How to Start a Freelance Business When You’re Broke

Are you a broke mom, frantically searching for legitimate ways to earn money online? Learn how to start a freelance writing business (and grow it) without any money to spare.

If you’re struggling financially today, I want you to know that I understand! I know how it feels to be so broke you can’t just “give up your daily latte” to save money to make a purchase you want.

And I know it can get better. You are not stuck in broke mode forever. You can pull yourself out. I’ve done it and so can you.

Freelance writing changed my life! Four years after starting, we became completely debt free and I officially replaced my teacher salary – without having to spend anything on daycare, or putting in 8 hours a day.

Being broke isn’t fun! When I left the classroom a few years ago, our income took a massive cut.

Well below the poverty line, we struggled to make ends meet. We slashed our expenses and watched ever penny. It was hard!

We knew something had to change, but I didn’t want to go back to teaching because day care for our large family would eat up my entire pay check. Literally.

Since working outside the home wasn’t a viable option, so I started looking into ways to earn money from home, praying that the Lord would help me avoid scams and find something legit.

And not long after, He answered!

Freelance Writing

I stumbled upon a post written by Gina Horkey, and learned that people were getting paid to write content for the web.

I’d been blogging for fun over on my Maggie’s Milk blog, so the wheels in my brain started turning. Could I really earn money writing online?

I started reading all the free material on freelancing that I could. After scouring the job boards, I sent my first pitch within a couple of days.

I got the gig!

It didn’t pay well (only $20), but that money made me realize that I could do this. I could help our household financially, without having to give up on homeschooling or put the kids in daycare.

That first gig back in 2015 was my first baby step into the world of freelance writing. And the money has been coming in ever since. And not just in $20 increments…

If you’re ready to work hard to improve your family’s situation, keep reading.

I dish out all the steps I took to launch my freelance business, without spending any of our household budget.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

1. Decide to Act

Until you decide that it’s time to actually start your freelance business, no amount of reading, learning, or thinking will count.

You can take course after course and never actually earn any money if you don’t implement anything. You have to do something!

Make a proclamation that you are going to do this. Commit to spend time each day growing your business.

Because if you don’t decide to act, you’ll probably still be broke a few months down the road.

Action truly is key to getting this done. Stop planning. Don’t wait until you “know everything.” Actually do something.

2. Start Small

Do you know what I had for my business when I launched?

A cheap laptop computer, really slow satellite internet, and a freebie blog over on Blogger.

I didn’t have a dedicated freelance website, or money to start one.

Freelance writing courses were on my “someday” list, but I couldn’t afford to purchase any at the time. There was literally no money for that.

And it could have been the excuse I used to never get started. But I decided not to. I just started with what I had.

There is nothing wrong with starting small. 

You don’t need a lot to make it as a freelance writer. Too often, I hear excuses like these:

  • “I don’t have a website.”
  • “No one knows who I am.”
  • “I don’t know where to go to look for gigs.”

You know what? I didn’t either! My online presence (other than my freebie blog) was extremely limited. I didn’t even have a personal Facebook profile or other social media presence prior to launching!

And while perhaps my progress has been slower compared to others who started with more, I didn’t take time to stop and make comparisons.

I started small, with what I had, leveraging my skills.

So once you’ve decided to start a business, take stock of what you have. That’s all you need to get started.

No internet? Go someplace with Wi-Fi.

No computer? Our library has several, and I live in the middle of nowhere, so I’m pretty sure yours will too.

Stop making excuses and find a way to make it happen. It will be hard. But, it will get easier if you keep taking these steps.

3. Start Pitching & Build Your Portfolio

Remember how I said my first paid gig was for $20. That was for a 1200 word post.

Today, I charge at least $120 for the same length. Big difference.

But, when I was first starting I didn’t have the luxury of being picky. I needed money and samples.

So if you’re broke and just starting out, take what you can. Remember you won’t be at that rate forever!

Start getting your name out there, and pitch away!

No matter what you are being paid, always do your best work! Seriously, I don’t care if you’re getting less than a penny a word. If you agreed to write a post for a rate, do it to the very best of your ability.

Wondering where to pitch? Check out these ideas:

Craigslist – the “Gigs” section. Check the big cities (New York, LA, etc.)

ProBlogger Job Board (free, and where I found my first gig!)

You can also create an account on a site like Hubstaff Talent and look for clients who may be a good fit.

Also, here’s a more in-depth post on how to find freelance writing gigs.

Worried about being scammed?

There are scams out there, hiding as legitimate freelance writing gigs. Most are very obvious. Others are more carefully constructed.

The good news? There are almost always red flags. I wrote a post warning you what to look for:

Read this: Red Flags for Freelance Writing Gigs

How to Write a Freelance Writing Pitch

The goal of a freelance writing pitch is to briefly explain why you’re the best person to create the content the company is looking for. You need to show that you’re knowledgeable about the content area, and able to write well.

Here is a sample pitch template you can use. You’ll notice it’s short. Hiring managers get tons of responses. Be kind to them by succinctly sharing the info they need and don’t bog them down with details.

Hi [insert the name of the editor – AN ACTUAL NAME (you may need to research],

Your ad/posting on [site where you learned about it] caught my eye. I’m a freelance writer who knows a lot about [topic/niche.]  I’m also [share two quick reasons you’d be a great fit, using the language/word choice from the ad].

To help you make your hiring decision, here’s a bit more information about myself:

  • [two bullet points sharing quick connections between your education/background/experience and the role]
  • [one connection to the company – i.e. a shared value or mission]
  • [Link to your portfolio]

Please let me know if you need any additional information. I’m looking forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

How to Build Your Freelance Writing Portfolio

When you’re just start your freelance writing business, you probably don’t have a lot of samples created that you can use to build a portfolio. That means sample writing must be high on your prioritized to-do list.

Here are three quick ideas for how to get published samples:

  • Write a guest post for a blogger in the niche you’re hoping to write for
  • Start a free blog (better than nothing and you can move later)
  • Write on Medium (or a similar platform)

Once you have live samples, you need to collect the links in a sharable format. If you don’t have a website of your own yet, you can:

  • Make a shareable Google Doc
  • Create a Pinterest board and save all of your posts to it (this means you’ll need to create a pinnable image for each post, but you can do that for free on Canva or something similar)
  • Build a portfolio on a platform like Contently

Right now, don’t worry about making your portfolio “perfect.” You want it sharable and you want each link to lead to a great piece of writing. That’s it.

You can (and should) update it later.

4. Reinvest in Your Business

Look, I know how tempting it is to go spend that money you just earned. You’re broke, and really could use the money on X,Y, or Z.

But you can’t.

At least, not right now.

First, you have to invest in your business. Otherwise you’ll be stuck writing $20 posts forever. And no one wants to be there.

So save all of your money (at first!)

When you’ve saved enough, take an entry-level course to learn even more. My first freelancing investment was 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success (aff. link).

The course helped me learn:

  • How to improve my pitch
  • Ways to leverage my past experience and education as a freelancer
  • Confidence in my ability
  • And loads more

I’ve never regretted investing in this course, and have easily made back WAY more than I spent.

But until you’re there, don’t give up on improving yourself.

Keep reading all the free material you can. Subscribe to helpful blogs and read about areas you’re struggling with.

Remember to implement what you’re learning too! Keep saving, and then you’ll be able to take a course.

The course I took gave me the confidence I needed to pitch more. I landed a higher paying job on Craigslist in the education niche, which was perfect with my teaching background.

I took that money, and bought my domain and hosting. This website was born in September of 2015, just a few months after starting my business.

It really does take some money to grow your business, but you don’t have to have that money all at once. So keep working on your savings and you will get there!

5. Slowly Scale Back on What You Save

Once I had more knowledge and a functioning website (it doesn’t have to be perfect!), it was time to start taking some of my business income and applying it to the household budget.

Being able to actually do something with this money was motivating.

When you’re saving everything to get your site up, or purchase a course, it’s really hard. The tangible benefit isn’t there to the same extent.

My first step back was to save 50% of my income for my business and pour 50% of it into the household budget.

After investing in a few more essentials, I reduced that percentage to 25%. But, I ended up spending the money I saved for taxes (oops!) so I’m back up to 35%.

Note: You really do need a budget for your business!

6. Watch for Amazing Deals

I’ve learned the hard way that you really do have to invest in your business to keep growing. So now I’m always watching for amazing deals that align with my freelance writing goals.

I’ve subscribed to several “waiting lists” to be notified of any flash sales for courses I particularly want to take.

Pay attention to the amazing bundle deals that become available, and sign up to be notified. Then tuck some funds away so when they appear you can make the purchase guilt-free.

Watch for Black Friday sales. Often companies will have Anniversary sales as well.

If you find something you want, have patience and try to get it at the lowest price possible.

7. Make Time to Grow Your Freelance Writing Business

Wondering how you’ll make time to grow a freelance writing business from home? You’ll have to make it a priority.

And you need to do it as a team. Your family won’t understand why you’re suddenly spending more time on the computer unless you tell them. So get your family onboard!

8. Continue Pitching to Avoid Freelance Famine

Once you’ve landed a client or two, it can be easy to forget to pitch. After all, you’ve got more client work to keep you busy.

But, eventually that gig might dry up. Then you’ll be left without that income.

So make pitching a permanent part of your game plan, at least for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, you’ll be right back to where you started with no money.

Pitch even if you are busy. Not every pitch will land a client, but it will help you gain confidence. And some of them will give you work!

Freelance famine is a roller coaster cycle you don’t want to get started with!

There are so many ways to find time, even if it means getting a bit creative.

You can do a lot with a part-time freelance business, so don’t let a lack of 40 hours a week stop you8. Continue Pitching to Avoid Freelance Famine

Once you’ve landed a client or two, it can be easy to forget to pitch. After all, you’ve got more client work to keep you busy.

But, eventually that gig might dry up. Then you’ll be left without that income.

So make pitching a permanent part of your game plan, at least for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, you’ll be right back to where you started with no money.

Pitch even if you are busy. Not every pitch will land a client, but it will help you gain confidence. And some of them will give you work!

Freelance famine is a roller coaster cycle you don’t want to get started with!

9. Make Connections

Do you know where most of my leads come from now?

From other freelancers.

That’s part of the reason I love the mastermind group I was a part of for a couple of years. I’ve also gotten leads from different Facebook groups.

Take time to make connections and build genuine relationships. Give more than you take, and be willing to help others. You won’t regret it. Or at least, I haven’t!

Other freelancers are not your enemy! Learn all you can from them and help them out too. Be genuine and patient!

Here’s a post giving you ideas on how to network with others, even as a busy mom without much time.

10. Be Willing to Try Something New

I never planned on being a virtual assistant when I launched my freelance writing business.

But, the door opened and I walked through it. Now I have a couple of VA clients, and I personally love the variety!

I also didn’t plan on this website turning into a monetized blog. But, that just made sense as a logical step on my online business journey.

So as you’re working, don’t get so focused on what you’re doing that you completely miss a good opportunity. Say yes to new things when you can, because you never know where they’ll lead.

Don’t be afraid to pivot if it makes sense.

On the other hand, don’t get so focused on chasing the next “new thing” that you forget about what is currently working. There’s a balance. You’ll have to figure out what that looks like for you.

11. Don’t Give Up

Bootstrapping your freelance business is challenging. But, it’s also rewarding, and can help you move past broke.

Don’t give up when things get tough. You can do this!

Take time to think about your why. Why did you start a business in the first place? When you think about your why, it’s motivating.

Here’s more inspiration when you’re feeling like you’re ready to quit:

What to Do When You’re Ready to Quit Your Online Business

How to Start a Freelance Writing Business: Recap

Starting a freelance writing business doesn’t require a lot of capital. In fact, if you already have a computer and internet access, you can get started today.

Remember to save your money, and invest it back into yourself. Watch for deals so you can still save money while investing! 😀

Be willing to work for less at first, because you won’t be at that rate forever.

Find a community and get involved.

And when you’re ready to take an awesome course on freelance writing, I highly recommend Gina’s 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success!

By: Lisa Turner

Lisa Tanner loves helping busy moms find time to grow their own business. As a homeschooling mom to nine, she knows a thing or two about balancing diapers and deadlines.

Source: How to Start a Freelance Business When You’re Broke – Lisa Tanner Writing

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Related Contents:

Beyond Funding: What Business Leaders Need To Know About The Value of Investing In Talent

Beyond Funding: What Business Leaders Need to Know About the Value of Investing in Talent

When contemplating the pressures entrepreneurs face when starting a new venture, fundraising often springs to mind first. Tech talent, however, can be scarcer than capital and may, in fact, be the biggest issue businesses face. Securing funding is naturally the first hurdle but building a cohesive and knowledgeable workforce is the cornerstone for stable growth and not so easy to achieve.

Attracting investment, although a daunting milestone, remains achievable, even in spite of the chaos caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. 2020 is on track to be a record year for investment in European tech in particular, with an incredible $12bn was invested in SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) companies alone.

However, with nearly two thirds (65 percent) of technology leaders claiming that challenges around hiring talent are hurting the industry, the issues around skills shortages firmly remain. Demand for tech talent continues to grow at a pace unrivalled by any other industry: an issue exacerbated by an existing skills gap. And, while it’s predicted that this gap might begin to close as people retrain post-pandemic, it remains a significant problem right now. I’ve seen first-hand otherwise promising new ventures and start-ups struggle due to a lack of skills.

Moreover, as the Silicon Valley mantra of ”move fast and break things” persists on both sides of the pond, it’s increasingly important for businesses to take ideas from notes on a napkin to marketable reality in a matter of months. It’s vital, therefore, that companies find the personnel that can deliver – and deliver quality – at pace in order to help them stand out in a crowded marketplace.

We live in a digital age where speed is paramount to the success of businesses across all industries. Traditional operations must adapt to a digital-by-default model if they are to survive – let alone thrive. It’s clear, then, that entrepreneurs need to look beyond funding when building their business. In addition to fundraising, they should be surrounding themselves with the people that will help them to bring their ideas to life in the smartest, quickest time possible.

Expertise and experience.

But it’s not necessarily about taking on new personnel. Entrepreneurs can tap into a range of targeted communities in business and personal networks, which they can harness to open up access to entire ecosystems of expertise and experience. This is where early-stage accelerators such as Crowdcube, Founder Factory, and Y Combinator can really add value, connecting entrepreneurs with experience as well as fellow founders, so collective lessons can be shared. Online communities found on LinkedIn and Twitter shouldn’t be overlooked either: knowledge is power, but there’s no knowledge without people.

The guidance and counsel that these communities can offer could prove invaluable in enabling entrepreneurs to build and ship higher quality digital products – faster – while, at the same time, developing the skills of their existing employees. Building a community of experts with experience across the enterprise landscape enables companies to embrace digital skills alongside traditional models and grow their business, adapting to the skills and processes they need to succeed in today’s marketplace.

Interestingly, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has expanded the size and scope of these ecosystems. With lockdown measures forcing most people to work remotely, they aren’t constrained by a typical nine-to-five working day in one set location, making more people accessible and available. What’s more, many of those workers who have been furloughed or, worse, made redundant over the last 12 months have taken the opportunity to retrain for new careers. Offering a mix of experience and capabilities, approaching this particular set of people can help bring a fresh perspective to an entrepreneur’s vision and new business proposition.

Tweaks to technology.

Making tweaks to the way a business employs technology can also go a long way to improving the speed and quality of its product delivery pipeline. Often, however, knowing which tweaks to make – and then actually making them – can be beyond the reach of a company’s existing skill set. Hiring in-house may be the right move for some, but founders should also seek out specialist third-parties whose technical expertise lies in the domains their business needs, such as software engineering, UX design, or delivery optimization. If time is of the essence (as it usually is), this can often be the quickest route to optimal outcomes. Where possible, make sure to pick a partner that helps to build your team’s skills whilst accelerating your delivery.

Sometimes, it’s just a question of unlocking the value of data you might already have. It’s no secret that most modern companies now generate vast quantities of data, but there is a very big difference between capturing raw data and translating it into decisive or predictive action, and competitive advantage. The right personnel or partner can prioritize actionable data to create a winning transformation agenda – from setup, to ongoing measurement and analysis.

And the benefits here shouldn’t just be reserved for early-stage startups or tech companies. Whether it’s a major high street bank, an iconic high street retailer, or a craft brewery, joining forces with a suitably skilled technical partner can help supercharge any organizations ambitions and delivery pipeline. Technology now plays a critical role in every business – perhaps more than ever during the current coronavirus crisis. The secret to creating a successful company is increasingly the way in which its businesses utilise technology. And while it’s important to raise funds to invest in the right technology, it’ll be for nothing if no-one within the business knows how to use it to its best ability.

For this reason, it’s in the best interest of entrepreneurs to ensure they’re surrounded by the best possible tech talent, whether they’re on the staff, part of a community of trusted advisors, or a third-party specialist. Embarking on new venture will produce any number of challenges. While funding certainly matters, taking care to find the right tech talent will help overcome many of these.

By: Paramjit Uppal CEO at AND Digital

Source: Beyond Funding: What Business Leaders Need to Know About the Value of Investing in Talent

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This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Watch Sarah and Rich take us through their thoughts on what it means to be unbound, and how it can change your perspective on the potential around you.
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Employee or Freelancer Which One Do I Need

You need help, but you’re trying to figure out whether it can be on a contract basis or whether you need to payroll someone. This question comes up a lot and it has important implications for working relationships. Do you need an arrangement with a contractor or do you need to hire a regular employee? With millions of freelancers in the U.S. alone, you have your pick of qualified candidates. Take a step back and do some homework to figure out whether you truly need an employee or an independent contractor.

When you have an employee on payroll, you’re in control of what the working relationship and schedule look like. As the employer, you’re most likely paying them on an hourly or salaried basis and taking out taxes. Most employers, of course, are going to offer a benefits package to their workers as well. Contractors, on the other hand, are being paid a flat fee per project or an hourly fee to work with you, but are not receiving W2s or getting benefits in the vast majority of situations. (To learn more about IRS designations and tests used to help you determine whether the working arrangement you have in mind really fits legal definitions, check out this resource page.)

Related: When Is Hiring Freelancers a Good Idea?

There are a few big benefits of hiring a freelancer:

  • Only pay for the work you actually need
  • No benefits payment unless you want to offer it
  • Can seek out competitive rates in the marketplace and match your budget and desired experience level with a like-minded freelancer
  • Access to talent all over the world (which you’ll also get if you hire a remote employee)

Here are the things to consider when deciding whether or not to outsource to a freelancer or bring on an employee.

Working arrangement

Freelancers, by law, need to maintain autonomy in how they do their work. For this working arrangement, flexibility is the key. For most contractor relationships, the freelancer will be working on their own equipment on their own schedule, meeting deadlines on projects as needed. In general, freelancers will remain available for scheduled calls but are not “on-call” during typical working hours the same way that an employee would be.

If you need someone to be available during your set hours daily, meaning that they’d have to block off their entire day to work when the rest of your team is working, this usually means an employee/employer relationship. And in the U.S., that means payroll, W2, and Social Security/Medicare taxes paid as part of their paycheck.

If you’re open to a more flexible arrangement and truly want to treat this person like an independent contractor — where they control how and when they do their work — a freelancer is the better choice.

Just don’t blur the line. Decide what best suits your needs and keep it that way. If you have to make changes, talk to your worker about the need to change status and whether they are comfortable with that.

Related: Why So Many Americans Prefer the Freelance Lifestyle

Talent

Do I have access to the kind of talent that wants an employee position? Many freelancers work remotely by choice and want to have access to more than one client at a time. This means that some of the best talent out there could be among the freelance pool. Leaving jobs is a bigger commitment, but taking on a new client is commonplace for freelancers, so there might be more people you can speak to more quickly about the opportunity if you go the freelance route.

This is not to say there aren’t great people seeking full-time positions out there. Quite the contrary, actually. But being open to freelancers who might be able to do the job more quickly when you only pay them for the work done could stretch your budget better.

Workload

Do you have enough work to keep a part-time or full-time employee busy consistently? If not, you’ll end up paying a salary or for hours in which the worker has nothing to do. That doesn’t turn out well for anyone.

Sporadic workload or short-term overload is a strong case for hiring a freelancer, whereas ongoing work — especially when you need someone available to you during specific hours — indicates you may need a permanent employee. Since both parties could potentially work remotely, thus expanding your talent pool, it becomes even more important to think about the structure of the working relationship and the overall workload.

While freelancers can stay with your company for a long time billing hourly or on retainer, plenty of them are happy to work with you for smaller projects or shorter time periods, too.

By: Laura Briggs / Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

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