How to Become a Freelance Grant Writer: The Details
There is a vast network of businesses that need help with grant writing.
Becoming a freelance grant writer may be your perfect career path if you have a knack for technical yet heartfelt writing. From artistic institutions to large-scale community projects, many organizations find themselves in need of grant writers.
If you’re interested in a lucrative freelance career, here is everything you need to know to become a freelance grant writer.
What is a Grant Writer?
A grant writer is a technical writer that fills out applications on behalf of individuals or organizations to receive funding.
Individuals and organizations will have many different reasons for applying to grant funding. Yet, they all need grant writers to ensure that their applications get completed correctly. Hiring a grant writer gives organizations and individuals the best shot at obtaining funding. Almost all grant funders require grant proposals, making this an in-demand position.
Grant writers will most likely work with those in education, government, nonprofits, and the arts. They don’t just go through and fill out a form, though. Grant proposals are comprehensive and sometimes complicated.
When you’re working on proposal writing, you will have to do the following:
- Research the organization
- Research the subject and content of the proposal
- Identify the audience for the grant
- Writing, formatting, and editing
You’ll need to familiarize yourself with different causes, organizations, and funders. You will want to ensure that you understand precisely what the organization you work with does and why they’re applying for funding. Doing research with the organization is the best way to do this.
You can be a grant writer for anything based on your research skills, but it’ll feel more rewarding if you are passionate about the organization.
Build Your Skills
Before you can start finding gigs as a grant writer, you’ll need to build up your skills. You can opt to work part-time before deciding to turn it into a full-time freelance career.
Learn More About Grant Writing
Grant writing is technical writing; if that’s what you have a knack for, great! If not, you can work on building your technical and creative writing skills.
Check out these grant writing tips and best practices from the Grant Professionals Association.
Take a Grant Writing Class
For beginners, many grant writing courses and certificate programs can help you develop your skills. Having grant writing certifications can enhance your credibility and give you the tools you need to be a successful writer.
Create a Portfolio
To help yourself land jobs, you’ll need to create a portfolio. Your portfolio should showcase work in industries of interest.
You don’t need to have years of experience to pursue a grant writing career. To build your portfolio, you can create mock grant applications that showcase your research skills.
You can also ask friends or nonprofit organizations you are passionate about to let you help them with their grants pro-bono. This will help you develop your skills and create dynamic pieces to share with potential employers.
Many organizations may require their grant writers to have a bachelor’s degree. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree, but it can come in handy to showcase your writing skills. You can also include any fundraising experience you have or relevant online courses you’ve taken.
Turn Your Portfolio Into a Website
Once you have some solid writing samples, you should create a portfolio website. This website will make it easy for organizations to learn more about you and check out your writing when you start looking for grant writing gigs.
Related: 10 Small Business Essentials that Every Freelancer Needs.
Finding Gigs as a Freelance Grant Writer
One of the essential skills for any freelance writer is finding gigs. Although this may seem intimidating initially, to be a great freelancer, you must put yourself out there to land clients.
Some ways that you can find gigs as a freelance grant writer include:
- Freelance job sites
- Cold pitches
Freelance Job Sites
Job sites like Indeed and Upwork often post grant writing jobs. Use these sites to find one-off job opportunities or build long-term relationships with potential clients.
When using job sites, make sure to always settle payment through the site and chat with real people about the job before doing any freelance writing for them.
Working on job sites is also a great way to expand your network and build long-term working relationships when you first start as a grant writer.
Nonprofit organizations need grant writers the most. If you volunteer with nonprofits that you are passionate about — it’ll help you get ahead. You can find out about many different grant opportunities through your network.
Most people passionate about grant writing will probably have causes they want to work with. Try looking at nonprofits in your community that you want to become a bigger part of.
Volunteering within the nonprofit sector will further expand your network. You’ll get to know other places in your community that may need your grant writing expertise. (You may also learn about different funding opportunities while volunteering and then you can pitch yourself.)
If volunteer opportunities are challenging to find, you can also look for internships with local nonprofits. That way, you can develop your communication skills and learn more about grant writer jobs from professionals.
If you already have grant writing experience, it never hurts to take initiative and reach out to organizations you want to work with. You can send cold pitches and emails to organizations — including your portfolio and past work — asking if they need grant writers.
Social media platforms are another place you can send cold pitches. You can direct message organizations and individuals on LinkedIn to let them know you’d like to work with them on their projects.
Cold pitches allow you to present your best work and show people that you are the best person to work with on grant writing.
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Why Start a Freelance Grant Writing Business?
After you get a couple of gigs under your belt, you may find that you have a steady stream of work that you can rely on. Once you start getting consistent work from gigs, it’s in your best interest to set up your own freelance grant writing business.
Here are some reasons why:
Separate Personal and Business Income
If you make your sole income on freelance work, you will want to set up a business to separate your income. Not only will this help keep you organized, but when tax season rolls around, you will know exactly what to report on from your grant writing.
If you have income coming in from other sources, you will also want to keep these streams separated.
Keep Things Organized
Freelancers are inherently organized people. It takes someone with a keen eye and time management skills to do freelance work. Creating a freelance grant writing business will help you keep all your freelance work organized.
Something as simple as having a separate email account for freelance work can even make it more manageable.
Registering as a freelance grant writing business opens up your business for tax benefits. If you find that you are creating expenses for your business, you can begin to use those as tax write-offs.
You also want to ensure that your income from your business is taxed correctly and not mixed up with your personal income.
Legitimacy for Your Career
Setting up a freelancing business can legitimize your business. Instead of getting emails from a personal account, clients will know they are dealing with a professional.
Grant writing is already a niche industry. Getting your name out there within the areas you are interested in working with can work better with a business setup.
You can also market your business more effectively with a business name and logo. Even invoicing clients as a small business may feel more legitimate when working with larger organizations.
How to Set Up Your Business
Now that you are ready to take your freelancing to the next level, here are the steps you need to take to set up your freelance grant writing business.
Register as an LLC
The first step in setting up your business is registering your business with your state.
Freelancers usually choose a Limited Liability Company (LLC) for their business. You can set this up as an individual, and it will cover your needs as a business. When registering your LLC, you must provide your business name, where you will be working, and the work you’ll be providing.
Get an EIN
Once your LLC is set up, you will get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). The IRS will use this number to identify your business.
Obtain Insurance for Your Business
Now that your business is up and running in your state, you need to obtain self-employed insurance. Even if you are working on your own as a grant writer, it’s important to make sure you cover your bases.
Most freelancers will get professional liability insurance. This means that your business will be covered in the event of a dispute with a client. Even if you are doing your best work, you may make a mistake now and then.
You can also opt-in for general liability insurance if you have clients visiting your place of business. This will protect you from third-party claims for any injury that may occur while doing business. While this is very unlikely for grant writers, it’s good to know what coverage options are available for freelancers.
Taxes Related to Your Business
Freelancers are considered self-employed. You will most likely receive a 1099 form from an employer that pays you more than $600 for a freelance project.
Remember that you will have to pay about 15% of your income in self-employment tax as a freelancer or small business owner who works for themselves.
Find Personal Benefits as a Freelancer
You can’t just sign up for a provided benefits plan when you work for yourself. You have to find your own.
There are incredible benefits out there for freelancers and gig workers. Sites like Gigly offer competitive benefits specifically tailored to the needs of freelancers. Make sure you take the time to keep yourself and your business covered.
Marketing Your Business
Once you have your freelance business set up, it’s time to get your name out there.
Here are some steps you need to take to market your business and land high-paying gigs successfully.
Create a Website and Social Media Pages
As a freelance grant writer, you have the freedom to work and write from wherever you would like. This means that you could also be doing business with organizations far away from you.
To find new clients, you will need a website and social media. Your website can house all the information clients need when deciding to work with you. Your social media pages can help you promote your business and connect with people in your field.
Write Blog Posts for SEO
Once your website is set up, you can use it to show off your writing and market your business.
Make sure you create blog content for your website. In doing this, you can show people your skills as a writer, but you can also incorporate SEO keywords. These keywords will determine how high up your website will come up in search engines. By using keywords associated with grant writing, it’s more likely that your site will come up when potential clients are searching for freelance writers.
Get Client Testimonials
Even in the digital age, word of mouth is still one of the most potent forms of marketing.
Once you obtain testimonials from past clients, you can include them on your website and social media pages. Try tagging past clients in social posts about their organization as well. Getting good reviews and having clients talk highly of you will work out in your favor.
Stay Active in Networking Groups and Community Events
Grant writing is about working with people to support great projects and organizations. You can easily market your business by networking and being involved in your community.
When it comes to networking, you can attend in-person events to connect with nonprofits, organizations, and other individuals in industries you’re interested in.
You can also network on social media. Try joining Facebook groups for professional grant writers to meet others in your field. Some networking groups may even post job leads. Staying up to date with your community is a great way to meet new people and get your business’s name out there.
Freelance grant writers are a crucial part of helping organizations gain the funding they need to pursue projects. It is a flexible and lucrative field that can also help people in the nonprofit space.
You can help create change for great organizations by starting a freelance grant writing company. If technical writing and working with others sounds like you, use these tips to become a successful grant writer.
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