Writing as a Business

Remember, you’re not just a writer; you’re an entrepreneur. Treat your writing like a business. Your words are your products and clients must pay in order to receive those products. It makes it much easier for you to take yourself seriously and to project a professional image.
Lori Widmer (via The Golden Pencil)

A couple weeks ago I took a free course on Becoming Self Employed offered by the UK’s HM Revenue & Customs. Although I always knew that I should treat writing as my business, I never really knew what that meant until taking the course.

I suspect I’m not the only freelance writer out there who takes business sense for granted. Most of us are so focussed on getting published that we forget about the business altogether. This is a mistake – learning to run a business is extremely valuable for freelance writers, and it’s one of the few things that make the pros stand out from the wannabes. It’s also the only way to keep track of your income, save on taxes and stay organized.

So where can you begin learning about business?

Take a course

I highly recommend signing up for a course or workshop that covers business basics. You could pay for a college or university course, but don’t neglect the wealth of free stuff out there.

In the UK, HM Revenue & Customs offers several free workshops, including Becoming Self Employed, and Self Assessment (Tax Return) for Self-Employed People.

In the US, the Small Business Administration offers free online business courses, including a Small Business Primer, Developing a Business Plan, and Marketing 101.

Read all about it

There are loads of blogs out there that regularly feature articles about the business side of freelance writing. Here are just a few.

Talk to people

And I don’t just mean freelance writers – get in touch with other entrepreneurs. I find that talking to other small business owners actually energizes me to be more business savvy.

There are plenty of online business forums full of people giving out free advice and support on marketing, accounting, PR, and anything having to do with running a successful business. I participate in the A1 Business Forums and ukbusinessforums, both of which have been great resources for advice and conversation.

You can also check the freelance-focussed forums, such as freelance folder, Absolute Write and Freelanceswitch, where you can talk with more people like you who are trying to make it as a freelancer.

And of course, never forget the value of talking to someone face to face. My friend Rory told me about something called The Tuttle Club here in London, a “loose association of people finding a way of working better together both online and off”. There are loads of clubs like this all over the place. Search Google or check on craigslist. And if you can’t find one, start your own, just like George is doing in Wasilla, Alaska.

Do you have business sense?

How did you learn? Where did you start? What have I missed? Leave your tips in the comments.

3 Responses to “Writing as a Business”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Says:

    Another way to treat your writing career like a business is to dress the part. People joke that writers and other stay-at-home entrepreneurs can wear their pajamas to work……and they can, but they may not feel professional! Me, I wear a baggy sweatshirt and comfy leggings – but that’s not business attire.

    I don’t know if I’d be more successful if I wore business-like clothes, but I believe I’d be less successful if I wore pj’s and snuggled with my laptop in bed. I think writers need to surround themselves with professional things – and that includes clothes!

  2. monica Says:

    Laurie, I SO know what you mean. I usually work for a couple hours in the morning in my pajamas then, when I start to feel slack, i switch to jeans and a t-shirt. You’re right, dressing the part helps. And it makes it much less easier to crawl back into bed with the laptop. =)

    On a separate note, I just found a bunch of useful articles on business stuff directed at freelancers in the UK:


  3. Anne Wayman Says:

    Just letting you know I’m no longer blogging at thegoldenpencil – but now blogging at http://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com.