Guest Post by Louise Tillotson
Freelance writing can be a very lucrative job if you enjoy it. The setup costs are surprisingly low when you compare it to setting up virtually any other home-based business, and the rewards can be high.
If you’re new to freelancing then read on to find some cheap and easy ways to get started.
Setting up your home office
You might think you can do without a home office, that you’re perfectly happy writing your copy on a laptop while sitting on the sofa. But I know from personal experience that unless you’re sitting at a desk with a monitor in front of you in some semblance of an office, it’s very hard to get into the required mindset for working. Having a separate space will also mean less distractions and allow you to mentally ‘leave work’ at the end of the day.
Ideally, a home office should be in a location removed from the main household; a spare room or converted attic for example. It needn’t be in the house; my neighbour works from home and she installed a small summer house in her back garden and kitted it out as an office, complete with coffee-maker!
Costs can vary depending on the space you have available, but at the very least you’ll need a comfortable chair, a desk big enough to hold a PC and monitor or laptop, printer/scanner and a phone. You can pick up office equipment for low prices if you don’t mind second-hand; look on eBay, Craigslist or your local newspaper to see what’s being sold.
Software and tools
You don’t need to spend any money on software if you don’t want to. Yes, Microsoft Office is good but it’s not the only software package available. OpenOffice is a free alternative to MS Office, and has a word processor, spreadsheet, database, image editor and multimedia presentation tool.
Google Docs is another option, and especially useful if you need to share a document with other people in real-time. Google Docs allows you to make a file visible to just specified users, and give them read-only or editing permissions. Again, it’s free to use and offers a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool. You can also create forms and simple images. All you need is a Google account, which comes in handy for many things!
When it comes to accepting payment for your work, you can’t go wrong with PayPal. A personal account allows you to send invoices to a client free of charge, and send reminders out if they remain unpaid. You can transfer money between your PayPal account and a designated bank account or credit card.
Setting up a PayPal account is free, and fees only apply in certain situations, such as receiving money from someone paying with a credit or debit card, or if sent in a foreign currency. Despite this, PayPal remains the easiest and safest way to receive money online, especially if you have clients in different countries.
Getting an online presence
You’re putting yourself out there as a writer of web content, so it stands to reason you’ll need an online presence. Potential clients will expect it and they’ll want somewhere to go and find out more about the person they’re thinking of hiring.
About.me is a free website which lets you set up a personal one-page profile on which you can list areas of expertise and whatever other information you think clients would want to know. Or try LinkedIn; it holds a bit more information about you as well as allowing you to list previous jobs and network with others in groups and shared connections.
As a copywriter you’ll also want to showcase the work you’ve done, so an actual website might be the next step.
WordPress is currently one of the most popular ways to set up a free website, and it’s easy to convert to your own domain if you choose to do so. A basic yourname.wordpress.com site costs nothing but setup time, and is a good place to start if you’re not sure about running a website. You can provide links to work you’ve already done (make sure you don’t just copy the work directly) and give potential clients a way to contact you.
If you decide to take the next step and buy your own domain, expect to pay between $10 and $25 per year for most domains, and between $5 and $17 per month for hosting. You can get free hosting from sites like 000webhost but features are limited. You can still use programs like WordPress if you buy your own domain and hosting, as the software is set up to install on any web space in a matter of minutes.
Nobody will know you’re a freelancer looking for work if you don’t promote yourself as such. To start the arduous task of self-promotion, get yourself listed on freelance databases such as Freelancer. You can browse the projects that people are looking for work on and be listed on a searchable database so people can find you. If you’re accepted to work on a project you’ll need to pay a nominal fee; usually 10% of the payment.
There are also free databases out there, although it can be hard to find one which has a large readership and frequent updates. Give FreelanceFree a try to begin with; you can always join one of the fee-paying sites later on.
Another way to promote yourself as a freelance copywriter is to track down sites within your areas of expertise, and contact them directly. If the site is a blog you might want to spend some time reading and commenting on the existing posts to get a feel for the type of content they like, and making yourself known to the blog owner. It’s not mandatory but it all helps.
You can also email site owners offering your services as a writer; be sure to put some reference to their site in there to avoid sounding like an automated spam bot! If there are ‘guest post guidelines’ on the site, adhere to them. If you buy your own domain you’ll get an email address included; if not, get a free Gmail account (see, a Google account does come in handy!).
Finally, use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote yourself. Set up a new profile on each and use them to promote the work you’ve done (the site owners will thank you for this) and share other news within your specialist industry. Twitter is best for this, as with the right strategy you can really become known as an expert in your field. And it’s free!
Of course, the best advertising is word of mouth. Get your happy clients to tweet/share the content you write for them, ask them to write endorsements for your personal website, and they might even be willing to pass your details onto any other site owners they network with. Don’t be afraid to ask for a bit of free publicity!