How to Start a Writing Business

How to Start a Writing Business

by Brette Sember, Esq., March 2016

Starting your own writing business is an exciting way to exercise your creativity and earn money. However, building a successful writing business also takes time and attention to detail.

Selecting Your Form of Business

The first business decision you must make when you want to make money writing is what kind of legal business entity you want to create.

Sole Proprietorship

Most people starting out as a freelance writer give the form of their business no thought at all and function as a sole proprietor. This is perfectly fine option.

Even if you are just working out of your home with an online writing business, you may be required to file a business registration or business license in your county, so be sure to check your local laws. If you are giving your business a name—such as The Write Stuff—you will need to file a DBA (doing business as) form in your county.

If you work as a sole proprietor, you pay taxes on all of your income as a self-employed person.

LLC

You could decide to make money as a writer by setting up your business as an LLC. The limited liability company form of business allows you to continue to pay taxes as an individual but to obtain some liability protection.

The LLC is liable, not you personally, for the work you do. Be aware, though, that as a single member LLC you have direct responsibility for all aspects of your writing company, so you are not truly going to be shielded from liability.

Incorporation

You may decide to incorporate your freelance writing business. If you incorporate, you need to complete the necessary paperwork and hold annual meetings. You will pay tax as a corporation and pay yourself a salary.

Liability is limited, but it is relatively easy for the corporate veil to be pierced when you are the sole owner and the person providing all the services.

Finding Clients

When you are wondering how to start a writing business and how to make money as a writer, your biggest concern will be finding clients. You must first decide what type of writing you want to do and then target the right kind of clients and publishers.

Setting up a personal website, starting a blog, and putting together a resume all are important first steps. You also want to network with other writers—there are lots of online opportunities for this—and sign up for job boards.

If you choose to do marketing or business writing, you can identify clients by talking to local businesses, conducting a targeted direct mail campaign, or reaching out via email. If you are interested in writing books, finding an agent is an important early step.

Protecting Yourself

Liability insurance is not required when you become a freelance writer, but it can be a good decision to obtain some. When you sell your writing, your publishers and clients will generally require you to indemnify your work. In other words, they want you to accept the liability if you have plagiarized your work, libeled someone, or caused other kinds of harm with your writing.

An insurance policy can provide you with coverage in the unlikely event that you are sued. Writers' liability insurance policies can be very expensive, however, and the cost can vary greatly depending on the type of writing you do and the topics you cover.

Paying Your Taxes

You will need to pay taxes on your writing income, so be sure to keep good records of your income and expenses. Talk with your tax preparer to find out about the kind of deductions you can take. You may want to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you plan to operate as an LLC or corporation. You can use this number for all tax information requests by clients.

Starting a writing business can be an exciting way to pursue your dream of being a writer and making money at the same time. Making sure you set your business up the right way from the start can help you avoid a lot of problems.

If you're ready to start a writing business, LegalZoom can help you set up your business entity. The process begins with answering a few questions about your business. We'll assemble your documents and file them directly with the Secretary of State.