Financial Signs Freelance Writing Isn't Right for You

A lot of people have the wrong idea about freelance writing. Being able to write 500 words on a single topic doesn’t mean you’re cut out for freelance writing. Even having impeccable writing skills doesn’t mean you’ll have a long, successful writing career. That’s because freelance writing is part craft, part business. Without the financial habits of a successful business owner, there’s a low likelihood that you’ll make it as a freelance writer. Some signs freelance writing isn’t right for you…

You think freelance writing is easy money.

If you’re looking for an easy way to make money, freelance writing isn’t it. Sometimes the writing itself may be easy – if you’re writing about something you’re familiar with. But freelance writing is more than writing: you have to establish yourself, find and pitch to clients, come up with topics, send invoices and collect payment, keep track of income, and pay your own taxes. Still think freelance writing is easy?

You’re looking for a passive source of income.

A friend of mine once asked how she could get started in freelance writing because she was looking for a passive income stream. I struggled between laughing and feeling insulted. Because of everything I listed before re: easy money, there is nothing passive about freelance writing. I explained that there are ways to create passive revenue streams using writing skills – ebooks, ereports, and the like – but even those require set up and marketing. Plus, that’s not really freelance writing.

You want to have just one well-paying client.

I’m not sure you’re really a freelance writer if you only have one client. That’s not much different from having a full-time employer, except you probably won’t get any employee benefits. Plus, if that client suddenly decides not to use your services anymore, you’ll have to figure out how to replace that client quickly. That’s not easy if you’ve been too complacent to market yourself all along.

You don’t manage your money well.

Freelance writing income can fluctuate from week to week and month to month. If you have trouble managing a regular, steady income, you may have even more trouble managing an irregular freelance writing income. To be able to depend solely on writing income, you must have some basic financial habits in place.

You're afraid to charge higher rates.

My theory is the lower your rates are, the shorter your freelance career will be. If you're only getting $5 to $10 per article, you'll eventually burn out trying to make enough money to survive. Do a little reverse math to see how much you should be charging. Start with how much you want to make each month, divide that by how many articles you can write each month and that number is what you should charge for each article. To keep freelance writing, you have to be willing to do what it takes to command that rate.

You lack the discipline to save.

Because writing income can fluctuate, saving is critical, especially when your income is high. You’ll also have to set aside money each month for your taxes. Trust me, it’s tough to save so much of your income for something that doesn’t have obvious benefits. But saving is much easier than scraping to come up with several thousand dollars at tax time.

Truthfully, you can overcome anything on this list if you’re willing to change how you think about freelance writing and how you manage your money. You just have to decide that it's worth it.

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LaToya Irby is a full-time freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Alabama. She primarily writes about personal finance, freelancing, and other self-employment topics.

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4 thoughts on “Financial Signs Freelance Writing Isn't Right for You”

  1. This is a great article for anyone who wants to begin a freelance writing career. Most writers make freelance writing sound glamorous, but the reality is it’s a business that needs to be built over time.

    If you’re single, you may want to begin freelance writing on a part-time basis. This way you won’t freak out when your rent/mortgage, utilities, etc. are due each month. You can slowly build your business.

    If you’re married or living with a partner who makes a decent living, you may be lucky enough to quit your job and focus on freelance writing full-time.

    *Please don’t allow other freelancer writers to ‘shame’ you into thinking there is something wrong with working a full-time job while building your freelance writing career. You never know. The company you’re working for could become a future client.

    • I agree. This is exactly how I made the transition to full-time freelancing. I think it’s a good way to test out a freelancing career without jeopardizing the job that pays the bills.

  2. Thank you, LaToya, for stating the facts. When a librarian I know was in danger of being downsized, her attitude was, “I can just become a freelance writer, like you.” The implication being if I can freelance, it must be easy. Ha!

    I would never want anyone to lose a job, but I have to admit part of me wanted to see her try freelancing and fail miserably at it. Worst part? She’s thinks she’s a good writer, but she’s not. Fortunately, her job was safe.


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