Only about 4 percent of people step out to go into full-time freelance writing.
That number is low — very low. That’s because it’s not easy to get started. Finding gigs, working with clients, and getting paid are all difficult steps to take on your own. Plus, it could be months until you get your first paycheck.
It was a big step for me to freelance as a career, and I have to admit it’s sometimes still scary. In this article, I’m going to share what I’ve learned to make sure I don’t starve while doing it. Read on for 5 tips.
1. Find a Steady Job
If you’re thinking about full-time freelance, you probably read the header to this point and scoffed. Isn’t the whole point of freelancing to get out of the 9 to 5 grind?
Yes — but no. You can’t get out of the 9-5 grind if you don’t have another grind. Freelancers should have some form of steady stream of income before they can start.
Too many freelance writers live on a starve and feast cycle. One month they are rolling in the money, but the next month, their clients aren’t in need of their services. And even if you try to spread your income to the next month, you can’t know when your next good month will be.
Too many freelance writers live on a starve and feast cycle. One month they are rolling in the money, but the next month, their clients aren’t in need of their services.
To keep this from happening, find yourself a steady income. I was lucky to find a steady writing job, but you may need to find something less related to your dream career.
2. Know Your Worth
There are plenty of gig sites that will help you make a few dollars an hour. Stay away from these places. I’m looking at you, UpWork.
When looking for gigs, make sure you’re getting paid a reasonable wage. Freelance writers can make just as much as an engineer or CEO. Don’t sell yourself short.
This may mean you have to turn away some jobs, but that’s okay. Don’t waste your time writing for peanuts.
3. Get Some Experience
Be honest with yourself: what experience do you have in freelance writing?
If you can’t think of much, chances are that potential employers won’t see it either. To know your worth, you have to make yourself worthy of payment.
Remember: this still doesn’t mean you should work for nothing in return. Instead, give yourself some experience by starting a blog or guest posting on other sites. At the very least, you should get your name on the content you produce.
If you don’t have any experience, keep your day job until you grow a large body of work with your name on it.
4. Don’t Stop Learning
This one is a bit harder for some people. Don’t stop learning about what you’re doing. Especially in the world of writing, new developments are made on a daily or monthly basis.
This is frustrating because you won’t get paid for these hours of learning, but if you can quantify this education somehow, it may land you your next gig. Plus, knowing more means you can cast a broader net when looking for clients.
I have a bachelor’s in journalism, but in my opinion, that’s not enough to be a successful freelancer. So, I’ve taken classes through Lynda and HubSpot Academy to up my skills in content marketing, SEO, and social media.
Both of these sites offer you a certificate that you can place on your site or LinkedIn page when you get done with their courses. Because both sites are well-known, I also included them under my education tab on my resume.
5. You Can’t Be Lazy with Full-Time Freelance
The hardest part about being a freelancer is that you don’t have anyone checking over your shoulder to make sure you do your job. If you don’t get up until noon or skip a day of work, nobody is going to care.
Being a freelancer is really cool except that your boss always understands when you want to take a day off.
— Alex Holcomb (@AlexHolcomb09) October 15, 2018
But you have to make sure that you keep yourself accountable to working each and every day. I love to work, but I still find myself wanting to take longer breaks or not start working for hours. To stay motivated, I go so far to write the word diligence on a sticky note before I get going in the morning.
Even though you might be able to break from the 9 to 5 grind, you still might end up working those same hours. Personally, I start working around 9:30 a.m. each day until 4:30 p.m., and then I work another hour around 8 p.m. until I hit my goals for the day.
It helps me to have a routine each day as well. I cannot work in my pajamas, and I take my lunch break at the same time. Occasionally, I’ll visit a coffee shop to work (currently I’m at Remedy Coffee in Knoxville, TN), but for the most part, I sit at a table until I get the work done.
That doesn’t sound much different than a regular job does it?
Well, that’s because it’s not. Many people think that freelancing is equal to easy work, but in reality, it’s sometimes harder than a normal job.
But it’s also a lot more fun, rewarding, and flexible than a regular job. Just don’t get lazy.
(I think I wrote that last sentence for me).
Need a Freelancer or Want to Get in Touch?
Thanks for reading. Leave a comment with other freelancer tips!
If you’re thinking about going into full-time freelance, I’d love to get in contact with you.
Are you a business looking for a writer? Check out my work with me page to see what we can do together.