Oct 19, 2011
James Patterson

3 First Steps for Starting Your Freelance Writing Business

You have dreams of being a freelancer, but you’re not sure where to start. Join the club. Often, uncertainty and not knowing where the starting line is are the two main things that keep us from fulfilling our dreams.

For years, I dreamed of starting a part-time freelance writing business while I kept my corporate day job. It just made sense. Make some money on the side while protecting myself against the ever-present possibility of a job loss. When the job loss came, I kicked myself for not laying the groundwork for a freelancing career.

What would I have done differently now that I know what I know about the world of freelance writing?And how can that help you get a jump start on your business?

  1. Start Blogging — There’s no easier or cheaper way to get your writing out to the world than starting a blog. Sure there are millions of them out there, but that matters less than just starting writing. Demonstrating that you have the ability to craft coherent sentences will put you head and shoulders ahead of the pack when it comes to landing gigs and attracting clients. But don’t blog about just anything. Find a subject that lights you up. Fills you with excitement. Otherwise, you’re more likely to burn out sooner and abandon your blogging project.
  2. Start Compiling — You are what you write. You are defined as a freelancer by the collective history of your writing pursuits. That’s why one of your very first steps in setting up your business has to be compiling all of your best clips. Don’t be afraid to reach way back into the time machine and pull out some of the oldies but goodies. Clients care less about when something was written than how well it is written. I’ve gotten gigs before using old college newspaper columns. The point is to have a collection of samples that demonstrates your overall writing prowess. Get it together and get it digitized.
  3. Start Networking — Some of my best (and most lucrative) clients have come not through cold calling or email prospecting, but from working your “warm market,” or the people you already know and have connections with. That’s why there’s no better time to be building up that warm market than now. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, get one. Now. And start building up your connections. Reach out to former colleagues. Attend Chamber of Commerce events in your area and shake more hands than a politician. Building the foundation of your freelance writing business means building the foundation of your network. And that’s something you can start doing right now.

Another freelance job that you are interested in is being an art director. They are employed at advertising agencies, periodicals, newspapers, and other printed or digital media companies. They develop design with the help of concept artist and review material, and decide how best to present visual information so that it is eye-catching and conveys the right message.

What’s funny about these tips are that they are things every freelancer should be doing on a regular basis. Have you been freelancing for a while but you find that your pipeline has dried up? Go back to the beginning. Start blogging again (or do it for the first time). Refresh your list of clips, just as you should refresh your résumé on a regular basis. Get out and hit the streets to build up your network of contacts.

Have you found success using any of the above methods? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.


  • Hi, JamesP,
    You know me as NatalieS, from DMS/LS/LSN. I could have posted in the forum there, but I figured posting here would be more beneficial for your blog stats. :)
    Congratulations on your new blog, and thanks for the useful information. I’ll be following it!
    Good luck with everything.
    Natalie recently posted..Soup!My Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Natalie! Be sure to subscribe so you can get regular updates. Looking forward to your comments!

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Welcome to my blog

This little corner of the Internet is for anyone who's looking to start a freelance business while holding down a real job, wondering how to jump from part-time freelancing to full-time or looking for freelance writing information in general.

My name is James Patterson. You can learn more about me here.