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Many nonprofit organizations rely on generous donations and grants to complete their missions. Without grants, many organizations wouldn’t be able to make payroll, buy the supplies they need, and make their monthly rent or mortgage payments.
To help non-profit organizations qualify for the grants they need to operate, many turn to professional grant writers to help them stand out among other grant applications. Without the important work that they do, many nonprofits would either struggle financially or have to shut down.
If you are thinking about becoming a freelance writer, specializing in grants for the nonprofit sector could be a great way to put your skills to use earning a living for yourself while simultaneously serving others. To become a professional grant writer, there are several things you will need to do to get your new business up and running.
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What Is a Grant Writer?
A grant writer is someone who specializes in writing grant proposals for different organizations. The writer will be very familiar with how to word certain things to persuade readers to approve the proposal. She will also follow best practices for submitting proposals.
Grant writers typically write for nonprofit organizations, but they can also write grant proposals for businesses and individuals. Grants for many different things are offered by federal government agencies, state government agencies, businesses, trusts, and foundations.
Because grant writers often serve many different clients, they usually don’t need to travel and meet with their clients. They often work from home and communicate with their clients by email and phone.
Grant writers are also sometimes employed by different organizations and may work in an office somewhere writing grant proposals exclusively for the organization they work for. Some grant writing firms also employ writers to write grants for their clients.
What Do Grant Writers Do?
If you are working as a freelance grant writer, there is no such thing as a typical day. Your time could be spent marketing your services, communicating with clients, researching, or writing a grant proposal.
Many freelance writers may spend the first part of their days marketing, for example, and the rest working on projects. Freelancers must be flexible to meet their clients’ needs. They must also have strong organizational skills and be able to work under tight deadlines. Freelance grant writing can be hard work.
Who Do Grant Writers Write For?
Freelance grant writers typically write for several different types of clients. Local organizations are a common source of work. Examples include:
- Animal Shelters
- Rescue Squads
- Fire Departments
- Homeless Shelters
- Police Departments
- Community Services
A rescue squad or fire department, for example, may need someone to write a grant proposal for a new rescue vehicle. A homeless shelter may need someone to write a grant proposal for new mattresses. And a local animal shelter may need someone to write a grant proposal for the resources to spay and neuter more animals. There are many possibilities with local clients.
Large nonprofit organizations are another possibility. A large nonprofit hospital that specializes in treating children without cost, for example, may need someone to write grant proposals to private foundations for support. Many different large nonprofit organizations may need writers. Just a few include:
- Public Safety
Many different businesses may also need someone to write grant funding proposals. Some small businesses, for example, may qualify for grants to help them start or grow their operations, especially if there is a need for the product or service they are offering in their communities or if they will be creating jobs for people. Some businesses that are involved in research and development may also qualify for certain grants.
What Are the Formal Education Requirements?
Although there are no specific education requirements to become a freelance writer who specializes in writing grant proposals, there are some online courses you can take that may help you learn the craft. Udemy and Skillshare, for example, both offer inexpensive courses on grant writing that may be beneficial.
If you are going to apply for grant writing jobs with organizations and businesses, a bachelor’s degree may be required. An advanced degree typically isn’t required for this type of work, but if you have one it may help your resume to stand out from the competition. A degree typically isn’t required for freelancers. Clients will typically review your portfolio before hiring you.
Another place to look to further your education on writing grants is your local community college. A grant writing course or certificate program may be offered. It varies depending on the school.
Also, don’t forget to brush up on your grammar skills. Having excellent grammar is very important in this career. Consider taking English and creative writing classes either online or through a local college to help you improve.
How Much Do Grant Writers Make?
The income potential as a freelance grant writer varies quite a bit depending on experience and how well you market your services. If you are just starting out, it’s possible that you may not earn very much. As you develop relationships with clients, however, they may give you repeat business.
If you are interested in working for professional organizations, the salary range can vary quite a bit. It depends on experience and location.
How to Become a Freelance Grant Writer
Many organizations in the United States, Canada, and other countries are looking for an experienced grant writer to help them qualify for federal grants, research grants, and others. The following steps outline the process for starting a grant writing business.
1. Make Sure You Are Legal
It’s important to understand that you will be a business owner. As such, the first step in starting a new business is to make sure you follow all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. You will also need to obtain a business license.
It’s also a good idea to consider the type of business structure your freelancing business will have. Will you operate as a sole proprietor, for example, or form an LLC? There are pros and cons to each type of business to consider that may vary depending on where you live. Be sure to consult with a CPA and an attorney to find out which business structure will be best for your situation.
2. Obtain Business Insurance
All businesses should have business insurance. As a freelance grant proposal writer, you should consider obtaining two types of insurance policies. The first is known as an “errors and omissions” (E&O) policy. As the name implies, it covers accidental errors or omissions in your writing.
The second type of policy is a general business liability policy. If you have any questions on the coverage you will need, be sure to consult with an insurance professional. It’s also a good idea to shop around and get quotes from several insurance companies before obtaining coverage.
3. Create a Website
A good website can help you market your services. Think of it as an online business card where new clients can learn more about you, what you do, and how you can help them acquire the funding they need. Your website may also include testimonials from previous clients (if you have any). Testimonials can help to persuade potential clients that you are reliable and do good work.
Many people build their websites using the WordPress platform. If you’ve never built a website before, however, the learning curve can be steep. An option to consider is to hire someone to build a website for you.
Another option is to use one of the popular website builders, like Squarespace. Website builders let you build a professional-looking website even if you’ve never built one before. They have drag-and-drop interfaces that simplify the process. Third-party templates can also be purchased that make things even easier.
4. Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
When many businesses and organizations need to hire someone, they turn to LinkedIn to find potential applicants. They do this for freelancers too. Because of this, you may be able to attract inbound leads and have clients come to you just by optimizing your LinkedIn profile.
To optimize your profile, it’s important to use keywords that people may be searching for in your tagline, About section, and other places. Be sure to use “freelance grant writer” and other relevant keywords so that your profile will show up in searches.
It’s also important to have a professional head shot. Your banner image is also prime real estate for advertising your services. Be sure to include what you do and your contact information in your banner image.
5. Make Sure You Have the Right Equipment
One of the great things about offering grant writing services is that you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment. Compared to many businesses, it’s a very affordable business to get up and running.
You will need a place to do your work that is comfortable and free from distractions. You could turn a spare bedroom, for example, into an office. You will also need a desk and a comfortable chair to sit in. You will be sitting at your desk for long periods, so it’s important to get a quality ergonomic chair that provides good back support.
You will also need a reliable computer. Many people already have computers, so this is something you may already have. Be sure your computer monitor is large enough to prevent eye strain. You may also need a good printer, scanner, and wireless high-speed internet connection. Again, these are things you may already have.
Finally, you will also need a quality telephone. Many people these days use mobile devices, which can be helpful when you are away from the office. With a mobile device, you can continue communicating with your clients if you need to run errands.
6. Study Grant Writing
Before you can offer your services to clients, it’s a good idea to study the craft to make sure you understand everything. As previously mentioned, affordable grant writing courses are offered by both Udemy and Skillshare. Your local college may also offer training.
7. Create Writing Samples
Before clients hire you, they may want to see samples of your work to make sure you are a good writer. A way you can do this if you are just starting out is to create mock proposals for fictional companies. This will demonstrate that you are a good grant writer and that you can meet organizations’ needs. You could create several samples, for example, focusing on a different type of grant in each sample.
8. Join an Association
There are several important advantages to being a member of an organization like the Grant Professionals Association. They may have some resources that can help you further refine your craft.
Membership could also help you to be seen by potential clients as more credible. You could list that you are a member on both your website and LinkedIn profile. The organization could also have job opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise find out about.
9. Market Your Services
One way to get the word out that you are offering freelance writing services is to send letters of introduction (LOIs) to different organizations. LOIs are usually sent by email, although you can also use LinkedIn InMails, which is a premium service. You can find the people you need to send your LOIs to by searching different companies and reviewing the lists of employees and their job titles.
You may also be able to find writing work by searching various job boards. Many companies advertise that they are looking for writers on Indeed and other job sites. Even if they are advertising for a job, it may still be worth your time to contact them to see if they would consider working with you as a freelancer. You’ll never know unless you ask.
Is Freelance Grant Writing a Good Career?
Whether freelance grant writing makes sense for you depends on a variety of factors. You do have to be comfortable working alone, for example. If you enjoy working close to other people, this career may not be a good fit.
To make it in this career, you also need to have excellent writing skills. You need to be good with grammar, and you need to be able to communicate using the written word in a way that is succinct and clear.
Finally, this career can be personally fulfilling. Knowing you are helping non-profit organizations secure the funding they need to help people can be a strong motivator. Knowing you are helping good causes could make the career worth it.