Just Keep Swimming

My Freelance Writing Career: An Update

Today marks the end of my very first week of being full self employed. Except that I'm still not really entirely self employed, because I've kept part of my other job as a part time thing. The office job has gone from being beyond full time hours to barely part time hours. This week was the first time that writing was indisputable my main source of income and work hours. Boy oh boy, did I ever pile on the writing work hours, as some of my days ended up being close to 14 hours. Though that means way less time with the wife and kids (aka pets), I'm glad it is 14 hours of something I love rather than 14 hours of being yelled at by patients about how their 3 week old stubbed toe must be looked after today or they'll explode. So, I'm happy that I'm now in a spot where my day job is actually my writing business, and my supplementary income is my quality time spent with the scanner ('quality time' in this case means hideously boring).

In reality, my writing business has actually been my main focus for several months now, and I'd just been pulling in long (lawyer) hours when combining the two full time jobs It is hard to say if my business would have grown quicker and been more successful if I'd cut down my office work much earlier. I think back to a few weeks ago when I was plagued with a client drought, and it'd been even more “yank out the little hair I have” stress inducing if I didn't have a full time job to fill in that income gap. Of course, there is always the chance that the drought can haunt me again, which is why it is nice to have a back up job when needed. I do think security measures need to be in place when you’re self employed, and having another job you can turn to is nice.

Over the last few months, I've been getting more and more e-mails from people wondering how I've broken into the writing business and actually been able to make money from it. Most of them have been hoping for the magic spell that will instantly cause money to soar into their pant pockets. Unfortunately, I don't know that spell, and money isn't necessarily soaring anywhere in my direction. I'm doing okay, but I also hope to be doing a lot better in the near future. But the fact is, I have made some money writing and I've been able to turn it into a respectable full time business. The secret to this success is a little anti-climatic: I wrote. Really, that is all there is to it. You find something you’re interested in, and then you write an article on it. You then grab the latest Writer's Market and find where you can sell that piece. If that idea doesn't appeal to you, you jump on the the writing job boards and start writing query letters to all the businesses there. Then you don't give up, and keep on repeating this process. I don't really want to turn this post into a 'how to' article, so I'm not going to elaborate (but I'm sure I'll be moved to write something like that in the future), but the key to success is perseverance and writing. You don't have either of those, then you mind as well stick with whatever job is working for you now. It was pretty simple how I got to where I am now, though that doesn't mean it didn't take a lot of work and anxiety.

Though, I do think I made some mistakes, and it has caused me to re-evaluate my business plan and strategies. I'm currently in a spot where I deal with a middle man a lot, rather than directly work with the client. I have a suspicious feeling that I could be making a lot more money and gaining a lot more work if I connected directly with the clients who need stuff done for them. I’ve read quite a few sites that talked about the importance of sending out marketing letters directly to companies, and how that is the key step to really expanding your business. I decided to stick with the using job posting boards, partly because I didn't feel like I was established enough to market my talents and wasn’t really comfortable sending out cold letters to companies that may have no interest in writing. The job posting board route did work for me, but I am starting to sense it might be time to make that next big step for my career..

For the most part, I am pretty happy with my current spot on the writing career totem pole. I'm still pretty close to the ground, but I sense I am rising. I at least now have a portfolio and experience that will allow me to become more appealing to the bigger businesses that I decide to promote my wares to. Now, I've also read a lot of sites that claim it is really important to have niche and to focus on a specific type of writing (e.g. SEO writing for real estate). I've blatantly ignored that type of advice and plan to continue to do that, until I have actual evidence that it is hurting my potential to make money.

Instead, I've actually been writing on a huge variety of topics and writing in several different fields. I think this strategy works because 1) it keeps me interested because I don't get bored doing the same kind of writing every single day and 2) it means I have multiple revenue streams going and so if one dreis up for a bit, I still have the other type of work to fall back on. Plus I never envisioned myself as a strictly SEO or ad copy writer, and so I am less inclined to make that my full time selling point. I also have an insatiable ego that needs to be fed, and so I have to occasionally do some work that gives me a byline, which SEO and ad copy never will. I like mixing things up with doing opinion pieces or journalism or book reviews or whatever else I can convince someone to allow me to write for money. Of course, you probably remember that my dream since I was very young was to be a published author. I don't want to close any door that will improve my chances of getting a novel or book published in the next few years or so. For me, it makes more sense to have lots of different writing going on rather than perfect a certain niche.

It does mean I'm busy. I do think I work way more than I should for amount of money I am making, but I also hope that is just the reality of starting out in the arena self employment. It is a matter of going against my nature and start planning for the next several months worth of goals and decide how I'm going to get to a spot where I am being paid what I'm worth (to be fair, I do think a few of my client are paying me what I'm worth -- but the goal is to get all clients in that ballpark). It's been an exciting last few weeks and I am sure things will get more exciting and unfortunately, more anxiety ridden.

I'll definitely keep you all updated on this little journey of mine and hopefully, it will aid others who have similar dreams and goals. I'm now going to do that whole write for money thing. You have a Friday full of awesome.


  1. Anonymous2:44 pm

    Marlene Mark Werkema via Facebook:

    Cool. PS If you like being paid for your parttime job there is a paycheque there for you....

  2. Thanks. I snagged it last night.

  3. Anonymous3:27 pm

    Heather Badhouse via Facebook:

    Nice post...what types of places is your stuff being published? magazines? newpapers? I am curious...

  4. I'll actually have a good deal of stuff published in various media over the next few weeks. Though the majority of my work has been ghost written ad copy. I am definitely looking forward to my first few bylines.


Post a Comment