Diving into entrepreneurship can feel exhilarating and terrifying all mixed together.
And it is…all of these things and more.
Starting a small business from scratch is a whole lotta work but the potential benefits – flexibility, time freedom, being in alignment with your purpose, and more revenue, to name a few – are plentiful.
As a nutrition copywriter, I have a round-up of free and paid resources for starting a small business with greater ease. From launching your LLC to having effective communication with your clients, the right tools can save you time and money.
Note: This blog post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission on any purchases you make with the links at no cost to you. Thanks for the support!
Let’s get started with the very beginning: setting up your business. Before you make it Facebook Official, you’ve gotta launch your LLC.
Is this your very first foray into small business ownership? A warm welcome to you! Entrepreneurship is amazing. The possibilities are truly endless. Building a business from scratch is daunting at times…but just remember that you get to keep learning how to be a business owner better and better as you reflect on what is helping your finances and joy grow (do more of that) and learn what is making you more stressed (do less of that!).
First step: decide what your business is going to be called and get your business officially launched.
The SBA stands for Small Business Administration. It is a free resource that is funded by the government. Look for your local chapter. My local SBA walked me through the process of establishing my formal business (i.e., making my LLC official). As an LLC, you’ll then get your EIN number, which is kind of like a social security number, but for your business.
Check out the SBA here.
Let’s talk about money! With your EIN ready, you can now open up your own business bank account.
I like Novo because it is fully online, free, and has a few features that make my life easier.
Novo has special savings accounts called “reserves” that you can automatically divert a percentage of your deposits into (hint: this makes savings for taxes simple). Since I get paid on an irregular basis, this is SO helpful.
I also have reserves set up for things like PTO for myself (helpful for giving myself mental permission to relax on my vacation) and saving for retirement.
Try Bank Novo and get a $40 Bonus
Wave is handy software to track your transactions. I use the free version and it shows me how much I’m making and how much I’m spending. Connect Wave to your business bank account (and credit card if you have one) and Wave tracks everything.
Then, you can go back through your transactions and make sure that you’re correctly categorized. Much less stress come tax time.
H and R Block
While I think it is possible to learn absolutely anything, if you try to learn everything you’re not going to make much progress in your business.
I choose to delegate my taxes. I think they’re complicated and hard to understand and I just don’t like doing them. I have a great relationship with my tax pro, she’s available for questions throughout the year and does a good job. A few hundred bucks well spent in my opinion!
Use H and R Block
Where is all of your money coming from? Your happy clients! Let’s talk about tools to manage your process with clients next.
A slick client onboarding system helps you to look more professional, provides your clients with a stellar experience, and helps everyone to make fewer mistakes. Here are the tools that I use in my small business as a copywriter.
Loom is a video recording software that makes it super simple to record quick videos, with or without your face. I use Loom when I’m giving a client their first piece of content from me so that I can walk them through their documents and explain what everything means.
I also use Loom when I’m recording new lessons for my writing course or a presentation for a speaking opportunity. What I like about using Loom is that you can click pause, cough or sneeze or just take a break, and then keep going.
Loom has free and paid versions, depending on what you need.
We are all more familiar with Zoom than ever before! I use Zoom for new client meetings (I have it linked to Calendly for when folks set up a call) and I have zoom connected to my Google calendar so that when I send someone a quick invite, the new meeting link is automatically generated. I also have permanent links set up for my Blog Club members and Writing Course students. That makes it easier for me when I’m sending out email reminders about events that are coming up.
Tip: don’t forget to set your preferred pronouns. Here’s how.
Calendly is a user-friendly tool for small businesses to use to set up times for folks to make appointments to meet with you. You can connect Calendly to your calendar, so as you add new appointments to your schedule, the time will automatically be blocked off in Calendly. Win!
There are free and paid options for Calendly, depending on how many different meeting types you want to offer.
Fiverr is the tool that I use to send proposals to my clients, and to invoice them. I also use the tool to include the terms and conditions for our work together. Fiverr is free to use for the first few clients and then you have to pay a monthly fee once you get more.
I like that Fiverr sends you updates when a client has received, opened, and paid their invoices with you.
Pro-tip: always get a deposit before starting on a new project! I ask for a 50% deposit on all new bundles of work.
You can collect payments via your Stripe account (credit card processing), Paypal, and bank transfer.
Stripe is one example of credit card processing. Like all companies that do credit card processing, they charge a percentage of each transaction.
It is really common for new business owners to see that cost as a loss and try to avoid it, thinking “how can I avoid these fees?”. I’d encourage you to take a closer look.
- Every time you shop with your credit card, the business you’re patronizing will be paying a fee for the convenience of that credit card.
- How would you feel if a dietitian, coffee shop owner, or Target said that they only accepted cash or bank transfers? You’d probably feel weird. Don’t do it 🙂.
- This is one of those “costs of running a business”. If 2% feels like a big chunk of what you’re making, you might be charging too little, to begin with.
- Lastly, working with credit cards is a layer of protection for you; if you need to advocate for yourself through a dispute, credit card companies are there to help.
So whether it is Stripe or another credit card company, I recommend working with someone!
ClickUp is how I’m learning to keep track of (and on top of) all of the many moving pieces of my business. What I like is that ClickUp allows me to make templates for processes (like writing a blog post) and I can work through the steps again and again.
There are a lot of options for task management these days (Trello, Asana, etc.), but ClickUp feels best to my brain.
I am just getting started with Air Table. I am using it as a better (free) option for collecting information via a form than using a Google Form. I like the user experience of sifting through the responses in Air Table better than in Google.
One of my clients also uses Air Table to manage our workflow together. We set up drop-down menus to label where a particular blog is in our workflow; “Client creates outline”, “Holly Writes”, “Client review” etc. It’s been good!
I use the free version of Boomerang for two purposes.
When I was first starting my business, I cold-emailed potential clients to pitch my writing services. Boomerang allowed me to track if my emails were opened. This data helped me to adjust my strategies as I tracked which email subject lines were working better than others and which emails were getting me replies. This is helpful data when you’re doing the scary beginner work of pitching yourself.
(If curating a portfolio is on your to-do list, here’s how: Creating a Copywriting Portfolio with no Experience: The RD’s Guide).
These days, I mostly use Boomerang to schedule emails to send during regular business hours when I’m working at a weird time. While I don’t aspire to be working early mornings or late evenings on a regular basis, sometimes life (and daycare plagues) happen and so we have to make the best of it.
ConvertKit is the software that I use to schedule and send emails to my peeps as well as manage registration for live events and provide freebies, like a cool guide to something. You can use ConvertKit to set up simple and complex email automation and really have the bandwidth to launch targeted email campaigns.
Pricing is free for up to 300 subscribers.
As a freelance writer, this section of tools is specific to my writing work. This may or may not be of use if you’re a dietitian in private practice.
Semrush is a robust keyword research tool. There are less expensive tools that are great for beginners, but I use Semrush every single day and prioritize having accurate, robust data to guide the work I do for clients.
Jasper is an AI writing tool that I occasionally use to support my writing. I know that AI can be a tad controversial, but I don’t think that AI writing can actually replace our role as writers; it can’t produce the high-quality writing that I can. I see Jasper as a tool to speed up certain kinds of writing.
My partner is a carpenter, so I like using building analogies sometimes. As he is working on a house addition, he uses all sorts of power tools. Is it cheating to use a power saw or drill? I don’t think so – it helps him to be more efficient in his work. He still has to know how to measure things accurately (harder than you’d guess) and how everything fits together, in the right order. He has gobs of expertise; the tools don’t replace his knowledge, they support it.
For certain kinds of posts – like lists – Jasper can help to flush out an article draft more quickly. Or if I’m just having a less-than-inspired day, Jasper can help to get the juices flowing (and words on the blank page). I also like Jasper for crafting meta descriptions or for starting an email draft.
Jasper is NOT a research assistant nor is Jasper a human writer. I use what Jasper produces as a draft and then edit from there.
Capitalize My Title
Once per blog post, I use this tool to ensure I have the title perfect. All you do is copy and paste your title into this tool and then it will tell you exactly which words should be capitalized. That’s it!
Grammarly is a proofreading tool that is more robust than what is built into Google docs. It is a starter tool to ensure that my writing is perfect…and then I pass along my docs to my proofreader.
Unsplash has a great selection of free and paid photos. I use the free ones!
Check out Unsplash
Another great resource for free and paid stock images with much greater diversity.
Check out Nappy
I HIGHLY recommend tracking all the things. From time spent on client work and making progress on your own business, this tool is SO helpful. I set up projects for everything and then track as I go. Then (and here is the important part) you have to go back and look at the data. How much time are things really taking? Are you spending time in the right areas of your business? Are you charging enough? This data is so helpful.
I use the free version of Toggl. I’ve spent 25 minutes on this blog so far, in case you were wondering!
Word Hippo is a fun alternative to the thesaurus when you just need to find the perfect word. It’s free!
I keep absolutely everything in the cloud. If something were to happen to my computer (Heaven forbid) I would still have ALL of my project and client work saved safely in the cloud.
Using Google docs is also great for client workflow; as my clients and I are working together to finalize a piece of content, we’re both looking at the exact same document, not trying to keep track of this version or that version in an email draft.
It is also helpful to keep the Google doc links in ClickUp. I assign finished documents to my proofreader to do her thing and then she assigns them back to me once she’s done. Easy breezy!
Hemingway App has free and paid options to get feedback on how you’re doing with your writing. Are you writing in a way that is easy to understand? How’s that grammar? Are you writing in the active voice? Are you plagiarizing anything? You can get started with the free version and upgrade if needed.
Sharethrough Headline Analyzer
This is a free, quick little tool just to check on how grabby my titles are. Copy/paste your blog titles into the tool and it will give you a score. I aim to be above 70.
Sharethrough Headline Analyzer
Need a little inspo on what to write about? Exploding topics is a complimentary site to get ideas about what trends your clients might be asking you about next. It’s free!
Part of my business model has been on a course for dietitians to learn how to write (because we were NOT taught how to write well in school. You can check it out here: The dietitian’s writing course: connecting with your ideal client.
Teachable is a great place to get started with making your own course; it is easy to use. I promoted my writing course for nutrition professionals with affiliate sales and Teachable took care of taxes and paying them – yay!
I also use Teachable to host my Blog Club.
Canva has a free version which is great to get started. I have upgraded to the paid version so that I have more functionality; namely being able to resize templates and schedule things to the content calendar. For my Blog Club, I use the scheduler to post their reminder posts, which feels simple and streamlined.
Do you ever feel like you can spend about 97 hours explaining something step by step in an email?
Tango lets you stop doing that.
Tango is really cool software that lets you document a step-by-step process that shows screenshots or short videos of exactly how to do that thing. Once you draft your process, Tango lets you add a caption and even blur out private information. I LOVE this tool. I find it super helpful for showing a VA how to do things in my business and for documenting “how-to” pieces in my courses (I can upload the directions directly into Teachable).
It is important to continue providing value to your audience. I spend my time marketing on Instagram, in Facebook groups that are specific to my fellow RDs, and networking on LinkedIn.
Later is an easy tool to use to schedule posts to your social media channels and pricing depends on how many channels you connect to. I schedule posts on the desktop app and then a notification chimes on my phone when it is time to publish to Instagram (I have my LinkedIn posts publish automatically).
I am on Instagram and aim to share valuable information about writing and business ownership. I still feel like kind of a knucklehead about making reels and such, but I’m learning.
Mentoring and Continuing Education
Entrepreneurship can be lonely…or you can choose to hang out with fellow entrepreneurs who inspire and guide you. Much better, I’d say!
The RD Blog Club
If you’re ready to take action and cultivate your writing skills, the RD Blog Club is for you! In this monthly membership, I host live writing workshops so that “write that blog” item on your to-do list actually gets checked off (and you’re genuinely proud of what you wrote).
Being a member of Heather Neal’s Dietitian Society has been hugely beneficial and quite affordable. She hosts monthly meetings to work through your questions and is also available through her supportive Facebook group.
If you’re delving into entrepreneurship, a lot of the continuing education options just aren’t that helpful.
Enter: the Dietitian Entrepreneur Symposium. Like Netflix for your business, this twice-annual virtual conference is chock full of educational sessions that will light the fire of your business success.
Register for The Entrepreneur Symposium
SEO Made Simple
This is THE course to learn SEO. Highly recommend! Erica is the creator and is incredibly responsive to student questions in her private Facebook group.
What is your ideal office like? If you have the luxury of a private space to work at home – that’s amazing! So helpful to be able to shut the door at the end of the day.
My ideal office has about 438 plants…I have space to buy a few more, I think!
I like having a huge space to work on…I always have! My original desk is a huge L-shaped desk from Ikea. About two years ago, I upgraded and bought standing desk legs from Uplift and attached them to my desktop.
While I don’t use the standing desk quite as often as I had pictured, I do appreciate having the option available. Especially while pregnant, being able to stand or sit on an exercise ball was really helpful for the ‘ole back as my belly grew (and grew!).
I definitely work best with music! How much focus I need to have will guide what playlist I use. A few favorites of mine are:
brown noise (for when I REALLY need to focus)
- Easy Classical
- Enya greatest hits
- Relaxing Spanish guitar
- lofi beats
AirPods are really user-friendly as an Apple user. They can easily switch between my laptop and phone if I’m listening to music on my computer but then a call comes through. I also like that they help to block out external noise, for when I’m trying to focus but my family is home.
I don’t think that the replaceable earpieces that come with the AirPods stay put all that well, so I use these from Amazon, which come in three sizes. See which ones feel best to your ears and then buy that size only moving forward.
That’s a wrap!
While being a freelance writer is relatively low in overhead, investing in some tools will make your life go far more smoothly.
If you’re ready to launch your own writing business, I’ll recommend you get started with my writing course for nutrition professionals. As a student, you have access to all current content as well as the new content that I continue to add. I also provide 1-3 live writing workshops per month as a complimentary bonus.