As a freelance writer, you know that being a great writer is only half the battle. You also have to be able to write efficiently. If it takes you all day to write a 300 word blog post, you likely won’t be a very profitable freelancer. On the other hand, if you’re...
The freelancer hustle isn't easy. You're constantly writing, editing, spellchecking and proofreading. And when you're not doing the actual writing work, you're busy communicating with clients, finding new jobs, creating invoices, updating your portfolio and taking on...
The “experts” will tell you there are a lot of black and white rules in the world of freelance writing. Always have a contract. Never write for the content mills. Never write for “exposure.” On the surface, I agree. Setting your terms from the start of an engagement...
“I'm sorry, I just can’t make those rates work.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There I was, offering a writer a steady ghost-blogging gig - only to have her turn it down because the rate I could pay was two cents less per word than her “standard” rates. Now,...
I have a confession to make: I’m a bit of a cheapskate.
It’s a leftover habit from college, where I squeaked by every day with just enough cash in my wallet for the bus home and a cheap meal. In fact, the first day they raised the bus fare, I had to bum change from one of my fellow passengers!
I’ve improved much since then, but old habits die hard. And it’s a good thing, because this habit was excellent preparation for the feast-or-famine life of a freelancer.
As a freelancer, you have to run a tight ship and be ruthless when handling expenses. Writers tend to have fewer than most, but that’s still not the same as none at all. Fortunately, there are loads of cloud services out there that let you run your freelance business without spending a cent on software. But these services are “free” in other ways, too!
I’m going to be honest with all of you – I suck at writing business plans.
In fact, despite operating four separate companies over the past seven years, I’ve only ever written a true, formal business plan as part of a Home Ec project in high school.
It’s not that I don’t think writers need to have business plans. Quite the contrary! Although it’s unlikely that most freelance writers will ever need to seek out bank loans or other types of financing (typically the impetus behind crafting traditional business plans), we do still need the structure of a plan to ensure that we’re meeting goals and growing our businesses in a sustainable, financially-savvy way.
So that said, here’s my “short cut,” DIY method for coming up with a viable business plan that doesn’t waste time on cheesy mission statements or unnecessary financial projections:
When I started freelancing, all I wanted to do was get paid right away and never thought of much else. Unfortunately, writing for content mills was probably the worst decision I’ve ever made. Yes, I didn’t get paid much, but that’s beside the point. Writing for content mills had an impact not only on me emotionally, but creatively too. I was setting myself up for failure in the long run!
I’m here to tell you how content mills hurt me so that it doesn’t happen to you.
There’s been a lot of uproar in the freelance community recently as a result of journalist Nate Thayer’s decision to publish an email conversation he had with one of the editors at the Atlantic Magazine. The whole thing is worth a read, but it basically resolves around Thayer’s (highly unnecessary, in my opinion) decision to attack the editor for requesting an “exposure only” article for the Magazine’s website.
(For the record, I think he made great points – I just think that he targeted the wrong person in his attack and aired his grievances in an inappropriate venue. More on that a little later…)
The result of this fervor has been an uptick in blog articles asking the question, “Can anybody make a living as a freelance writer anymore?”
I love writing for the web. Really. I mean, what’s not to love? It is fast, interactive, concise and fun. You usually need to use a friendly tone; and editors often encourage you to get personal, deriving from your own life to relate to your audience.
It’s not just the writing style that I love, though. Researching your market is easy, fast and usually free. An online publication’s previous issues are on the net for your familiarization. Oh, and you no longer need to deal with SASE, or wait for your mail to be delivered (though there are few web markets that don’t accept e-mail submissions.) And most web editors aren’t crazy about phone calls either. I don’t know about you, but I belong to the group of writers that cringe at the possibility of a phone pitch, or a query follow-up.
Not to mention, most online markets are more open to new writers. There is a “Show me what you’ve got” attitude rather than the “Let’s talk after your portfolio gets impressive” wall.
But of course, like most cool things, there’s a catch.
One of the trickiest things about leaving your job to become a full-time web content writer is figuring out how you’ll replace all those cushy fringe benefits you had (or, hopefully had) at your last day job. Health insurance is the obvious elephant in the room, but don’t forget about the other perks you enjoyed – specifically, life and disability insurance.
Depending on your financial situation, you might not need life insurance. If you have a small amount of savings, no debt and no dependents, a life insurance policy may be overkill – as your unexpected death wouldn’t leave a financial burden for your loved ones. (Sorry, there’s no way to be super cheerful when discussing insurance policies!)
Disability insurance, on the other hand, is more of a necessity than most people realize. According to the Social Security Administration, just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.