What is freelance writing?
Freelance writing can apply to a wide range of things. Writers work for themselves by pitching to clients who need written content for their business.
Writing can involve journalism work, blogging, web copy, advertising copy or copy for textbooks or manuals.
As there’s a wide range of possibilities you should try to specialise as much as you can. Choose a type of writing and an industry to work in and build your business on that rather than trying to offer too much.
What qualifications or experience do you need?
You don’t need any formal qualifications unless you’re doing technical writing that requires you to have specialised knowledge in a particular industry. You might find it useful to study copywriting or English to improve your skills but it’s not essential.
As for experience, many start out with very little writing experience. As a result, many freelance writers begin by charging very low fees or even doing work for free to build up their portfolio.
Some freelancers will sign up for content mills where you can find a pool of clients looking for your work. The price of this convenience is that you will earn very little. Most people who are serious about building a business will turn away from content mills because it’s very difficult to build a business that can support you through these means.
What equipment or software do you need?
Freelance writing only really requires basic equipment like a laptop, phone and broadband. If you want to up your game, you can invest in things like bookkeeping software or productivity apps but you can usually find free versions of these.
What do you need to put on your website?
Notice that we’ve not said “do you need a website?” You need a website because that’s where everyone is, your clients and competitors. You need a website that is functional, clean and easy to navigate. You want to make it as easy as possible for clients to hire you.
Things to put on your website:
- A list of services – make sure it’s clear what you’re offering
- Samples/portfolio – show your clients what you can do
- Contact information – make sure it’s easy for them to contact you
- Optional – your rates – see our post on the pros and cons here
- Optional – a blog – show off your skills and help boost your website
If you can, you should buy a domain to have a more professional-looking URL and some hosting for your website so that you have more control over it.
How to set up as a sole trader
Now for the boring legal bits. If you’re planning to make money, whether you’ve still got a full-time job or not, you need to tell HMRC so that you can pay any tax owed. In order to do this you need to set up as a sole trader. Luckily, it’s easier than it sounds.
You can register here. You’ll need to register for Self-Assessment and keep a record of all your finances so that you can report them to HMRC. In order to keep on top of your finances, it’s worth using a bookkeeping software, you can find both free and paid versions, depending on your needs. You should also keep a track of all your business expenses so you can claim them against tax to save some money.
The clients won’t come to you, no matter how nice your website looks. You need to go out and find them. This means getting on social media and networking with businesses and other freelancers. Don’t throw yourself on all the platforms though, just pick one or two social media channels to build.
Having a blog is a popular choice for many freelance writers as it’s a good place to showcase your skills, particularly if you’re going to be working as a blogger. It also shows clients that you know your stuff and that they will be hiring a professional with experience.
Having a website that is consistently updated with fresh content will also help with search engine rankings. Most bloggers try to get guest blog placements on popular blogs in their niche as this will reach far more people than your personal blog.
Mostly, you will need to research potential clients and reach out to them to offer your services. Don’t get discouraged if you’re sending out tons of emails only to get very few replies, this happens to everyone.
Set Up a System
Ideally when a client comes on board you should have a good idea about your price and the amount of time it will take you to complete a project. Other things to consider are writing up a general contract for your clients and having policies in place for invoicing and late payments.
In the early days you will be finding your feet and learning more about the market you’re working in. There will be ups and downs like there is for any freelancer, beginner or otherwise. As a beginner you’ve got more room to try things out to see what works.
For more help and advice, you can see our list of handy resources here.
Are you thinking of going freelance or already taken the leap? Let us know your thoughts about setting up as a freelance writer in the comments below!