Make a Living Freelance Writing In 8 Steps
Now that I am learning that so many of us are working on multiple projects, and building multiple streams of income, I wanted to know how one can earn a living freelance writing! Ty Schmidt, a reporter turned freelance writer seemed the best person to ask! Below is what her vast experience has to say!
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By Ty Schmidt
When I was a little girl, I wrote in my diary every single day about heaven knows what. When I was 15, I started writing for a national, bi-monthly magazine written for teens, by teens. After having major knee surgery in 2012, I took to a personal blog and creatively chronicled my recovery. And in May of this year I took about as humongous a leap of faith as they come. I quit my job as a reporter for one of the largest newspaper corporations in the country to try my luck as a freelance writer.
Even more important than that, I wanted to be a mom to my two boys as opposed to the full-time zombie version of myself I had somehow morphed into.
So I made it happen. Kind of.
Because after juggling a full-time job and two side projects leading up to my departure from all of it, I was exhausted. I needed to just take a second and breathe a huge, restorative breath. The timing worked well; it was the start of summer and only a few weeks passed before I was suddenly an expert in the best splash pads and wading pools in the area. But it wasn’t long before I missed writing again, not to mention that checking account was desperately calling my name.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far about making a living from being a freelance writer:
1) Believe in yourself.
I know it sounds cliché, but this was the first step for me as I started building what has become a relatively successful freelance business. I needed to flip off the switch in my brain telling me I wanted to “be a writer” and realize that I already was.
2) It’s okay to take a breather.
Mine lasted a couple of weeks, and it was probably the best decision I’ve made (aside from quitting my job, of course). Money was tight, but I joked I was like Alanis in her iconic “Ironic” lyrics. “I’m broke, but I’m happy,” I told people. And for a while it was true. Then I knew it was time to get to work.
3) Do your research.
Take some time to understand the different freelance writing options that are available out there. From Freelancer to Textbroker, there are tons out there to choose from. Each operates differently with unique ways of handling things like fees and work flow. Get to know which kind of platform works best for you and stick to it.
4) Start branding.
Networking and marketing yourself has never been easier than it is today, with all things social media to thank. Develop a brand for yourself just like you would if you were starting up a company – because you are! The basics like Facebook and Instagram are a good place to start, but I found other resources like contently.com to be incredibly helpful as well. Contently offers you a place to organize your online portfolio in a succinct and easily shared profile, which is an incredibly valuable tool as you move forward with your business.
5) Choose what works.
I was just so excited to get started that I registered everywhere, including Textbroker, Freelancer and Upwork. In theory, they’re all the same: you register, you browse for work and apply for jobs. In practice, it didn’t take me long to realize that was an unreasonable, unfocused and unmanageable technique. Instead, I settled on using Upwork as my work flow management system. Using Google Drive for file sharing purposes and Slack for communication purposes, everything else I do is managed through Upwork.
Benefits to using Upwork. Clients use the system to assign work, keep track of deadlines and issue payment. While the fees charged against the work are a downside, Upwork functions as a third party protector that facilitates payment. If a client refuses to pay for work, Upwork will defend you – a benefit I decided early on was worth paying for.
Tips on growing your Upwork business. Gaining momentum on Upwork is as easy or challenging as you make it, but the first and most important step you can take is to edit your profile to say you’re an English speaking native. At first, my profile simply stated I spoke English – not that I was a native English speaker. Within minutes of making that tiny tweak, I received almost a half dozen invitations to interview.
Choose your Upwork clients wisely. At first it can be tempting to take every job you’re offered. Yet that is what I would easily deem as my most painful mistake. The point was to make some extra money while keeping the real focus on raising my sons. The point wasn’t to get myself into a situation where I was working long hours on nights and weekends to keep up with the demands. You can afford to be choosey with the jobs you take, and you will be better (not to mention more sane) for it.
Communicate with Upwork clients your way. Upwork does have its own messaging system, but it’s clunky and a little more of a hassle to use than other apps, like Slack, which facilitates communication with multiple team members.
6) Stay organized.
Deadlines are stressful despite being flexible in most cases. If you’re like me, your schedule will rely greatly on when (and if) your children are napping or go to bed. I’ve found it most helpful to build myself a work “schedule” that I try my best to stick to throughout the week. Sure, things come up. The boys both got sick and had to go to the doctor this week, for example, which threw a wrench into my entire work flow. That’s where staying organized pays dividends.
7) Know your worth.
Understanding pricing can get complicated, especially on Upwork when you’re dealing with a sliding fee scale. However, do not let that stop you from figuring out what your time is worth and sticking to it. Because your business is worth it. You are worth it!
8) Remember your “why.”
This is the last and probably most pertinent element to making a living as a writer while simultaneously being a mom. For me, being a mom always comes first. For me, my kids are my “why,” and nothing will get in the way of that. They inspire me on a daily basis with their silly antics and I wouldn’t trade my time from home with them for the world.
There are days. You know the ones. The days where you honestly feel like you might just pass out from chasing around two randomly hyper toddlers all day while trying to squeeze in a quick blog post (or three) and still remember to feed yourself something more than discarded Goldfish crackers or apple slices. The days when you literally count down the seconds until bedtime, but know it’s not quite the same because you need to work after the kids fall asleep.
I never thought about those kinds of days all those years ago when I was writing in my diary. And they happen all the time. But so do the good days. Like summer afternoons watching my boys splash around together at our favorite wading pool. Or when my older son tells me he loves me randomly after we finished reading “Little Blue Truck” for the millionth time. Or when my little guy said mama for the first times. I was there for all of those special moments because of the choices I’ve made. Those are the days that inspire me. Those are the days that remind me I’ve done the write thing.