3 Things to Think About Before Starting As a Freelance Writer (Part I)
Updated: Feb 5
Jumping into a freelance lifestyle seems like a no-brainer. I mean, who doesn’t want to work for themselves and set their own schedule?
With an estimated 59 million people freelancing in the U.S. (as of 2020) and another 30 million expected to join them in the next five years, it’s safe to say, a lot of people are choosing the freelance life.
While the benefits are many, freelance writing isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Yeah, there is no such thing as a salary cap–you choose how much you charge. And technically, you don’t have an answer to any one boss--because, after all, you work for yourself.
Yes. You work for yourself. You are the boss, but have you considered what this means when it comes to your finances?
What about tracking your workload, crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, and actually, you know, getting all the work done? Spoiler alert: it means that it’s all falling on you.
Ooof. For some, it’s no big deal. This is their cup of tea. But if you’re someone who is on the fence about whether they should or shouldn’t jump on the freelance train, first, read on about three things you should be giving a lot of thought to before making a decision.
You don’t like to talk about finances
Freelance life is synonymous with financial freedom. Which is all fine and good, except, you don’t like to talk about money. Seriously, finances make you cringle. You physically feel your nose wrinkle at the mention of rates.
Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to be talking and thinking about all the financial things. And what's more, record keeping is incredibly important when it comes to tracking income, expenses, and tax payments (no, worries--I've got you covered).
You have to set your own rates
You have an idea of what you should be charging. There are plenty of resources out there that give you a snapshot of what industry standards look like, but a lot of it is clear as mud.
What experience do you have? What kind of services will you provide? How much do you need to make to maintain a lifestyle you find comfortable? Don’t get me wrong, there are no right or wrong answers, but you have to know what you need.
Invoices shouldn’t be hard--and yet
Remember back when you worked for someone else? You punched a clock, or filled out a timecard, or were salaried, and the magic money fairies always made sure that deposit hit your account, same day, same time. Well, ideally, that’s how it should work when you invoice. But it isn’t always the case.
Join any freelance community on the internet, and you’ll find no short supply of horror stories. But, just because most of us have this experience, doesn’t mean you have to.
Keeping safe fails in place, like having a good amount of savings in the bank (if you’re only relying on this income) or clauses in your contract about late payment and failure to pay.
The Devil is in the Details: Proposals, Scope Creep, and Contracts
You’ve finally made initial contact with a client you’re thrilled to work with. So what are you waiting for? Get to work on that project ASAPITY! Ehh. Not so quick.
Do not race past go–because if you do, you could have a helluva hard time collecting your $200 (or whatever fee you set for yourself).
To protect yourself and keep expectations clear between you and your client, hammer out the details before anyone gets to work on anything.
Don’t worry, this might sound more daunting than it actually is. But to get you started, make sure to have a proposal and a contract handy.
A proposal is more or less what it sounds like. You’re proposing the specifics of your work together and what the expectations are for both of you.
I like to think of the proposal as a negotiation. It’s a set of terms you hammer out together, back and forth, until you’re both satisfied with the arrangement.
If you decide to skip this step, you run the risk of the infamous scope creep. You know, when your client adds a little thing here and extends a project there. Before you know it, they’ve changed and warped that initial agreement so far it’s become a whole other project–oh wait. You didn’t do that.
Take this as your sign, don’t be the freelancer who jumps in blindly. Don’t get me wrong, your client (probably) won’t do this intentionally. It's just, you’re just so good they want more and more–which they can have when they book another, separate project.