How To Start Freelance Writing: The Complete Beginner’s Guide
So you want to learn how to start freelance writing. Maybe you want to do it on the side, maybe you’re hoping to switch careers and become a professional freelance writer full-time. Whatever your scenario, it can be daunting to get your freelance writing career started from scratch.
The truth is, a freelance writing career takes time to build, but there are some key steps to help you speed up the process or at least make it as smooth as possible. Below we’ve put together a massive guide for new writers who want to learn how to start freelance writing with no experience or intermediate writers who have found some success with freelance writing but are ready to take their career to the next level. Here’s our complete beginner’s guide on how to start freelance writing.
2. Work for Free to Build Your Writing Portfolio
The best way to build your writing portfolio and get exposure for yourself at the same time is through guest posting. I’d argue guest posting is the most important thing that helped boost my freelance writing career.
Build Your Dream 100 List
Find Sites to Submit Your Guest Posts
In my case, my keyword would be a variation of “Software,” something like “B2B tech,” or “Marketing tech,” and so on. This will ensure that the guest posting opportunities you find will be consistent by the niche you chose.
Find the Email Addresses of the Person In Charge
Log into FindThatLead and copy-paste the contact person into the NAME text box. Type the company name or their URL into DOMAIN OR COMPANY NAME field and hit search.
Do this for all the sites on your list using FindThatLead and fill in the Dream 50. Once you have your list ready, you can start pitching. Before we get into how to craft your pitch, let’s briefly talk about cold outreach.
Pitch Your Guest Posts
The pitch itself isn’t terrible. It’s short and to the point and he’s asking for permission to connect. But he hasn’t done his research. I don’t even have a blog, so I know he hasn’t done any homework on me or what I do.
Last but not least: What freelance writers need to consider legally
In itself, freelancing is a wonderful business, with lots of flexibility and the luxury of doing work you love. The legal aspects, on the other hand, tend to be one of the unloved things.
Many aspiring writers find legal jargon confusing and complicated. This leads to ignoring the legal aspects and many writers get into trouble after some time in business because of that.
We’re not only telling you how to become a freelance writer. Below we’ll also tell you what you need to pay attention to legally around taxes, insurance and contracts when you start your freelance business.
Calculate taxes in advance
When you pursue a freelance writing career, you’re technically setting up your own business. That means you’re your own boss – and therefore completely responsible for your own self-employment taxes, i.e. social security and payroll taxes.
You should set aside money for these taxes. As a rule of thumb, you should save about 30% of your net income as a freelancer, which should allow you to meet your annual tax obligations.
It is best to estimate at the beginning of the year how much tax you will have to pay at the end of the year. To do this, you can check what you have already earned after the first quarter (January, February, March). Multiply this number by four (for four quarters) and you have an estimate of how much you will earn in the year. Take 30% of that and you know what you’ll owe Uncle Sam per quarter and at the end of the year.
Too complicated for you? Then sign up with a certified tax preparer or hire an accountant. It may sound expensive at first, but so are the penalties you’ll have to pay if you can’t file your tax return yourself at the end of your fiscal year. In that respect, it may pay to outsource the financial stuff while you focus on writing.
Sign freelance contracts
The very idea of having to draw up and sign a contract gives most creative people sleepless nights. But as much as you might want to work based on an informal agreement, that won’t get you very far if a client refuses to pay you.
The good news is that freelance contracts are much simpler than regular employment contracts and are easy to prepare without an expensive lawyer and tons of paperwork. There are numerous templates online that you can download for this purpose.
Be aware of trade descriptions
What many freelance writers don’t know: It is illegal to make false or misleading advertisements for your own products or services. This also applies to claims on your own website, in advertisements, or even in ordinary conversations.
As a freelance writer, you also need to be careful with customer testimonials in your portfolio. If you include such statements, you must always be able to prove that these statements are true.
So, always make sure that firstly, you don’t make any false promises in self-promotion and secondly, for all testimonials and supporting documents in your portfolio, you have the written consent of the clients and can prove that you really worked for the client.
Insurance as a freelancer
It’s convenient to work from home as a freelance writer. But when it comes to insurance, it can be tricky – especially if you’ve set up a home office. Do you need homeowners insurance or business liability insurance now?
Newbie freelancers often underestimate the importance of insurance, especially if they work from home. Therefore, keep in mind that something can always go wrong and you should be covered for such an eventuality.
We recommend both home and business liability insurance for freelance writers. This way you are covered against any kind of damage or loss to your home office and you won’t be set back in case of damage, but can quickly start working again.
Check your (former) employment contract
Many newbies don’t start freelancing full-time right away. In fact, about 30% of all freelancers work part-time to earn some extra money or to first test the waters before quitting their full-time job.
If you plan to do the same, be sure to double-check your employment contract with your current employer first and make sure you’re not violating any non-compete clauses by moonlighting as a freelance writer.
Even if you’re jumping smack dab into the freelance business, it’s worth taking a look at your previous employment contract before taking on your first client. You may have signed certain legal documents that could limit what you can and cannot do as a freelancer and who you can and cannot work with.
For example, a non-compete agreement could mean that you are not allowed to work as a freelancer in the same region or industry as your (former) employer for a certain period of time.
Freelance writer FAQ
Basically none. A bachelor’s degree in English, journalism or communications helps, but is not a requirement. First and foremost, you need patience, tenacity and a strong personality. It also helps to have a knack for writing and budgets. Other than that, it only takes some writing samples, good ideas, and a strong network.
The answer to this question is quite clearly, yes! You may think you need more than just writing skills to get started as a freelance writer. But you don’t. Everything you don’t know now, you can learn as you go along. And once you get started, you’ll quickly realize where you can improve.
A career in freelance writing requires hard work and the ability to dig in and keep landing new assignments. Once you’ve found your rhythm and built up a client base, freelance writing can be a really rewarding career and you can make a good living with it. It can be helpful to start out part-time and then take the leap into full-time self-employment when the order book is good.
You won’t really find out if you are a good writer until you try. Once you’ve landed your first clients and completed your first writing assignments, you’ll quickly notice from the feedback whether your texts are well received. However, if you were a really bad writer, you probably wouldn’t even think about a career as a freelance writer, would you? So have a little faith in your writing skills.