Freelancing is a great way to make some extra money. However, if you have the chops for it, you can also make a living as a full-time freelance writer. In either case, you need to have a game plan if you don’t want to waste your time.
Right off the bat, I can tell you that it’s hard to make a living as a freelance writer unless you’re highly talented, a great marketer, or a combination of both. Even in that case, it takes time to transition towards a full-time career in freelance writing.
In this article, I’m going to help you decide whether you want to pursue freelance writing as a side-gig or a full-time job. We’ll go over what to expect in either case and what your first steps should be, so let’s get to work!
What It’s Like to Work as a Freelance Writer
Once you’ve been working as a freelance writer for a while, you’ll notice there aren’t a lot of folks who make a full-time living in this field.
There isn’t a shortage of talented writers looking for work online. The problem is most people who pursue freelance writing aren’t prepared for how hard it is to make a full-time living in this field.
Some freelance writers give up after a few months because they can’t find work that pays well. At the same time, you have a ton of ‘freelancing gurus’ telling you how much money you can make while blogging for fun or writing as a side-gig.
I’m not going to argue that finding great writing gigs is hard. However, there is plenty of work out there for talented writers. You can make a living writing blogs, email copy, B2B articles, landing pages, and a lot more.
The thing is, it takes a particular type of temperament to pursue a long-term career as a freelance writer, so you need to know if it’s a path that makes sense for you.
How to Know if a Full-Time Freelance Writing Career is Right for You
A lot of people think just because they love writing, they can make a full-time job out of it. However, there’s a reason why the ‘starving artist’ is such a popular cliche.
Freelance writing is a different beast. Often, you’ll end up writing about topics you might not have a lot of interest in. In a lot of cases, you won’t be able to flex your creative muscles at all. You’ll have very specific instructions to follow.
Enjoying writing is a great start, but you need more if you expect to do this for a living. For starters, you need to ask yourself these three questions:
- Do you mind hunting for clients aggressively and often?
- Are you good at communicating with customers and accommodating their needs?
- Can you work around irregular payment schedules?
If any of that makes you balk, then you might want to think twice about working full-time as a freelance writer.
To be clear, there are plenty of upsides to this career choice. I get tons of freedom about when and where to work, I can take time off whenever I want (provided I meet all my deadlines), and more.
Once you have a decent client base, hunting for work isn’t as much of an issue either. If you’re good at what you do, it’ll often come on its own and those people will be willing to pay your rates.
The thing is, it takes a lot of time and hustle to get to that point, which is where the question of freelancing as a side-gig comes up.
What About Freelance Writing as a Side-Gig?
The great thing about freelance work is in most cases, you don’t need a full-time commitment. You can work in an office and pick up projects on the side and it doesn’t have to be a big deal as long as you don’t overextend yourself.
More importantly, dipping your toes into freelance work is a great way to figure out if it’s a good fit for you without a ton of risk. Here’s what I would recommend to do if you’re just starting out looking for projects:
- Focus on work that you think will look good on your portfolio.
- Target a specific niche so you can start your long journey towards specialization.
- Be very picky about which projects you take on (since you can afford to!).
- Save money aggressively if you’re considering making the jump to being a full-time freelancer.
That last part is the most important for new freelance writers. If you don’t have a safety net, then you’ll end up taking any work you can. That often leads to a spiral of crappy job after crappy job, because you don’t have time to look for new clients, and you’ll burn out fast.
Traditionally, people recommend you keep around three months of savings for emergencies. As a freelancer, that number should be closer to six since our line of work is much more unstable.
Let’s be honest, though – most people don’t have anywhere near three or six months of expenses saved up. It’s a very tall order, but if you have a day job while you start freelancing, you’re in a great position to save money.
Now, the question is, when and if to make the jump to being a full-time freelancer.
If you find out that you like doing the occasional side project, but would rather keep your day job, that’s fine. Freelancing is great, but it’s not for everyone.
On the other hand, if you’re eager to jump into that freelance life, make the jump only once you have some stable clients. If you reach the point where you have too much freelance work and not enough time, then that’s the right moment to consider making the transition.
A lot of people jump into freelancing without a game plan or even a clear picture of what to expect. New freelancers, in particular, can have a hard time breaking into the market unless they have some writing credits under their name.
Even then, finding clients is an uphill battle. The smart move, for most people, is to hold onto their day jobs while making the transition to freelance writing.
If you want to jump all in, then at the very least, you need to have enough savings to cover you for two or three months. That should give you the time you need to find enough clients if you’re very aggressive about pursuing leads.
Have you made the transition to full-time freelancing or are you still trying to find your feet? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.