Launching a writing business is exciting… even a little scary.
You may be dreaming of financial freedom, the ability to travel, having more control over your hours, doing work you enjoy and feel proud of, or something else entirely. Whatever the case, there’s a lot riding on your success.
So, it’s natural to want everything to be perfect before you launch. To have every “i” dotted, every “t” crossed.
It’s also natural to feel a little nervous about the whole process. You might be wondering how quickly you’ll succeed… what kind of setbacks you might face.
For someone new to running a business, all kinds of questions can feed your anxiety. What will your friends and family think if you don’t succeed? What will it mean if your business doesn’t take off, and you have to go back to working with an employer? And on the flip side, what happens when you do succeed? Will people think of you differently? Will it be everything you imagined?
There are a lot of emotions that go into launching your business… so it’s not surprising when you find ways to put off making it official.
I know I found every way imaginable to drag my feet when I was getting started. Getting my business name registered… setting up a separate bank account… learning an invoicing program… writing copy for my website… getting business cards printed.
I did everything I could think of except consistently approach potential clients about how I could help them.
For me, the longer I put off getting started, the longer I could imagine myself as a wild success story. I knew as soon as I put myself out there and started consistently trying to make a go of it, I’d have to contend with reality instead of entertaining possibilities.
I get to talk to a lot of writers in my position here at Digital Copywriter, so I know you might be going through the same “getting ready” dance that I did… and that so many other writers do.
What I’m going to suggest to you today — whether you’re just getting your writing business off the ground, or you’re looking at adding a service, trying a new marketing strategy, or launching a side hustle — is that you take a bare minimum approach.
Rather than trying to address all the things you’ll need to do eventually, this approach forces you to focus first on turning your business into something that earns you an income.
Then, you can start getting all those other business elements in order.
To launch yourself as a professional writer, you need only three things to start. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to give attention to some other things later. But at the beginning, these three things are what will get your business off the ground.
Bare Minimum #1: A Project You’re Confident In
If you want to get paid to write, you have to be able to provide value to your clients. That means you need to be competent with a project type clients need.
You don’t have to know how to tackle every type of business-writing project ever. Start by focusing on just one… preferably one businesses use often, so you know there’s a demand.
When you master that single project, a couple of good things will happen.
First, you’ll have a specialty you can confidently pitch to clients. (No more what if they say yes? fears.)
Second, what you learn in mastering that one project type will apply, at least in part, to a number of other types of projects. So you’ll be getting better at those, too, without even knowing it.
So, how do you do this? How do you master a project type?
First, get specific. Don’t decide you want to become an email writer. Decide you’re going to learn how to write exceptionally good email welcome messages or email newsletters or email promotions.
Don’t plan to be a social media writer. Plan to be a social media writer for Instagram or Twitter or LinkedIn.
You have a lot of projects to choose from that are in high demand and fairly easy to learn:
- Email welcome messages
- Email newsletters
- Email promotions
- Landing pages
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- Product pages
- Short video scripts
- Podcast show notes
- Pay-per-click ads
Once you’ve picked a project type, spend a week reading everything you can find about what goes into writing it.
Then, in the next week, find and study five examples each day. Study them critically based on what you read in your first week.
After that, during the third week, write one or two samples of your project type each day. Share them with someone you trust — another writer, ideally — and ask for constructive feedback.
This three-week process will have you feeling confident about the structure of your project and how to approach it. It will also have you feeling confident in your ability to write something decent.
If you can, take a course to help you become even better at that project type. But, going through this three-week, self-guided training first will help you get even more out of any course you take and get you up-to-snuff for pitching that project to clients.
Bare Minimum #2: A LinkedIn Profile
The second thing you need is a LinkedIn profile. This gives you a place you can send interested prospects to get to know you better, even if you don’t have a website yet.
Also, a lot of businesspeople who may have an interest in your skills (and in hiring you) hang out on LinkedIn. By setting up a profile and participating on the platform in a consistent way, you’ll start to get to know some potential clients. You might even land some work!
So, what do you need to create a good LinkedIn profile?
There are a few essential elements.
- A headshot
- A headline
- A summary
- Work experience
For your LinkedIn headshot, choose a photo that look personable and professional. You should be the only one in the photo. You should be smiling. And you should fill most of the frame.
For your headline, write it to be clear and specific. Identify the project (or projects) you specialize in, and highlight the result you deliver. You have 220 characters to work with, so be concise. Also, put the important information up front, so people are sure to see it.
Let’s say you want to write email newsletters for chiropractors. Your LinkedIn headline might read something like: “Email newsletter writer for chiropractors | Bring in more repeat business by staying in touch with your clients.”
In your summary, you have more space to work with. This is your chance to identify how you help your clients solve a specific problem or achieve a certain result. It’s also your chance to talk about who you like to work with and why you’re a great fit for those businesses. Make sure to include a call to action, so your prospects know how to hire you.
LinkedIn will also ask you to fill in your work experience. Since you’re focused on launching your writing business, think about the things you did in past jobs that were writing related, sales related, or persuasive in nature.
For example, if you worked as a server in a restaurant, you might be thinking there’s nothing to draw from that would interest your target clients. But, what if you wrote the “Specials” board whenever you were on shift and earned a reputation for descriptions that resulted in the daily specials selling out? That’s writing and persuasion, so highlight that in your description.
Before you sit down to write your headline, summary, and work experience, spend an afternoon or two exploring LinkedIn. Aim to read two or three dozen profiles. Take notes on what you like. Then review your notes and use them to guide you in your profile creation.
Setting up your profile is the first step on LinkedIn. The next step is to become a regular participant on the platform.
Make it a point to spend 15 or 20 minutes a day on LinkedIn interacting with your connections. Some things you can do while you’re there:
Share something you read recently that you think your target audience will find helpful.
Search for marketing professionals in industries you’re interested in and comment on their posts — make sure your comments add to the conversation.
Send a connection request to someone in your industry.
Send a message to someone in your network who you haven’t talked to in a while.
Share some quick tips your target clients will find useful.
Accept your new connection requests and send a message to each one.
By showing up to LinkedIn every day or two and making it a point to interact in a helpful way with people who could be potential clients, you’ll start to form relationships with people who may be interested in hiring a writer like you. And when that happens, chances are you’ll start to land some paying clients.
Bare Minimum #3: A Plan for Pursuing Clients
Using LinkedIn consistently might be your plan for landing clients, and that’s just fine. A lot of writers build their business based on their LinkedIn connections.
But, if LinkedIn isn’t where you want to spend your time seeking out potential clients, building connections, and pitching projects, that’s okay, too.
You need some kind of plan, though… one you will follow through on consistently.
You have choices when it comes to how you’ll pursue clients.
If you’re in the early days of getting your business off the ground, pick one method and use it until it feels natural, until you’ve made a habit of it. Some options to consider:
Ask for referrals daily — reach out to a friend, family member, former colleague, or fellow alumni each day. Let them know what you do and ask if they know anyone in need of your services.
Connect with “adjacent” professionals — these are people like web designers, social media managers, and ad buyers. They may work with the same kind of clients you do, but they don’t offer the same service. That means they’ll be in the position to send you referral work.
Send warm emails — these emails start with some common ground you share with the recipient. After you highlight that point of connection, introduce your service and suggest a conversation.
Send pitches — visit websites and look for missed opportunities. When you find one, send the marketing director for that site a project pitch to help them capitalize on that opportunity.
Respond to job boards — look for posts where you have some extra insight into the company’s audience. Highlight your unique understanding of who they’re trying to reach.
Send postcards to local businesses — introduce your specialty service and its benefits. Be sure to include a call to action.
Whatever method you choose, stick with it. Make a daily practice of it. Think about ways to tweak your approach, so you get better at it. But, no matter what you do, keep at it.
By taking this bare minimum approach, you’ll keep your focus on what’s most important at the beginning of your writing career — honing your skills and landing paying clients.
Of course, once you’ve landed a client or two, you’ll need to think about other things, like setting up a business bank account and getting a business license. But first, start getting paid for your writing by following these three essential steps.