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Freelance Writing: Planning Your Writing Business

Updated on May 12, 2012

Are you currently earning income from your writing? Do you claim this on your taxes? If answers to both of these questions are "yes," then you are an entrepreneur. Running your own writing business, while it is a challenging endeavor, does have many advantages. Typically a writer has no other employees or staff and pretty much handles everything from promotion to accounting and everything in between on their own. The real challenge, I think, is trying to enjoy life as a wordsmith but running a profitable business all the while.

"The professional writer understands that what they do is valuable and runs their career first and foremost as a business..."

Writing can be several different things to many people. It can be an art, skill, hobby or a passion. Unless you have money and wealth that is in unending supply, writing must first be a business, and all businesses require a plan of some kind. Many writers tend to think that their creativity and passion for writing will falter and that their loyalty and devotion to their craft will be divided. They believe that looking at their writing as a business, in effect dishonors it somehow.

The professional writer understands that what they do is valuable and therefore runs their career first and foremost as a business. Their understanding is that viewing it as such actually provides them with the capability to commit more of themselves, dedicate the creativity the craft deserves, putting more energy into what they do. This type of mindset is actually the complete opposite of what many writers think. We tend to see it the other way around.

You can commit to excellence in your craft, producing unique, engaging and polished copy but then getting paid as we all know takes a completely distinct skill-set. Just like finding worthwhile wordsmithing work, this too is a balancing act: respecting the craft of writing and all it requires while making a reasonable livelihood off of it. Unless you have no intention of earning from your efforts, it is essential to plan and the first step to that is understanding your economic requirements and situation. This is done by determining what it takes for you to live each month, and not barely scraping by, but reasonably.

As you list your expenses consider: housing, utilities, food, clothing, transportation costs, entertainment, insurance, retirement savings and investments. This will equal what you need to make every single month. It will be a big number, however it is a goal which means that it is a starting point that in time you are likely to realize.

Figuring Your Hourly Rate

Your hourly rate is derived by taking what is necessary for you to live each month and then dividing that number by the amount of time you have available to work during the month on average. It is important to be realistic. Don't say, "I can work for straight 30 days or so for 20 hours each day." Allow for time off, holidays and appointments. And this varies from person to person. For instance, the single writer with no children or spouse will very likely have more time available, so will have a completely different working schedule than that of a married mother of 5 or a single parent. Each writer's daily life is different.

Keep in mind that your rate per hour is a goal, however it is also an average. Some days your hourly rate will be more and other times it will be less. There will be those situations where you'll accept work that pays a lower rate because there is some other attractive benefit such as a quick payment turn-around or the opportunity to break into a new market. Do not give yourself the easy excuse of giving up because you are not yet making the amount of money you want to.

Now, based on this information you can actually PLAN.

Some Hard & Fast Rules:

1. Whatever you do, do not give up! Do not give yourself the easy excuse of throwing in the towel because you are not making the amount of money you want to right now.

2. Do not rely on a good month to carry you through a bad one. Maintain the same effort and save the extra.

3. Avoid annoying clients.

4. Pay close attention to how long it takes for clients to pay you and plan accordingly.

5. Promote and market yourself. Never let up on the work hunt. Plan for volume.

6. When you see a shortfall coming, consider changing your work schedule around to boost the total income that will come in by scheduling writing assignments that even if lower-paying, results in quick cash.

Planning Boils Down to 3 Essential Things

Planning your writing business means that you have to manage income, sales and clients, which when first starting out can seem very complicated. You do get used to it after a while as it becomes simply part of your daily affairs, with practice. Meeting your goals requires that you make certain to obtain enough work, which if you are a working writer, you know is not easy. Every dime you earn comes from completing a piece of work for a client whether that client happens to be a corporation, newspaper, magazine or an online company. The thing writers must do when considering the money to be made is to look at what all a project entails (sales) as well as the aspects of dealing with the client. The rate of cash earned is directly affected by these two things.


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    • AuniceReed profile image

      Aunice Yvonne Reed 5 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks, formese. @LisaMarie724, I agree with you. It is easy to not be motivated. To me, discipline is big here because there is no one doing the motivating but Y-O-U! @htodd, sounds like you have streamlined your business. That's a great idea. Less stress and all.

    • fomese profile image

      fomese 5 years ago from abuja nigeria

      true talk aunice

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      I run my writing business through my website ..Though, I have a company

    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 5 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      Great tips, its so easy to lack motivation at times as a writer but if you think of it as a business aka your job your likely to get back on the horse (or laptop) lol. Thanks for sharing.

    • AuniceReed profile image

      Aunice Yvonne Reed 5 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks to all who stopped by to read this hub. Treating writing as a business is sooo hard for me, because I just want to write stuff. I don't want to haggle with pay, and's boring!

    • GALAXY 59 profile image

      GALAXY 59 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a great hub! As someone who is trying to find a way to earn a much needed income that will fit my resticterd lifestyle,(I am a RA sufferer)this is very useful.

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Well written, lots of good information on treating writing as a business, I like this. vote up and shared.

    • John MacNab profile image

      John MacNab 5 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

      Thank you aunicereed. I need more than a kick in the pants.

    • JSParker profile image

      JSParker 5 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Thanks, I needed some motivation!

    • AuniceReed profile image

      Aunice Yvonne Reed 5 years ago from Southern California

      I'm glad this has been helpful, everyone. I actually wrote this to refresh and get myself back in gear. @Daughter of Maat, I was the one who really needed a "kick in the pants!"

    • MsLofton profile image

      MsLofton 5 years ago from IL

      This are great tips! Thanks

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg COA OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Great hub. It helped to get me motivated again to really push myself to write regardless of whether or not I think I can finish a sentence (I have writer's block frequently). Like Victoria said, I, too, really need to focus and that's not easy when I'm homeschooling, cleaning, cooking AND writing. I need to work on scheduling. Thanks so much for the kick in the pants! :D

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      All good tips. I'm trying to get a freelance career going, and one thing I've found is that I really need to focus. What is the next step? And the next one? Etc.... That's what I'm working on figuring out. Thanks for this encouraging hub.