Last June, I took the plunge. After eight years of freelancing part-time, I chose to pursue a full-time writing career. Was I nervous? You bet. Has it worked out? Better than I ever hoped.
The following are tips I’ve learned along the way, with additional advice from successful full-timers:
1) Don’t put all of your writing activities in one basket. For example, in July I added writing coach to my resume. I’m having a lot of fun helping magazine and book writers move their careers forward, while also adding to my bank account.
2) Expand on writing skills you’ve already mastered. For two years I’ve been teaching a magazine writing class. After hearing, “I’d love to take your class, but the time and/or day doesn’t work for me,” numerous times, my brain finally kicked in. Why not design a book so writers can work through the class material independently? My workbook, Get Your Articles Published!, was released this fall.
3) Keep a daily calendar. Whenever I forget to do this, my productivity and income drop. At the end of the day, I plan out the next day’s tasks, by the hour, on my desktop calendar. Do I always complete everything on the list? Heck no. Unfinished tasks are then worked into future plans.
Every morning, Kelly James-Enger, the author of Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide to Making More Money, prioritizes and plans her three most important tasks for the day. “The day can get away from you if you’re not tracking how you’re spending your time,” she says.
4) Schedule regular goal-planning appointments with yourself. On the first Tuesday of the month, I look over my previous month’s goals and whether or not I achieved all of them. I then set down my goals for the month ahead.
5) Wring all the material you can out of your research. Gordon Burgett, the author of The Travel Writer’s Guide, recommends you focus on a sought topic, sell the article itself, and rewrite it significantly to sell simultaneously to other publications. Burgett says, “Use the research and quotes, magnify the subject, and come at it from all related slants – Some writers do a subject a year and earn $35,000+ from it.”
6) Plan breaks. At first I would find myself in front of the computer at 2:30 in the afternoon with my stomach growling loudly. Now I schedule an hour (yes, a whole hour) for lunch every day. I’m sure the work I produce after my lunch break is much higher quality than when I wasn’t paying attention to my hunger and staying at my desk too long.
7) Designate a block of time when you don’t answer personal calls. My husband and kids know they can call my cell phone during my work hours and I will pick up, but my landline phone goes to voicemail during that time. This is still a tough one for me because I love to talk on the phone! The more I stick to the plan though, the more writing I get done.
8) Farm out labor-intensive work. Dana K. Cassell, a full-time freelance writer and book author for 31 years, advises, “Find a person to transcribe your interview tapes. Hire a high school business student to stuff envelopes, fold marketing flyers, and other clerical work you need done. Try dictating your articles for a service like WeType4u to key in for you, and see if you save enough time to make the cost justifiable.”
9) Get out of the house. After falling into bed more times that I care to admit and realizing I hadn’t left the house all day, I knew serious cabin fever wasn’t far behind. Every day get away from the house: go for a walk, run errands, meet up with friends, get a massage (I had one this morning). You’ll be a more productive writer for it.
10) Tell everyone you know that you are seeking more writing work. Word of mouth has led me to an ongoing stream of writing assignments for a local nonprofit organization.
I’m so much happier since going for it and jumping into the full-time writing pool. I’m doing what I love without the distraction of another job, and, yes, the money is following.
Melanie Bowden’s articles have appeared in over 100 magazines includingShape, Vibrant Life, Parents’ Monthly, and Catholic Digest. A certified postpartum doula, she is also the author of the book Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me? True Stories of New Motherhood. Melanie coaches book and magazine writers in person and by phone.
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Melanie lives with her husband, two daughters, and two cats in Davis, California. The family is obsessed with Dancing With The Stars and still can’t believe that Sabrina was kicked off so early this fall.