Can you make money writing?

If you’re here because you like writing, you might have dreamed a few times about making a living doing just that. Of course, if you’ve ever voiced that dream out loud, there’s a good chance you’ve been told to be realistic or even laughed at.

Well, guess what, you can actually make money writing. Plenty of people do, including myself, when they start a freelance writing business.

The downside is, it might not be the kind of writing you love doing all the time. Eventually, you might be able to make a living from your fiction, but this can be much harder.

In the meantime, if you just love to write and want a way of making money from that, one option you could explore is to start a freelance writing business. More specifically, content writing, blogging, copywriting and so on. The good thing is, this is one type of business that requires very minimal startup capital to get going.

You can also do it on the side of your regular job for extra cash or until you make enough to quit your day job.

What can you get paid to write about?

I think the majority of freelance writers write website content. That means all the content you see on home pages, about us pages, landing pages and product/service descriptions. Then, of course, there’s the blog which is a bit more informal and regular in most cases.

Beyond that, there is email marketing, advertising copy, whitepapers, informative guides/ebooks and also social media content.

Some people specialise in one of those areas, but it’s a good idea to get experience and learn how to do most of them if not all.

Who pays writers?

This is the million-dollar question – who will actually pay you? First of all, there are startups. They will be looking for brand new website content to help them set up. The downside to working with start-ups is they don’t want to/can’t pay that much.

Established businesses with deeper pockets and more of an understanding of how content marketing works will be able to pay more and over a more regular time frame.

What should I start writing about?

If you already have experience in a particular industry, then it’s definitely worth considering whether you can write in that industry. Having experience of the industry will be invaluable and will put you ahead of those just starting out in it.

So, if you’ve worked in healthcare, there’s a big market for writers like that – and most people can’t write about the finer details here so you shouldn’t have as much competition.

I started out working in marketing for an accountancy firm and learned a lot about the world of business, finance and accounting along the way. For that reason, I’m mostly a finance writer now.

Take some time to list out the industries that you have the most knowledge in. If you can’t think of many, list out which ones you would be most interested in writing about. The good thing is, you can always learn.

Which industries are the most competitive?

The ones everyone wants to work in. Lots of people are eager to write about entertainment, beauty, lifestyle, travel and media. There is certainly a huge market for each of those niches, but it will be very competitive.

Nowadays, I wouldn’t say there are many niches where there’s no competition. However, if you have specialised knowledge in something like healthcare, education, finance, technology or science, you’ll find the competition isn’t as fierce there. You’ll find that businesses in these industries are more likely to pay more, particularly if they’ve been struggling to find a freelance writer.

What should I do to set myself up?

At the very least, I would recommend you set up a LinkedIn profile if you haven’t already. On that profile, make sure you have your job title as “freelance writer”, “freelance copywriter/content writer” or something like that so people know immediately what you offer.

It’s a good idea to display your chosen niche too if you can. So, something like “freelance tech writer” would work well here. It’ll help potential clients narrow their search a bit more and you also show that you’re a specialist in the field.

In your summary, explain what you offer and how you can help businesses improve their websites or traffic. Then, if you have a website, make sure that the link is in there too.

It’s definitely worth spending some time on your LinkedIn profile because that’s where all your potential clients are if you want to work with businesses. That’s where I’ve had the most success in finding clients. Freelance writing jobs are also advertised there sometimes.

Do I need a website?

I would say yes, you ideally want to direct interested clients somewhere where you can show off your list of services, prices, portfolio and testimonials.

Having your very own website shows that you’ve invested time and money into your freelance business, which looks so much more professional than referring people to an online portfolio site.

What do I need to set up a website?

If the thought of setting up a website sounds like too much work, it’s a lot easier than you think. You can set up a free website of course, but at the least, I would recommend purchasing a domain name to make it look professional. This will cost you around £10 a year, sometimes more or less if you get a special offer.

If you want to go one step further and have full control and customisation over your site, then you will need to go down the self-hosting route.

With self-hosting, you need:

  • A domain
  • Hosting
  • A website builder/content management system
  • A theme

Typically, when you get a free website, it will be hosted by the provider. With a self-hosted website, you have to find somewhere to host those website files yourself. This could be with a hosting company or you could do it via your own servers – but the chances are, you don’t have a load of servers sitting around.

Using a hosting company is what most people do and most of them offer plenty of different options at different prices. The cheapest is something called shared hosting which just means you share a server with other websites. This option is fairly cheap, usually a few quid or dollars per month.

However, most hosting companies offer the whole “just $3 a month” which is great but they don’t tell you until you sign up that you’ll have to pay a year upfront. It also rarely ends up as just $3 a month in the end.

If you’re unsure about your website, paying hosting and all that jazz, there are some companies which offer monthly payments for your hosting. This can be a bit more manageable if you’re looking to keep costs low.

I personally use A2 Hosting for this reason (affiliate). You can pay annually or monthly, buy a domain and get set up pretty easily. There is also the option to buy a package that allows you to host multiple domains, which I do. I pay about £12 a month and host 4 websites on that including this one and my freelance website.

Start building your freelance writing website

The next decision to make is which website platform you want to use. There are plenty of options out there including WordPress, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly. I use WordPress personally which is easy to learn and has lots of flexibility for customisation. Once you’ve chosen your website platform, you will need to install it and attach your domain to it which will give you a login page. There will be instructions on how to do this via whichever hosting company you go with.

Once you’re logged in, it’s time to choose a theme or page builder and get customising and building your website. I use something called Elegant Themes (affiliate) which is a subscription-based service which gives you access to themes, templates and also some handy plugins. I chose the lifetime membership a few years ago and have used the Divi theme and plugins on several websites since then. It’s simple to use and design a fully unique website, even if you’re not a coding expert.

What should I have on my website?

Your website doesn’t need to be an elaborate affair. Here are some key things to include on your website:

  • An About page – An introduction to you, what you do and how you help businesses
  • Services page – What do you offer
  • Contact page – I would recommend a form rather than putting your email address down to reduce spam.
  • Testimonials from clients – Make sure you ask for them when you complete work
  • A blog – To display your writing ability and help you market your website (not essential)
  • A photo of you – To prove you’re a real-life human

How do I find clients?

Now for the hard part. There are three major ways to get clients.

Cold emailing

It’s time to do some research on your industry and businesses you would like to work with in order to find contact details. You will need to get in touch with marketing departments, editors or business owners themselves to offer your services.

You will get ignored – a lot. However, you just need one to say yes to begin with. When cold emailing, try not to copy and paste the same pitch – everyone can tell. Make sure you tailor it to the business, show you’ve done research and present exactly what you can offer them.

Job boards

Make sure you keep an eye out over LinkedIn and freelance writing job boards such as ProBlogger to stay on top of job opportunities. It’s time to crack out the ol’ CV/resume and get polishing it.

People you know

A lot of freelancers start out with people they know. This could be people they used to work with, friends or family members or a local business they’re familiar with. When working with friends and family, you probably won’t get a whole load of money, so make sure you get a testimonial/review from them and permission to put the work on your portfolio.

Ask around your network. You may know someone who knows a business owner who could give you work.

You’ve got a client – now what?

Well done for getting your first client. Aside from writing the best you’ve ever written, there are also some other things to think about.

  • Contracts – While not essential, you may want to write up a contract for each client to protect both interests
  • Invoicing – This is essential. Make sure you get in the habit of invoicing all clients to keep a record
  • Bookkeeping – Another essential one. You need to keep a good record of all your income and outgoings in your business. This is should you ever need to pay tax and submit Self Assessment or whatever the equivalent is in your country.
  • Bank account – It’s always a good idea to set up a separate bank account for your freelancing business aside from your personal account. That way, all transactions in this account are business-related and therefore must be in your bookkeeping records. It will prevent insanity.

Stay positive and patient

Deciding to start a freelance writing business isn’t easy. There will likely be a lot of rejection, silent email inboxes and minimal money coming in at the start. However, if you keep at it, ensure you do your research and develop your pitch writing skills, you could get the ball rolling.

The freelance writing lifestyle is great but there are definitely ups and downs. However, I wouldn’t trade it for a regular job. The flexibility, ability to work from home and the variety of work is just too much to pass up.

I hope this has  given you some key information on how to start a freelance writing business. Is there anything I’ve missed out that you really want answered? Let me know in the comments. Otherwise, good luck!

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