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Friday, September 15, 2006

Making Money From Freelance Writing

Freelance writing is like any other business. Any business person (or affiliate marketer) will tell you that the bedrock of the business is in repeats. That's the people who keep paying year after year without your having to do anything more. That doesn't work well for freelance writing. But what does work is getting repeat business. As with any business, work where you don't have to resell yourself is money in the bank.

Freelance Writing - Show Me The Money

For freelance writers that means one of two things. Repeat work from clients who know your writing and use you as their first choice, or a regular writing contract that means there's a bit of your income you don't have to chase as long as you keep delivering. The less time you have to spend promoting, the more time you can spend on writing (promotion IS important, too, but that's another story).

I've been lucky. Since I started full time (ish) freelancing a year ago, I've met a few people who liked my writing and brought me new work. So much so, that it's been about two months since I've bid for any work. The less time I spend bidding, the more I spend writing. Then, just before I left the UK, I hit the mini-jackpot. Someone saw my site and my CV (this is where my promotion paid off) and approached me to write daily blog posts on the UK financial market. I can't say who, because it's ghostwriting, so it's confidential.

Freelance Writing Lessons

I broke the payment into an upfront retainer (small, but enough to make sure that if I don't get paid at the end of the month, I won't be too far out of pocket) and a per-post fee. This should ensure that I make just under a quarter of my (rockbottom) monthly target from that source. (I make a slightly lower proportion of my get rich quick and retire target). Lesson number one is to work out how much of your work time you will spend on the job and price to match.

By the end of the first week, I was asked to increase the length of the posts and the quantity. I said yes to the first but no to the second. The reason is that I need to earn a certain amount of money to pay my bills and this client cannot pay me enough of a retainer for me to give up the chance to do other work. So lesson number two is to make sure you don't get so much repeat work that you have no time to do lucrative writing jobs when they come up.

Then my client asked me a question: 'what happens if you're sick or go on holiday?'. Yikes, I hadn't thought of that - and I should have. We all assume we'll always be ok until we aren't - and then it's too late. So I asked a friend with experience in the market whether she could cover for me in those cases. And I also asked whether she wanted to mop up the extra work he had going. So I did both my friend and my client a favour. Lesson number three: always have a contingency plan for your freelance writing work.

What I'd like to find now is another client who will operate on a similar basis. I'd like to have at least half my income come from this sort of work. That would mean I could almost always pay the bills (because my job is portable, I'm the main earner at the moment) but wouldn't be too dependent on one source. Lesson number four: diversify.

So to recap, I've now got:

  • an agency that puts lots of work my way
  • a client on contract who should (fingers crossed) pay me for the next year
  • two clients who give me writing work when they have it
  • occasional work from Lifetips
  • some paid blog postings

And I didn't do all this alone. Some of it was promotion, but a lot came from tips and introductions from other writing friends, gracepub in particular. Lesson number five is: you never know how or when the contacts you make will help you. One of the things I've enjoyed most about this site is the friends I've made here. They've given me advice on everything from website development, to networking, to publishing. And I've met a lot of fellow freelance writers who have shared their tips and experience. Thanks, everyone.

Freelance Writing on Inspired Author

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