Table of Contents 1. Introduction 2. Necessary Writing Skills 3. Necessary People Skills 4. How to Present Your Work 5. How to Present Your Invoices 6. The Best Text Editor to Use 7. Other Tools 1. Introduction I have a case study/journal type of thing going here at Apex Forum where I'm helping someone to build out a writing business from scratch. She's going for the "people who want good content and good service without going broke in the process" demographic, and she's currently accepting new clients at $0.04/word, so if you'd like to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, have at it. She's a good writer who has all of this shit covered that I'm going to talk about here because I've trained her personally. In the case study thread, I was asked the following: I can't speak to the legalities of structuring your business in different ways since I don't have a fancy LLC or something (though I'll probably need to structure my business differently in 2016). However, what I can speak to is the content writing game and "freelancing" in general and what I've done to see the level of success that I have seen doing this full-time for the past four or five years. 2. Necessary Writing Skills You need excellent grammar and spelling, but you also need to be able to present information in a way that doesn't sound like you have a stick up your ass. Most people have much worse grammar than they think, especially if you should be trying to write according to a particular set of style guidelines. If you can't point out dependent clauses, independent clauses, the differences between a phrase and a clause, adverbial clauses and so on, then you need to step your game up regardless of how good of a writer you think you might be. Now that I think about it, most people don't have any idea what style guidelines are. Style guidelines tell you things like whether you should write out the number nine or just type 9. According to AP style, you would write "nine" except in certain situations like if 9 percent of people actually knew what AP style was (Associated Press). I suggest people who want to get going in this writing thing learn Associated Press style, and the easiest way to do that is to purchase a Associated Press Stylebook and read it. People who read this are going to blow off this suggestion anyway, but it is what it is. This should be your default style unless a client asks for something different specifically. 3. Necessary People Skills There's a really easy way to set yourself apart from the majority of the competition in the content writing game: Be reliable. For some reason, people seem to think it's easier to make up a bunch of excuses and complicated lies than to just do the damn work on time. If something does come up where you're going to have to push back a deadline, let your client know as soon as you do. It's pretty simple stuff, but the vast majority of people just don't do it, so that's an easy way to gain a repeat client. Have an email address that's used only for your work and nothing else. Have a folder for each client, and set up a filter so that their emails go directly into their respective folder. This will save you a ton of time and issues searching through emails, and it reflects well on you when you can quickly look back at your previous correspondence with a client without coming across as a disorganized mess. Be responsive and do not let your clients just sit around wondering what's going on with you. If you get an email asking for an order, even if it's from a regular client, make sure to email them back and let them know that you received their order. Give an idea of when you expect to have it ready while you're at it. It's something that seems small, but it will help you to avoid miscommunication issues that can shake your clients' trust in you. Present yourself in at least a somewhat professional way. I'm going to give you two examples of emails that are trying to get the same point across, and you tell me which one you think is going to inspire the most confidence: While you're at it, get all of that goofy shit out of your email signature. It doesn't make you look professional, and it just makes you look like an insecure douchebag. If your client needs to see your signature to know your website, phone number, Skype and whatever else, then you're doing it wrong. 4. How to Present Your Work There should be an understanding ahead of time of how you're going to format and present your work. For my own clients, some want just plain text with no markup, some want headers of some type before every single paragraph, some want meta titles/descriptions, some want you to use HTML for headers/paragraphs/lists, etc. What you need to do ahead of time is make it clear how the client wants the work formatted. Typically I just tell the client something like, "Alright so I'll be delivering this in text files with a meta title and description using <p>, <h2>, <h3> and list HTML tags. Let me know if this is good or if I should format differently," when I'm asking them about their order. Once you have an established way to format for a certain client, you don't need to keep asking them over and over. Instead, just make sure you keep notes about what each client wants, and they'll appreciate you delivering it exactly how they want it. The way you name your files is pretty important. If you have a group of 15 different items that you're working on for a single order, my suggestion is to name them something like "Client Name - 01 - Name of the Item You're Writing.txt" and just change the numbers to 02, 03, 04, etc. for each item in the set. Then when you deliver an invoice, you need to number things the same in the list so that it's really easy for your client to see exactly where everything is. If you keep this list in the order they give you the items to write, it makes things a lot easier for both you and your client. One more thing: If you have more than about five items to send to your client, make sure that you put them all into a zip file instead of sending an email that has a ton of attachments. That's a massive pain in the ass to deal with, and the less you are a pain in the ass, the better of a relationship you're going to have with your client. 5. How to Present Your Invoices If you're sending informal invoices, then my suggestion is to keep a spreadsheet of your work and just copy/paste the items you're billing for into the email. Most email clients and platforms will just create a simple table based on that information, and it presents it really well with a minimal amount of fuss. Each row should have the name of the item, the word count and the cost. After the table, you can just include a line with a total like, "This comes to a total of X words at $X/word for a cost of $X." Some clients will require more formal invoices. You can create a simple template using Google Docs, LibreOffice or OpenOffice and export it to a PDF, or if they want you to send an invoice via PayPal, you can create a template for that as well. You don't have to go all-out and try to look like some tryhard over it, but you also don't want to look like a fifth grader did it either. Make sure that you're clear about how you accept payment from the very beginning. My recommendation is that you have at *least* two ways to get paid. The most common option in today's market is PayPal, but Skrill and Neteller are also a couple of good options. Directly on your invoice, whether via email or PDF, include how your client can pay you. Make sure you list every option they have. 6. The Best Text Editor to Use You need a reliable text editor that will give you a live word count. My suggestion for a free program is LibreOffice Writer, but you need to do a few things to it: Go Tools -> Options -> Load/Save -> General and you'll see an option for "Always Save As" that you should set to "Text" so that you don't accidentally save as some other document type. Set your font face and size to what you want it, and then remove all of the toolbars (but not the status bar). Go View -> Web Layout to get rid of the white bars around the edges for the margins, and go uncheck View -> Text Boundaries to get rid of those dumb little marks on the edges of the document that show where the text is going to go to. Finally, File -> Templates -> Save As Template and save the current document as a template, and then go in and make that template your default. That will make sure these settings load each time you run LibreOffice Writer. 7. Other Tools You need to be organized, or things are going to turn into one hell of a mess as soon as you get multiple clients going. You need a spreadsheet that keeps up with everything that you've written so that you can track your earnings and have easy access to the information you need to create invoices (see the section on that above). A second tab in that spreadsheet can also hold lists of exactly what you're supposed to be writing on an item-by-item basis, and that's good for keeping up with what you've written and what you haven't. Note that it's stupid to try to keep all of this in your head instead of having a record of it somewhere because you'll eventually screw up and either miss something or write something twice, and you'll feel like an idiot. You also need somewhere to keep your notes for each item you're writing. I suggest doing that in Microsoft OneNote (which is free now) or some other similar application where you can just copy/paste in text, images and whatever else. Have a stopwatch for your work as well, and record how long it takes you to write each item in your earnings spreadsheet. This will help you to calculate your hourly for when you're actually doing the writing, and though that won't be your true hourly including time spent researching, having a stopwatch on you will help you to focus a lot better (and I mean a lot better) and stick with what you're doing instead of getting distracted. You will probably also find it helpful to have a program that either turns off access to the Internet for a period of time (like Freedom) or at least some browser extension(s) that will limit the websites you can view. This will help you to avoid getting "sucked in" to distractions instead of getting your ass to work. Even a 25 percent reduction in the time spent screwing off translates to a big boost in your productivity, so don't turn your nose up at the idea.