How serious are you about freelancing?
Whether you’re a moonlighter or a full-time freelancer, we want to help you fuel your fire. In our “Go-Getter Guide to Growing Your Freelance Writing Business” (which includes enough savvy info to fill a 200-page book), we’ve compiled some of the best tips, interviews and advice from 50+ highly active and experienced freelancing professionals to help you:
- Win that next client.
- Seize that next assignment.
- Earn that next payday for work well done.
Because your future can’t wait.
How to grow your freelance writing business:In an excellent roundup of 50+ articles, get some of the best tips from 50+ experienced freelancing professionals to help you succeed, from setting up your business to winning repeat clients. #freelancewriting #writerslife #freelancing Click To Tweet
Step 1: Decide on part- or full-time freelancing.
Whether you’re a writer, creative professional, or consultant, going freelance full-time is a major lifestyle change — one that can impact your future and your family in all kinds of ways. And even if you decide only to moonlight, dedicating a set amount of time can be equally challenging.
So before you map out your business plan or tell your current boss you’re hitting the road, first ask yourself the most important question of all:
“What will ultimately make me happy?”
To help you come to your own conclusion, we’ve rounded up some of our most popular articles on making that personal leap of faith to form your own freelancing writing business:
- Moonlighting or Full-Time Freelancing? Pros and Cons for Freelancers: On the fence if you’re ready to commit to full-time freelancing? Independent pro Lena Katz outlines which approach might be better for you.
- 7 Things to Know About Yourself Before Diving Into a Freelance Writing Career: Switching gears to full-time freelancing takes effort and self-honesty. Expert Gregg Rosenzweig shares the kinds of moxie you gotta muster.
- 8 Things I’ve Learned the First 8 Years of Freelancing: Fast-forward to success. Allie Freeland shares tips to help you along, drawing from highs, lows, and key lessons she’s learned as a freelance writer.
- Fit to Freelance: A Fitness Editor Reflects on Her First Year of Self-Employment: Full-time freelancing isn’t just for writers. Get an alternative perspective in a Q&A with Abbey Lerner, who shifted from executive editor to independent content strategist.
- How to Make $100K or More as a Freelance Writer: Heading out on your own can be intimidating, but the payoff can be worth it. World-traveler Lindsay Tigar interviews five successful women who share their advice for winning six figures as a freelance writer.
- The Life of Independent Creatives: Strangers Say the Darndest Things: When you go full-time freelance, some people might aggravate you (unintentionally, most likely) with uninformed notions of what it means to be a freelancer today. We’ve rounded up some of the biggest misconceptions, with some ammo to respond to them.
Step 2: Determine your freelancing niche.
Have you committed to freelancing full-time? Or have you felt you’ve needed more focus in your current freelancing career?
We hope you’ll take advantage of an industry reality: Niche is the new norm.
In an era of audience segmentation gone wild, the rise of content niches has created a new market for freelancers, entrepreneurs and creative professionals who specialize. So don’t get left behind as a generalist. Establish yourself as an expert in a particular genre or content type, and you’ll likely attract better clients — and better pay.
If you haven’t quite forged your own path yet, get insights from these independent pros who already have found their special calling:
- An Automotive Writer’s Road to Being a Tech Conference Producer: How did he transition from content marketing to business strategy consulting?
- A Marketing Director’s Dive Into Biotech and Medical Marcom: What are her biggest challenges writing in these highly scientific fields?
- A Cosmo Editor’s Shift From Features to Personal Finance Writing: What qualities are clients looking for in personal finance writers like her?
- A Surfer Magazine Editor’s Evolution Into NPR and Podcast Producing: Why does he think podcasting is having such a “moment” right now?
- A Food Blogger Who Grew Into Cookbooks and Recipe Development: What are the red flags that would cause her to walk away from a client?
- An Account Executive Who Co-Founded an Agency for the Construction Industry: How does she help clients who aren’t a fit for consumer publications or TV?
- A MIT Grad Who Has Spent Decades in Tech Writing: What skills have made him particularly successful in this specialized area?
- A Journalist Who Made the Switch to Branded Content for Wealth Management: How do you tackle a highly specialized topic that affects major money decisions?
- A Writer Who Has Covered Tech Since It Was Only in Print: How has she stayed relevant in a niche that is constantly changing — while breaking stereotypes?
- A Designer Who Creates Ebook Covers for Self-Publishers: How does she translate the essence of her clients’ words into pictures — and know when to add lightning strikes?
- A Social Media Content Creator Who Started Her Own Boutique Agency: How does she handle content for 60 — yes, 60 — brands on a monthly basis?
- A Former Teacher Who Became a Creative Strategist: How can a teacher spin their educational know-how into a profitable business creating content for online learning?
- A Writer/Producer for ‘MasterChef’ and ‘Chopped’ Who Has Thrived in TV: How can you turn your passion for food writing into a TV gig?
- An Agency Founder Who Masters Branding for Small Food Business: What opportunities do food writers have working with small businesses or startups?
- An Agency Owner Who Made the Transition From a “Numbers Person” to Full-Time Creative: How can you take advantage of the creative gap in industries like finance?
- A Full-Time Freelancer Who’s Winning in the International Market: How does a freelancer in Oz compete for assignments in the global economy?
- An Ebook Cover Designer Who Has Painted Her Own Niche: How do you know how to design elements for content who haven’t fully read or understood?
Look for more upcoming interviews with niche freelancers and independent professionals in our ClearVoice blog. Subscribe now!Take advantage of an industry reality: Niche is the new norm. #freelancewriting #writerslife #freelancing Click To Tweet
Step 3: Make your freelancing writing business plan.
So you’ve decided freelancing full-time is the best fit for you… Or, perhaps you still want to moonlight, but have set aside dedicated time to freelance… Now what?
Get down to business.
Although your first instinct might be to pitch, pitch, pitch yourself and land assignments, taking time to think of yourself as a business and to map out your future is key to establishing long-term success and security.
To many, this stage in the transition can be daunting. Aside from overcoming the insecurity of the unknown, there is a whole new range of concerns to consider: income, expenses, taxes, retirement plans and accounting.
Here are several articles related to the business of freelancing to help you focus on what’s important at the beginning and to get you on the right track:
- Importance of Business Planning for Freelance Writers: To be treated like a business, you have to think like a business. Review the eight key elements of making an effective business plan.
- Business Entity Forms for Your Freelance Business: Review the most common business entities for a small entity like a freelance writing business. The main issues to consider here are taxes and limiting your liability.
- Freelance Writer’s Guide to the NEW Tax Plan: As a freelancer, understanding your tax responsibilities can be tough. Financial adviser Roger Wohlner helps guide you through some of the most important tax implications for the self-employed.
- Accounting and Record-Keeping Issues for Freelancers: Owning a small business comes with the burden of accounting for your revenue and expenses and filing taxes. Start off right by keeping good accounting records with these tips.
- Retirement Plan Options for Freelancers: Without the 401K safety net from an employer, freelancers have to be extra mindful of planning for their future. Financial adviser Roger Wohlner explains some of the most common retirement plan options for freelancers and the self-employed.
Step 4: Create a winning freelance portfolio.
After doing all your soul-searching on the kind of independent professional you want to be, and after mapping out your business plan, your efforts should shift toward optimizing your portfolio of work.
Your portfolio should not just be a resume or a dump-file with all the work you’ve done. It should be a representation of your best work and the value you have brought to clients.
It’s your elevator pitch. It’s your calling card. It’s your best cheerleader when you’re not available for direct communication. If you take time to make it the best it can be, you’ll find it can bring long-term rewards.
Fortunately, we’ve made this step in establishing your freelancing business as easy as can be, with our new CV Portfolios. They’re free and fully customizable with a WYSIWYG interface, and they can help connect you with brands in the ClearVoice Talent Network. A win-win.
In the meantime, we hope you’ll dive into these tips from editorial and freelance pros on how to make your CV Portfolio shine:
- How to Write a Perfect Bio for Your Portfolio: If you find writing about yourself less enjoyable than getting a root canal, Megan Krause has tips to save you from your desperation.
- 7 Mantras for a Better Portfolio to Catapult Your Freelancing Career: Editorial chief Justin McKinley, who has reviewed thousands of freelancer portfolios, shares key principles to help yours win new clients.
- The Secrets to Perfecting Your Portfolio, According to Top Talent Recruiter: Your best work? Most recent work? We asked talent recruiter Serena Wolf, who’s found countless creatives their “unicorn jobs,” about what she looks for in a portfolio.
- Positioning for Freelance Portfolio for Success: 9 Tips From ‘The Career Guy’: Freelancing isn’t just a series of gigs: It’s a business. We interviewed author and career coach Darrell Gurney on practical reminders to position your freelance business for success.
- Five Ways to Drive More Traffic (and Clients) to Your Online Portfolio: It’s one thing to produce a portfolio. It’s quite another to get it seen. Learn leading tactics for the latter so you can land quality clients.
Step 5: Pitch like a professional freelancer.
Are you a good pitch or a bad pitch?
Sometimes selling your ideas and value is the hardest part of freelancing, but unfortunately it’s the most important one, unless you like singing about rainbows without a single client to care.
To ramp up your freelancing business, you’ll have to master the art of pitching. There’s no doubt about it.
Pitching not only requires your ability to sell ideas — and convey that you’re the best individual to accomplish them — but it also requires you be on top of the zeitgeist…. to predict what your client needs before they need it.
Here are a few of our favorite posts about pitching, along with a podcast to help you get a better glimpse from the editor’s point of view:
- 500+ Events to Jump-Start Your 2019 / 2020 Editorial Foresight Calendar [Template]: Just like an editor, you should devise and plan your own editorial foresight calendar so you can make your pitches more timely. Get a head start with our editorial calendar template.
- The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Pitching: Is your freelance pitching style keeping you from scoring jobs? Get up to speed on the four key elements of a good pitch and the pros and cons of different styles, depending on the client.
- The Pitching Game: 4 Freelance Pitch Examples and a Template: How well are you filling up your calendar? Freelance writer Angela Tague shares tips and real-life examples of pitching to top brands to help keep your work flowing. Plus, download a free template to get your pitches started.
- Pitching: The Writer-Editor Relationship [PODCAST]: Are your pitches good, or just clueless? Rethink how you pitch your ideas with tips from a panel of editors in our recent #ProContent podcast.
- Up-Level Your Freelance Business Card With Tips From MOO: Business cards aren’t dead. In the age of digital and social, they actually give you more credibility. We asked Brendan Stephens, the Global Creative Director at MOO for tips to make yours stand out.
Step 6: Learn to set your freelancing writing rates right.
As a freelancer, you are ultimately responsible in understanding your own value and, more importantly, conveying it to a client. Yet one of the biggest challenges in knowing how to set your rate as a freelancer is that no two clients, or no two assignments, are the same.
To help you along in finding the zone where your skills match your expectations of pay, please review a few of our articles addressing common issues around freelancer pay. We hope additional perspective from both the client side and freelancer side can help you negotiate your most appropriate rate for any assignment.
At ClearVoice, we’re committed to helping brands and clients gain a better perspective on freelance pay rates and how to treat freelance professionals with more respect. We believe freelancers should always be paid for their time, on time.
- Freelance Writer Pay Survey: Gender, Pay and Experience: We get asked about freelancer pay rates so often, we conducted a survey of freelancers at a range of experience levels to see how much they charge. See where you fit in clients’ eyes.
- Survey Results: Factors in Determining Freelance Rates: Help your clients understand why you might charge more for one assignment over another. From researching to interviewing, we break down the amount of time various tasks could add to a standard 1,000-word article.
- 15 Scenarios When to Pay Freelance Writers Higher Rates: Sometimes clients innocently don’t know when they cost you additional time and money. If your clients put you in any of these scenarios, consider asking for a higher rate.
- The Power of Pay for Travel Writers: Study Results on Freelancer Rates and Quality: There’s an old adage: “You get what you pay for.” And with freelance writing, the truth is no different. Get more perspective on how your pay rate should correlate with your skill.
Step 7: Set expectations with clients and editors.
As a freelancer, one of the best ways to get more work is simply to work better with the clients you have. When you have a good working relationship with a client or editor, there’s often an unspoken quid pro quo that great work begets more work.
But all good relationships need to start with reasonable expectations and mutual respect. Take tips from some of our most popular articles on the subject, as well as insights from a podcast featuring the editorial and marketing perspective:
- Peer Advice for Freelancers: Lessons on Setting Client Expectations: Freelancers who are skittish about setting client expectations can unwittingly sabotage their own success. Glean advice from six professionals who share life-learned tips for avoiding hiccups with communication, revisions and expenses.
- The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Working With a Top Ad Agency: Securing freelance work from a top agency can be a lucrative win and the source for longer-term work. Gregg Rosenzweig interviews J. Barbush, the Vice President/Creative Director at major media player RPA, for his advice at breaking into agency work — and staying in.
- But What Does So-and-So Do, Again?: When you work as a freelancer or consultant for a company, especially a larger brand, you might not always have one point-person or approver. Lena Katz shares tips on understanding and dealing with the various project managers you might encounter.
- The Rules of Maintenance: The Writer-Editor Relationship: With the rise of freelance writing as an essential component in content marketing and publishing, so has come a swell of new relationships between editors, managers and freelance writers. Learn to make the most of them and to avoid pitfalls.
- [PODCAST] Fostering a Healthy Working Relationship Between Writer, Editor and Client: We sat down with marketing and strategy consultant Ben Jacobson and Luke Wolfe, an editor here at ClearVoice, to discuss ways to foster and maintain a healthy working relationship between writer, editor and client.
- Freelancer Etiquette for Working During a Personal Emergency (You Don’t Need to Be a Superhero): The worst thing you can be as a freelancer is a flake, but on the flip side you don’t have to be an over-communicating martyr either. Learn the delicate balance of managing personal conflicts.
- 5 Smart Things Freelancers Can Do to Keep Clients Coming Back for More: The secret to any business success is to work with clients time and time again. Gregg Rosenzweig shares his agency experience in five client-friendly tactics to help your freelance business grow and thrive over the long haul.
Step 8: Learn to interview experts for better cred.
Once you’ve landed an assignment and agreed on expectations, your most important task is to deliver, deliver, deliver…. and to make it good, real good.
In this step, we’ll focus on honing one of the most important skills for any writer or producer: the interview. So whether you directly feature Q&As in your finished work or not, being able to reach out and engage with experts or subjects is an essential asset in better informing your content.
Get tips on perfecting this essential skill, and read some of our favorite interviews featured below from our ClearVoice blog.
- Here’s How to Land Impressive Interviews That Make Great Content: We’ll humble-brag for writer Gregg Rosenzweig as he shares how he successfully has landed interviews with stars, including Steve Carell, George Lopez, Eva Longoria, Suze Orman, Magic Johnson… and even astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
- 8 Interviewing Skills for Writing Like an Expert (Even If You’re Not Neil deGrasse Tyson): Tasked with a new or challenging freelance assignment? Get a journalist’s tips on how to interview experts, influencers and leaders — with a few pointers gleaned from Neil deGrasse Tyson.
- How the Founder of ‘Mortified’ Turned America’s Diaries Into a Global Movement: Open your creative vault with our Q&A with the mind behind ‘Mortified’, David Nadelberg. Learn how he turned an “accidentally funny” experiment (that cost 350 bucks) into a burgeoning franchise.
- Laughing All the Way to the Sale: Should Your Brand Be Funny? Learn to create hilarious content that sells, taking cues from Hollywood. Lena Katz interviews Greg Cohen and Jason Cox, co-founders of No Roads Productions, on their methodology of capturing new customers with humor.
Step 9: Boost your productivity as a freelancer.
Although freelancing brings with it a great deal of professional freedom, that freedom also can bring distractions and additional responsibilities. Don’t get caught in the weeds of owning your own business or get lost when it comes to keeping your creativity energized. Read that: Avoid unnecessary time-sucks.
Your time is your money. Make the most of it.
Here are several of our most popular posts to help you save time and keep focused (and, yes, we do realize you might sense a bit of irony in doing so):
- Who Scores Better as an Editorial Assistant: Alexa or Siri?: We asked Alexa and Siri questions on grammar, fact-checking, spelling and more to see who has the greatest potential as an at-home editorial assistant. See who wins in our final scorecards.
- Personal Productivity Tricks for Self-Supervising Creative Producers: Time is money, whether you’re in an office of not. Independent producer and career freelancer Lena Katz shares her tips and favorite apps for keeping yourself accountable when it comes to your own productivity when freelancing.
- Freelancer Bootcamp: 7 Tips to Jump-Start Your Creative Process (and Avoid Hitting the Big White Wall of Writer’s Block): Buck up and be the master of jump-starting your own creative process. Here are a full-time freelancer’s actionable tips to keep yourself from slipping into the void of writer’s block.
- Freelancers: How to Meet a Deadline Every Time: You’re not just a freelancer. You’re a business owner who has to handle invoicing, customer service, marketing and a million other non-writing responsibilities. These tips and tools will help you stay on track, so you have time to please clients.
- 8 Ways Digital Nomads Stay Productive: International traveler and full-time freelancer Lindsay Tigar shares her tips and those from other independent professionals who are always on the move.
- Five Co-Working Communities for Freelancers and Small Businesses: Find your office away from home. Meet fellow professionals, have a space to meet with clients, and find an atmos to get in a productive state of mind.
Step 10: Sharpen skills for more freelance jobs.
Once you’ve established yourself with a good set of clients, you might be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief and rest on your laurels…. Please don’t.
In our fast-paced media environment, what’s “in” today could be “out” tomorrow.
Don’t leave yourself open to getting left behind. Regardless of your career path, you should strive to stay up with current events in your sphere, keep your skills sharp, and network, network, network.
Here are several simple things you can do:
- Weekly Content Radar on ClearVoice: Keep up on the most important buzz in content marketing. We know you’re busy, so we’ll cut through the clutter to help you focus, with a weekly roundup, our Content Radar, every Wednesday.
- Top 2019 Conferences and Events for Freelancers and Creatives: Connect with more creative professionals in the coming year with our guide to the top conferences. Find summaries, prices, recommendations for attendees, and links to more info.
- How to Prepare for Your First Writer’s Conference: For introverts, “putting yourself out there” can strike utter fear. Writer Lori Hil shares her experience and tips for stepping into highly social networking events.
- More Than Words: Online Courses to Improve Your Freelancer Toolbox (and Stay Competitive): Digital marketing, coding with mentors, academic certifications… Here are some of the best companies providing online courses that can help you stay competitive in the media market.
- Top Content Marketing Courses for Working Professionals: Your education should never end. Keep up on your content marketing and media skills at top programs designed for working professionals, from journalism to business.
- Freelancers, Don’t Destruct With These Bad Behaviors When Social Networking: Networking is crucial to surviving as a freelance writer, but are you accidentally committing any of these social networking no-nos that might cost you work or clients?
Step 11: Show your clients and colleagues gratitude.
When you’re a freelancer who relies on networking and relationships to find and keep good clients, a little gratitude can go a long way. So in the final step of our freelancing business guide, we address one of the most asked questions for freelancers:
What’s appropriate, or even ethical, when it comes sending gifts or tokens of thanks to a client or someone who gave you a referral?
We asked a team of professionals in these great pieces:
- Gifting for Gratitude: Generous Gestures Never Go out of Style With Clients: Professional freelancer Lena Katz dives into what’s tacky, what’s appropriate and what’s worth the effort when showing clients you value their business.
- An Etiquette Guide on Freelance Referrals: How to Win More Clients and Income: Navigating referrals can be tricky — but ultimately, the more connections you make, explore and support, the further net you cast. Get tips on playing the referral game without being a spoiled sport, or a bully.
At ClearVoice, we think freelancers should be treated as businesses. So we hope our guide on growing your freelance business has helped you find your own North Star, whether you’re a creative professional or an independent consultant.
We like to thank the 20+ creatives and 50+ experts who contributed to content featured in this guide:
Ann Adams, Lindy Alexander, Danielle Antosz, Rachel Arnone, Crystal Bahmaie, Karen Bannan, J. Barbush, Ben Beck, Adam Black, Miriam Bookey, Caitlin Sandberg Brancale, Jenna Briand, Chad Buleen, Stacy Cabrio, Sue Campbell, Elizabeth Carriage, Dahna Chandler, Jenny Chen, Elizabeth Chey, Roy Peter Clark, Greg Cohen, Jason Cox, Courtney Craig, Meagan DeMenna, Nora DePalma, Karen Dennis, Sonia Diaz, Rick Dobbs, Nicki Escudero, Jennifer Bradley Franklin, Allie Freeland, Liza Gershman, Deborah Harrison, Kelly Hayes-Raitt, Lori Hil, Wendy Zipes Hunter, Stacy Jackson, Ben Jacobson, Kelsey Jones, Lena Katz, Julie Kendrick, Chels Knorr, Megan Krause, Abby Lerner, Kim Livengood, Hernan Lopez, Kristin Luna, Jenna Mahoney, Brandi Doane McCann, Megan Marrs, Kimberly Moran, Doug Newcomb, David Nadelberg, Carrie Smith Nicholson, Brandi Ong, Jess Ostroff, Joel Patterson, Laura Pettit, Giulia Pines, Chantae Reden, Jenna Robbins, Gregg Rosenzweig, Amy Sherman, Erik Sherman, Carla Siegel, Carol Sogard, Rachel Sokol, Hannah Sydiongco, Angela Tague, Marygrace Taylor, Lynn Tejada, Greg Tillman, Jeannine Thompson, Lindsay Tigar, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Aly Walansky, Christina Walther, Katie Winick, Roger Wohlner, Serena Wolf, Luke Wolfe