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Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Freelance Writer?

Updated on January 11, 2018
SMD2012 profile image

Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky clean and drama-free.

Before you switch gears and change careers find out if working as a freelance writer is a good fit for your personality and lifestyle.

Being a freelancer can be lonely sometimes.

Thinking about ditching the corporate suit and striking out on your own? Find out if you have what it takes to be a freelancer.
Thinking about ditching the corporate suit and striking out on your own? Find out if you have what it takes to be a freelancer.

Should I quit my day job to work as a freelance writer? Here are some tough questions to ask yourself before you hand in your resignation and strike out on your own as a writing entrepreneur.

When I say work I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.

— Margaret Laurence

There is nothing "free" about being a freelancer. If you want to make a living from your writing, you need to cultivate strong money management skills. Ask yourself if you have the financial habits of a successful freelance writer.

  • Are you committed to treating your freelance writing career like a small business? Are you willing to take care of the accounting, manage your paperwork, and log a good deal of time marketing yourself?
  • Do you have other sources of passive income that will help cover living costs while you build your freelancing business one client at a time? Passive sources of income can include royalties from print or web articles, affiliate ad revenue, or income from e-book sales.
  • If you don't have a passive source of income, do you have enough money set aside to pay the bills and support yourself and/or your family if you don’t earn money writing for the first six months?
  • Do you have the skills, ability, and motivation to take on a temporary job unrelated to writing if you find yourself in a financial pinch? How difficult or easy would it be for you to find a part-time job to help pay the bills while you work on your writing?
  • Have you discussed the financial sacrifices that you and your family may have to make while your freelance writing business grows?

Put a price tag on each of your writing goals. Before you quit your day job, map out your freelance writing goals and see if they match up with your financial goals. If you want to make money as a freelancer it’s not enough to set a goal of writing five articles a month without assessing whether those five articles a month will actually pay the bills. For example, if you think you can only write five 1,000 word articles a month, what would you have to charge for each of those articles in order to cover your costs? Would you be able to charge a competitive rate, or would your revenue expectations price you out of the market?

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

-- Douglas Adams

What are the personality traits of a productive freelancer? If you want to make money as a writer, then persistence, patience, and a strong belief in yourself are essential to your success. But remember, being passionate about writing is not enough. You must also approach your work with a degree of objectivity. You must be able to consistently monitor your progress towards reaching specific writing milestones and achievements.

  • Are you able to write because you have to, not because you want to? Are you disciplined enough to write because it’s your job, not because you have romantic ideas about what it means to be a freelancer?
  • Are you patient? Can you delay submitting a piece of your writing in order to properly edit and proofread it before it gets published? Or, do you tend to bump up against deadlines, leaving little time to properly edit and revise your work?
  • Can you handle rejection? Do you tend to take negative feedback personally, or do you embrace (justified) criticism as an opportunity to grow?

To achieve your freelancing writing goals, keep your eyes on your long-range targets (i.e.; netting $3,000 per month). But don’t forget to celebrate the achievement of reaching your short-term goals, too. For example, you may have a short-term goal of sending out 4 – 5 article submissions each month. But it may take some time for those submissions to actually result in paid freelance writing assignments. Even though you might not see a paycheck right away, pat yourself on the back for accomplishing some short-term goals. Building your business will take time, and it can be all too easy to give up if you feel like you're not making money quickly enough.

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them.

— Isaac Asimov

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them.

-- Isaac Asimov

How do you plan on promoting your freelance writing business? Every successful writer, or small business owner for that matter, must continually hone his/her networking skills. Don't assume that your talent for writing will sell itself. In the writing world, there's no such thing as "build it and they will come." Your success as a writer depends on your ability to promote yourself.

  • Are you comfortable calling yourself a professional freelance writer? Or, do you worry that people will think you don’t have a real job?
  • Do you know how to advertise your writing services and talk to strangers about what you do, what you write about, why you write about it, and who your audience is?
  • Do you currently participate in business networking associations, writing clubs, entrepreneurial groups, and other associations that help freelance writers build their businesses?
  • Do you know how to use social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter to market yourself as a writer and get work as a freelancer?

The ability to write well, and get your ideas across clearly and concisely while entertaining, inspiring, or informing your reading audience is only one aspect of making a living as a writer. Successful writers and entrepreneurs need to develop good habits that support both their creative and financial goals.

Does making a habit of getting up early each day help you get more done? Then keep doing that! On the other hand, if trying to work early in the morning is too challenging, then try to find a habitual writing time that does work for you. The key to success is consistency!

Are you excited about launching your freelance writing career? Great! Here's one last tip! Before you quit your job to work as an independent writing contractor, go to the library and do as much research as you can about the business side of a freelance writing life.

  • Read books on how to get past writer's block and cope with creative dry spells. Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way has been helping writers find and nurture their creative muses for years.
  • Polish your writing and editing skills with books by famous writing experts such as William Zinsser and E.B. White.

If you want to build a thriving freelance writing career, remember that you're accountable to yourself first, last, and always. No one but you, and your dream to be a successful writer, can move yourself forward.

The video on time management tips is helpful for freelancers who want to take control of their careers and get more done!

© 2013 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment

  • kikalina profile image

    kikalina 4 years ago from Europe

    Very good advice. If you want freelancing to work, you can't look at it as a hobby. Sharing.

  • OldRoses profile image

    Caren White 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

    Totally awesome! So many articles about being a freelance writer just tout the idea without looking at the practicalities. This hub takes a clear-eyed look at what it really takes to be a freelance writer. Bravo!

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    These are really helpful guidelines. My problem is that I want to keep working on my own stuff instead of someone else' my own blog or working on a novel. Fortunately I have another source of income. Thanks!

  • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

    PurvisBobbi44 4 years ago from Florida


    Great hub, and I know it takes a plan-ahead person to have assets to live on as well as a detail and organized. It is a job one has to manage on their own, so it's not for the soft-hearted but a strong determined person.

    This was interesting and useful.

    Bobbi Purvis

  • rlleon42 profile image

    rlleon42 5 years ago from United States

    Awesome! Teach me wise one. I am impressed. Keep writing and sharing your insights. You're contributions are very much appreciated.

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

    Good advice for anyone considering freelance writing. You seem to have attacked the subject with vigor and honesty.

    Voted up, useful, and interesting.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Most interesting and informative, about a freelancer I have learned more here on What It Takes to Be a Freelance Writer?

  • LisaKoski profile image

    Lisa 5 years ago from WA

    I've read a lot of articles in this topic but you still managed to make points and share information that I have never seen before. Thanks so much! I have been considering becoming a freelance writer for some time but currently don't have the time I'd like to to really get started. I will definitely pass along the info to those in need!