The picture painted of freelance life is one of never-ending holidays, cocktails by the beach and a laptop perched nearby.

Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case.

Brits have been fed a rose-tinted image of the freelance lifestyle and for those looking to go self-employed, that can soon become problematic.

There are certain processes that must be adhered to keep you clear of HMRC investigations and help you continue to pay your rent.

If you’re making the change from employed writer to freelance writer, or are even just starting to freelance on the side of your 9-5, there are some things you need to get in order first.

While it may seem easy enough to set up a website and take your laptop to a coffee shop, there’s a whole lot more to freelancing than that.

To help you get started and make sure you begin your freelancing career right, we’ve created a handy checklist of everything you’ll need to get in place.

Get your contactsThe Freelance Writer Checklist

When considering whether going freelance is an option for you, you need to make as many valuable contacts as possible, and get back in touch with the ones who may be able to help you find future projects.

The type of contacts you’ll need will depend on the type of freelance writing you plan to do. For freelance journalists you will need a varied range of contacts who will be able to help you with stories.

However, if you’re looking to write for brands you will need to build up a contact book of all the potential brands who may want to work with you.

The best way to stay organised is to keep a small book of all your contacts so you don’t run the risk of losing them all if you drop your phone in a puddle!

Set yourself up on Twitter

When freelancing social media is hugely important in getting your face (and your words) seen by potential new clients.

Most freelance writers use Twitter to showcase a snippet of their talents and quick-wittedness, sealing the deal for clients that are after a bright individual to write for them.

Twitter will also help you match up with the right brands who share the same values as you, and if you grow to influencer level you’ll have brands falling at their feet just to get a review from you.

Listen to the literature

Reading up on your industry is vital for success whether you’re employed or working for yourself. However, the stakes are higher when you only have yourself to answer to, which should motivate you to get to your local bookshop and seek out some of that all-important literature.

As a writer you should be reading regularly to expand your vocabulary anyway, so reading up to date works on other’s advice about writing shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to the system.

Collate your best bits

As a freelancer being able to easily showcase your work at the drop of a hat is important for those times when potential clients ask about your body of work – or if they wish to see some examples of what’s going on.

An online portfolio will boost your visibility as a freelancer and can help you showcase your work exactly as you would like to.

Setting up your own WordPress site is easy enough and can help you come across as professional and capable, the exact message you should look to send out to your potential clients.

Perfect the email pitch

As a freelance writer you’ll be constantly sending out emails to publications to pitch your ideas to editors in the hope that they’ll pick up your story.

However, fail to send a snappy, straight-to-the-point email and your idea could end up in the trash. To avoid this there are a few things you should do.

First of all, make sure you send the title of your piece as the subject of the email. For example, Pitch: The Best Underground Music Venues In The UK. It’s easy for any editor to see what your email is about and decide from the headline whether this is something that would work on their own publication.

In the first paragraph you should explain why this piece would be a good fit. Make sure you’re acquainted with their house style and their brand image, then use this to your advantage.

In the next paragraph you should move on to explain why you’re a good fit for this publication too. Publications may only want to print work from freelancers who share similar values, so it’s important to state that you have these in your email pitch. You should also provide a link to your online portfolio.

Work out your niche

Before you do begin to send out those pitch emails, you need to work on what your niche is. What do you particularly enjoy writing about?

Focusing on one area of expertise may seem like you’re limiting yourself but in reality you’re increasing your worth by having knowledge in one particular area. A publication specialising in mental health won’t just want anyone writing for them – they’ll want people who have written extensively and sensitively around the topic, and it’s probable they’ll be willing to pay more for this too.

Check your finances

One of the biggest annoyances that faces freelancers today is doing their taxes. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Coconut put budgeting for taxes at the top of the list of top five headaches for freelancers, with 25% of those surveyed finding it the most annoying aspect of working for themselves.

And it’s not just taxes that can make freelancing a bore. In close second with 24% of freelancers voting it their biggest headache of self-employment is keeping track of expenses.

While we don’t want to scare you away, it’s important to make sure your head isn’t buried in the sand when it comes to finance.

Make sure you have a good accountant behind you before you embark on your freelance career, lest you end up being faced with a serious HMRC fine.

What are your top tips for freelance writing? Are there any industry secrets worth knowing that have served you well? Leave them in the comment section below or join the conversation over on Twitter.