5 Steps to Starting a New Freelance Writing Business

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One of the most common “burning questions” from last week’s Epic Aspiring Freelance Writer Giveaway Ever was:

“How do I get started?”

Because let’s face it, if you enjoy writing and wouldn’t mind bringing in a part or full-time income writing for the web, freelance writing is a viable solution for you.

You’ve probably already heard the story of how I went from $0 to $4,000 per month as a freelancer, within the first six months of launching my business (while working full-time and with two toddlers at home).

If you haven’t, the short version is that I wanted to change careers and have always loved to write. I came across the right resources, went all in and made it happen. I’ve been doing this full-time since the end of 2014.

And I’m not that special.

So, if you enjoy writing (like you do it for fun anyway) and are looking to add to your household income, you should consider giving it a try too. Here are five steps to starting a new freelance writing business that you can begin implementing today.

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1. Decide What to Write about

Even if you’ve never gotten paid to write before, I’m waging a guess that you’re an expert or pretty well-versed in a few different topics. A great way to get started choosing a niche (or three), is to write about the things you already know really well.

For me, this meant that I heavily drew from my previous career as a financial advisor. Personal finance easily made the cut for my top three niches, because it was something I was more than familiar with and could claim “expert status” in.

You could also draw from your current or former career experience. Have you worked in Human Resources or Management? Both of these are viable niches.

Or take a look at how you spend your time. What are your current or past hobbies? Are you a Master Gardener? It’s totally a viable niche.

Action step: Take a few minutes to brainstorm a list of up to five niches that you have some expertise, experience or interest in. Then rank your list in order of what you’d like to pursue first.

2. Figure out Where to Display Your Portfolio

You don’t have to have your own website to start freelance writing (although, you may want to in the long-term). If you don’t want to invest in your own url and hosting right off the bat, there are a couple other ways you can display your portfolio for free instead.

Here are my top three suggestions for displaying your portfolio overall:

  1. Your own website. You have full control and can post as many samples as you’d like. There’s room for a “hire me” page, an about page and much more future potential (like starting your own newsletter). My advice would be to spend the ~$100 on your url/own hosting and skip the free versions (Blogger, etc).
  2. Contently. I don’t have a Contently portfolio (because I have my own site and a Pinterest portfolio), but I really dig what they offer. Here is my friend Renee’s page. My favorite part is that they track the views, social shares, etc. for you. And if you have a post or two that goes viral, it becomes pretty impressive social proof.
  3. Pinterest. I started a Pinterest board as a secondary (more visual) way to showcase my portfolio early on. Besides being free, Pinterest is easy to set up (and add content to) and there’s the added benefit that other’s can re-pin your articles and share them. The only prereq is that each post needs to have an image to go along with it, in order to pin it.

Action step: Decide if you want to display your portfolio on your own website, via a Contently page or by starting your own Pinterest board. 

3. Gather Samples

“But what if I don’t have any samples?”

This is another one of the most common questions I get. Can you guess my answer?

Create some. Don’t let the lack of samples hold you back from pursuing a career in freelance writing. Samples are in your control.

Gain them by starting your own blog, guest posting on someone else’s or just by writing articles or posts in a Word or Google doc if you have to. Start somewhere – you need to have samples to verify you can write and display your own unique voice and style.

Action step: Have 1-2 samples ready in each of the niches that you want to write in to be prepared for pitching jobs.

4) Source Jobs to Apply for

So now you’ve defined your niches, gotten some samples and figured out where to display them. Next you need to source some writing jobs to apply for. But how do you go about finding jobs to pitch?

One of the easiest ways to get started (IMO) is to peruse job boards. It’s how I found my first few clients and built up ~90% my clientele in the beginning. It’s also great practice for communicating with people online.

You can started using free job boards (like ProBlogger, JournalismJobs, etc) or try out a paid method or two instead and save yourself some time. And of course, don’t forget about cold pitching! Check out this epic post I recently wrote to learn more about the cold pitching method in particular (including templates).

Action step: Start sourcing jobs to pitch. Use the sites above, reach out to companies and websites individually or network with friends and family to see who might be in need of a writer.

5) Start Pitching

Don’t do the first four steps and forget about this one. If you spent the time figuring out what to write about, gained some samples, displayed them and sourced some jobs to pitch, it’s all for not unless you actually start pitching!

This might be seem like a big, scary step, but it’s one you need to take in order to launch your new freelance writing career and get that first client or two. So you can’t really skip it…

My best advice is to pitch for anything that you’re even remotely qualified for or interested in. You’re a fast learner, right?

And if you’re female, start thinking and pitching like a man. Women tend to only apply for jobs they’re 90%+ qualified for, whereas with men it’s closer to ~60%. And that’s just BS! (I am woman, hear me roar!;-)

Action step: Set a goal for how many pitches you want to send this week and then do it! Tally each rejection (or non-reply) as a win. Each “no” is getting you closer to a “yes!”

Need a Little More Help Getting Started?

I don’t blame you! The world of freelancing (writing in particular) can be a scary and overwhelming place.

You can totally get started by implementing the five steps I outlined above. Or if you’d like a more personalized step-by-step approach (which uses my business as a case study) to launching a new freelance writing business, you might want to check out 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success.

I chronicled my journey of building a successful freelance writing business and turned it into an actionable email course that you can take at your own pace (i.e. in a month, over a couple of months or in as little as a few days). It’s great for brand spanking new freelance writers, but can help those struggling to take their business to the next level too.

Launching a new freelance writing career can be intimidating, but it’s not impossible. If you’re a decent writer, there is work to be had online. Why not get started today?

And if you read this and decide still not to take action, what’s holding you back? Tell me in the comments and I’ll try my best to help! 

Ready to Kickstart YOUR
Freelance Writing Biz?
Grab two of our most popular workSheets and get started TODAY!

Photo Credit: hitsnooze via Compfight cc

8 thoughts on “5 Steps to Starting a New Freelance Writing Business”

  1. Solid advice as always, Gina! The most fascinating and impactful statement in your article (for me) was that women only apply for jobs and gigs they feel 90% qualified for, whereas men aim to sell themselves even if they aren’t fully qualified. I have seen this in myself and in others, but never made the connection. Thank you for pointing this out and encouraging women to step up to the plate!

  2. Thanks for another great piece of advice Gina, I have some of your steps under my belt but really need to consistently start to pitch and build my craft. I have resigned however to give myself until September to become truly active but then…I’ll do the best I can to see if I can make it to my goal income for this year. Thanks for showing that this is possible!

  3. I remember how confused I was during my first few months of freelancing. I was constantly thinking about giving up but I’m glad I didn’t. Newbie freelancers really need as much practical advice as they can get. These guidelines are great and I’m sure they’ll be helpful for beginners!

    • It can be overwhelming getting started. I’m so glad I kept with it though – it’s opened up so many additional opportunities and a whole new career! Thanks for your comment:-)

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