Most people think being a freelancer means you watch your favorite Netflix series all day, and spend a few hours working. Not so. It’s hard work, which is riddled with uncertainty. Feast or famine periods are common in every freelance industry but you can take steps to avoid financial catastrophes.
Here are some things I’ve learned in my six years as a writer:
Create a realistic budget and do your best to stick to it. Take these expenses into account (this will vary if you have children or other dependents):
Survival: Rent or mortgage, groceries, utilities, transportation, and internet, which you need for work.
Debt: Student loans, credit cards, and even taxes.
Additional expenses: Medical and car insurance.
A small allowance for the occasional splurge.
Savings: Aim for 10%, but start with whatever you can afford.
Read the fine print on your debts. You may be able to reduce fees on certain things by paying them off faster. Some student loans are eligible for reduced payments and some can be deferred during tough circumstances. Once you have your budget, you know what you aim to earn and how many clients you’ll need, especially for the first three items on this list. This budget is only a skeleton and you can modify it depending on additional factors (medical issues, children/dependents, etc).
Join writer’s groups, even if they’re only on Facebook. Writer’s groups offer a sense of community, can be a source of inspiration when you face writer’s block, and could connect you to writers who have more work than they can handle. They may be able to throw you a bone when you need it most.
Keep track of clients who owe you money. Sometimes “famine” actually means a major client hasn’t paid you for completed work. Most companies focus on their actual employees while freelancers may have to send gentle reminders of past-due bills. Your first inquiry doesn’t need to be drastic. Anyone can forget to file one invoice! If you notice an evasive pattern, give them a courtesy call, follow up by email, and keep records of all communications. Most people come around far sooner than this but don’t be afraid to be persistent about this within professional boundaries. Your work is valuable and you deserve to be paid on time.
Talk to past or current clients. They may be a great source of additional work. You can tell them that you’ve recently become available to take on more assignments, or ask if there’s anything you can do to continue expanding their brand. Depending on your finances and rates, you may also offer them a promotional package in exchange for a testimonial. Just make sure this is a win-win for both of you.
Attend networking events when working full-time. Networking is a chance to interact with actual humans and these connections can help you if you’re in a bind. When experiencing a dry run, focus on getting to know others so you can present and promote your best self.
Keep learning. Perhaps a famine period is the time to add another niche, or redefine your business. Sites such as edX, CourseRA, Udemy, and others can teach you additional writing skills, or reinforce what you already know.
Read often. A writer is a reader. Try to stick to books. If you can’t, then read whatever you can get your hands on. I promise you will be improve. And, yes, audiobooks count!
Talk to family or friends. They want you to be happy and this includes watching you build a financially secure future for yourself. They may know people who could use a writer, and may even be able to hire you themselves.
Remember: A dry period isn’t the end of the world. Be proactive and your business will stay on course!
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Ingrid Cruz is a full-time freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, reading, and a good cup of coffee. Her website is www.ingridiswriting.com
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