If you’re thinking about going full time with freelance writing, then you need to know there are some things to consider. While it’s great that you’re ready to jump into the unknown, it’s not a bad idea to have a sober reality check for a minute. Making the shift to a freelance career can be a huge change — one that you may not be prepared for even if you think you are.
If I had to start over, I’d have made this list first and made sure they’re set before I quit my day job. Today, I’m hoping it will help you make a better start at freelance writing than I did. I promise you, it’s worth the effort.
1. Money in the bank
You need to have some money saved up in case your freelance writing income falls short. This “emergency fund” should be enough so you can live off it for 3-6 months while building your clientele. Money in the bank assures you of two things: that you have ample time to grow your freelance writing business and that you don’t starve in the process.
2. A love of writing
Freelance writing is not just happily typing away on a keyboard while making tons of money. Most days you’ll be sitting in front a blinking cursor for hours. Despite this, you must find a sense of joy and fulfillment with the act of writing. This will be the one thing that will keep you going no matter what. This is your best weapon against all the challenges that you might have along the way. You’ll keep writing not because it might make your a millionaire (okay, maybe), but because you really enjoy it. Writing is a skill, but for you to sustain this profession, it also needs to be your passion.
3. A business plan
In a nutshell, a business plan is definition of your goals, how long it should take to achieve them and how you’re going to do so. There are a lot of resources out there that will help you set up a simple and realistic plan for your freelance writing business. Here’s a helpful tip from Contently for creating business plans designed for a freelancer. With a solid business plan, you know what your goals are and should be focused on achieving them.
4. A good working space
It doesn’t have to be big, well-designed or look like a photo in a magazine. A good working space can be a kitchen table, or a small home office. As long as you’re able to work without distractions, then it will serve its purpose. Not everyone has a spare room to turn into an office, so you’ll have to be creative and resourceful when claiming your workspace. No matter the size, a good workspace has to be organized (most times, anyway) to help you get work done faster.
5. Marketing skills
Half the job of being a freelance writer is connecting with the right people. These people should ideally be high-paying clients or ones that can refer you to them. To do this, you have to be visible online as a writer-for-hire, attend networking events in your industry and pitch article ideas to publications in your field of expertise. These are just some of the many marketing tactics you can do to get more quality clients. If you’re new, you need to do this — a lot!
Hang a photo of the holiday destination you want to go to when you’ve saved enough money. Picture yourself as a successful freelance writer living a comfortable life. Whatever gets you excited to build a brighter future. Forget making to-do lists, calendars and planners. They’re all in your head. What you need is some fire in your heart to keep you from falling into the pitfalls of self-doubt and fear. If in a slump, go back to # 3 on this list and remember your goals. Then pick yourself up, grab a cup of coffee and keep going.
7. A website
In this digital age, a business card may not be enough to let the world know who you are and what you do. A writer’s website is a fast and easy way for a prospective client to find you and learn about your work. Setting up your own site with a domain, e.g., “yourname.com”, is the most professional method to present yourself. In his book, “Platform: Get Noticed In a Noisy World”, Michael Hyatt describes this as a Home Base. This is where you sell your writing services, gain followers and build your authority.
8. A mentor
If you’re just starting out, there are a lot of things you need to learn — and fast. Look for a friend, colleague or mentor who can give you insight and encouragement. Preferably, this person has more experience in freelance writing than you and can give you solid, real-life advice. Arrange in-person sessions or schedule a video call to share ideas, discuss your challenges and come up with an action plan. Not only do you get to improve yourself by talking to this person, you also have someone to be accountable to when you commit to doing something.
9. Household help
If you’re married and/or have kids, then you can’t be in front of your computer the entire day every day. Someone needs to cook the meals, take the kids to school, do the laundry, and so on. You need all the help you can get. So whether it’s from your husband, a family friend or a babysitter, take it. Multi-tasking between chores and writing won’t work well, and it’s likely that neither tasks will get done right. Manage your time in a way that works for you and your family’s schedule.
Successful writers may seem like they’ve gotten successful overnight. I’m sure they didn’t, although it may look that way. Your first few months or years of freelance writing might feel like you’re getting nowhere, no matter how hard you work. Keep at it. Sometimes, the perfect opportunity takes time to knock on your door. Other times, you just have to keep trying. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not reaching your goals. Like anything in life, building a writing career takes time. While you may not like the waiting, it’s exactly what you need to learn and become a better writer.
Jumping into the unknown is a terrifying idea. Going freelance full time is the same thing. But if you have to do it, do it with courage, some protective gear and a parachute for good measure. Then maybe you won’t be off to a rough start, and the fall won’t be too painful, and you’ll enjoy the journey ahead.