If you have a knack for writing and want flexibility in where, how, and when you work, becoming a freelance writer might be the perfect option. Today, most types of writing jobs only require a laptop, WiFi connection, and word processing software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

While the internet is full of videos, photographs, memes, and other forms of entertainment, the written word still plays a pivotal role in delivering online content. Think about it: even a YouTube video has a caption of written text that describes the video. 

This guide will show you how to start a freelance writing business by looking at the following:

  • Types of freelance writing jobs to consider
  • Skills you need to become a freelance writer
  • How to find clients
  • How taxes work for freelance writers
  • How Countingup helps freelancers organise their finances

How to start a freelance writing business

Here are a few things you need to consider to help you succeed in your freelance writing business venture. 

Different types of freelance writing jobs

As a freelance writer, there are several different types of jobs you can go for. You can also specialise in a particular topic or industry. Here are a few areas you can consider:

Article or feature writer 

While print magazines, journals, and newspapers are some of the most difficult jobs to break into, they often pay better than online jobs. Additionally, landing a freelance job for a well-known print publication looks great on your CV. Usually, you pitch your article ideas to the magazine and get paid if and when they accept your suggestion and print it.

Web content writer

Every website needs good content to boost its SEO (search engine optimisation) scores and attract more visitors to its site. Clients may hire you to produce regular content (maybe two articles or blog posts per week) or have you pitch ideas first as print publications do.

Bear in mind that you need a decent knowledge of SEO and marketing to do this job. Skilled content writers can demand higher rates since they essentially help clients get more business. 

Marketing and advertising copywriter

Copywriters write promotional content designed to sell a product or service. Examples of copywriting include crafting sales letters, ads, product descriptions, website copy, and social media posts. 

You need a good understanding of psychology and sales to do this job well. For online methods like digital marketing and social media marketing, you also need solid SEO skills. However, like a content writer, you can charge high rates once you become a master of the craft.

Resume writer

Crafting CVs and cover letters is a tiresome and stressful process for most job seekers, and many would welcome an expert to write their resumes for them. If you know how to sell (mainly ‘sell’ a job seeker to an employer) and have decent writing skills, resume writing is a good way to bring in some extra cash. 

Ghostwriter

A ghostwriter writes content that someone else takes credit for. The plus side with this type of job is that it can pay really well. The downside is that it can be hard to break into since most people look for ghostwriters with a track record of success and extensive knowledge of the industry. You also have to be comfortable with someone else taking credit for your work. 

Business plan writer

If you have a good understanding of how business works and know how to write clearly, you can also offer your services by writing business plans for both startups and established companies.

Skills you need to become a freelance writer

We’ve already touched on some skills you need for certain jobs, but let’s dig a little deeper. Obviously, you need good writing skills to become a writer. Your spelling and grammar must be flawless, and you need the ability to make topics engaging and easy to read. 

However, aside from that, you also need the following skills to succeed as a freelance writer:

Research

You have to do at least some research for most writing jobs. Articles, blog posts, journals and other content need to provide accurate facts and valuable information to the reader. 

Research skills are crucial to help you find good and reliable sources and create an outline for your writing project. Developing organised and effective research methods will empower you to become knowledgeable in any topic you need to cover.

Editing skills

Successful writing and solid self-editing skills go hand in hand. First drafts will always be a bit of a mess, but editing them is what makes them high-quality pieces of writing. So work on your editing skills to ensure you can create a professional portfolio of polished pieces, 

Additionally, if you become excellent at editing, you can apply those skills to earn extra money as a proofreader. Editing skills are so essential that it might be good to take a course to perfect your skills. 

Communication skills

There’s a lot more to writing than the words on the page, especially when you’re a freelancer. Your success relies on your ability to make positive connections with clients and the audience you write for. Communication skills are key to building a client base, expanding your network, and managing expectations. 

You also need these skills in case you need to interview people for an article. Use your research abilities to gather a great set of questions to ask them (you can always Google questions to ask to help you along). 

Networking and sales capabilities

Freelancing is highly competitive and relies heavily on building and maintaining a network to help you find new job opportunities. You want to make new connections, nurture business relationships, and build a presence in your field. The more well-known and respected you are, the easier it’ll be to find jobs.

Sales skills

If you don’t need to sell a product or service with your writing, you at least need sufficient sales skills to sell yourself. Just like a product you might need to promote as a copywriter, you need to find your unique selling point (what separates you from other writers) and convince clients to work with you. 

Content management knowledge

If you work in online mediums, it’s good to understand how your work gets uploaded and managed once you submit it. Companies use content management systems (CMS) to organise and publish content on their website. 

Knowing how this process works can help you create your work in a way that’s easy for your client to manage. It also helps you understand how your role as the writer fits into the whole picture.

How to find freelance writing clients

As we’ve mentioned before, finding clients can be challenging, especially when you’re new to the playing field. Here are some tips to help you find your first clients:

Focus on a niche

Choosing a niche (an area you specialise in) helps you determine what clients you want to work for, the type of content you want to create, and the topics you want to cover. Additionally, choosing a niche makes it easier for clients to see what you can offer.

Your niche is essentially your unique selling point. For example, instead of just being a content writer, maybe you’re a content writer specialising in personal development or sports.

Use your existing network

Even if you’ve just started as a freelance writer, you might have a network of friends, family, former colleagues and schoolmates. These people will have their own networks of people they could recommend you to. 

If you’ve been active in the business world for a while, you will probably have a network of professional connections who could give you recommendations. Reach out and ask these people if they have or know of any opportunities (this is where your networking skills come in handy).

Set up a website

As a freelancer, you run your own business, meaning you’ll need to brand and market yourself as companies do. 

An excellent way to demonstrate your skills is to create and maintain a professional website to showcase your work. Add a section where you share some information about yourself (focus on your skills and experience) and use the website to market yourself.

You can use systems like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace to create your website for free or at a reasonable price. 

Write guest posts

While it’s great to write articles for your own website, another way to build your personal brand is to create guest posts for other sites as well. You can search “write for us” (use quotation marks to make sure the search engine uses the phrase as a whole) followed by your field. 

You’ll get a list of websites accepting guest posts that you can look through to find the one that suits you best. It’s important to remember that most websites have a submission process, meaning you’ll need to pitch your idea first. Therefore, it’s wise to hold off on writing your entire piece at first.

Use social media

Social media can be an excellent tool to help you find clients, especially LinkedIn. You can use this platform to look for jobs, connect with potential clients, and share your own content to promote your skills. 

We also recommend optimising your LinkedIn profile using keywords that recruiters and companies in your field will likely use to find freelancers in your field and niche. For example, ‘content marketing expert’, ‘technical writer’, or ‘CV and cover letter writer’.

You can also use your platform to contribute to discussions by giving advice or recommendations.

How to invoice clients for your work

Once you get your first writing job, we get to the point of charging clients for your work. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to invoice a client.

Step 1: Establish the work and payment with the client

Invoicing clients starts from the beginning of your relationship when you determine your brief, timeline and requirements. Start by making sure the client can pay by your preferred method, or how else they can pay if not.

Bank transfers and online card payments are the most common methods on invoices, but freelancers sometimes also accept payments via PayPal, Klarna or Venmo. Be sure to establish payment terms at the very start.

Step 2: Making the invoice

According to UK Government guidelines, invoices across all industries must include key accounting and business information as standard. You must include:

  • Key dates about the work: your deadline, expected payment, and the invoice’s creation.
  • Information about your business: your trading name, address, contact details, website, and other vital information under the heading ‘supplier’.
  • Information about the client: name, address, contact details and so on under the heading ‘client’.
  • Itemised cost breakdown and description: what you’re invoicing your clients for.
  • A payment reference: assign your invoices a unique identification number that shows clients which invoice they’re paying (you can use a simple number or labelling system).
  • Payment information: specify which payment method you require, account details like a bank account or PayPay address, and the total amount due. 
  • A friendly note:: not necessary, but can be a nice way to build good business relationships. You can write something like “Thank you for working with me!”

The easiest way is to create and send your invoices digitally using accounting software. Countingup automatically assigns payment references to keep them organised. The app also matches invoices to payments and notifies you when you’ve been paid to help you stay on top of your bookkeeping. 

Step 3: Invoicing the client for the completed work 

Send your invoice as soon as possible after you finish the work for your client. The fast you send them, the faster you can get paid. An app like Countingup allows you to create and send invoices on the go so you don’t waste a minute.

If you use 30-day billing cycles (where you expect payments to be made within a month), you need to give your client a reasonable amount of time to meet those requirements. 

Depending on the size of your project, clients may have to consider their cash flow (their balance of money coming in vs money going out) to meet the payment. This means they may need to wait for their own invoices to be paid before they can pay you. 

Being flexible to accommodate these issues can improve your business’ reputation and relationship and help you bring in repeat business. 

It also helps to always be polite when following up with clients about invoices, especially unpaid ones. You can learn more about politely chasing late payments (known as credit notes) in this guide.

How taxes work for freelance writers

If you make more than £1000 in a tax year (6 April – 5 April), you must file a Self Assessment tax return with HMRC. Check if you need to file a tax return here.

Find out more about how to pay your Self Assessment tax in this guide.

Keep organised when it comes to financial admin

When you start out as a freelancer, it’s important to keep your personal and business financial records separate from day one – to save yourself from admin headaches further down the line. 

The Countingup business current account makes it easy to keep on top of your business finances from the start. The app comes with free built-in accounting software that automates the time-consuming aspects of bookkeeping. You’ll also be able to create customised invoices in seconds, saving you time to focus on running your business. 

Find out more here and sign up for free today.