Last updated Dec 13, 2023 and written by Paul Doherty

How to form your freelance writing business

Careers in writing have an easy transition into the world of freelancing. Afterall, who doesn’t want more freedom over writing assignments, more control over your daily routine and work habits, to be your own boss?

To take such a creative career and turn it into a freelance gig may sound idyllic, but it requires tons of motivation and self-discipline. As your own boss, you’ll need to be on it at all times to meet deadlines, find clients and chase payments. 

Here, we’ll take a look at some of the building blocks needed to ensure that your freelance writing business gets off to the perfect start, and that you get the most out of your work. 

Building your brand

To be a successful freelance writer, you’ll need clients. This can’t happen unless you build a recognisable personal brand. Your brand is essential to your network building and your network is essential to your business, it could be the reason you land certain jobs. 

A brand can be anything from a distinct writing voice shown through an online portfolio or website, to a catchy and recognisable name and logo. A good brand contains all of the above, but in the beginning stages, a good name and brand image should be a priority. 

The process of choosing a name is something that shouldn’t be underestimated. It really pays to stand out, and investing some time in creating a short, punchy and informative business name could pay off in getting yourself noticed online. Secondly, as a writer, having a witty brand name informs your future clients about your writing prowess instantly. If you’ve thought of a great company name but need some time to pull the other elements of your business together, why not reserve your name so it doesn’t get taken! 

A good exercise is to think of brands you can instantly recall, what is it about them that stands out? The name? The colours? Their brand voice? From doing research like this you can build your brand strategy in a well informed manner. 

From there, start building your brand’s colours, your objectives, your brand personality. It might seem redundant when you are a solo freelancer, but having a strong brand looks great to potential clients. It shows you are serious about your work and ultimately, having a recognisable brand will allow you to stand out. 

Creating an online presence

Of course, for any new venture it is essential to have an online presence. All you need to start is a great website. By setting yourself up with an online space, you can control your digital portfolio and draw that brand identity, which you worked so hard to build, throughout your digital channels. Consistency is key! 

While the process of setting up your site could become costly, there are plenty of cheap options which help you out along the way. Using easy to build systems such as wordpress or a drag and drop CMS such as Wix are a few options among many that provide a free way to build your website, then your only cost is paying for the domain name. Or you

Once you’ve decided on a name, and created a creative and informative website, it’ll be time to ensure that you effectively market yourself to online audiences. There are plenty of freelance platforms where workers are able to set up profiles in order to be found by employers, such as fiverr and UpWork. Using platforms such as these sites will allow you to build your portfolio and will expand your client network. 

If you feel confident with digital technology and social media,  it might be a good idea to build a presence on social media sites too. Be sure to create accounts for your business on any social platforms that your target audience may favour. Even if you plan on starting later, its a good idea to claim your business name on social media, in case they get snapped up. LinkedIn and Instagram, in particular, are excellent tools for reaching scores of potential clients and a great way to show off glowing testimonials or snippets of your great writing. Remember to match your social media profiles to the branding you’ve created, this allows any future or current clients to find you with ease. 

Making your company 

When you go into the big wide world as a freelance business owner, you have two key options when forming your company: establish yourself as a sole trader, or set up as a limited company.

Choosing which type of company to become is considered essential by many freelancers. Certain company types, such as a Limited Company, give you benefits such as protecting your branding, and yourself as a business, while also confirming that you are a business to relevant regulatory authorities. However, other being a sole trader is an easier way to begin. As a freelance writer there are two company types which will suit you most, a ‘Limited Company’ or a ‘Sole Trader’. 

Limited company vs sole trader

A sole trader business keeps you and your company close together, and is a popular choice among freelancers. There’s little distinction between yourself and your company — which means that your personal assets aren’t protected should the worst happen to your company.

Sole trader companies are, however, simple to set up and great for smaller businesses. It might be a good option for the first few months of business, while you are still finding your feet. The only legal responsibility you’ll have as a sole trader is filling in a yearly self assessment for your National Insurance deductions. 

 Although it’s important to note that some clients may favour limited companies over sole trader endeavours — this is because limited companies suggest you may be more serious, and thus more reliable. So if you want to grow your business to flourishing heights, starting off as a limited company might be your best option. 

A limited company means that your business would be its own legal entity, helping to protect your assets if you begin to operate at a loss. In other words, you won’t have to sell any personal property to pay off a business debt. 

When it comes to taxation, sole traders are obliged to pay tax on their business profits through self-assessment tax returns. As mentioned above, this is filed yearly, as a sole trader you’ll have to calculate beforehand the amount of tax you will be expected to pay, so you can budget accordingly. Limited companies, on the other hand, must pay 20% Corporation Tax regardless of profit margins. As a director of your own company, you can pay yourself using dividends, to save on paying income tax. Therefore, as a limited company, you may find that your overall tax could be lower.

There’s no right or wrong solution to the question of whether or not to set up a sole trader company or become an ‘Ltd’, but your decision should reflect the size of the business you plan to create as well as the level of ambition and growth you expect. Small company owners may benefit more from the hassle-free nature of acting as a sole trader, but if you hold the ambitions of attracting larger clients and developing into a larger operation, the limited company route may be vital.

Choosing your company type takes a lot of consideration, to understand more about the differences between a limited company and a sole trader, read our blog which explores the topic in further detail.

Extra considerations

You’ll need to set up a business bank account, which will differ if you are a sole trader or a limited company. You may also consider registering your company for VAT to the HMRC. VAT registration is only required after your turnover hits £85,000 but some freelancers register before the threshold as you can claim back any VAT you spend. As a freelance writer, you may need a new laptop or equipment for social media, therefore, it might be in your benefit to register for VAT. It’s also imperative that you set up a thorough and efficient accounting system or accountant that ensures you’re paying only what you need in taxation and can advise you best things such as VAT.

This can all be a lot to take on, however — so we’re here to help. If you’re interested in setting up as a limited company, or if you need any other help, our formation packages can help to take the stress away from the formal parts of setting up your company. If you’re interested in finding out more, just head over to the company registration page for more information.