Five Tips For Surviving Your First Year As A Freelance Writer

Five Tips For Surviving Your First Year As A Freelance Writer

Today we’ve got a guest post from the amazing Ruth over at Ruth Makes Money. This girl is a freelance juggernaut and what she doesn’t know about surving the self employed lifestyle isn’t worth knowing!

Your first year as a freelance writer is inevitably one that’s peppered with wins, losses, ups, downs, and a whole load of lessons learned. There’ll be days when you feel like you’ve cracked it, and there’ll be days when you wish you’d never even started in the first place.

By the end of the 12 months though, you’ll have cut your writing teeth, and hopefully have a growing small business under your belt with the potential to pocket you a generous sum of cash each month. But how can you increase your chances of success, and make the experience both productive and profitable?

Here are my tips for surviving your first year as a freelance writer…

Always be pitching

The feast or famine cycle is something that many freelancers know all too well. One week, you’ve got work coming out your ears and you can hardly keep up. The next, you’ve got absolutely nothing booked into your diary and you’re seriously anxious about where your next cheque will be coming from. To an extent, it’s the nature of the beast. Highs and lows are to be expected. But there’s plenty you can do to take matters into your own hands and sidestep the low points.

If you want a continuous pipeline of clients, make pitching for work an every day activity. Some freelancers worry that they’ll end up with way too much to handle. Remember though that you won’t get every job you pitch for, and having more offers of work than you strictly need puts you in an extremely strong position. This is when you can start to pick and choose the projects you work on, and raise your fees in line with the demand.

Get your systems and processes in order 

Freelance writing isn’t simply about churning out some words and then having the cash magically deposited into your bank account. You’re essentially a small business owner, and that means that there’s admin to be taken care of to ensure that you’re delivering a professional service to your clients, and that things run smoothly behind the scenes. 

Consider your client onboarding process… What information do you need from them to get started, and how are you going to get that? How often will you invoice for your projects, and do you have the right documentation ready to go? And how are you keeping track of your income and expenditure to make life easier once it’s time to sort your tax return? This kind of stuff might seem a bit boring, but you’ll thank yourself for getting organised sooner rather than later. 

Step away from being a Jack of all Trades 

During my first few months as a freelancer, I wrote about everything from sex toys to Spanish holiday rentals. It was all experience. But I did quickly realise that when I pitched for work in a niche that I had a deeper knowledge of from my days in the corporate world, magical things happened. I could charge much higher rates, and I was almost always offered the job straightaway. 

Your potential clients don’t want another generic writer who’ll have a go at anything. They want someone who really knows their stuff. By being an expert rather than a generalist, you can quite quickly position yourself as the go-to person for content on that particular subject. That means less competition, and more cash. 

Know when to say no 

You’ll be eager to please your new clients and go above and beyond to keep them coming back for more. That’s great, but know that you don’t always have to say yes to everything. If a client repeatedly asks you to put in a load of hours over the weekend when that wasn’t part of your initial agreement, then that might be a conversation that you need to have. 

Equally, realise that you don’t have to accept all the work that comes your way. Projects with super low rates might just not be worth your time. Having some healthy boundaries in place will prevent you from hitting the stage where you’re totally burnt out, and make sure that you’re in the right kind of mindset for turning freelance writing into a long-term opportunity. 

Consider your longer-term plan

Your first year as a freelancer is mainly about getting stuck into writing projects and getting some experience under your belt. No matter how much you love writing though, you realise how mentally taxing it can become when you’re working with multiple clients. 

Do remember to take a step back from time to time and assess where you’re going. Do you want to rely solely on your writing income, or is it wise to diversify? Could you develop an income stream that’s slightly more passive, in case you’re ill or can’t work for a while for whatever reason? Don’t try to run before you can walk, but schedule regular checkpoints into your diary so you can assess how you’re doing, and where you ultimately want your writing to take you.

During your first year, you’ll make plenty of mistakes. They’re just part of the journey, and they all help you to work out exactly how you want to run your freelance business.

Taking action in these five areas though will put you way ahead of the curve, and increase your chances of ending the year having created something that you can truly be proud of, and that’ll serve you for a long time to come.

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