Owning your own freelance writing business does not need to be difficult. As long as you know the secrets to getting things set up properly, you can get started quickly and have clients standing in line in no time at all.
I’m going to share those secrets with you.
Why should you believe me? Because I’ve been earning a good living writing at home for years, and I enjoy the freedom it provides.
Let’s keep it simple and get started…
In this step-by-step guide, you will learn exactly what you need to land your first client. You will also learn some advanced techniques to build a rock-solid writing business (and start earning money quickly).
- Come Up With a Plan
- Get Started With Your Own Blog
- Choose Your Niche (or not)
- Decide What To Charge For Content Writing
- Prepare to Get Accept Payments
- Use Online Marketing To Grow Your Business
- Learn How To Overcome Setbacks
- Establish A Backup Plan
- Decide If You Should Hire Other Writers
- Learn the Tools of the Trade
- Establish Multiple Streams Of Income
1. Coming Up With a Content Marketing Business Plan
Many people skip this step but you will benefit if you take the time to do it. The good news is, it only takes a few minutes to put one together.
A content marketing business plan does not need to be complex but it should contain enough information to act as a guide. You can even use this page as a general outline for your business plan.
Include the following information:
How much money do you need to get started? – It doesn’t have to take a bite out of your budget to get started. You can be set up with your own website and have some money left over for marketing your business with only $100. This is assuming you already have a computer. Additional money may be needed if you want to buy Dragon Naturally Speaking and a microphone. I’ll show you how to save a lot of money on those optional items in the ‘Tools of the Trade’ section.
How much money do you need to earn? – It’s important to be realistic when you come up with this number. Think about what you would need to reach your financal goal.
For some people, it will be earning enough in their spare time to enhance their current financial situation. It is not difficult to make enough in your spare time to cover groceries or to pay the rent. It is also possible to make enough to replace your current income and start writing from home full time.
I tend to break things down on a daily basis rather than a weekly or monthly basis. In other words, how much do I need to earn every day to hit my goals? You should break things down in a way that works for you.
If you set a realistic financial goal, you will find it isn’t difficult to reach it. At that point, you can adjust your goal if desired.
How are you going to accept payments? – Most people will pay you through Paypal. I have been getting paid for content through PayPal for years without any problems. I also have some alternate methods of payment. I cover this in section 5, ‘Prepare to get Paid’.
How are you going to market your new business? – There are two basic choices when it comes to marketing your business; free or paid.
Both of these are covered in detail in section 6 ‘Ongoing Marketing Strategies’. Most people will want to start out with the free option, but that takes time and it can be hit or miss.
Read through section 6 carefully. I will show you how to start marketing your business for just a few dollars per day. You can adjust according to your situation.
What is your backup plan? – You should have a backup plan in place from the start. In fact, it should be one of the first things you do for your business.
A backup plan is a safety net that can be used just in case all else fails. There are a few options and they are covered in section 8
Are you going to hire other writers? – Most people who are reading this will want to start their own writing business and they will be the writer. As you grow your business, you might find that it is necessary to hire other writers.
It is not necessary to hire other writers in order to be successful. I have had a great writing business for over a decade and I haven’t hired a writer yet. Look through section 9 for more information
What tools are you going to use? – When you first start out, there are very few tools that are needed. As you add more tools to your toolbox and get proficient at using them, you will find that your earnings go up quickly.
I cover some of the basic tools in section 10. There are also some advanced writing tools out there that you may feel works for you.
Will you use your writing skills for your own content? – As a writer, you are in a unique position to ramp up your income by starting your own blog. You can use the blog to fish for clients or start a niche blog and put some extra money in your pocket.
I cover more about earning money with your own content in section 11.
Are you ready to get started with the next step?
2. Your Content Marketing Blog Is the Backbone of Your Business
One of the most common questions I hear about starting a writing business is if it is necessary to have a website.
The answer is: Yes!
There are many reasons why I say that it is a necessary part of your new business but it really boils down to marketing and longevity.
If you rely on an outside resource to build and grow your business, you really don’t own it. In essence, you are handing someone else the key to your kingdom and they can yank that carpet out from underneath you any time they want.
Trust me, I’ve been working full time online since the 1990s and I’ve seen it happen far too many times.
By the time I started a content writing business, I was smart enough to have my own website. Since I own it, nobody can take it away from me. I can turn the marketing on and off at will when I need new clients or if I just want to make a little extra money.
That being said, starting your own website is going to take some work. It really boils down to having your own domain name, some hosting and then doing what you do best, writing content.
In fact, you are in a better position than most new bloggers when you start your new blog because you can use your skill and create the content that will drive people to your business.
The host I recommend is Blue Host. They have a great starter package and can you get up and running with a free domain and rock-solid hosting for a few dollars per month. I am an affiliate for Blue Host, so I do make a commission if you order through my link, but they are the only host I recommend.
Your blog is your storefront and it works for you 24 hours per day.
I’m really oversimplifying things because this is not a page that teaches you how to get your new website up and running. There are plenty of free resources that show you just how to do it.
3. Do You Need to Choose a Niche?
An entire website could be dedicated to choosing a niche and I plan on writing a guide soon to help you in that area.
That being said, it is not necessary to choose a niche if you want to have your own content writing business.
What is necessary is to become a master at mastering any niche.
Over the years I have written for almost any subject, including writing for spine surgeons, dentists, roofers, mold remediation experts, viral content, jokes, cosmetics, lifestyle blog content, e-books on many subjects and thousands of articles for a pharmacy.
There are also subjects I shy away from, especially extremely technical content that would be for an expert audience. I also have limits as to what I content I write for personal reasons. Just be upfront with your clients and you will rarely ever run into a problem.
There are also times when you might want to establish yourself as an expert in a particular niche.
If you have the experience and ability to write with authority on any subject, you can charge a higher rate for your articles.
4. How Much Should You Charge for Content Writing?
This is perhaps one of the most common and most difficult questions to answer.
The reason why it is difficult is that it is up to you to determine how much you will charge per article.
As a general guideline, I charge anywhere from $10-$15 for a standard article of around 500 words. I have charged as little as five dollars for a similar article and as much as $25.
It depends on the content, the client, and what is required for the final product.
Some people charge $50, $75 or even $200 for a similar length article. If you are an expert writer and can crank out top-quality, technical content, you may find that the higher prices work well for you.
Most people who are getting started in a content writing business will have to write articles for less money.
That is fine but don’t limit yourself.
If you land a few clients that aren’t paying you exactly what you want, take advantage of the extra income and look for the clients that you really need to reach your business goals.
If you provide quality content at a reasonable price, you will have clients that stick with you for many years. Some of my clients have been with me for over 10 years.
The bottom line is, it is up to you to decide what you want to charge. My recommendation, however, is that you set your price so that you make a decent wage and are over-delivering on the content quality. It will work out well for you in the end.
It is also important to recognize that you are not going to be cranking out content from the very start. You will be slow at first but, like anything in life, you will gain experience, speed and even quality in the work that you provide.
Stick with your writing business for a few months and you will be surprised with what you are capable of doing.
5. Prepare to Get Paid Before You Get Paid
One of the most important parts of operating a content writing business is getting paid for the work you do.
My content writing business has been up and running for well over a decade. I have had hundreds of clients during that time. I took the time to get set up properly to get paid and it paid off.
I have gotten paid for every job except for one (more on that later).
From the very start, I required a minimum of a 50% down payment before I delivered any work. When I delivered the first half of the work, I require the other half of the payment before I finished.
When somebody is paying you through PayPal, which is what most of you will be using, they are protected.
Your options are limited for getting paid if they decide to take the content and walk away.
I can’t stress enough that you should get paid upfront for the work that you do. Why do I stress the need to get paid upfront?
Because the one time I got stiffed was when I wrote a free article as a trial for a potential client. Honestly, I doubt they ever wanted to pay, they wanted something for free.
If somebody asks me for a ‘trial article’, I send them an email with my PayPal information. I simply say that I would be happy to provide them with the trial article for $10. It works 99% of the time.
There are a few options for getting paid and I have used them often on over the years. These are the options I recommend.
PayPal – Setting up a PayPal account is free and easy. Most people will pay you through PayPal, either using their own PayPal account or with a credit card.
The fees for PayPal are high unless they are willing to send it to you without a fee. Typically, I just consider it to be a cost of doing business. You can always raise your price by $.50 and it will more than cover the charges.
ACH – I have clients that deposit money directly into my checking account every month. This is a very convenient way to get paid. I set up a checking account with Capital One and use it for that purpose.
Capital One does not charge me a fee for incoming ACH deposits. I can also pull my money immediately using the ATM card without a fee using the machine at a Walgreens or CVS.
I only accept ACH deposits from established clients that I trust.
2Checkout.com – I always like to have an option available in case PayPal decides they don’t want to do business with me any longer. There are too many stories being told to ignore that possibility.
I first used 2Checkout.com when I was working with a Canadian company that could not process PayPal payments with an American Express card. It takes a few days to get the deposit but it was well worth it because they were sending me boatloads of writing work.
It would be a good idea to set up an account with 2Checkout.com or a similar provider as an online merchant account. It’s better to have an option just in case you need it.
6. How to Market Your Content Writing Business
One important aspect that cannot be overlooked in any content writing business is marketing. If you aren’t actively marketing your business, your pool of available clients will eventually dry up.
A few different options are available for marketing, but some caution needs to be considered. If you market your business properly, you will not need an avalanche of traffic to your blog to maintain your business. In fact, just a few people a week is all that is necessary to maintain and even grow a successful business.
The following are some ways that I have marketed my business with success.
Advertising with Google Ads (Adwords)
Google allows you to buy contextual ads that show up in their search engine listings. For just a few dollars, you can get started and perhaps even get your first client.
It’s important to understand that this is not a guide on how to use Adwords. You can find plenty of information on the subject by doing a search on Google or watching some videos on YouTube.
The following advice is from me and will help you to spend less and get more out of it.
Limit Your Spend – Do not simply enter your credit card number and allow the system to charge what it wants. Limit your daily spend. Typically, I only spend $2 – $4 per day and that gets me a few visitors.
Be Specific – Don’t allow Google to talk you into using ‘broad match’. Choose the keywords you want to target and use them specifically. Since you are only trying to get a few clicks per day, you don’t need to cast a wide net.
Use Negative Keywords – Check your clicks every day and if you notice any keywords that generated clicks that would not be conducive to producing a sale, enter them in as negative keywords. Some examples would be ‘free’ or ‘term paper’. It will only take you a few weeks to weed out most of the unproductive clicks.
Use a Contact Form – Your blog will include an option for a contact form. Rather than putting your prices up and having people order directly, ask them to contact you for more information. It gets a dialogue going and works well for landing customers.
Get Their Email – Offer a 10% discount in exchange for their email address. You paid to have them come to your website, make sure you have a means of contacting them, even if they leave without purchasing.
Search Engine Optimization
When you start a blog, you can add content to get free traffic from Google and the other search engines. As long as you apply some SEO techniques, you can land a few clicks per day or even more.
Optimizing your blog and adding content provides many benefits. It does more than simply getting people to your website, it introduces them to your writing abilities.
Always put your best content on your own blog. It is one way that you are selling your skills.
Try the Direct Approach
One other option is to contact others directly about your writing services. You can do this by emailing companies that could use fresh content.
I have had limited success with this in the past but it is something to do while you are waiting for your first clients to come in. It also helps to keep you focused on your business.
7. What to Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way
It would be nice to think that everything is going to go perfectly from the time you first start your business.
Honestly, that is not realistic.
I’ve been working online since the mid-1990s and I’ve seen the carpet pulled out from underneath me many times. I have also been able to get up and start running quickly each time.
The key is to strike a balance. Hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Always keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities when it comes to content writing. Take the time to build your own blog and build up several streams of income.
One of the problems you may run into is losing a big client. I know it sounds cliché, but don’t ever put all of your eggs in one basket, regardless of how good that basket happens to be.
Diversify as much as possible.
Try to have at least three clients and always have a backup plan, which we discuss in the next section.
8. Have a Backup Plan in Place Before You Start
Taking the leap and beginning to trust in your content writing income is not always the easiest thing to do. After all, there are no guarantees but the same could be said for anything in life.
The real key to being successful with content writing is to have a backup plan. It’s not going to be a perfect plan, but it is something that you can fall back on and continue to make money when all else fails.
There are many content writing services and you can sign up for an account to be one of their writers. It often pays a lot less than what you would charge one of your own clients, but it can help to fill in the cracks.
There have even been times when my clients have gone on vacation and I had to write for one of those services just to pay the bills. It can work well, although you are going to make a lot less per hour, overall.
Here are a few backup options for you to consider. Sign up and get accepted to a few of them. You can even use them to fund your marketing expenses while you get your own business up and running.
9. Should You Hire Freelance Content Writers?
If you are actively marketing your content writing business, it will grow faster than what you can keep up with on your own.
You may also find that many other writers are finding you through your marketing efforts.
In either case, it can be tempting to bring on more writers and expand your business.
This is something that needs to be considered on a personal level according to your circumstances. If you are good at managing people and want to step back from writing and do more reviewing, it may be an option to consider.
I’ve been writing for well over a decade for clients that sometimes send me hundreds of articles per month. I’ve never found the need to outsource anything, other than hiring people to do some proofreading.
Not everybody has the same skill level and it can take some time before you find a writer that offers high-quality work. You might also find it difficult to locate other writers that are willing to work consistently.
That is why offering high-quality work and consistent writing can work to your benefit. If you are willing to search through some writers and find the one that works best for you, you might find that your business grows significantly.
On the other hand, if you focus on your clients, write content every day and deliver on time, you can be very successful with a content writing business even without hiring outside writers.
10. Content Writing Tools You Need to Use
Article Toolchest – This is my own free writing tool. It is also a tool that I use every day. I had it designed and coded to help me take care of large writing projects that I was doing for my clients. I offer it free of charge.
Dragon Naturally Speaking – Although I do type on occasion (I’m typing this now, for example), most of my writing work is done with Dragon Naturally Speaking. I also use a cheap headset microphone I picked up on Amazon for about $10 and I have no complaints on the results.
Dragon Anywhere – I do a lot of writing away from my computer. I might find that I’m sitting in a car waiting for someone or perhaps waiting for an appointment. I don’t take my computer everywhere with me but I don’t have to. Dragon Anywhere allows me to write articles on my cell phone or tablet. It does cost $15 per month but it is one of the only expenses I have. It is worth the money. Use it with Evernote to easily transfer files from Dragon Anywhere to your computer.
Grammarly – I check a lot of my writing with Grammarly. It isn’t flawless but it does catch some things I might miss when I’m proofreading my own work. I have also used Grammarly as a way to share files with my proofreader.
Convert Case – This is a handy little tool to manipulate text to title case and many other options.
11. Earn Money With Your Own Content
As a content writer, you are in a unique position to make money with your words.
Writing content for clients can put money in your pocket quickly but writing content for your own blog can pay you consistently.
Once you start your own blog, you can begin adding content regularly. This works to promote your content writing services and acts as an example of your writing abilities.
It also attracts attention from Google.
As you continue to build your blog and add content to it, you have options for selling more than your content writing services. You may find that it works well with affiliate marketing, selling e-books or even adding advertising.
The key is to understand how to make the most out of your writing abilities. This would include optimizing your pages for the reader and for Google. You also need to add consistent content if you want to see the most benefit from your writing.
Diversifying your income is very important when you have an online business. It’s great to have a few clients that you write for every week but when you write for yourself, you are adding another income stream that can pay off for many years to come.