Freelance writing is one of the best jobs in the world if you love to write. The freedom to make your own schedule, work in the fields you love, travel to new places, meet amazing people, and truly make a difference with the written word is one of the draws of the profession. But this freedom does not come without some hard work and sacrifice – and a lot of planning. Your first six months as a freelance writer will be trying, a little scary at times, and will teach you many lessons about what works and what doesn’t.
However, these tips can help you make the most of your first six months as a freelance writer and avoid making some of the most common mistakes that new freelancers make.
1. Planning is Everything
While you don’t want to get too caught up in the analysis side of things, you do want to make sure that you are making careful plans. There are many areas where planning is essential, but these are some of the best tips to follow.
- Have a savings account that will cover at least four months of bills if at all possible.
- Know where you’re going to prospect for work, which venues you are going to pursue, and how you’re going to track your income.
- Organize your desk space and have a filing system, physical or digital, to help you track projects.
- Set up a writer’s website. You can add credentials to it as you obtain them, but at least have a one-page site that acts as a digital business card.
- Try to develop a loose idea of how you will structure your day when it comes to prospecting, working on projects, marketing, etc. While this will change from time to time, it’s more efficient to know how you intend to run your day.
- Set up social media sites for your writing and tell everyone you know that you’re beginning your freelance writing career. Leads and clients come from the most unlikely places.
2. Stop Worrying and Start Writing
The beginning stages of a freelance writing career can feel a little frantic. You’re trying to do many things at the same time, and while planning is necessary, it’s easy to get so involved with planning that you don’t write. And after all, you are a writer, so writing should be one of your highest priorities. Writers use different tactics to get into the writing mode; here are a few common tricks.
- The first thing in the morning, get up and write 500 words about anything, even if you’re describing your morning coffee. It will get you in gear to keep writing.
- Set aside a time for planning and spend the rest of your time writing. Some writers find it helpful to plan day-to-day things in the evening, so they’re all set for the next morning and to plan larger activities, like the week’s goals, on Sundays. Do what works for you, but set aside time to write and time to plan.
- Set a kitchen timer for an hour and write consistently through that hour without getting up, checking email, or doing anything else but writing. After that hour is over, take a 15-minute break and repeat until you have reached your content goal for the day.
- Write in different places. While working from home is a great thing, it’s also very comfortable and can offer distractions. Go to the local coffee shop or the new bistro down the street and write there. Not only is getting out a great way to refocus, but you can often find some great story ideas while you’re out, as well.
3. Don’t Get Overwhelmed
It’s a big adjustment to go from being an employee to being a freelance writer. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Planning is necessary, but don’t become burdened with five-year goals in your first week. Take it in small steps, figure out what you need to make every week, and plan out steps that you believe will lead you to that goal. You’ll find that breaking it down into manageable steps helps to relieve some of that overwhelming feeling.
4. Don’t Burn Bridges
Sometimes when a freelancer’s writing career starts taking off, they abandon clients that may not be as high profile or are simply lower paying. This is not a good idea. The financial life of a freelancer can often be feast or famine. You never know who knows who when it comes to asking for referrals. Always maintain positive and active relationships with clients, even if you aren’t working on a project for them. They may be your saving grace in the event of a slow month.