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Amber Daugherty, United States
(415) 964-0559 andaugherty@scratchthatws.com
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Scratch That: How to Start a Freelance Writing Business from Scratch

May 10, 2017

Disclosure: There are affiliate links used in this post as a way to promote products I have successfully used and love.

 

 

Starting a business is hard to do, whether online or in person. It takes determination and skill. When you are starting from scratch (i.e., starting this new career after staying at home to raise kids or transitioning from a completely different career), it can seem impossible.

 

 

"Every artist was first an amateur." (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims)

 

Some might say it's risky to quit your job and work from home. It might need to be more of a slow transition while you earn some income on the side, while keeping your regular job. It is more possible today than it was 20 years ago. According to Business Insider, because of access to healthcare and employers being more willing to hire freelancers for a fresh perspective, it is easier than ever to work for yourself — at home or remotely.

 

Let's not forget that freelance writing (copy writing, copy editing, proofreading, content writing, etc.) is not just for those with English or journalism degrees. I know of successful writers who don't even have degrees! The important thing is to have a passion for what you are writing about. If you love computers and the tech world, then there is a place for your expertise on the topic. If you love health and wellness (which happens to be one of my niches!), or whatever your niche, there are plenty of places looking for fresh content on blogs, websites, social media accounts and more.

 

When I set out to become a freelance writer, I was hesitant to get started because I have so much behind-the-scenes editing and proofreading work. Without a tangible portfolio, I just didn't see how it would be possible to attract clients. Why would they want me when they don't even know what I can offer? The thing is, we all have something unique to bring to the table, and there are clients out there waiting to find your take on a subject. We just have to present ourselves in a way that highlights our strengths.

 

There are tons of ways to start a business from scratch, and researching freelance writing is very important. Today, I am only defining keys elements to help you get started.

 

1. Identify Your Business Name and Brand

 

When coming up with a name for your business, it is important to use something that will be obvious to clients and something that is professional. When choosing my business's name, I went with Scratch That Writing Services. At first, it was just Scratch That, but I didn't want clients to assume I only offered editing services (Scratch That implies that I will be "scratching" or editing content), thus my decision to add Writing Services.

 

The name should introduce the services that you offer or at least attract customers/clients to your site, and it should not be confusing.

 

"The more your name communicates to consumers about your business, the less effort you must exert to explain it. According to naming experts, entrepreneurs should give priority to real words or combinations of words over fabricated words. People prefer words they can relate to and understand." Entrepreneur 

 

So opt for real words before trying out some obscure name that only you will understand. Some companies have created words or done a mashup of words and still ended up successful (e.g., Skype, Pinterest, etc.). I love the linguistics behind naming a business and how it is used in combination with marketing strategy.

 

Go with your gut. The only way to find out if something works, is to try it. You can always go back and change it later on.

 

Just don't go out and get shirts made. ;)

 

2. Start a Website or Blog

 

I took Gina Horkey's 30 Days of Less to Freelance Writing Success course and also paid for the freelance job board Contena (which also has a course). I was already doing work for clients on editorr and for family and friends (and friends of friends...all pro bono), but I didn't see myself starting a website, and especially not a blog. It was only time before I realized what was stopping me: fear. Starting a website seemed over my head. With my amazing husband's help, we found a site where I could purchase a domain name and URL (I used Wix but there are tons of other options). Now I fully understand why it is so important to have a place for clients to see who you are (we all want to put a name to a face). It is an excellent way to showcase some of your skills and client testimonials.

 

It's OK to have relatives and friends on testimonials at first. If you did legit work for them, they have every right to give you a review. It's only fair.

 

Clients can now find me on social media and find links back to my website. When pitching jobs, I feel much better about what I am offering now that I have a website for clients to look at. And it has helped.

 

Adding the blog portion of my website was an afterthought. I really didn't think I would start one. But, with articles taking months to publish and still being in the process of networking, I could use the platform to acquire some content on my site to increase traffic. Most websites now have blogs that need content, so why not use your blog to feature some of your skills? Who do you think writes the content for website blogs? Freelance writers (and staff writers, of course)!

 

3. Choose a Niche

 

 

I don't have this listed on my website yet; I'm still testing the waters a bit. Before becoming a freelance writer, I would have said my niche is editing and writing. Now that I am writing professionally, in order to make it easier for clients to find me when searching online, I need to hone in on one or more niches. So far, my pitches have been for clients surrounding health and wellness topics (including food allergies and staying healthy while traveling). I can easily see this being my niche.

 

I also love publishing and anything related to books (especially children's books), so I am also branching out to children's magazines. 

 

Time and experience are important to this discovery. My plan is to see what niche category ends up being the most lucrative route. There are tons of freelance writing blogs that help you discover your niche. Check out some of these for inspiration:

 

https://elnacain.com/blog/find-perfect-and-profitable-niche-writer-video/

 

https://www.writingrevolt.com/freelance-writing-niches/

 

https://horkeyhandbook.com/choose-wrong-niche-freelancer/

 

4. Networking

 

This is a very important aspect. Reach out to friends, family, acquaintances, local businesses through a newsletter, social media, mixers, meetup groups, etc. There are endless ways to grow your network. It is a bit overwhelming, with all of the options. I would suggest choosing three social media networks to be on. More than that and you'll be all over the place trying to keep up with them, your blog, website, and any articles you're writing.

 

I am in the beginning stages of networking. Currently, I am on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. While my accounts aren't up to snuff quite yet (although, I do have a All-Star rating on LinkedIn!), just like my website, I plan to modify them as my business grows.

 

Make daily, weekly, and monthly goals for reaching out to people. While I hope to be full-time soon enough, it is currently my goal to reach out to 5-10 people, 3 days a week.

 

Getting new business cards with my logo (which is also absent from my website for the time being) on them is a goal I have for next month. With those, I can reach local businesses and pin them up around town.

 

Look into your local chamber of commerce to network with other local business owners.

 

5. Be Confident and Brave (And Make Sure You Have Support)

 

 

When my website went live, it was an accident. I was in the flow of editing and saving when I accidentally hit the publish button. While this shouldn't be a big deal, because unless I told everyone about it, no one would have known to look at my site, it held me accountable.

 

 

I had to stop letting fear hinder my motivation and go for it.

 

Up until that point, I was too involved in trying to make my website perfect. I should have known better (I am a writer!). I realize now that it will continue to change as I grow my business. In a year from now, I can look back at all the progress I have made from the early days.

 

You can't expect everyone to love your work. It might not even apply to everyone in your network. The goal is to let go of pleasing everyone and just let your work speak for itself.

 

"To be great is to be misunderstood." (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance)

 

Having a great support system is pretty essential. My husband is not only financially supportive but emotionally supportive as well. I couldn't ask for a better partner. He thinks all of my ideas and goals are brilliant and attainable. Can't beat that, huh?

 

Ready to take the leap? Get started today! Take notes, research, and start planning! Share your ideas with me by commenting below.

 

Did you enjoy my post and want to hire me? Take a look at my website to get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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