There’s an uncomfortable truth people don’t often talk about when it comes to freelance writing. It’s that not a whole lot of people manage to make a career out of it. In most cases, writing is something they do on the side or work at it for some years before going into more ‘stable’ jobs.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to have a long freelance writing career. However, if you want to succeed, you need to approach it with the right mindset and be prepared for all the difficulties that writing for a living comes along with.
In this article, I’ll walk you through how to approach freelance writing from a career point of view. Then we’ll discuss some of the difficulties you’ll need to adapt to if you want to make it over the long term. Let’s get to it!
How to Approach Freelance Writing as a Career
A lot of people approach freelance writing as a hobby or a side gig. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you really want to get to a point where you’re getting great clients and commanding a high rate, freelance writing is more of a full-time thing. Let me break down what a normal month usually looks like for me when it comes to the tasks I have to tackle in my
freelance writing career:
- Schedule out any articles I’ve agreed to write.
- Set aside time to outline those pieces and write drafts.
- Manage post submissions.
- Scour job boards for new clients.
- Pitch new clients and get them to sign up with me.
- Submit new topic ideas to clients if they want them.
- Manage payments.
Unless you’re only writing for a single client, that’s not the workload of a side gig. That’s a full-time job and when you’ve been at it for a while, you need to ask yourself “Do I really want to keep doing this for years to come?”
The answer, for me, is yes. However, when I made that choice I didn’t have a clue of how many things I’d have to deal with that don’t necessarily have to do with work, which is what we’ll talk about now.
4 Things You Need to Consider if You Want to Make a Career Out of Freelance Writing
Let’s get practical now and discuss some real-life issues you will need to deal with if you intend to work as a freelance writer over the long term, starting with retirement.
1. Retirement Savings and Taxes
Most people don’t save anything near what they need for retirement or don’t think about it at all. That becomes much more common when you talk to freelancers, because the nature of our work can be more erratic.
The problem is, the more you have to worry about things such as finding new clients in your freelance writing career, the less attention you might pay to the big picture. That is to say, how much money you’re saving, whether you’re investing it well, and if you’re putting aside enough for taxes.
In the past, we talked about how to deal with taxes as a freelancer. However, as far as retirement goes, you need to start putting aside a nice chunk of your earnings for a rainy day. Once you have a safety net of at least three-to-six months of savings, the rest should start going into more long-term investments.
2. Health Insurance
I’m embarrassed to admit, I spent about four years as a freelancer working without any health insurance. In my defense, I used to live in a country that barely had working hospitals so health insurance wasn’t really a top priority.
However, now that I’m a bit older, I realize how irresponsible that was and you shouldn’t follow in my example. If you’re freelancing full time, then you need to put aside some of your earnings to pay for health insurance.
Which insurance to get will depend on where you’re living. However, one key thing to consider is whether you intend to travel a lot while working or if you’re more of stationary freelancer (there are dozens of us!).
If you want to dive into digital nomading, then you’ll need to hire an insurance plan that offers international coverage. That can be expensive, but there are a lot of great options that come well recommended by other nomads.
3. Spending Most of Your Time Working Independently
I’ve been freelancing for the better part of a decade now and when I’m not in a coworking space, I’m writing from cafes or home. That’s par for the course for writers, but it’s important you understand working alone can take a toll on you.
In my experience, a lot of freelancers enjoy the quiet of working by themselves, but it starts to get at them after a while. It’s hard to know how it’ll affect you personally until you try it for at least a few months, though.
Most people aren’t cut out to work alone for long periods of time and that’s to be expected. If you don’t make an effort to see a bit of sunlight, your mood and work are going to suffer. My recommendation is, take some time to learn how to balance your new career and your personal life, and don’t spend all your time indoors.
4. Drastic Shifts in Your Monthly Income
Making a career out of freelancing involves a lot of financial planning, as you might have realized by now. When you’re working a regular job, you know exactly how much money you’re going to get, and when it’s going to hit your pocket.
If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t have problems budgeting and saving money, then you’ll adapt to freelancing like a fish to water. However, if you’re constantly overextended, then you might find the whole experience incredibly stressful.
Just to give you an idea of what you’re in for. If you’re working for multiple clients, each of them will probably pay you in different timelines and using different methods. Most clients prefer PayPal so you also have to consider the time and fees it takes to withdraw that money into your bank account.
I’m not trying to scare you though – if you charge rates that are in line with your skills and you’re good at pitching clients, you will be able to make a living. However, if you want to keep your stress levels in check, you’ll also need to get used to planning ahead.
For me, freelance writing isn’t a hobby – it’s what I do to make a living when I’m not working with websites. As freelance writers, we have a lot of freedom to work the hours we want, from wherever we want, which is enough to make a lot of people envious.
If you want to enjoy those perks, though, you’ll need to fight tooth and nail for fair rates and be ready to face all the difficulties a career in freelance writing entails. That means preparing for retirement, dealing with insurance, making sure your skill set is always in demand, and more. If you can do all that, then you can probably succeed at any career.
What do you think about the idea of making a career out of freelance writing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.