People get into freelance writing for two reasons: they can’t get other work, perhaps because they have a young child, they are disabled or the job market is really bad, or because they love writing. For some writers it is a combination of both. Nobody ever gets into freelance writing for the money.
This is not to say that it is impossible to make good money as a freelance writer; indeed, some people have very lucrative careers. It is, however, a tough business, and it demands dedication long before it starts to deliver rewards. People starting out as freelancers either need to have other paying jobs or need to be prepared to get by on very little remuneration. It is vitally important to know how to manage money; not only does this help to make a little go a long way but also it helps to save a lot of time and effort. Good money management is efficient money management, and it frees up more time for writers to focus on putting words on the page.
Five steps to success
For people who want to succeed in the writing business, there are simple rules that can make all the difference.
- Never write for nothing. It can be worth doing unpaid work to increase visibility, but only if the publication in question has serious outreach. It can be worth interning, but only if real education is provided. Writers have to be wary of being taken advantage of.
- There is always a job out there. As long as low paid work does not eat up time that could be spent chasing more lucrative jobs, it is worth doing. It is better to be earning something than nothing, and all paid work helps to build up a portfolio.
- Find a niche. Most writers work in a lot of different areas to get by, but having one or two specialist subjects or skills helps with building a reputation to the level where much better paying jobs are within reach.
- Claim expenses. What can be claimed varies by jurisdiction, but computer and stationery costs, a share of household bills and some travel costs can all potentially be declared against tax.
- Aim high. Too many writers undervalue themselves. Making real money requires a proactive approach that includes contacting high-end publications and big businesses – they just might be hiring.
Keeping money simple
Freelancing can mean juggling a lot of contracts, especially with the smaller jobs needed to fill in between the larger ones, and it is often a good idea to sign up with an umbrella company. These organizations can often help with sourcing contracts and, most importantly, can take care of all those tricky tax and finance issues.
For writers who choose to go it alone, the most important thing is to keep on top of accounts. It is a good idea to set a day aside at the end of the month for sorting out invoices and chasing up late payers. Accounts need to be kept neat and up to date – it is always possible that they will be audited. Good organization pays dividends, as it ensures that no money goes unclaimed.