I began working as a freelance writer three years ago, and went into the profession full-time six months later. Freelance writers are small business owners who spend part of every day marketing their services, preparing contracts, invoicing and other bookkeeping chores, as well as writing and editing. A typical day for me consists of:
Marketing for new clients – 1 hour
Follow-up on leads that are not yet contracts – 30 minutes
Bookkeeping – 30 minutes
Read colleagues’ blogs, check email and following my niches – 1 hour
Writing – 6 to 8 hours during normal workflow, 12 hours during rush projects
Writing is the only part of the day that earns a paycheck. My day begins before 7 AM with checking email, as this is how most editors communicate with writers. Then I write until lunch, as I am a morning person. I check email again and market to new clients. Then I write until dinner. I quickly finish any bookkeeping or necessary email responses and finish about 20 to 30 minutes later. When workflow is normal, I do not work evenings or weekends.
While some writers are generalists, most choose specific niches that complement their education and experience. I chose three areas that I absolutely enjoy: advertising copy for small businesses (copywriting), personal finance and gardening. I chose three unrelated fields for a good reason. When one niche slows down, such as lesser demand for gardening articles in winter, the other two pick up the slack.
I would rate my job satisfaction at between 9 and 10. The one part of the business I do not enjoy is dinging people for unpaid invoices, or writing a job off as a bad debt. Those unpaid hours of labor cannot be reclaimed. This is something that every business owner faces.
I never planned on being a freelance writer. My mother needed end-of-life care, and I could never put someone so precious in a nursing home. I started writing part-time to make sure it was a viable business, and when I took to it like a duck to water, I quit the day job. I’ve never looked back. Freelance writing is not affected by a weak economy. Businesses need copywriters year-round to sell their products and services.
I love many things about freelance writing. I have the freedom to adjust my schedule around a dentist appointment or meeting a friend for lunch. Nor do I miss the many years of wearing dress suits and high heels to the office. I live in t-shirts and jeans, and work on the patio when the weather is pleasant.
I would do a few things differently if I were starting over again. I started writing for content mills to earn an income while learning to market myself. It kept me at the low end of the pay scale during the first year. If I had studied how writers sell themselves, and the correct method for approaching editors, before depending on writing for a living, then there would not have been so many nights with ramen noodles. I still write for content mills to fill in for those times when the check is slow to arrive, but not as my sole source of income.
Freelance writing is not a stressful job if you choose your clients carefully, and make sure you understand what they want. The downside of this profession is the enormous number of hours spent alone. This is why I usually do not work on nights or weekends. Everyone needs a life beyond work.
Advance planning and careful money management are essential to succeed. Vacations are scheduled around client needs, although summertime is usually slow. Moreover, since there is no vacation pay in this job, writers have to save enough for the vacation plus whatever money they would normally earn during those one or two weeks. Many writers take their laptop on vacation, to write a little in the early morning or evening hours.
If a friend were considering this line of work, I would recommend learning the different styles of writing, such as AP and MLA. While a college degree looks nice on a resume, it is not necessary to succeed. Businesses want people to write copy that sells their products and services. If you have that knack, then go for copywriting. If you have an affinity for solving pet problems, then capitalize on this strength by making it one of your niches.
I see myself in a slightly different role 5 years from now. I would like to teach writing classes at a community college, and help others to learn the ropes of this business. Aside from earning a living as a copywriter, I am writing my first novel. One of my goals is becoming a published novelist during the next few years.
This is the career as told to JustJobs.com. This site houses thousands of job listings from companies across the United States. If you have considered a career as a Freelance Writer, read on to learn what the job is really like, or visit JustJobs to find your dream job today.