5 Steps to Take Your Freelance Writing Biz to the Next Level

Carol Tice

Steps and cloudsBy Kristen Hicks

You know you’re a good writer.

You meet deadlines, craft compelling copy with perfect grammar, and always behave professionally.

So why are you still struggling to find work?

When I started out as a freelance writer, I just wanted to write. If I’m good enough at this basic skill that businesses need, shouldn’t that be enough? No.

Writing skill is an important component in a freelance writing career, but it’s not enough for success.

With the help of other writers and a good deal of research, I realized I needed to change how I viewed my freelance writing career. Thinking of myself as a writer-for-hire wasn’t cutting it.

It was time to switch to the big-picture view and focus on building my freelancing into a business.

If you’re also ready to make that shift and take your business to the next level, here are 5 steps to help you down that path.

1. Create a 5-year business plan that outlines your goals.

You need to figure out where you want to go before you can determine the best way to get there. Having clear goals helps you move beyond taking any work you can get via job ads, and into working strategically towards getting more of the jobs you really want.

You know you want to be a writer, but what kinds of writing do you like the most? Is there a type of client or industry you’d prefer to focus on? A writing format you excel in? Plan out the steps you can start taking to meet the right people and build up the reputation you need to win that work.

You probably won’t follow any plan exactly, but having it in place is the first step to working towards those goals.

2. Actively network, online and off.

Check the local Chamber of Commerce, any local business or marketing organizations, and meetup.com and start adding events to your calendar. Any gathering likely to attract your potential clients, and any other valuable professional contacts is worth your time.

If you make yourself visible in the local community, you’ll be the first person a lot of people think of when they hear someone needs a writer. I’ve gotten several referrals from people I’ve just met once or twice at networking events, and developed partnerships with other freelancers I’ve met this way.

Local relationships are valuable, but the Internet’s brought down the boundaries of making professional connections with people throughout the world. Experts and influencers are more accessible than ever, and often willing to interact with followers on social media, in blog comments, and via email.

By nurturing online relationships in your industry, you can grow your reputation and begin to establish yourself as an expert.

3. Identify your specialties.

You’ll have an easier time identifying and targeting your ideal clients if you carve out a writing niche for yourself. Being a generalist works for many writers, but it’s more of an uphill battle to build up authority in a wide range of topics, than to become an expert in one or two.

Competing on expertise means you don’t have to compete on price. If you have proven expertise in a particular industry, you have a clear edge over other writers hoping to land those clients.

4. Invest in resources to grow your business.

This is a hard one for me personally. I’ve always been frugal and every dollar spent means one less dollar saved.

I’ve had to work to think beyond that mentality and recognize that some spending leads to a stronger business with more money coming in. The advice of other writers in the Freelance Writers Den and the lessons I’ve learned in courses I bought have helped me build skills that make me more money.

Be willing to spend money on tools, courses, conferences, or memberships you feel confident will have a positive impact on your business, but don’t go overboard. If you purchase something you never find the time to use, you’re just wasting money.

Stick with purchases that will help you in the plan you created, and commit the time required to benefit from the investment.

5. Trust yourself.

You have to believe you’re a talented professional before anyone else will.

If you’re trying to make a case to a potential client than you’re the best writer for their needs, you won’t be very persuasive unless you believe it yourself.

You’ve chosen this profession because you know you’re good. Make sure that confidence shows itself in your interactions with clients and other professionals.

Have you tried any of these steps? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Kristen Hicks is a freelance copywriter with specialties in content marketing and education. Check out her blog at Austin Copywriter.

Freelance writing success


  1. Alexandria Ingham

    I thought of myself as a writer-for-hire way too long instead of going into the business side of things. Since January, I’ve started treating it more as a business, got out with the marketing and created a more detailed plan and it’s really worked. I’m now being found by companies looking for freelance bloggers!

    Great steps, Kristen, and I’m sure they will help people out there trying to break into writing.

  2. Kristen Hicks

    That shift in mentality really is so important. Glad to hear you’re already finding more success with it!

  3. Holly

    Do you have more detailed tips on writing a business plan? I want to do this but don’t know where to start or what should be in it.

    • Kristen Hicks

      I’d actually worked up something pretty simple on my own, and then later discovered this post on Copyblogger that should make the process easier for you:


      Mine was basically a Word doc that outlined some activities I wanted to start doing, or become more consistent about. This included joining some local organizations, attending at least two networking events a month and one conference year, and pitching more guest posts to raise my profile and build up relationships in the industry.

      There was more to it than that, but hopefully that gives you a good place to start.

    • Carol Tice

      Holly, a good resource on business plans is bplans.com. Its founder, Tim Berry, taught me a business plan is the story of what you want to do with your business and the money it is making, and your forecasts of what it will earn in future. And it’s an evolving document, not something you stick in a drawer. They have some good sample plans on that site.

      • Lori Ferguson

        Thanks for these resources on business plans! This is my Achilles heel and I’ve been avoiding dealing with it because I just didn’t know where to start. No excuses now…

      • Erica

        Yes, thank you both for the resources. I tried making one on my own once and it was a total failure.

        Lori, you’re not alone. This is my biggest weakness, too.

  4. Anna

    Hi Kristen,

    This article touches my heart. I’m one of those aspiring writers who would want to see themselves somewhere down the road after five years. I just started writing through my personal website and I’m really hoping I get it to the next level but really don’t know how and when. What I actually have right now is my passion to write and tell my stories, that’s all I got. I have no background in journalism either. Sad to say, I don’t trust myself that much. I need a community like this that has the same passion. I thank you for sharing this article. This kinda helps me in a meaningful way to see things positively. Thanks again.


    • Kristen

      While a background in journalism is nice, it’s really not required.

      Actually, I had an exchange with a journalist on Google + recently having a hard time finding journalism work and recommended he consider opportunities in content marketing. Traditional journalism jobs are becoming harder to find and keep, but businesses need writing help more than ever before.

      I think everyone struggles at some point with self-confidence, but you’ve already recognized that joining a community of other writers to help with that is key. That’s exactly the advice I’d have given!

      I believe the Freelance Writer’s Den will be open to new writers soon. I definitely suggest keeping an eye out for that, it’s worth the investment.

  5. Michael

    I have to agree with everything in this post.

    I quit my job not too long ago and am struggling to find work. I’ve already carved out a niche but can’t seem to make contact with people who can give me work. It’s frustrating but the key is to just keep on moving forward. This is what I set out to do and there’s not turning back.

    The 5-year business plan is a great idea and something every freelancer should do.

    Thanks for the advice.

  6. Shruti

    Just now i have resigned from my Job.I want to be a free lancer as a career.but i only know the name.even don’t know what the use/benifits and also what is it? how can i start as a zero knowledge holder regarding this
    Seeking for your help.i want to enter in this world.


    • Carol Tice

      I don’t know if resigning your regular job to be a freelancer was a good idea if you don’t know what a freelancer IS, Shruti! Not sure if you want to be a freelance writer even, or some other kind maybe…but you might start by reading some of the posts here on the blog. Lots of info on how to get started. Try this tag:



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