to create a LinkedIn business page, Facebook business page, Twitter business handle, or Instagram profile.
Make sure your account names and handles are as close to your business name as possible. It’s also a good idea to include a description of your business, your website link, and your contact information on every platform.
As you build out your profiles, aim to tailor your content to the specific platform you’re using, while still letting your brand voice shine through. For example, you may want to save memes and infographics for Instagram and use LinkedIn to share long-form posts and industry insights.
7. Get your finances in order
When you’re starting a business, it’s critical to be financially prepared. In addition to building up a cash reserve, it’s also smart to open a business bank account so you can easily accept client payments and track your earnings. Here are four steps to take:
1. Start saving
You need to make sure you have enough money to support yourself as you grow your writing business. A good rule of thumb is to set aside three to six months worth of savings to cover your regular expenses and account for any emergencies.
You also have to budget for the cost of website hosting and any supplies you might need, like a new computer or monitor.
2. Get a PayPal account
PayPal is one of the easiest ways to accept money from clients. If you don’t already have a PayPal account, consider signing up for one under your business name and email address. Keep in mind, though: as a business, you’ll be charged a 2.9% fee for every transaction.
3. Create an expense and income tracker
It’s helpful to track your business expenses and earnings, so you can see exactly how much money goes in and out of your business each month. Create two different spreadsheets: one for your expenses and one for your income.
Under expenses, include everything you pay for as a writing business—from website hosting fees and accounting costs to office equipment and business cards. You can sort your expenses by category, date paid, or amount.
On your income sheet, list any current projects you have, along with the fee, the date you send the invoice, and the date you receive the payment. You may also want to create a section to record the estimated taxes you’ll pay for each project.
8. Set your fees
There’s no perfect formula for pricing your services, but there are a few strategies you can use to figure out what works best for your business. In addition to researching your niche and industry, it’s helpful to calculate your minimum hourly rate (MHR). That’s the minimum amount of money you need to earn per hour to run a profitable writing business.
Here are the steps you can use to figure out your MHR:
1. Add up your business expenses
The prices you charge should cover the cost of doing business. To figure out how much you’ll be spending, revisit your expense tracker and add up your estimated costs. Your costs could include:
- Internet subscription
- Video hosting subscription
- Computer or monitor
- Desk and chair
- Office supplies and equipment
- Phone bill
- Professional membership or subscription fees
- Professional event and conference fees
- Website hosting
- Accounting fees
- Business cards
- Business incorporation fees
- Software services
- Business insurance fees
Payroll also falls under your business expenses. As the owner of a freelance writing business, payroll includes your salary, compensation for any contractors or employees you hire, your health insurance, your sick time, your paid time off, and your vacation time.
2. Determine the total cost of doing business
After reviewing your goals and calculating your personal expenses, let’s say you decide you want to earn $100,000 a year from your writing business.
If your business expenses add up to $8,000 a year and your benefits (including health insurance and vacation time) add up to an estimated $12,000 a year, then you’re looking at a total of $120,000 a year to run your business.
3. Figure out how many billable hours you can work
There are roughly 261 working days in a calendar year and eight working hours in a day, but you won’t be maxing out all of those hours. When you factor in sick time, vacation, appointments, errands, and non-billable work, the number of billable hours you can realistically work goes way down.
For example, let’s say you budget for 12 days of vacation time, seven days of sick time, and 10 days off for national holidays. That leaves you with 232 working days in the year. To figure out how many billable hours that gives you, it’s best to take a conservative approach.
You’ll likely be doing lots of non-billable work in the beginning, like marketing, admin, and client consultations. Plus, you have to budget for work breaks, distractions, and potential emergencies that pop up. Let’s say you can work four and a half billable hours a day on average while you build up your business.
232 working days x 4.5 billable hours a day = 1,044 billable hours in a year
4. Get your hourly rate
To get your MHR, divide the number of billable hours by your total cost of doing business.
$120,000 / 1,044 = $115
In this example, you need to be earning an average of $115 an hour for the writing work you do. That doesn’t mean you have to charge on an hourly basis, though. You can still set project rates, but you need to make sure they cover the total amount of hours you’ll be putting in.
Let’s say a client asks for your help with an email campaign project. You estimate it will take roughly 20 hours, which includes the time you spend creating invoices and hopping on client calls. In that case, you need to charge a minimum of $2,300 to make the project worth your time.
5. Consider the value you’re bringing
Your MHR is a great starting point for setting your prices, but it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when evaluating a work opportunity. After all, a client isn’t just paying for your time and effort, but your expertise, too.
Every writing service brings a different amount of value to a potential client. Writing a landing page for a customer might only take you five hours, but if that landing page helps your client convert 20% more leads, it’s worth significantly more. As you think about your prices, consider the return on investment a client gets from your writing work.
And remember: rates are adjustable. You can tweak your pricing as you learn and gain more experience.
9. Get the right tools
You don’t need special equipment to run a writing business, but investing in a few helpful tools can save you time and increase your efficiency.
If your business does SEO writing, for example, you might want to purchase SEO software. If you have back problems, you might need an ergonomic desk chair or a standing desk so you can work comfortably for long periods of time.
Depending on the services you plan to offer and the environment you work best in, you may want to get some or all of the following items:
- High-speed internet
- Computer monitor
- Standing desk
- Ergonomic desk chair
- Accounting software, such as Wave
- Project management software, such as Trello or Asana
- Social media scheduling tool, like Hootsuite
- Time management software, like Toggl
- Editing software, like Grammarly
- Email marketing software, like Mailchimp of Zoho Campaigns
10. Start securing work
If you’re already working as a freelance writer, keep looking for new clients and assignments. If you’re starting from zero, now is the time to dedicate all your effort to securing a few decent writing projects and building your client base.
Here are some ways you can do that:
Use freelance writing job boards
Freelance writing job boards aren’t the best resource for finding long-term, well-paying clients, but they’re a good place to get started. Every morning, spend an hour or two browsing a few different job boards. Look for jobs that list the pay and fall within your niche.
Here are a few boards to check out:
Search for gigs on employment sites
Job search sites are usually home to full-time writing roles, but you can find the occasional freelance writing gig by filtering for contract work in your niche. Try the following sites:
Sign up for content platforms
Content platforms, which match writers with companies and clients, are great places to land ongoing work. The downside is that most content platforms don’t let you search for writing jobs; you have to make a profile and wait for someone to contact you about a writing opportunity.
Here are a few content platforms to try:
Search online writing groups
Online writing groups are perhaps the most underrated resource for finding great clients and interesting work. The trick is to steer clear of the groups on Facebook and Reddit that have tens of thousands of members. Instead, look for smaller, more niche-specific writing groups. Once you join a group, scan the discussion threads for job postings and tips.
Connect with prospects on LinkedIn
Reaching out to potential clients on LinkedIn is easy and effective. Choose the option to add a note to your connection request, then send along a sentence or two introducing yourself and asking if they need writing help. Make sure you include a link to your business’s website.
Ask your personal network for referrals
Send a friendly, professional email to your friends, family, and former colleagues asking for help finding leads for your business. Make sure you explain the services you offer, the subjects you specialize in, and who your target clients are. You should also include your contact information and a link to your business’s website.
Send cold emails to potential clients
Contacting prospective clients directly might seem intimidating, but it’s one of the best ways to build a client base for your writing business. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- You can introduce yourself as a professional writer and business owner.
- You can demonstrate your familiarity with the client or company you’re contacting.
- You can offer writing services tailored to the client’s unique needs.
Start by researching the companies and clients in your niche. Perusing their websites, following them on social media, and signing up for their email newsletters will give you a better idea of their content needs.
As you gather information and find contact emails for each potential client, come up with one or two ideas of how your business could help them. You might discover that the health and fitness instructors you’re targeting need stronger, more shareable blog content, for example.
Once you’ve identified someone as a viable potential client, write and send your email. Include a personal greeting, an introductory sentence to establish familiarity, a sentence or two explaining your business services, and a link to your website.
Here’s an example of a cold email geared toward a fitness trainer:
I really love the in-depth workout guides on your website. The tutorials have been so helpful to me!
As I was browsing your site, I noticed your blog hasn’t been updated in quite a while. Do you need any help with that? I’m a content marketing writer and former Pilates teacher who works specifically with fitness trainers and health coaches to improve their site’s SEO and draw in more customers.
My company, SmarterContent, does full-service content strategy and blog writing to boost your website traffic. You can learn more about what I offer here [link to site].
If you have questions or would like to set up a time to talk about your content needs, please feel free to get in touch.
11. Invest in your self-development and business knowledge
It doesn’t matter how much you know about writing—if you don’t understand marketing, networking, or negotiating, you won’t get very far as a business owner. That’s why it’s critical to invest in your business knowledge and professional growth.
Becoming more business savvy can help you produce better work, charge higher rates, and juggle your day-to-day tasks with less stress. Here are some ideas to work on your business management skills and professional development:
- Take a business 101 course.
- Expand your skill set by learning about email marketing, social media marketing, or project management.
- Advance your writing skills by taking a course in copywriting, SEO writing, or technical writing.
- Read online marketing blogs.
- Stay up to date on news in your niche.
- Read books on building online businesses.
- Attend a conference in your niche.
12. Experiment with different marketing tactics
A good marketing strategy is the foundation of any successful business. Regular marketing is how you build brand awareness, stay relevant, and get clients to come to you.
When you’re starting your freelance writing business, you need to try a variety of different marketing tactics to see what works. Over time, you’ll figure out which distribution methods and approaches have the highest returns on investment—and which ones aren’t worth your time.
Start with these strategies:
Pitch a guest blog post
Writing a guest blog post is a good way to get in front of potential clients. Find a blog within your niche, then pitch an article that offers concrete, actionable solutions to your clients’ problems. You could pitch an article about how to write stronger social media ads, for example, or how to create the perfect “about” page for your website.
To get more mileage out of your piece, make sure it’s readable, shareable, and full of practical takeaways. It’s also crucial to plug your writing business in your author bio and include a link to your site, so potential clients can get in touch.
Pay for social media ads
When you pay for a business ad on Facebook, Instagram, or Google, not only can you target your ideal clients, you can also take advantage of ad analytics. These insights tell you how many people look at your ad, when they do it, and what demographic they fall into.
To create effective ads, you need to capture your audience’s attention and inspire them to act. Make sure you:
- Use enticing visuals.
- Lead with a hook or problem.
- Mirror your writing style to your ideal client.
- Suggest an action, like visiting your website.
Optimize your website for search engines
You’ll bring more potential clients to your website if you optimize it for search engines. To determine which keywords and phrases you need to include on your site, put yourself in your client’s headspace and act like you’re searching for writing help.
As you play around with different searches—like “hiring a copywriter” or “social media writing help”—take note of the phrases and questions Google autofills for you. You can use these to optimize your website.
Here are some basic SEO strategies:
- Use keywords in your website page URLs.
- Include keywords in your website description.
- Incorporate keywords into your landing page copy.
- Use relevant, informative page titles.
- Make sure your site works well for mobile viewing.
- Include an FAQ section on your website with questions from your Google searches.
- Improve your website’s user experience.
- Make sure your site is well designed for mobile viewing.
Advertise your services with a digital flyer
Marry old-school advertising with modern digital marketing and create a one-page PDF to share across social media. Structure it similarly to an ad: make sure it addresses your client’s needs or pain points, offers a solution, and explains how to get in touch.
Post on social media
It’s important to market yourself as an authority figure in your niche—and social media can help you do that. In addition to liking and commenting on other people’s posts, make sure you share your own insights and ideas. You can post writing tips, celebrate client success stories, link to articles you’ve written, comment on industry news, or share business announcements.
Start an email newsletter
Creating an email newsletter is a good way to show off your writing chops, provide valuable free content, and promote your services to prospective clients. When choosing a theme or direction, consider your specialty and your clients’ needs.
If you do technical writing for startups, for example, you could center your email newsletter on marketing trends in tech spaces. If you do web copy for small businesses, you could put out different newsletters on how to brand yourself or engage with customers through your website.
Remember: email newsletters aren’t blog posts or ebooks. They should be informative but concise. Work on creating compelling subject lines, including interesting visuals, and formatting your emails so they’re easily scannable.
Sign up for a networking event
Take advantage of virtual and in-person events to meet prospective clients and promote your business. Instead of searching for writing-related events, though, look out for industry or niche-specific webinars, conferences, and meetups.
13. Take care of your clients
The key to building a successful freelance writing business is establishing excellent working relationships with your clients. To do that, you have to take an active interest in your clients’ success and provide incredible customer service.
Here are some ways you can do it:
- Offer a free consultation.
- Ask your clients what their goals are.
- Go above and beyond to produce high-quality work.
- Respond quickly to questions and concerns.
- Make sure your clients are completely satisfied with your work before wrapping up a project.
- Check in with your clients every few months to see if they need help with anything else.
- Send your clients an annual thank you note or small gift to thank them for their business.
If you have a positive experience with a client, ask them to write you a testimonial for your website or keep you in mind for referrals. Over time, you’ll benefit from the word-of-mouth marketing that comes from fostering great professional relationships.
14. Ask for help
To grow your freelance writing business, you have to be willing to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to turn to other business owners and writers for advice or to outsource work you don’t have the time or energy to do.
You might want to find a virtual assistant who can update your website and schedule client calls, for example. Or maybe you want to hire a researcher to outline your assignments so you can turn them around faster. You may even want to team up with other entrepreneurs, like freelance graphic designers and marketing consultants, to trade services.
When you lean on peers and other professionals for support, not only do you get invaluable help, you also free yourself up to focus more on growing your business.
Starting a freelance writing business from home might seem like a pipe dream, but it’s not. With the right attitude and approach, you can build a successful business doing what you love. Use this guide to start creating a business plan and setting goals.