Freelance Writing Success – How to Survive and Thrive

So you’ve taken the plunge and thrown in your safe, secure full time job to see if you can really make it as a freelance writer. Now, reality is sinking in and you realise that the familiar arrival of next week’s paycheck simply isn’t going to happen. Do you resign yourself to the idea that a career as a freelance writer is synonymous with insecurity? Will you convince yourself of the romantic notion of being an artist starving in a garret?

Let me tell you one thing I know for sure: it doesn’t have to be that way.

Life as a freelancer has all the benefits of being able to work for yourself — plus the bonus that there is no longer a ceiling to your salary. If you play your cards right, pick your jobs carefully and excel at what you do, then the sky really is the limit. You don’t have to struggle financially. In fact, you could carve out quite a lucrative freelance writing business.

You notice that I use the word “business”. Because to really succeed as a freelancer, I think that’s how you need to treat your work. And when you start seeing it as a business, you begin to understand its potential. You can expand, increase your margins and create repeat customers.

If there’s one thing I evangelise on, it’s helping freelance writers understand that they don’t have to be constantly on the back foot — wondering if they can really make a healthy living.

I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who ask me if it’s “tough as a freelancer”. And every week I get a question like: “Do you find that you get enough work to get by?”

Yes I do. And I do more than just “get by”. It’s been six years since I quit my full time job to try and crack the freelancing world. Back then, I really did think I was going to be on Struggle Street. But at the time, I hated my job so much that I jumped at the chance to freelance. Then after about six months of stressing out about where my next gig was going to come from, I decided to take a different approach.

I couldn’t suddenly conjure up a throng of eager editors wanting me to write for them overnight. So I did what I could — and I changed my attitude.

I realised I didn’t want become the stereotype of a struggling freelance writer. I dreamt that freelance writing would become as lucrative for me one day as if I had pursued a career in something like banking or finance.

Now six years later, I’m earning seven times what I did in my first year of freelancing. And that figure is projected to increase by 50% over the next year.

And I haven’t taken on another job or inherited a Burger King franchise! It’s all through my work as a freelance writer.

So I asked myself what have been the key elements contributing to this. These tips might help you consider how you can boost your freelance career.

1. Treat freelance writing as a business.

Never sit at your desk in your pyjamas. This means you make sure you wake up and “go to work” like you would in any other job.

2. Diversify your writing Write for more than just one genre or for one publisher. This helps if the publisher goes belly up — like the one who went bankrupt on me before paying the $3500 they owed me!

3. Pursue other writing-related projects.

Consider other avenues that can make you money. I also diversified from just writing to doing freelance editing and the occasional freelance teaching gig where I trained people how to write.

4. Keep on top of your finances, invoices and taxes.

If your finances aren’t in order, that’s an extra stress you just don’t need. When you know your accounts are up to date, you have a clearer idea of your financial position — it’s often better than you think. Make yourself do your accounts, invoicing and debt collecting for at least an hour every week

5. Believe it is possible.

Dream big. What’s the point of dreaming small? I believed that it was in the realms of possibility I would be able to earn a very healthy living. If I didn’t, it might have become a self-perpetuating prophecy.

If you’re considering taking the plunge but are worried that you won’t make enough money, my advice is that if you do what you love, the money will follow. When you work in an area you are passionate about, you will be good at it, and you’ll be in demand. And the law of supply and demand dictates that you’ll be able to charge a premium for your services. Good luck!