Most people struggle with economic instability in one way or another, even if they don’t make it public. Freelancers are no exception. In fact, the nature of our work means we’re more exposed to financial instability than most other professions.
When your paychecks change from month to month, planning for the future becomes incredibly hard. If you want to dedicate yourself to freelancing, you not only need excellent writing and sales skills, you also need a good head for managing your own finances.
In this article, we’ll go over the most important things you need to do to ensure economic stability as a freelancer. If you’re new to freelance writing, these are perhaps the most important skills you have to learn so you’re in a good position to plan for the future. Let’s talk finances!
1. Diversify Your Client Base
One client does not a business make, no matter what line of work you’re in. As a freelance writer, sometimes you’ll run into customers that want so much work and that pay so well, you end up basically married to them. That’s not the worst position to be in, but it’s also very precarious.
As a freelancer, you’re probably the first person that client will let go if business goes south. If you haven’t got any more jobs lined up, that means you’re essentially unemployed. Finding work as a freelancer is already hard enough, but it can be soul-sucking if you’re counting your pennies.
There’s no magic number for how many clients you want to have in your roster, but it should never be just one. That way, if a job falls through, you have something to fall back on while you get back to pitching.
Quick note: If you have an incredibly specific skillset that’s always in demand, then the above might not apply to you. Good medical and legal freelance writers, for example, are never lacking for work.
2. Increase Your Rates Periodically
If you’re good at your job, you’re going to want a raise every now and then, and freelancers are not the exception. In theory, as time goes by, you should be honing your skills and becoming a better writer. If you work in a specific niche, you learn more and more about it, enabling you to write more comprehensive articles.
My advice is, take stock of your rates once or twice a year. Consider which clients you think could do with a rate adjustment (i.e. because of increased scope, better work on your end, etc.) and send a polite email discussing the possibility of a raise.
If you do good work, you’d be surprised at how many clients will be open to at least discussing a raise – all you need to do is ask. In other cases, they’ll shut down the conversation instantly, which means you need to decide whether to stay or move on. If you have a diverse client base, then you have the luxury of being able to make that decision without it affecting your income too severely.
3. Be Open to Adjusting Your Rates from Client to Client
A lot of freelancers have set rates they never deviate from. Knowing what you’re worth is a fantastic thing, but it’s also important to understand, the value you provide to each client is always going to be different.
I’ve worked with businesses where I’ve run their entire blogging operation and others where I just contribute with an article or two from time to time. For the latter type of client, I’d be open to charging less depending on the complexity of the work.
That flexibility helps when it comes to getting jobs, negotiating raises, and padding your savings. If the job is easy enough (that part is critical) and you have the time, considering taking gigs at slightly lower rates. That being said, you don’t want to get locked into long-term jobs at low rates, so I only recommend this for one-off projects.
4. Set Aside Money for a Safety Net
We all know we should be saving money. However, hardly anyone knows precisely how much money they should be saving, and if they do know, they don’t do it.
As freelance writers, living from paycheck to paycheck is not an option. Clients and businesses will pay you in schedules that vary wildly and you may hit the occasional dry spell. Unless you’re comfortable with the idea of living in your car or under a bridge if that happens, you need a cushy safety net.
Ideally, you should be saving at least 20% of your freelance earnings (plus whatever you set aside for taxes). At first, you want to take that money and use it to build your safety net, which should cover at least three months of expenses.
That may sound like an exaggeration, but at some point, you’ll need that money. Three months is more than enough time to find enough work to get back on your feet, but it also covers you in case of an emergency (e.g. you need a new laptop, your car broke down, etc.).
If that sounds like an impossible amount of money right now, it’s okay – building a safety net is the kind of thing that takes time. Once you’re there, though, a whole new world opens up. You’ll have peace of mind while looking for more clients, be able to turn down work you don’t want, and even start investing your savings. As a freelancer, that stability is the ultimate goal.
Freelancing and economic stability aren’t two concepts that go together in most people’s minds. That’s understandable due to the nature of our work. However, if you want to make a career as a freelance writer, you need to get your financial ducks in a row.
The ‘good’ news is, most of the people you know are probably equally clueless when it comes to financial literacy. If you follow these four tips, you’ll be miles ahead financially from most of your peers, and you’ll be able to focus on becoming a better freelancer:
- Diversify your client base.
- Increase your rates periodically.
- Be open to adjusting your rates from client to client.
- Set aside money for a safety net.
Do you have any questions about how to manage your finances as a freelancer? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.