How to Start a Freelance Writing Business
Do Business the Right Way
If you have a strong background in English and passion for writing, then starting a freelance writing business may be a lucrative career for you. Companies all over the world continually seek independent writers who can create quality content for platforms such as websites, blogs, newspapers, and social media accounts. With the right tools and motivation, you can own a freelance writing business in no time!
Below, we’ve done the legwork for you to provide a free guide to starting a home-based freelance writing business today.
Not interested in starting a freelance writing business?
Visit our generic Start A Business Guide.
What Does a Freelance Writing Business Do?
Freelance writers create written content based on their client’s needs. This may include blogs, web content, marketing emails, video/radio scripts, advertisements, magazines/newspapers, press releases, or books.
Steps to Starting a Freelance Writing Business
Create a Business Plan for Your Freelance Writing Business
Before you get started, you’ll need an idea of what resources you’ll need—and how to monetize your business in a practical way. We’ve answered the biggest questions about clients, costs, and profits below.
How do I get clients?
When you’re first starting out, you’ll probably spend a lot of time searching for jobs. Here’s a few steps you can take to help quickly land your first client.
- Create a portfolio: Websites such as Contently or ClearVoice, will not only house your writing samples, resume, and contact information—they will connect you with potential clients!
- Write a blog: Having your own blog can be a excellent way to stay current and acquire new clients—through platforms such as Webstarts, you can post regular content that interests you and shows off your strengths as a writer.
- Check job boards: Sites such as Contena and Freelance Writers Den, are excellent resources for new writers to search for jobs and gain professional experience. You may even find opportunities to guest write for other company blogs.
- Interact on social media: Connect with other writers and businesses you want to work with through LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Although these platforms tend to be more visual, they’re effective ways to link clients to your portfolio and blog. In addition, the relevant hashtags and intelligent posts you write will show potential clients how you can meet their social media needs.
- Talk to locals: Your favorite local coffee shop or other business might need content for websites, newsletters, or marketing emails.
How much money will it take to get started?
Unless you need to purchase a new computer (min. $1000), most of your startup costs will be spent marketing your company. Creating business cards, blogs, and online portfolios can be done for less than $50—especially if you take advantage of free website building platforms such as Webnode or Ucraft. You can upgrade to a subscription once your business takes off.
How much do freelance writing businesses make each year?
According to Ziprecruiter, the average freelance writer makes $63,213 per year. New York, Massachusetts, Washington, and District of Colombia are among the highest paying areas—averaging between $68,000 and $72,000. North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, and Texas are on the lower end at just below $54,000.
How much should I charge?
On average, freelance writers will charge between $200 and $250 for smaller projects like newspaper or magazine articles, press releases, book reviews or brochures. A monthly retainer fee of roughly $2000 is common for continuous or long term projects, such as ghostwriting a book, managing social media accounts, or writing a set number of articles, blogs, posts or other content per month.
However, it doesn’t hurt to figure out an hourly, per page, and per word rate—just in case you have clients who prefer them.
What should I charge per hour, page, and/or per word?
On average, freelance writers charge around $30 per hour. However, this varies depending on your location, level of experience, and type of project.
Determining a per page and per word fee is trickier. You can ask clients what the project word or page requirements are and go from there. After looking at a sample page of a project, you could estimate the number of hours it would take to complete and use your per hour rate to help you determine a per page or per word fee. You can also check out what other writers charge to help keep things competitive.
What should I include in my Letter of Agreement?
Once you’ve landed a client, it’s important to provide a contract (aka Letter of Agreement). Although traditionally written in letter form, your agreement should be signed by both parties. Generally, you should include the following information:
- Client name
- Project name
- Services to be provided
- Final deliverables—be sure to include a detailed description
- Delivery terms
- Payment terms—accepted methods, late fees, etc.
- Termination rights
- Any relevant federal, state, or local legislation
How do I protect my work?
As a freelance writer, you’ll consistently be updating your portfolio and work samples on different online platforms—which means someone could steal your work and profit from it. Here’s a few steps you can take to protect your intellectual property.
- Add a watermark
- License your work—this will allow clients to use your work for a specific purpose while you still retain the rights.
- Understand copyright laws—once you’ve written something original, it automatically receives copyright protection. You have the sole rights to publish, reproduce, sell, or use the text in any way you wish.
Keep in mind that accepting projects as a ghostwriter implies you won’t assume intellectual rights.
Select a Name for Your Freelance Writing Business
Have a great name idea? Before you start marketing and branding your business, you’ll need to ensure your name is available. Most states prohibit or restrict businesses from adopting names that are already in use. Even if it’s legally allowed, a copycat name puts your business at risk of a lawsuit.
See if your business name is available in your state with our Free Business Name Search.
Trademarks and Domain Names
Plan to trademark your business name? You can see if the trademark is available on a website like Trademarkia. It’s also a good idea to see if the domain name is available, which you can do on websites like Network Solutions and GoDaddy. Even if you don’t plan on putting together a website right away, you can buy the domain name to make sure no one takes it in the meantime.
Choose a Business Structure
Should you form an LLC? A sole proprietorship? Your choice of business structure will affect many aspects of your business, from liability to taxes.
Sole Proprietorships & General Partnerships
If you don’t file any paperwork to legally form a different kind of business—you have a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Essentially, these are “default” business structures. A sole proprietorship has one owner, and a partnership has multiple owners.
These structures have a few initial benefits. They’re easy, fast and cheap to start and maintain. However, the limitations and risks of these business structures quickly become more apparent as your business grows. In both of these business types, you are your business, legally speaking. Your company’s legal business name is YOUR name—so you’ll need a DBA to operate under any other name. Any business debt is YOUR personal debt. If anyone sues your business, they are suing YOU personally.
LLCs & Corporations
Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations are business entities formed at the state level. The entity is legally separate from its owners, meaning the owners are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. As a separate entity, the business also has multiple tax election options. For example, both LLCs and corporations can choose to be taxed as S-corps if they meet the requirements.
LLCs and corporations are not quite as simple and inexpensive as default structures. LLCs and corporations come with formal requirements like state reports. They also have more fees than default structures, such as formation and annual report fees. However, the benefits of an LLC or corporation—especially liability protection and tax flexibility—are significant.
Legally Form Your Freelance Writing Business
If you opt for a sole proprietorship or general partnership, there’s no formal paperwork to file to legally create your entity—you just start selling your product or service. However, you will not have any liability protections or tax flexibility.
LLCs and corporations are formed by filing paperwork with a state agency, typically the Secretary of State. To start an LLC, you file articles of organization. To start a corporation, you file articles of incorporation. In most states, you can file these forms online or download a paper form from the state’s website.
Whether you’re forming an LLC or corporation, your articles will require certain basic information about your business, such as your company’s:
- business address
- registered agent and office
- business purpose
- members/managers or directors/officers’ names and addresses
- number and type of authorized shares (for stock corporations)
You’ll also need the signature of someone authorized to sign on behalf of the business, along with the state’s filing fee. Fees vary by state but are typically between $100 and $200. If you hire Northwest to form your LLC or corporation, we complete and submit your formation paperwork on your behalf for just $100 plus state fees.
Create Internal Policies and Procedures
It’s important to put your company’s internal policies and procedures in a written document, especially if you’re starting your business with others. Partnerships have partnership agreements. LLCs have operating agreements. Corporations have bylaws.
These documents look a bit different for each kind of business, but they serve the same general purpose. They ensure there’s a clear path forward for any major issue that may arise, from changes in ownership to closing the business. LLCs and corporations also typically need an operating agreement or bylaws in order to open a bank account.
Get an EIN and Register for Taxes
Nearly all LLCs and corporations will need to request a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. If you file corporate income taxes, have employees, or file certain franchise taxes, you must have an EIN. An EIN is also a common requirement for opening a business bank account. Most businesses can request an EIN by filling out the IRS’s online form.
Your EIN is for federal taxes—but you’ll likely have state and local tax obligations as well. You will most likely need to set up an account with the state’s Department of Revenue, and you may need to apply for a state tax ID or a sales tax license as well.
Learn more about how to Get an EIN for your business.
Open a Bank Account
A business bank account keeps your personal finances separate from your business finances. For LLCs and corporations, keeping separate finances is essential for maintaining liability protection. To open an account, LLCs and corporations typically need to bring to the bank a copy of their articles, their operating agreement or bylaws, and their EIN.
Obtain Required Licenses and Permits
Many businesses will need a business license to operate. Licensing information—as well as any zoning requirements or other permits—can usually be found on the city or county website.
If your home is part of a homeowner’s association, you’ll also be subject to any of their restrictions for home-based businesses. Some areas may also require home-based businesses to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (a document certifying the property owner has given the business permission to operate).
Next Steps for Your Freelance Writing Business
After your business is up and running, there are a few additional steps you may want to take as you grow:
- Get online: With your domain name, you can create a business website. You can hire a professional or use a website-builder like Wix or WordPress. You may also want to invest in online ads through a program like Google Ads.
- Hire employees: Hiring employees requires quite a few steps. You’ll need to collect W-4s and I-9s from employees, report the new hires to the state, set up withholding, pay for unemployment insurance, distribute any required documents and notices to employees, and display wage and safety info in the workplace. Employer.gov is a good place to start, followed by your state’s tax or labor office.
- Get business insurance: While LLCs and corporations protect you from personal liability, you don’t want your business to go bankrupt in the face of an accident, injury or other disaster. At minimum, it’s a good idea to look into general liability insurance. Home-based businesses can sometimes add insurance onto their homeowner’s policy.
How Do I Know if Freelance Writing is for Me?
What’s it really like to work in a freelance writing business?
Although you will definitely spend a lot of time writing, you won’t always get to choose your topics. So, while you may have dreams of writing about dream vacations or current wedding trends, you will rarely have the luxury of free choice. In addition, your client may request a specific writing style (e.g. descriptive or persuasive) and length. Some may even edit your work—eliminating words, phrases, or whole paragraphs you spent hours writing. Make sure you have thick skin and are willing to compromise.
Freelance writing can be exciting and a great excuse to learn about a variety of topics. And someone might find inspiration to start a new career or finally grasp the art of folding fitted bed sheets, all because of something you wrote!
What does it take to succeed in the world of freelance writing?
A freelance writer should love to write, have a strong vocabulary, and be open to change—in the end, your client will have the ultimate say in what gets published and what doesn’t. You need to be organized, able to create clear and logical sentences, and be a good researcher—many times, you’ll be writing about a topic you know nothing about. Your ability to take in new information and find strong resources will help make your business a success.
The world of freelance writing is an already crowded industry. So, it is important to play up your strengths to help separate yourself from the larger pack. Do you have experience with SEO, SEMrush, or Google Analytics? Do you have a medical background that would be useful for writing about health care? Focus on what makes your skill set unique from other freelance writers.
Ready to Form an LLC or Corporation?
Northwest Registered Agent is here to help with all of your small business ideas and needs. Answer a few simple questions about your business, and we’ll prepare and submit your formation paperwork to the state. We also provide your new business registered agent service, free business forms and guides, and much more.