All in business of freelancing
I was listening to a podcast the other day about how the professional lifespan of many freelance writers is only a couple of years. The burnout rate of freelancers is incredibly high - the constant hustling, the rejection, the isolation … the list goes on. I’m someone who tends to give up on things at the drop of a hat, so it got me thinking about why I’ve been able to stick with freelancing for nine years. And why I can’t even think of doing anything else. I slowly realised it’s because I treat freelance writing like a garden. No, I’m not 78 years old and about to wax lyrical about the properties of petunias. Stay with me here.
It would be easy to read this blog and think that I’m all about money. I share my income, I talk about how to find high-paying clients and the importance of having a monthly income target. But the truth is, money doesn’t drive me. It never has. But what does drive me (and what money gives me) is time, freedom and flexibility. And that’s why I’m always going to share ways in which writers can boost their income.
Recently I’ve had some great opportunities come my way. International press trips, speaking gigs, offers of work from editors and high-paying corporate gigs. These are things that a year ago or even six months ago I would have jumped at. But lately, I’ve realised something very important about these opportunities.
Lots of freelance writers I know offer press release writing as one of their services, as it is a great way of diversifying what they offer to clients. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of terrible releases. I’ve also received a few good ones, but those have been few and far between. I was recently chatting to a copywriting friend and web designer about what makes a good press release and she suggested I share the secrets of writing a killer press release.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a little while you’ll know that 2017 and 2018 were huge years for me. I went full time as a freelance writer in 2017 and hit $100K worth of commissioned work by November. In 2018 I worked part time, but still managed to hit a similar income level ($120K). But despite having a couple of hugely successful years, this year I’ve decided to ease up a little.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why some freelance writers prosper while others, despite their obvious talent, struggle to get long-term traction. I think it’s a combination of lots of things, but lately I’ve realised that there’s one characteristic that is absolutely crucial to you earning more money as a freelance writer, and happily, it’s one that you can improve.
Overwhelm happens to me more than I’d like to admit. I’ll be chugging along happily and then panic-stricken thoughts will hit. How are you going to fit all this in? You’ve forgotten to set up that interview. What if all those people you sent LOIs to are interested? I want to pitch a new editor but I have no ideas. And so on. My theory is that overwhelm is super common amongst freelance writers because we have so much freedom to determine what we want to do, but often that means we feel like we have to do everything.
Freelance medical writing is a money-making specialty that’s interesting and offers plenty of work. And even better, you don’t need experience to get started. If you love to write and can understand health and medicine, you can become a freelance medical writer. That’s exactly what happened to American writer Lori De Milto when she started out as a medical writer — within 18 months, she was making six figures.
It’s a hectic time of year and if you’re anything like me, you don’t really want any new emails lobbing into your inbox at the moment. So I hope you’ll excuse the indulgence, but I thought I’d write a round-up post, of what I think are 10 of the most valuable blog posts I’ve written over the past two years.
I have never been a runner. In fact, I’m not really a huge fan of exercise in general. My relationship with exercise has always been sporadic – I’ve played tennis, gone swimming, done a couple of years when I was really into spin classes, dabbled in yoga, but apart from a three month stint when I was 15, I’ve never been a runner. But recently I took up running and had an epiphany that changed the way I look at my business.
There’s a lot to think about when you start working with a new client. It’s imperative that you have a clear brief, a detailed scope of work and set deliverables. I’ve found that if you don’t have these from the outset, a productive and stress-free working relationship can be very difficult to achieve. By having an established project intake process, you’re much more likely to get the information you need and be able to judge if the project is a good fit for you.
We are only five weeks away from the new year. I’m not really one for new year’s resolutions, but I do love to reflect and take stock on where things are at and think about what the next stage of my freelance writing business might look like. With December and January looming, it’s important to carve out some time to think about your approach for 2019. Here are 4 ways to help make 2019 your best year yet.
One of the keys aspects of being a successful freelance writer is diversifying. While that may sound like spreading yourself thin, in fact it’s the opposite. Diversifying means that if one part of your business (like writing for a particular client or magazine) takes a dive, it’s only going to cause a small ripple. But diversification is much more than how many clients you have or the type of writing you do – it’s a whole way of looking at your business, guaranteeing (as much as you can) that you’re not going to be a freelance flash in the pan.
I am such a fan of podcasts - in fact, I think the podcast app on my iPhone is the one I use most. I don’t think you can underestimate the power of a podcast - it was listening to Ed Gandia’s podcast that made me realise I could make a living from being a freelance writer. In March 2017 I wrote a post about the four podcasts that I believed every freelance writer should listen to, but two of the podcasts I recommended don’t release new episodes any more, so it’s time for an update.
There’s no doubt that many small businesses need freelance writers, and I know some freelancers who specialise in creating content for smaller organisations. When I started out full time freelancing in 2017 I actively pursued small businesses as part of my marketing strategy, but over the last 18 months I’ve learnt that probably wasn’t the wisest decision.
I know it may appear that I’ve got this whole freelance writing thing sorted. Yes, I earn a very good income from my writing, I love what I do and most of the time I write quickly and can get a lot done in a short amount of time. But I am also quite the procrastinator.
I am definitely not someone who nerds-out on the newest freelance writing apps or writers' organisational tools, but I have to say, there are a lot of super helpful (and easy to use) tools that can make a freelance writer's life so much easier. In this post I've rounded up the best tools I've found for freelance writers - I use them all and they have saved me time, money or a mental breakdown (and at times, all three).
In the last eight months, I have coached over 30 different freelance writers. I've worked with writers in person, over Skype, and from all over the world including Australia, the USA, France, the Philippines and Mexico. I wasn't 100 per cent sure about becoming a freelance writing coach, but it's become one of my favourite parts of the job. Many writers I coach aren't making the income they want, so I think it's imperative that if you are going to pay for professional support, that you get the most out of it.
The other day I suddenly realised that there's something important I haven't shared with you. I know it may seem that my transition to becoming a full time freelance writer was relatively seamless and easy, but actually, I had a false start, years before I went full time in 2017.
One of the qualities that is crucial for freelancers to have is generosity. I really believe that the 'soft' attributes of openness, kindness and big-heartedness are just as important as technical skills for freelance writers. I'm part of writing groups and communities that are incredibly generous - especially with sharing contact details for editors. But recently I've started thinking about what happens when writers and journalists don't source their own contacts.