How to Start Freelance Writing Part 2: The Plan

HTSFW 2 The Plan

How are you doing? I hope you’re okay. Did you have time to look at the types of writing available? Here’s a reminder:


You can take your writing anywhere…but you should choose wisely. Do you research and look at the different kinds of writing available. I’m going to share my original raw business plan with you, the stuff that happened in the middle in one informative (and hopefully inspirational) post, and what lessons I learned along the way. Ready? Here we go.

DarWrites Business Plan circa 2010

Okay, so I was massively ambitious and had no idea how much work college was going to be. I figured I could do it all. Looking back, I should have taken baby steps to achieve my goal. But what the 2010 Darlene had was ambition and vision – I saw myself working as a freelance writer and going to school full-time. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But it’s necessary. Here – take a moment and refocus. 



You saw what I wanted to happen. Here’s what actually happened in timeline form:

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In that time, I completed several goals. Here, I’ll reflect on my journey.

  • Writing [a ton – at last count I have over 8,000 things waiting for edits and homes…go me for prolific writing!]
  • Fiction – I self-published Zombie Slayer, Forbidden Timeline, Poetry from the Heart, 1,001 Plots to Get You Started, two romance novels, and a ton of freelance work [for full list, see my publications list]
  • I sold on Amazon and Kindle…mostly focusing on those because school took over my life
  • Back in 2010, I wrote for anyone who wanted words written…including content mills. I don’t recommend writing for content mills – you don’t write the quality work you could be writing and the benefits are minimal
  • Websites I wrote for include Suite101,, and more
  • I created two local writing groups and joined other writers in the awesomeness that is NaNoWriMo
  • I attended conferences and seminars online and in person to level up my writing even more than just college classes alone
  • I attended lectures whenever possible – my goal was to learn as much as I could
  • I started DarWrites as a professional freelance writing services – I didn’t specialize – taking on clients to keep my options open
  • I got almost all of my clients by cold pitching and answering posts on job boards. I think I put a few ads on Craigslist for writer available at the start, but haven’t done that for a while
  • I maintained DarWrites in it’s first incarnation for a year – and am so glad I did – I learned a lot I wouldn’t have without the first experiment; it also prepped me to write my second blog and this incarnation of DarWrites
  • One thing I wish I did from the start was get a website and self-host; that’s for the next year
  • I created crafts, but haven’t sold any of them yet – that’s for later
  • I set my business practices to “be nice to other writers.”  I am a big believer in paying it forward – if I couldn’t do a job or if I thought of another writer who could handle it, I sent leads out and was a writing matchmaker
  • I invested time and money in myself to develop skills
  • I read a lot
  • I found three mentors and am grateful for their guidance
  • Oh goodness – I was ambitious wanting to sell 100,000 copies of Zombie Slayer…I don’t know how many it’s sold, but I took it off the market in 2014 because I noticed the difference between my writing at the time and my writing in 2009. I thought about it and didn’t want that to be on the market in that state. I want to rework it and rerelease it because it’s my favorite story, but it’s interesting
  • Side note: Did you know that all writers can see the transition in the amount of work they’ve done? I’m serious – look at the first James Patterson novel or the first Clive Cussler novels and then compare them to the ones they write now. We’re talking worlds of difference. I’m no Patterson or Cussler, but the idea is the same – and the difference in writing is visually stunning to me
    • 2010: to entertain fiction readers and inspire them to think outside the box
    • 2017: to entertain, educate, and inspire
  • I created a press kit in my first year – a thing I’m told more people need – and did an author’s bio and resume
  • I created t-shirts, bookmarks, and business cards for my writing business. The business cards were the biggest hit – apparently I was the only one who wanted the “DarWrites” t-shirt – and I’m cool with that – it’s an original
  • I taught what I knew it 2009 – to my local writing groups and to the workshops I gave through NaNoWriMo at local libraries and cafes. I taught only what I knew and admitted when I didn’t know something. I’m proud of that
  • I posted quizzes on Facebook and no one wanted to nibble – it’s really hard getting people to interact…most people are lurkers and that’s okay – but if you want to interact you can learn more. Believe me, I get it – I’m an introvert too – but sometimes you just need to get out of your box
  • I did two giveaways and also set a short story up as a freebie. The short story was one of the best ideas I had – I highly recommend giving away a nibble of writing so people can get the feel of your style. Will this make you money? No, but hey, pay it forward, you never know who is reading. They may like it so much they’ll be a loyal reader in the future
  • This whole thing isn’t about making money – it’s really about sharing a part of yourself and building relationships. We’re looking for lifelong friends, readers, and writer buddies, not just a quick sale
  • I created a database of contacts. This was a personal list I created over time and adjusted according to what I was writing and what I thought people were interested in. Something bad happened here – a few writers asked me to share my list and I didn’t want to do that because the people who were on the list wanted my stuff and I didn’t feel comfortable giving it out. The writers in question were not happy with me when I refused to give it up – apparently they thought they were entitled to it. Lesson I learned: B.S. It’s my list. I did my homework, made my contacts, and it’s mine – plus these people trusted me to share my work with them and giving it out is wrong. [not to mention illegal in some corners of the internet – you shouldn’t sell lists without the person’s permission and I don’t do that, it’s confidential.] So writer ‘friends’ lost, but hey, I maintained my integrity
  • Yeah, I sold my novels wherever I was and in person when I sold them they sold out – I remember selling them online, in book club, on websites, in coffee shops while chatting, at conferences, while waiting for two planes in the airport, at a book expo, at two book signings, with local clubs, and through normal course of events of life – I didn’t break into the bookstores and that’s sad, but I’m hopeful so we’ll see what happens in the future
  • Social media is a post of it’s own – let’s say I Facebook because I like it and I have Twitter, but it’s not for me. I love Pinterest and have made a few connections that way. LinkedIn is a great idea to connect with writers and potential clients
  • I stick with my notion of a 50% retainer in term of service. I’ve had clients that pay with no worries, but I’ve also had the clients who tried to skip out or decided that they wouldn’t pay for add ons – I followed up with unpaid invoices, but sometimes you have to realize that there are jerks out there and the two that haven’t paid up are still on my naughty list [and karma will get them eventually]
  • I created mailing lists…so much so that yahoo stopped working for me. It wouldn’t let me send out more than a certain number of emails in a day and thought I was spamming…it’s not my fault I had friends
  • Process: I love the first-draft process. Rewrites…are necessary to level up the content and quality. I still have problems with covers – I still like to design my own because I like the covers artsy, but am contemplating buying book covers because others do them better than I do
  • I didn’t have time to query magazines, but that’s on my list for this year
  • Harlequin is on my writer bucket list – I have a ton of romances waiting for edits. I love them all
  • I took a trip across the country and wrote about it here: Train to a Writer’s Life
  • I commented on Chris’s book. This is one thing that I’m excited about – when writer friends publish or good things happen, I’m one of the first ones to congratulate them. I’m so blessed to have so many writers in my life, and I feel like sharing their work and what they’re excited about is a great way to pay it forward. Plus it’s just cool stuff and I love it and others should know about it…because it’s good writing and we should all read more good writing
  • I didn’t go into a haunted basement, but I did the Ghost Tours of Oahu, the Tacoma Ghost Tours, and hung out with Washington’s version of TAPS. That was fascinating

Okay, so there were ups, downs, and a few rollercoasters. Oh, and puppies! Lots of puppies.


Darlene Reilley and Zombie Slayer



Darlene 2017


But the thing is, the writer I am now is not the writer I was in 2010. I look at that list and can tell you what could be possible in the next five years, but also want to aim high – I would never have done a few of the things that I did [like taking a train across the country] unless I challenged myself.

So set SMART goals [google that].

Where am I now? I’m more visual with goals – and am reevaluating what I am doing and what services I offer. I want to level up my writing…and am creating a new Plan this week. I’ll post it when it’s finished.

Until then, I offer you this idea for your own Business Plan.

Darlene’s DIY Business Plan Template

Use it. Share it.

A final thought…

Be original.

It’s okay to look at other people’s stuff and then go and create your own, but don’t copy. No one likes that. I don’t understand why people want to copy – me writing Persuasion was a learning tool – I would never try to publish Austin’s work as my own.

So do your work and be proud of your creations!

Write on,



About Darlene Reilley

I'm Darlene, a Book Author, Associate Editor and Journalist. I am the author of 16 books including Gliese 667, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of It, and 1,001 Plots to Get You Started. I'm an Associate Editor and Journalist with more than three years of experience creating content. My work has been published in The Vernal Express, The Uintah Basin Standard, The Basin Nickel Ads, the Harbor Light Newspaper, FFPRWA, Hearts Through History RWA, and DarWrites. Before I became a journalist, I was a freelancer creating content for websites and individuals. I now cover a variety of topics including travel, history, anthropology, business, politics, and current affairs. I am a geek turning jargon into plain speech.
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4 Responses to How to Start Freelance Writing Part 2: The Plan

  1. Pingback: How to Start Freelance Writing Part 3: The Website | Dar Writes

  2. Pingback: Setting Writing Goals: April 2017 | Dar Writes

  3. Pingback: How I Made My First $1,000 as a Writer | Dar Writes

  4. Pingback: 2020 Writer Helpers | Dar Writes

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