6 Ways to Make Your Freelance Writing Business More Professional
Starting out as a freelance writer is great.
You’ve managed to ditch the corporate cubicle and now you can sleep in and do your work in front of the TV. Your hours are your own, you don’t have to dress up, and no more making small talk with those people you tolerated for so long.
What’s not to love?
Okay, hold up. Before we start sounding like a starry-eyed teenager talking about first love, let me get real and point out what running a freelance writing business really means:
Not looking so rosy anymore, is it?
We’re all guilty of those days where we work in our PJs, eat ice cream over our laptops and turn our phones off.
And that’s okay.
But if you want to take your freelance writing business to the next level, you’ve got to up your game.
The following are 6 foolproof ways to give your business a boost and make your freelance brand more professional.
1. Be a Business, Not a Person
As freelance writers, we tend to have a lone wolf kind of approach to business. We hide in the comfort of our houses, picking and choosing the jobs that suit us and think about how lucky we are that we are no longer involved in the business world.
Being out of the corporate environment doesn’t remove you from being in the business world. If you’re working, you’re in it.
If you’ve decided to take the next step in terms of becoming more professional, one of the first and most important things you need to do is make a mindset shift.
Decide to view yourself and the work that you do as a business rather than an individual.
Your mindset is strangely synonymous with your physical environment. If you’re waking up, dragging yourself out of bed and writing in your PJs every single day, your physical state, mindset, and business are all going to have that half-awake feeling.
Start to consciously think of yourself as owning a freelance writing business, and see how your mindset changes.
Even though you’re your own boss, transitioning into a business mindset might mean getting up at the same time everyday (even though you could sleep in if you really wanted to), getting dressed (even though there’s nobody around to be offended by your pajamas), and entering into a dedicated workspace (even if it’s the spare bedroom or home office).
Making these small tweaks can make a huge difference in your productivity, your confidence as a freelance writer, and your sense of self-worth.
2. Brand Yourself
So you’ve got a business. Awesome. Step number two is to create a brand.
You might be wondering what this means. Basically, you need to create a symbiotic relationship between how your (online) business looks, what you stand for, and what you wish to communicate to the client.
If your graphics are pastel colored and girly but your language resembles that of a chimney sweep in the 1800s, there’s going to be a disconnect that can be confusing to potential clients.
And confusion does not breed good business.
Decide what sort of vibe you wish to present to clients. Would you like to come across as bold, innovative and in-your-face? Pair that with strong, bright colors and striking fonts to reinforce that feeling.
Would you prefer to be seen as soft, comforting and helpful? Pastels, fine calligraphy type print and less bold logos will do the trick.
Pick the physical characteristics of your business, and stick to them.
The idea is to be recognizable when someone looks at your website or social media accounts, in the same way, a reader might recognize your writing voice in a blog post.
3. Create a Website
If you don’t have a website or online portfolio specifically for your freelance writing business, you’re behind. This is your own space on the internet, where you are fully in control of letting people know who you are and why they should care.
Your website is an extension of your brand and highlights two very important things: What you do and who you do it for.
If you’re intimidated by the idea of creating a website or online portfolio, don’t stress. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
As long as you address the two points above, and add a portfolio as you build one up, you’re good to go. Those three things are the minimum requirements for a decent website.
Ensure that the colors and graphics on your site are consistent with your brand.
As you get more clients, you can add things like testimonials and statistics to your site. To begin though, remember the clichéd but quite true saying, “Less is more.”
Be direct about what you offer, and you’ll start attracting the people looking for just that.
4. Narrow Down Your Niche
This can be tough, as writing is such a varied and diverse field.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing an article here and a blog post there in vastly different niches, but when it comes to the all important questions above, what you do and who you do it for, anything and everyone are not good answers in the world of business.
Marketing yourself in a specific niche (or a couple of specific niches) can pretty much guarantee more interest from prospective clients.
Clients want to know that you’re knowledgeable in your niche, and when you market yourself as a Jack-of-all-trades kind of writer, it implies that your knowledge is not very sound on anything.
Naturally, this means they’re more likely to look elsewhere for someone they believe has the expertise relevant to their needs.
Establish yourself in one or two niches and work on building up a portfolio in those niches, and you’re likely to come across as a much more professional freelance writing business, rather than a scatterbrained scribbler.
5. Get a Gravatar
What’s a Gravatar, you ask? This brief summary explains it well.
Your Gravatar is the image that will appear next to any comment you make on any blog, and the image that will start to be more and more recognizable as people begin to get to know you.
It’s another very important part of your brand and needs to conform to the general feeling or vibe you want to portray.
Remember that humans are more visual than anything, and will likely respond better to a comment that includes a picture. Spam happens, and comments with no picture are most often regarded with a certain amount of suspicion.
People are also inherently curious and mistrustful, so having a picture that portrays you as a normal looking person will make a difference.
Creating a Gravatar is a great way to go because it automatically inserts your picture where you comment.
Easy peasy. Soon your face will be all over the place and people will be able to link back to your site and articles from there, and you can begin to really establish yourself in the field.
6. Create Company Invoices (And Use Them)
I know, I know. We’re writers. We do the word thing, not the numbers thing.
But this is one thing that will really set you apart professionally and has the added bonus of making things easier for you both in a financial sense, and in a legal sense if your client tries to take advantage of you—Yes, these things can happen.
Again, stick with your brand in the design of your invoice. Your logo and company information are essential elements to include on your invoice.
You can find invoice templates quite easily online, but a personalized company invoice will show that you’re serious about your freelance writing business, and clients should be too.
Using software like Freshbooks is a great way to make the whole numbers and invoicing business, much easier. With Freshbooks, you can easily upload your own logo and personalize your invoices with your branding. It’s also a great place to keep track of your clients, projects, payables, receivables and see visuals on your earnings.
Make a point of providing each and every client with an invoice for the work you’ve done. Getting into this habit can help prevent some nasty incidents in the future, and set you apart in terms of professionalism.
Ready to get started on these easy-to-implement actions?
Get ready to level up your freelance writing business and get those professional clients you’ve been aiming for.