You are a long-time, avid reader of the Business Writing Blog. Grammar runs through your blood and writing engaging content is your passion. You’ve decided to take your love of the written word to the next level and start your own freelance writing business. In this article we will look at some basic steps you will have to take to get started.
As with any business, you’ll need to choose a business entity before beginning. Once you have chosen your business entity, you’ll need to develop your business strategy and portfolio. Next, it’s time to find clients. Let’s take a closer look at some of the basic steps on your journey to starting your writing services business.
Choosing a Business Entity Type
Before starting your freelance writing business, you should determine the type of business entity you want to create. There are several business entities.
- Sole proprietorship
- General partnership
- Limited partnership
- C corporation
- S corporation
- Limited liability company (LLC)
Each entity determines how your organization is structured and taxed, and comes with its pros and cons. It’s advised that you speak to a tax attorney in order to make a decision about which structure is best for you.
The most common entities for a freelancing writing business will be a Sole Proprietorship or an LLC.
Creating A Portfolio
Creating a portfolio is an essential step in growing a freelance writing business. In this competitive industry, you need to stand out from your competitors. It means making your writing portfolio as user-friendly as possible and presenting it in a way that can draw potential clients’ attention. Don’t include every sample of your writing; just the most compelling ones.
There are many ways to create an online portfolio. One option is to create an account with LinkedIn, an online networking platform that allows writers to connect with other freelancers. It is free and is a great place to find potential clients. Alternatively, you can create a profile on Pinterest, a visual discovery site. Your profile allows you to include links to your writing samples, a professional photo, and qualifications: writing help, blogging, or working as an editor for a journal. Another option is to use JournoPortfolio, an easy-to-use online portfolio. It includes a link to your writing samples and lets you upload multimedia files.
Here are some basic things your portfolio should include:
10-20 Writing Samples
These should consist of your most recent posts, as well as business and niche expertise.
Make sure that potential clients are not digging through your content trying to find that is relevant to their niche. Intuitive navigation is essential in keeping potential clients interested as they search through your portfolio.
David Knight, Chief Talent Officer for a London-based marketing company writes: “Because of the fast-paced nature of today’s business landscape, not to mention our social media driver attention span, if I end up spending more that two minutes looking through a portfolio in order to find pertinent information, I will end up skipping over to the next one.”
Make sure to include a short business biography. Essentially, this tells the potential client who you are, what you do and what are your credentials (highlights of past experience, academic achievements, etc.). Here are a few examples from our own writers, ranging in sizes from very short to multi-paragraphed.
Described as an “English Guru,” James Smith holds a Master’s degree in English from Arkansas Tech University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a minor in ESL. James is a sought after writer and editor with University teaching experience.
Audrey Horwitz holds a master’s degree in communication and a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She has worked with numerous companies as a content editor including Speechly, Compusignal and Wordflow. Audrey is a prolific content writer with hundreds of articles published for Medium, LinkedIn, Scoop.It and Article Valley.
Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.
A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.
A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in “The Wall Street Journal,” “The Atlantic,” “Vanity Fair,” and other media.
Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master’s degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor’s degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.
Links to Social Media
Showcase your online presence with links to various social media profiles that serve your freelance writing goals. This will help build your credibility and authority and will give potential clients a sense of confidence. Some examples include LinkedIn, and Twitter. You can even include Instagram and Pinterest, if they highlight your portfolio or your network.
Call to Action
A powerful Call To Action (CTA) direct potential clients to take action — contact, subscribe, book.etc. In the case of a writing services business, it is to contact you. However, phrasing it as a CTA instead of just listing your contact information will help increase your writing portfolio’s conversion numbers.
Here are some examples of great CTAs:
- Zoom: Why Zoom?
- Domino’s: Delivery or Carryout
- Lever: Let’s Talk
- Patagonio: Take Action
- Greek Sandals: Discover the Collection
Considering you run a writing business, your CTA should reflect your services such as proofreading, editing, copywriting, etc. It’s time to get creative and write a great Call To Action that evokes an emotional response and, most importantly, action!
Creating a business website
This is a no-brainer. Your business is going to need a website. There is a heap of information online about starting a website, so we will just give you some basic points you will need to consider.
You’ll require a quality theme, design and SEO plugins, and security components. Some plugins are must-haves, while others are optional. In addition, you’ll want a blog page.
You should have enough savings to pay for website hosting and computer supplies. It’s also wise to accept payments through PayPal, which is the easiest way to accept payments from clients. However, remember that you’ll have to pay 2.9% of every transaction, so make sure you budget accordingly.
After your website is set up, you should create pages that feature your best freelance writing work. The pages you create should contain information about your writing style and niche. The purpose of these pages is to entice prospective clients to contact you. Moreover, the pages on your website should be designed so that they’re easy to find by a Google search.
Remember since you are selling writing-related service, verbiage is very important. You need to make sure that the text is always engaging and reflects your abilities as a writer.
Naming your business
As a freelance writer, you may not need to have a company name, as your own name will be your brand. However, if you want expand and hire a team of writers, you will want to consider a name for your burgeoning firm. There are many ways to go, but consider these key factors:
- Make sure to follow your state’s naming guidelines (yes, those exist!)
- Avoid a name that’s similar to your competition
- Make sure it is easy to spell and pronounce
- Make it web-friendly
- You have to be memorable, but no too unique
You can also get ideas from online name-generators. They have become quite creative!
Finding clients is one of the most challenging aspects of starting any freelance business. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be impossible. You can use several strategies to increase your chances of landing clients. The first of these is the aforementioned portfolio.
One of the most important steps in finding clients when starting a freelance writing business is to develop a network of connections. You can also try to find clients online by visiting websites that feature writing jobs and tips. Moreover, you can try to write a blog that showcases your writing style.
Another way to find clients is by participating in professional organizations. There are many trade associations and trade shows where you can meet potential clients. You can also attend networking events and meet other writers. Attending these events can help you land your first client and many more. Participating in these events will make you better equipped to pitch to clients and build a better reputation. Here are just some writing conference out there (you can Google them for more information):
Content Marketing World
Creative Non-Fiction Collective Conference
Digital Branding Summit
Non-fiction Writers Conference
Twitter is a powerful marketing tool, and many writers have found success with it. You should follow people in your target demographic and network with them. Additionally, when networking online, be careful to include hashtags.
Here is a quick summary of tips on finding clients:
- Ask your clients for referrals
- Offer discounts and incentives for new customers
- Use online reviews to your advantage
- Promote your expertise (publish your work elsewhere)
- Offer your services to community events (does that Park Walk event need a copywriter for their promotional materials?)