Learn how to start a freelance writing business with no money.
Are you broke, out of a job, or at one you hate looking for ways to work from home, but you have no idea where to start? Well, I’m here to tell you how to start a freelance business when you’re struggling financially.
It’s not surprising that working from home has become a popular topic for many people around the world, with all the craziness of 2020 so far. COVID-19 and social unrest in the U.S. have certainly made me thankful to be able to work from home as a writer.
With the unemployment extra $600 ending and many companies out of business, people everywhere are struggling to find a way to make ends meet and provide for their family.
I had the same problem a little over three years ago well minus the Coronavirus and family. I have significant health issues that made it necessary to find a way to work from home
All my single friends raise your hands if you understand what it’s like to lose your ONLY income when you lose your job. Well, I didn’t want that to happen, so I started looking into freelancing before I left my day job.
But it wasn’t anything close to the chaos that the pandemic brought.
When the whole virus started, I was talking to a friend who had to shut her hair salon down. It was a massive hit as she had a husband and daughter. I told her I could commiserate because I lost 2/3rds of my income.
Her reply was, “Well, I lost my whole income.” My response was, “that’s my ONLY income,” and it hit her that at least she had her husband’s paycheck coming.
Not everyone is as lucky as us. Some families lost ALL their income.
Whether you’re single or have a family and lost income, it can really be a burden and increase and make an already stressful situation unbearable.
If you’ve ever wanted to start a freelance business so you can enjoy a better work-life balance and keep your family safer, now is the time.
Here’s What You’ll Learn in this Post:
- How to start a freelance business with little money to no money
- Types of freelance jobs you can do
- How to choose a profitable niche
- Actionable tips on the essentials your freelance business needs
- Ways you can market your business for free
- Where to find freelance jobs
- How to grow and scale your freelance business over time
- How to purchase the things you need to run your business at a low price
Learn How to Start a Freelance Business While You Still Have a Day Job
One of the smartest solutions to how to start a freelance business when you’re broke is to keep your day job until you’re more financially stable. I realize if your boss fired you or you lost your job that this isn’t possible. You need to get an income flow quickly.
But if you can, wait to grow your freelance business while you still work your full-time job. Yes, it may be difficult in the beginning, but just keep the end-goal in sight. Wait to quit your day job until you can replace that money with income from your freelance business.
You’re more likely to be successful freelancing if you have a source of income coming in while you start your freelance business. Why? Because that money allows you to take risks that yield greater rewards and grow and scale your business. That income provides the security you need to try new things.
Once you start making more money, you can invest it in your business or stash it away in savings. You’ll need to work late and get up early to do it. However, waiting to quit your other job helps you transition from a freelancer to an entrepreneur while creating a stable foundation for a more successful business.
Yep, it’s really that simple. It’s easy to overthink this whole process and focus too much on education with little implementation.
I am a perfect example of this. I signed up for a free trial of Wealthy Web Writer back in the day, which I learned about once I signed up to be a member of American Writers & Artists, Inc. Over the years, I’ve acquired an extensive library of books on how to write a novel, but none on freelancing until recently.
But it was so overwhelming. The Wealthy Web Writer gave me just enough information to confuse me, and to really understand what I needed to do; I need to sign up for one of their paid courses. Which I completely understand. We all need to make money some way. I just didn’t have the finances.
So, instead of taking action and implementing the things I learned, I just stayed in the learning phase because it was safe (and I was still clueless).
It’s totally okay to educate, but you must jump into the freelancing world with both feet if you want to learn. So, commit yourself and schedule out a couple of hours every day to grow the freelancing business of your dreams.
One of the easiest ways to start a freelancing business with no money is to offer services like the positions below. That way, you can start off making money right away.
Later down the road, you can invest that money into a product to sell. You may be a blogger specializing in planning and organization, and maybe you have an idea for a planner you want to make.
If you want to make a physical product, you need some capital to invest in the items you need to create it.
Offering services helps you start a work from home business and grow over time. Many new freelancers start as freelance writers because it’s an easy job you can do from anywhere with very little investment other than time.
Evaluate Your Skills
One of the first steps in learning how to start a freelance business is to evaluate your skills and analyze how they translate into a work from home career. For me, I always wanted to be a writer, and I had tons of experience writing through formal education.
I had no idea how different internet writing was compared to writing college papers, but it was an excellent place to start and something anyone can learn.
Maybe your good at graphic design, or perhaps you’re an administrative assistant now and want to see what online jobs you can do with those skills. Here are some freelance job ideas:
- Freelance writer
- Fiction writer
- Virtual assistant
- Pinterest virtual assistant
- Social media manager
- Graphic designer
- Photo editor
- Create and sell printables
- Digital artist
- Web designer
- WordPress maintenance
- SEO consultant
- Video editor
- Customer service
- Nutrition consultant
- Project manager
- Branding services
- Cooking lessons
- Create and sell crafts
As you can see, there are many work from home jobs to choose from. It’s all about choosing something you like to do and that you have some knowledge or experience in to get started quickly.
If you have more time and want to learn how to do a job that you don’t have experience in, you can take the time to find free resources and online courses.
But beware, if you want to go a completely different route from your background and day job, you may need to learn more before you can start your business. For instance, if you want to be a professional bookkeeper and you have no experience, then you may need to take a course to become certified.
Since this is a class on how to start a freelance business when you have no capital, I won’t go into detail about this. Just beware that you made need extra resources.
Choose a Profitable Niche
Choosing a niche is something many new freelancers get hung up on or skip altogether. Once you pick your freelance job, you need to pick a profitable niche.
Essentially, a niche is a specialized area of a market or a specialized product or service.
For example, I chose freelance writing, and I write blog articles for businesses in the security industry. So, I double niched. I specialize in blog articles and the security industry.
Why do you need a niche?
When you niche down, you set yourself apart from other writers and establish yourself as an authority and expert in your industry. You can command higher prices too.
To help new writers and freelancers, I created the Niche Down to Level Up Your Profits Challenge. It’s a free challenge that walks you through the steps of picking the perfect niche that will make you money no matter what freelance job you choose.
Don’t be like me. I got hung up on picking a niche for almost six months. It’s embarrassing but true.
It stalled my progress and I would be much further into my freelancing journey if I had just picked one and moved on.
Maybe you want to be a graphic designer for women who own health blogs and businesses. Or perhaps your day job is an accountant, and you want to be a bookkeeper for small businesses in the travel industry.
Really the sky is the limit as far as picking what niche you want to focus on.
Start Slow and Grow Gradually Over Time
I’m famous for thinking that I need to start anything full-scale, whether it’s my business or any project. I want the best of everything, the latest tech, the fastest laptop; you get the gist.
Often my piggy bank doesn’t match my grandiose ideas, and that’s okay if yours doesn’t either.
Start with the old laptop you’ve had for a couple of years and work off the kitchen or dining room table if you have to. As a freelancer, you need a good internet connection, and you’ll want to start a blog as a free way to market your services. Let’s jump into that now.
Create a Website to Market Your Biz
Sharing great content that helps your target clients is a crucial part of a successful online business. A self-hosted blog over at WordPress.org is the best option because it gives you complete control over your website.
If you absolutely have no money, I would suggest you start on WordPress.com. It’s not self-hosted, but it’s better than blog platforms like Wix or Blogger. Once you begin to earn enough money to invest in your business, one of the first things you should do is switch over to a self-hosted blog at WordPress.org.
You need to choose a domain named based on the freelance business you select. For instance, my domain name for my writing business is ritchiewriting.com. It clearly illustrates what I do. There are a couple of places to get cheap domain names.
The one I hear most often is Namecheap. At the time of this writing, their .coms are only $8.88 a month, and I paid $11.99 over at GoDaddy. Other domains may be less expensive, but I would suggest you splurge and spend the $8.88 on .com because they look more professional, and people trust them more.
And since I suggested you start your website and blog over at WordPress.org, you’ll need to purchase a hosting service.
If you’re in this little adventure for the long haul, you’ll want SiteGround. It’s the best option. Siteground is a bit more expensive but must faster, which is essential for SEO. But that’s a whole other topic, and we don’t want to go down that rabbit hole today.
If there’s no money, there’s no money, and we can work around it.
You may be asking if you need a website for your business, and that answer is yes. While technically, you can get clients through social media alone, your website is the perfect marketing tool that showcases your knowledge, portfolio, and expertise.
The extra effort in creating a website and blog is worth it.
Plenty of people have started with a free website, and that’s okay. But if you have a little extra cash, investing in a good domain name and reliable hosting provides a solid foundation for your business.
Even if your online presence is next to nothing, you can find gigs to start your freelance journey. You can also start working from cafes or restaurants if you don’t have internet at home. Most businesses that cater to customers have free internet for their patrons. Panera Bread is an excellent example.
Register for an Account on Freelancer Sites
While I’m not a fan of Upwork or Fiverr, you can register for a free account and get jobs as a complete newbie. If you want to be a writer, you can sign up for platforms like ClearVoice or find gigs on job boards that pay much better. I wrote an article on some of the best websites to find freelance writing jobs for beginners.
I also created a free 7-day email course that teaches you how to start a freelance writing business and start making money. This free course teaches you how to get better-paying jobs than those you’ll find on Fiverr and Upwork even as a beginner.
There are also places like FlexJobs and Virtual Vocations to find legitimate good-paying freelance jobs, but you have to pay a low monthly subscription fee, which doesn’t break the bank.
My favorite place to find freelance jobs is indeed.com. It’s free, and you can get job alerts sent straight to your inbox every day. And there are tons of freelancing positions for all experience levels. Just make sure to specify remote, online, work from home, or something similar because Indeed also has traditional jobs.
I got my first freelance jobs here, including some for writing, so I’m a big fan. Plus, you can avoid those gig sites and content mills-Upwork and Fiverr.
The key is to use your first freelance jobs for your portfolio so you can start getting better-paying jobs as you gain experience. Or you can create samples for your portfolio easily.
How to Market Your Freelance Business Without Spending a Dime
This is one of my favorite aspects of freelancing. Social media is the perfect place to announce your services and drive people back to your website so they can sign up for a discovery call with you.
The social media channels you use to attract customers will vary depending on your niche and the freelance job you choose. If you want to work for businesses, then LinkedIn is going to be one of the best places to find clients.
All my long-term clients have come from LinkedIn, and many actually found me because I optimized my profile the right way.
If you want to work for those women who own health blogs and small businesses, Facebook might be the right place to hang out. I suggest you at least create a page on all the main social media platforms even if you aren’t going to use them right away.
Someone else may snap up your business name on those platforms, and you’ll be out of luck like I was with my Twitter account.
At the very least, sign up for a LinkedIn account and create a Facebook page for your business. But since you’re going to be short on time, I would stick with only one or two social media platforms to focus on in the beginning. Trying to balance multiple social media accounts can be overwhelming.
Put yourself out there and network with like-minded people so you can help each other. I’ve made lasting friendships with other bloggers and writers, and we all work hard to support each other.
Other freelancers often help each other. I’ve been tagged in some Facebook Groups when someone says they need a writer. If you always give more than you take, you’ll prove that you’re a valuable and helpful team player. In the online world, your reputation is everything.
I also wrote an article on how to market a freelance writing business that applies to other freelance jobs as well. And the best part is that many of these solutions are free. Check it out for more ideas.
Grow Your Freelance Business Slowly
Growing a business is a marathon and not a sprint. Slowly growing your business helps ensure you don’t skip a critical part of the process. In the beginning, you’re going to need to find extra time wherever you can.
It’s like I mentioned earlier, you’ll need to go to bed after everyone else in your house and get up earlier. Can you work while the kids are taking a nap or on lunch breaks at your day job if you have one? Here are some other tips for growing your business over time.
Be Flexible and Adaptable
Two of the most important character traits a freelancer can have is the ability to be flexible and adapt to the ever-changing online world. The best example is the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite working from home, many freelancers were affected by the lockdown in the U.S. Businesses shut down overnight, never to open again.
You must be able to pivot with these changes and approach things from a different angle. A good example is the travel industry. Many travel bloggers saw their earnings dry up overnight international and national travel stopped everywhere.
Businesses in this industry had to find a way to pivot with the tide of the pandemic, and staycations started to take on a whole new meaning. While many museums were already offering virtual tours, they really exploded during the height of the pandemic.
I certainly didn’t expect to start focusing more on blogging than freelance writing clients. I just wanted to supplement my disability income. But gradually, I began to realize I’d rather help other women achieve their dream of becoming a writer.
That realization shouldn’t have been surprising since I taught new officers in the police academy.
If you remain open-minded, you won’t miss unexpected opportunities.
Double Down and Never Get Up
If you genuinely want something, you have to work for it. There will be bad days and times where you feel like giving up but don’t. Freelancers go through many growing stages, and the stress of trying to find clients can wear you down if you don’t find better ways to do it.
Your business is your priority, and if you truly want to succeed, you’ll have to give up other things. You may have to turn down invitations from friends and work some nights and weekends.
I know what you’re thinking. “But didn’t I start this journey to have more time with family and friends?” Yes, you did, but hard work is a part of the process.
Further down the line, when you’re making enough money, you can outsource the parts of your business that you don’t like, aren’t good at, or don’t have time for.
And I balked at that too. I thought I’d never be able to make enough money to outsource, but like many freelancers said who came before me, do it as early as possible. Why? Because it frees you up to concentrate on money-making aspects of your business.
I hired a social media manager because, as a writer, my time is finite. To grow to the next level, I needed help.
Don’t Ever Stop Looking for Clients
It can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you can discontinue the search for new clients. You have several retainer clients that give you all the work you need so you can stop searching, right?
Wrong! I fell for this same scenario early on. Cold emailing has never been my favorite thing, so when I started getting steady clients, I thought I was out of the famine cycle.
No, that wasn’t the case at all. As soon as you get comfortable, then something happens. And it may not be anything you did. The company you write for may have changed policies or shifted gears. Maybe they hired an in-house writer or graphic designer.
The lesson here is to make the search for new freelance clients a regular part of your marketing strategy. If you fail to do so, you may find yourself with no income.
Not every pitch is successful, and as you pitch, you become more confident and make connections that can lead to future clients.
Watch for Deals and Discounts on Products and Services that Can Help Grow Your Business
There are all sorts of products and services geared towards helping online entrepreneurs run their business and grow and scale—things like the Work at Home Bundleor the Ultimate Productivity Bundle.
App Sumo always has sales on some of the best products to help you grow a thriving business. For instance, they often offer a huge sale on photo packs from Depositphotos, which usually include 100 photos for $49. That’s a fantastic deal and allows me to add premium photos to my blog articles for businesses.
Wait and watch for sales like Cyber Monday and Black Friday as well as other holidays to get the best prices on the physical or digital products you need to help your business thrive. Some businesses even have anniversary or flash sales.
I try never to buy anything at full price, and that’s relatively easy to do unless it’s an emergency. Sometimes you can’t wait for a sale.
I suggest that you create a wish list of items or classes you want to buy to take your business to the next level so you can plan when to purchase what you need. After a year or two, you can pretty much figure out the holiday and other sales.
Pro Tip: Bummed because you missed a flash sale on your favorite Pinterest classor Stupid Simple SEO? Sign up for the waitlist for that class you’ve wanted to take, so you get an email as soon as it opens. Some of these classes have secret back ways into their classes through a free masterclass or webinar too.
Beware of Scams
Ughhhh, I hate that I even have to address this issue, but it’s critical to watch out for scams. I have over 21 years in law enforcement, and yet I almost fell victim to a scam.
When I first started looking for jobs, I could work from home and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do; I was simply looking for anything that I fit my experience and skills.
I saw a job as an administrative assistant with a company called Liveops, Inc. I researched, and it was a legitimate company, but the further along in the process I got, the hinkier it sounded.
They said I could work as few hours as I wanted and then they were going to send me a free laptop and equipment. That really made me suspicious. The kicker was that they wanted to send me a check to pay for the equipment, and I could keep some cash out.
Basically, they wanted me to deposit the check and IMMEDIATELY take most of the money out to send back to them because the check was bad. If I took the cash out right away, I would be left holding the bag and owe the full check amount to the bank. Not to mention the bank could have me prosecuted for passing a bad check.
I ended up calling and emailing Liveops. I got a response that said they never have administrative positions; the jobs they advertise are for call center positions.
If you encounter something, similar red flashing lights and alarm bells should be going off in your head.
Here are some things to watch out for when applying for jobs online:
- If it’s too good to be true, it probably is
- They don’t give you a lot of information about the company, or the information they provide is incorrect
- They want to meet on Google Hangouts but by text only, no video
- They send you a check-in email and ask you to print it off
- After they send you the check, they pressure you to deposit immediately, take cash out and send it to them
- They pressure you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, or you don’t understand the legalities
These are just a few things to watch out for when applying to freelance jobs. It’s despicable that people take advantage of others’ desperate need to work from home. If these people invested the energy they put into defrauding people into legitimate careers and businesses; they would be quite successful.
Other Ways to Find the Money to Invest in Your Business
The article How to Start a Business with No Money over at Part-Time Money provides some great examples of ways you can find funding to start a freelance business. They offer suggestions such as crowdfunding, local financing, small business grants, and small business loans.
I don’t think you need these types of funding when I’ve provided you with solutions to starting a freelance business with no money. But one suggestion they have is to create a business startup fund, and that’s smart.
If you know you want to start a freelance business that requires capital, open a separate bank account and name it after your business idea. This account allows you to regularly deposit money from your day job into it so you can start the business of your dreams.
At the end of the day, starting a successful freelance business doesn’t have to be hard now that you have this guide to help you create it with little to no money.
Building your dream business from the ground up is hard, but putting in sweat equity allows you to appreciate it more and gives you the drive to succeed. When you invest time and eventually money in your dream business, it’s worth more to you.
When you wake up every day excited to work or know that you no longer have an hour commute one way you realize your dream is a reality, and it only gets better.
If you want to be a freelance writer, check out this FREE 7-day email course that walks you step by step through the process of starting a writing business.