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How to Build a Creative Writing Freelance Business

by Sean

The problem with creative writing jobs is that they can be unpredictable.

Think about it.

You apply for dozens of screenwriting or technical writing jobs, and you finally receive an offer! You spend days negotiating a fair price and learning how to write in the format and tone of your new client.

But that creative writing “job” is nothing more than a short-term writing project. Every few months, you’ll find yourself starting the cycle all over again.

Search. Apply. Negotiate. Work. Repeat!

Are you ready to turn your passion for writing into a consistent living with a steady stream of clients and income?

Become a Student of the Craft

When those creative juices flow, you’re unstoppable.

You’re a natural creative writer. Your words connect seamlessly, and your short stories are convincing enough to provide readers a long-anticipated mental escape.

But there’s always room for growth.

Whether you have a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, some high school English courses, or none of the above, you should step back into the “student” role and:

Sharpen Your Research Skills

Nothing will ruin your credibility quite as much as inconsistencies, plot holes, and unreliable sources.

So, practice your research skills in your free time.

For example, you can vet sources for accuracy when you read blog posts or articles.

Or even research historical concepts in film and TV and look for scenes that don’t quite add up (like the lack of accurate Spartan armor in the movie 300).

Decide on Your Favorite Niches

When it comes to marketing your creative writing business, you’ll find that your ads generate more organic traffic when you have a specific niche.

For example, a director looking to develop a new television pilot is more likely to search for a “screenwriter” than a generic “creative writer.”

So, select a genre that puts your writing skills on full display, like:

  • Screenplays
  • Scripts
  • Essays
  • Speeches
  • Newspaper journalism
  • Magazine writing
  • Public relations
  • Poems
  • Fiction
  • Short stories
  • Lyrics
  • Pop culture
  • Website content writing/blog posts

Of course, it won’t matter how engaging your content is if you don’t have the necessary tools to bring those pieces to fruition.

So, make sure you’re up-to-date on your technological resources (i.e., proofreading tools like Grammarly or Hemingway, high-speed internet, a laptop, and a printer).

Related: 11 Mistakes Freelancers Should Avoid


Develop a Business Plan

Freelance writing business plan

The biggest shock of becoming a business owner is … well … the “business” part.

As a freelance writer, your only concerns were submitting projects before the deadline and waiting for the check to clear 24 hours later.

Now, you have much more on your plate:

Business expenses, legal contracts, invoicing, and lots more.

So, your business plan should take into account:

Your Rates

There’s an ongoing debate regarding the best way to bill clients.

But if you want to ensure you never accidentally undercharge for your services, charging by the hour is the unofficial “gold standard.”

How to Set Your Rate as a Freelance Writer

Take out your calculator. Let’s do a little math:

  1. Choose an ideal annual income: We’ll say $72,000.
  2. Decide how many hours you’d prefer to work per week: Let’s go with 40, the standard for a decent work-life balance.
  3. Multiply your number of weekly hours by 52 weeks: 2,080 hours
  4. Take your annual income and divide it by the product of #3: $34.60/hour

Hold on! Keep that calculator out!

You’ll also want to factor in overhead costs, like your Grammarly subscription, virtual office fees, or bookkeeper wages.

So, if those additional costs total up to $2,500 a year, divide that by 2,080. This calculates out to an extra $1.20/hour to secure your desired $72,000 annual income.

Your Business Name and Logo

The average person sees over 5,000 ads per day.

So, you want to make sure that your ideal client sees your ad and remembers it after they click to another page.

The best place to start?

Choosing a memorable and creative business name and a matching logo, which you should have no problem with considering your career path!

How to Choose a Name for Your Freelance Business

Look for words related to your niche and see how you can piece them together to convey your writing (i.e., “ScreamPlay” if you specialize in penning horror flicks).

Come up with a dozen or so, and jot them down on paper in order of your favorites. Starting at the top of the list, Google them to see if each one is taken. If someone already uses that name for their business, move on to the next.

The last thing you want is to choose a business name that someone’s already using!

Your Business Finances

Until recently, the only thing you had to worry about was earning enough monthly income to keep the lights on and pay your rent.

But now, the money will flow from your account in both directions. And that can be a scary thought if finances aren’t your strong suit.

To best manage the financial aspects of your creative writing business:

Establish Business Accounts

The one thing that’ll make tax season even more of a nightmare is having to thumb through piles of receipts and paperwork to separate personal and business expenses.

Never commingle your money!

Instead, open up a bank account and credit card strictly for your business venture!

Choose How You’ll Invoice Clients

You went through all that effort to determine a fair hourly rate. Now, you have to figure out how you’ll send your clients the bill when you finish their next order.

Our favorite invoicing tools are:

  • PayPal: Anyone who’s ordered from Amazon or DoorDash probably has a PayPal account up and running. Just be aware that there’s a 2.9% + $0.30 flat fee on all invoices you send (though we have a few workarounds).
  • Wave: You can easily send professional invoices to clients while also tracking your receipts and business expenditures in one easy-to-use app!
  • Bloom: Okay, we’re biased because this is our product. But starting at $9/month, you can send unlimited invoices to clients while also streamlining client contact and your business’s workflow!

Since most invoicing tools require small fees, condensing multiple articles or batches into a single invoice can reduce your overhead.

Try Bloom for free today!

Your Legal Protections

Every business owner’s worst nightmare is facing a lawsuit or having a client go AWOL before paying their dues.

So, you want to pursue legal protections like:

Business Insurance

Accidents happen, even in the writing world.

So, when the USB drive holding your latest manuscript winds up in the washing machine or a client isn’t satisfied, a $100,000 lawsuit will put you underwater.

You need business insurance to provide ongoing legal protection for as little as $20/month!

LLC

A limited liability company (LLC) might be a little costly to set-up, but it’s the best way to protect your new business if you happen to get attorney papers in the mail.

Any lawsuit will be directed toward your LLC, not your personal bank account!

Legal Contracts

As much as you want to trust your best-paying client, there’s no guarantee you’ll receive payment unless you require it legally.

So, a legally-binding contract—fit with an e-Signature—is an absolute “must.”

Don’t begin working on a project until the client signs the contract, agrees to the price, and, in an ideal world, puts the money into escrow!

Learn more about protecting your business in case of broken contracts: How to Write a Force Majeure Clause


Create a Blog, Website, and Online Profiles

Create writer website and profile

The best part about being a creative content writer is that your clients don’t have to put blind trust in your business.

That’s because your best work is already available online via social media, an up-to-date blog, or a professional website.

At least it should be!

Here’s what you need to know about honing your online presence:

Publishing Your Work Online

The best way to ensure your clients leave 5-star reviews on Yelp is by giving them a good sense of your tone, voice, and research style before they hire you.

So, publish regular writing samples on:

Not only will your publications reach a far wider audience (which may include potential clients), but you can also garner feedback from your loyal readers!

Creating a Professional Website

You don’t need to hire a web designer or an SEO expert (although it certainly doesn’t hurt), but your business’s website should have an air of professionalism.

On top of regularly-scheduled blog posts, be sure to include:

  • SEO keywords related to your niche that your ideal client will find organically on Google (like “fictional story writer”)
  • Up-to-date contact information
  • Landing pages with gated content and a client intake form (collect those email addresses!)
  • A scheduling tool for planning out first meetings with new clients
  • A simple website domain (nothing screams “I put this together last night” quite like a .wordpress.com or .weebly.com domain)

And don’t forget that all of your online advertisements and social media profiles should link potential clients to your website!

Creating Social Media Profiles

Social media can be a little trickier for a writer than for a photographer, as people are far more inclined to look at an image than read a 5-minute article.

So, it’s all about using your online handles strategically.

For example, Tumblr is a unique artistic community that appreciates short stories, fanfic, and poetry.

Instagram and Twitter either have a cap on character count or prioritize images.

In that case, putting an excerpt from your latest work on a white background and turning it into an image will generate more interactions and shares!

And if your screenwriting, playwriting, or speech writing have been videotaped, add them to your YouTube profile so that potential clients can see your work in action.

A Note on Pen Names:

One of the best parts about being a creative writer is that you can pursue anonymity by using a pen name. It can also do wonders for your career if your real name is something common like John Smith.

That’s completely fine!

However, consistency is key.

So, make sure to post all of your work under the same name, whether that’s a Tumblr blog, Facebook profile, or your website.

Where to Find Freelance Creative Writing Jobs Online

It could take months or even years for your website to begin showing on the first page of search engines like Google or Bing.

Until then, you’ll want to find creative writing gigs on job platforms designed for freelancers like yourself!

There are lots of jobs for creative writing experts on:

The trick is creating these profiles on all or most of these sites so that you don’t have to actively apply for jobs once you get your business running.

If you set your preferences to let the platform know what kinds of work you enjoy, then complete a few jobs to show them you do quality work, they’ll send you job alerts whenever they have a posting that might interest you.


Dedicate Your Time to Lead Generation

Now that you’ve ironed out the kinks and gotten your business off the ground, it’s time to secure even more work through lead generation.

We know what you’re thinking: “But I don’t know anything about marketing.”

No worries!

Here are a few tips to turn your freelancing career into a thriving business:

Reach Out to the Right People and Businesses

Take a second to think about who your ideal client is, where they are, and how you can get in contact with them.

If you’re a scriptwriter or playwright, reach out to local performing arts facilities like theaters and studios.

If you’re more of a copywriter, pay a visit to downtown businesses that might need advertising content.

Phone your local magazine and newspaper editors to find out if they’re looking to hire essay writers.

And if lyrics or speechwriting are more your things, local politicians or up-and-coming musicians might need your services.

Make a Sales Pitch

Ask yourself: Why should a client place an order with my creative writing business?

Is it your years of experience writing persuasive essays?

Have you had publications in national magazines?

Do you fulfill all orders within four weeks?

Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. If you can’t fit it into an easy to skim email or brief phone call, you have a little work to do!

Start Marketing Online

Nothing beats talking to people face to face. But when you’re a creative writer, you might be working for people in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, even if you don’t live in those places.

In other words, most of your business will be virtual!

So, begin marketing your services online for a much broader reach.

The obvious starting points on the marketing front are Google PPC ads and Facebook Ads. But it’s your approach to marketing that makes the biggest difference.

Get creative by:

  • Putting your best work on display (i.e., boosting Facebook posts of your samples, rather than just ads).
  • Automating your marketing efforts through regular email campaigns, advertising discounts, deals, and incentives!
  • Joining LinkedIn groups related to your niche and participating in conversations.
  • Submitting samples of your work into competitions that’ll give you exposure and more relevant search results.
  • Using relevant hashtags to get your content on your ideal client’s screens without having to spend a dime.

Soon enough, you’ll have referral clients knocking down your door and a fully-automated sales funnel to keep you busy and your bank account full.


Consider Hiring Subcontractors

Hire content subcontractors

The whole purpose of transitioning from a solo freelancer to a business owner was to get more clients and expand your earning potential.

But now, it feels like you’re spreading yourself too thin.

With a strict hourly rate, the only way to make more money is by sacrificing your free time and allowing your business to consume your entire life.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way!

It might be time to think about hiring subcontractors and creating a team of other skilled freelancers, like:

Other Writers

Short stories might be your forte, but you can’t seem to find your “salesperson hat” when you get a copywriting project.

Consider hiring creative content writers that thrive in your weaker niches to create an all-inclusive creative writing business!

Virtual Assistant

You may be stepping into the shoes of a “business owner,” but you’re maintaining an active role in your company as the head writer.

Think about hiring a virtual assistant to handle the behind-the-scenes tasks (lead generation, client communication, etc.).

Bookkeeper

You’ll never understand the financial aspects of running a business until you begin adding others to your payroll.

Bringing a part-time bookkeeper on board can help you track your ongoing business expenses and better prepare for tax filing.

Editor or Proofreader

Nobody said that your writing quality wasn’t on par, but it’s easy to let errors slip through the cracks.

Enlisting the help of a sharp-eyed proofread can ensure your writing is always top notch!

Where to Hire Subcontractors

Writers are more likely to scour job boards like Upwork, ProBlogger, or Fiver than to look at listings on Indeed or Monster.

So, those sites are the best place to start.

When writing listings, create clear job descriptions that detail precisely the type of person you want to join your “team,” like:

  • Number of hours per week
  • Starting pay (ensure your budget allows you to still profit)
  • Skills needed to be successful
  • Required technology (Grammarly, Hemingway, laptop, etc.)
  • Deadlines and flexibility requirements

Most of all, don’t forget to factor in these new overhead costs when you deliver project estimates to new clients.

So, if it costs you $1,000/month to pay your new hires and you average 200 orders a month, consider adding an extra $5 flat fee to every contract!


Conclusion

Now that you’ve proven your knack for writing and escaped the vice of entry-level creative writing jobs, it’s time to start working on building a business.

No matter where you envision your new business heading in the next few years, keep your sights on the most important thing:

Creating engaging content.

The more satisfied your clients are, the better reviews they’ll leave online. In the next six months, this “crazy” creative writing startup will be a lucrative business!

And to think you started as a part-time freelance writer!

Learn more about how Bloom can help you manage your business!

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