Check Out Our Brand-New 20 Minute Training on How to Make Money as a Grant Writer

Freelance Grant Writing: How to Start Strong & Succeed

 A woman reclines on a couch and uses a laptop, with the title of this article overlaid,
“Freelance grant writing: start strong and succeed.”

So, you’re interested in becoming a freelance grant writer? Yay! We’re so happy you found our little corner of the internet.

There’s a high demand for your skills and a shortage of talented grant writers in the world. We’re here to fill that need while helping you discover your professional and personal goals—whatever they might be. People are drawn to grant writing for all kinds of reasons:

Are you motivated by a flexible lifestyle?

Totally legitimate! The cool part about grant writing consulting is that all you need is a laptop, internet, and a client. Then you're in business.

Do you want to take control of your destiny?

47% of the global workforce are freelancers right now, and the trend is growing! The faster you can understand the mechanics behind a successful independent consulting business, the better off you are.

Are you motivated by a flexible lifestyle?

Totally legitimate! The cool part about grant writing consulting is that all you need is a laptop, internet, and a client. Then you're in business.

We want to help you on this journey of becoming a grant writer and creating your own consulting practice. This post covers our best tips to kick off your rockin' grant writing freelance business:

  1. Study up and join a community.
  2. Build a network to find jobs and clients.
  3. Learn the business skills you’ll need.
  4. Use a grant funding strategy.
  5. Have a plan for handling common challenges.

Is Grant Writing A Good Career For You?

Take the 3 minute personality quiz to find out!

Take The Quiz
Writing Class for Grant Writers

1. Study Up On Freelance Grant Writing And Join A Community.

Maybe you already understand the basics of grant writing or have written proposals—great! You’re off to a strong start.

If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll first need to learn more about grant writing and get your feet wet with the process of researching, planning, and writing grants. The good news is there are tons of excellent resources out there to learn grant writing (including us). We even show you how to earn and learn on your first project before you’ve even written a grant.

We’ve rounded up some of the top paid and free grant writing classes. Check them out, and keep in mind that some options will be better than others for folks who want to freelance. These are often paid but include more thorough guidance and hands-on training for both the grant writing process and the business skills you’ll need to succeed.

If you’re serious about starting a grant writing side hustle (and turning it into a thriving consulting business), you need to think about training as an investment.

But… a little appetizer never hurts, right? Try out our free grant writing course for a solid introduction to all the steps and skills you’ll need as a freelancer.

Now, fast forward—you’re building your grant writing know-how and feel excited to take actual steps into the field. What should you know? You probably have a few immediate questions:

🌟 Who Hires Grant Writers?

All kinds of organizations hire grant writers to research grant opportunities and write proposals on their behalf. These organizations include:

  1. Nonprofits of all sizes
  2. Schools, colleges, and universities
  3. Museums and history centers
  4. Hospitals
  5. Local governments, housing authorities, and tribal organizations
  6. Some faith-based organizations

While grant writers are often hired on a one-time freelance basis, there are plenty of opportunities to grow your relationships with clients (like creating Funding Strategies). Many organizations hire their trusted freelance grant writers on longer-term retainer contracts. Larger organizations also often have in-house grant writers as paid employees.

🌟 How Do Grant Writers Get Paid?

Great question! And an important one.

Freelance grant writers are paid through either project fees (one fee for the whole project of researching, writing, and submitting the grant) or hourly rates (a flat rate per hour spent working on the proposal). We discourage hourly pricing because it punishes you for working smarter and harder over time—learn more about value-based pricing here. Fees and rates can also vary a lot based on the client’s budget and the grant writer’s experience.

In terms of hard numbers, our conservative estimate for a freelance grant writer’s earnings is $5,000 a month. The median salary of a grant writer is $74,414 (as of November 2023).

**It’s important to consider that this number is a median and includes both freelancers and in-house grant writers. There are grant writers in both categories who make much more and less than this median. A writer’s exact pay will vary based on factors like their experience level, their certifications and other skills, the opportunities they find, the budget of their clients or employer, and more.

The takeaway? Grant writing is an extremely flexible career path with earnings that can easily scale up with your experience and connections over time. To learn more, dive into the nitty gritty with our longer guide: Can I Make Money as a Grant Writer?

🌟 Why Join A Grant Writing Community?

Grant writing is a craft, and like other crafts with a real-world demand, sharing knowledge and connections with others in the field can be invaluable. It’s why industries host conferences and form professional associations. It’s why artisans and merchants formed guilds way back in the day!

Well, maybe there weren’t medieval grant writing guilds (but that would have been cool). However, there definitely are modern grant writing associations and communities that serve the same purposes—connecting working and student grant writers and creating spaces for them to share their grant writing and business experiences.

The internet has made it easier than ever to find supportive grant writing communities. Even better if they’re bundled with expert-level training resources!

That’s what we do best at Learn Grant Writing. Home of the Global Grant Writers Collective, we provide curriculum, coaching, community, and certification so you can launch a successful freelancing business. You get access to:

  • Thorough training on all things grant writing and freelancing
  • Nationally recognized CFRE grant writing certification
  • All kinds of bonus training, online resources, and templates for grant and business documents
  • A community of fellow grant writers to learn from and celebrate with
  • Live coaching calls and mentorship opportunities
  • Discounts on subscriptions to the top grant databases

Our community has changed members’ lives and helped them launch lucrative, fulfilling careers—check out some of their stories!

The key point to remember is that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) go it alone.

Venturing into a new field and trying to learn new skills by yourself can very quickly sap your energy, enthusiasm, and confidence, and we hate that. However you find community, it should bring you practical guidance and peer support—the magic combo for long-term success. Find your fellow grant writing unicorns! 🦄🌟

Discover Grant Writing as a Career

If you’re interested in becoming a grant writing consultant, check out this free training on how you can pull off a meaningful career change.

Access Free Class
Watch video to see if grant writing is a job for you

2. Build A Network To Find Freelance Grant Writing Jobs And Clients.

Once you’re comfortable with the grant writing process and are part of an active community to share skills and challenges, what comes next? How do you supercharge your freelancing trajectory?

Focusing on the areas you’re passionate about will set you up for success. You’ll quickly develop expert-level knowledge on the topic, which will help you to be even more sought after as a grant writer. This means picking a niche. How?

  • Create a list of about 15-20 different industries, nonprofit missions, or types of organizations that interest you.
    • These do not need to be local. Think big here! No idea is a bad idea. Simply get your interests down on paper so you can look at the list as a whole. Are there common themes that emerged? Are you surprised? Excited?
  • Next, conduct informational interviews. These interviews are hugely important when starting your grant writing consulting business because they can help you find new clients and give you direct insight into their needs and pain points.
    • Find someone in an organization or industry like one on your list. Then, interview them to learn more about what grant funding and grant writing looks like for them.
    • Remember to be curious! As a member of the Collective, we’ll provide you with questions to cover your bases and get the creative juices flowing.
  • Offer a Funding Strategy if you spot an opportunity and are energized by the conversation—this is an excellent way to get your foot in the door!
    • A Funding Strategy is a roadmap of the best grants to pursue over the next 12-18 months. These grants should represent the highest likelihood of success and ROI, tailored to that particular organization ( learn more below ).

This three-step strategy will help you gain more clients. We have tons of support and sample language to help you through this process available in the Collective. Here’s a quick overview in video format: How to Get Clients as a Grant Writing Consultant.

Deciding on a niche will ultimately help you narrow your focus. This saves your precious time, energy, and capacity.

Sometimes picking a niche doesn’t happen overnight—anyone else major in “Undecided” for what felt like forever in college? That being said, if you have multiple interests that you’re equally passionate about, we encourage you to get some grant writing experience in each area to try them on for size. We’re confident that you’ll know when you’ve found your perfect fit.

3. Learn The Business Skills Needed To Become A Freelance Grant Writer.

We know it can be overwhelming to think about running a successful business. I mean, have you tried googling “how to run a business” before? Well, if you haven’t, we don’t recommend you start now. It’s a doozy!

Instead, focus on the three big skills that will make you and your business shine: technical, managerial, and entrepreneurial skills.

When you sign up for the Global Grant Writers Collective, we walk you through these skill sets in bite-sized pieces (that is, we won’t overwhelm you like Google does). Our complete program covers everything you’ll need to launch your business and thrive as a grant writer:

  • Get Started
    • We cover our Organic Networking Method, how to create a funding strategy, and how to master your entrepreneurial, can-do mindset—skills you’ll need to succeed no matter the size of your freelancing goals.
  • Find Grants
    • This is our specialty and why so many grant writers turn to us after trying other training programs! We teach you all about project planning, grant research, project management, and more.
  • Make Your First $15,000
    • Time to gain experience and land some jobs. We’ll teach you about sole proprietorship, how to find clients, how to snag contracts, and how to get paid.
  • Launch Your Career
    • At this stage, you might want to go further than part-time freelancing by launching a new consulting business or landing a new job—great! This is when we’ll teach you business essentials, tips, and tricks for bookkeeping, taxes, marketing, salary negotiations, and more.
  • Growing to $100K-$250K Annually
    • The next level of success—we’ll show you how to grow your team, perfect your fees and rate structure, and become a marketing superstar.

This curriculum has it all, a complete mix of technical grant writing skills, managerial must-knows, and entrepreneurial hacks. The best part about this method is that it gets you to your goals faster than you think possible. If you want to speak with our unicorn team, drop us a line or DM us on Instagram.

The key takeaway? You need a complete grant writing education to thrive, and that means more than just learning the technical grant writing process and best practices. You’ll save a lot of time and energy by learning the business skills you need in advance.

The Learn Grant Writing team poses in front of a neon sign that reads, “Make magic happen.

4. Use A Grant Funding Strategy To Get Your Foot In The Door.

How do you decide which grants to pursue? How do you efficiently research what grants are out there? And which ones will give you the highest return on investment for your time and resources?

Those are all good questions. The answer is having a Funding Strategy.

A Funding Strategy is a roadmap of what grants you will pursue and when. Think of it like a 12-18 month roadmap. The Funding Strategy is the final deliverable after you have filtered through 100+ grant opportunities and narrowed it down to the top 2-5 you want to pursue.

This is your toe-in-the-door deliverable for landing clients for the long term and securing months-long contracts (aka: job security!). Once a client sees the Funding Strategy, they’ll have the opportunity to hire you to carry out all the grant writing for the next 12-18 months.

How does the Funding Research Funnel work? Here’s a quick run down (or you can watch our video all about funding strategies):

  1. Start by researching any and all grants related to your project. Here's our review of the top ten grant databases.
    • We recommend Instrumentl, an outstanding online grant database. This process should yield 100+ grants. Anything over 150 is too many to process, so you should filter your search if this happens to you. (You can use this discount code LGW to save $50 off your membership:
  2. Next, you’ll do a quick evaluation to determine which grants are worth further evaluation. We have a specific process we teach for this in our course, but it generally can be done in two sittings and will narrow your list down to 20-25 grants that best fit your criteria.
  3. Finally, you’ll determine competitiveness, ask quality questions of the funder, and think strategically about the top 2-5 grants worth your precious energy to pursue (we can teach you how to do this). Although the last step is the most time-consuming, it’s 100% worth it for the confidence it brings to your strategy.

A Funding Strategy is crucial to grant writing success. Chasing grants erratically is a recipe for burnout and chaos. But by having a roadmap, you can 1) secure a long-term client, 2) keep your client from thrusting last-minute grant pursuits on you, and 3) strategically position your grants to maximize their value. It gives you confidence that you are focusing your precious resources on funding agencies that genuinely want you to apply—truly an expert-level strategy.

Discover Grant Writing as a Career

If you’re interested in becoming a grant writing consultant, check out this free training on how you can pull off a meaningful career change.

Access Free Class
Watch video to see if grant writing is a job for you

5. Have A Plan For Handling Common Freelancing Challenges.

There will always be barriers when it comes to trying something new. Walk into this endeavor anticipating challenges. When you expect them, you can create a battle plan to work through them.

Thankfully, these challenges aren’t often totally unique—plenty of other successful grant writers have experienced them, too. Here are some of the most common challenges that freelance grant writing consultants in our community have experienced and how they’ve handled them:

Common Freelance Grant Writing Challenges

Challenge 1: Working Full-Time

Before jumping into grant writing full-time, a lot of folks keep their full-time jobs to maintain stability. Makes sense, but boy, it can be hard.

If you’re in this boat, get creative: where are the chunks of time in your day when you can get a little work done on this side hustle? Does it look like getting up an hour earlier? Dedicating the first hour after work to building your business? A few hours on your weekend days?

As a Member of the Collective, you can plan on spending 3-5 hours per week on grant writing in your first three months—and the material is all self-paced, making it even more flexible.

In this window, you can earn your grant writing certificate and complete your first paid client project. You can download our app to listen to the online instructional content while cooking, driving, walking, or whatever you need to do. This allows you to soak up the information the first time audibly and then double back when you have a real client to deploy your learning.

And remember the value of community! We know you can do this, and we’re here to support you. Let your close family and friends in on your pursuit, too. Let them know that you’re investing in something that will help you realize the future you’re dreaming of.

Challenge 2: Kiddos 🐣

They’re the best, huh? And, probably one of your biggest “whys” for pursuing grant writing consulting in the first place. If you’re a parent, we already think you’re a superhuman. You obviously know your situation better than us, but some of our community members work during nap times, quiet times, or when grandparents or others can watch their kids.

Over half of our community members are parents, so you’ll be in good company!

One of the biggest encouragements we can offer you is to stay the course. Remember your “whys,” keep close to the vision you have for yourself and your family in the future, and recognize that there is incredible value in this investment into your skillset. We’re rooting for you.

Challenge 3: Financial Concerns

We are certainly not a $19.99 Udemy course. Our pricing increases annually to reflect the huge improvements we push to the program, so be sure to watch this training for the latest pricing.

The biggest difference between our program and others you might be considering (check out our reviews of online grant writing courses) is that we show you how to actually pay for your investment. Like, with real grant writing work.

Our goal is to help you earn enough to cover your membership within your first three to six months by getting paid to do a real Funding Strategy for a client. The rest is gravy from there as you build your business!

Fostering the Right Mindset

There are loads of other tips and tricks out there to help you make the most of your time. We just want to highlight one of our favorites that will help you foster a productive mindset.

Do not underestimate the power of 15 minutes!

In 15 minutes, you can wash a sinkful (or two!) of dishes, fold a load of laundry, write 500+ words, watch a video in one of our Modules, and a million other things that will add up over time. This is how we get things done: 15 minutes at a time. Or, in the words of writer Anne Lamott, author of Bird By Bird:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” 🕊 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Most importantly, in case you haven’t heard this lately, you have already done hard things and proven yourself capable. We know that you haven’t arrived here completely fresh-faced having walked through zero challenges in your life. You can do hard things.

You Can Become A Freelance Grant Writer—You Got This!

Whether you’re motivated by a flexible lifestyle, want to take control of your destiny, or wish to do something meaningful, we think becoming a freelance grant writer can help you get there.

We want to support you on this journey of becoming a grant writer and creating your own consulting practice. By deciding on the niche you want to serve, learning the necessary skills to run your own business, starting with a funding strategy, and facing your challenges head-on, we have every assurance that you will be successful.

A Small Sample of Unicorn Wins

You can explore additional success stories here and on YouTube.

Early Wins

If you have any additional questions about the Global Grant Writers Collective, let us know! We can connect you with a member of the program so you can learn more about their perspective and experiences. Shoot an email to [email protected] or DM us on Instagram!

Want to keep learning? We’ve got some recommendations:

Watch video to see if grant writing is a career for you
deco-blob-8 decoration
deco-blob-8 decoration
deco-lines-4 decoration

Want To Learn More?

We made this video to answer your questions about how to build a career in grant writing without the fear of where you will find clients or the fear of failure. We cover the top three mistakes that keep people from making the leap from a soul-sucking job to something more meaningful.

Watch Video

divider graphic
arrow-up icon