When To Quit Your Day Job And Become A Freelance Writer

by Anne Wayman

Freelance Writer Home OfficeWhen people discover I earn my living freelance writing they often express a longing to do the same.  Some will ask when and how they can quit their day job and write full-time.

Here are the four things you need in place before you leap:

  1. Know what your expenses actually are. This involves tracking every penny for at least a month, two or three months is better. Once you know what you really spend you’ll know what you really need to earn. Sure there will be some adjustments you can make. Almost everyone on a salary can comfortably cut some expenses. But there will be additions too – you’ll have to provide your own health and disability  insurance, retirement plan, sick leave, and vacation pay. You also need money to pay self-employment taxes. A ballpark figure of about a third of your salary will give you a rough figure to work with.
  2. Develop a realistic earning plan. If you’ve been doing some freelance writing on the side and getting paid for it you’re in a position to begin to create a plan that includes, conservatively, what you can expect to earn. If you’re not already making some money freelance writing you may want more savings, or to wait until you know you can make at least something. Either way, creating an earning plan will help you understand exactly what you need to do.

  3. Create a marketing plan. Figure out how you can sell your writing work. Then decide what kinds of marketing you’re actually likely to do and make a plan based on that. It doesn’t have to be complicated or pretty. A simple list can be enough if you know you can and will work that plan If you follow that plan chances are the income will begin to flow in. And yes, you can put your marketing plan to work even before you quit your day job. That might be an excellent idea.
  4. Savings. Many experts suggest you have at least three months worth of income in savings, others suggest a full six months or more. The point is if you’ve got some savings in place the whole transition will be much easier. Include a savings plan in your spending plan; you’ll want your savings to grow as your writing business develops.

Some of your decision will depend on your life style. Those supporting a family may not be able to make the jump as soon as a single person. If you’re single, you’ve probably  got more flexibility. Sometimes a spouse or parents are willing to help you with the transition from full-time job to full-time freelance writing.

If, as a result of taking a close look at what you need to earn, how much savings you have and other factors, you discover you can’t quit your day job at least you’ll have a much clearer idea of exactly what you need to do to get there.

What’s holding you back from full-time freelance writing?

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Roy Daniel DSilva May 10, 2010 at 9:15 am

That’s a very interesting post. Down here in India, working from home is like a sacred fruit, they find it interesting – but they want to lose their so called stability of a 9-5.

One more thing that I’d like to add – and that’s out of personal experience – is that a person should have at least two years experience of working down in the dregs, even if just to learn how to get out of difficult situations regarding clients.
.-= Roy Daniel DSilva´s last blog ..Taking a New Client: Tips to Remember =-.

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Anne May 11, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Didn’t realize you are in India, Roy…

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Roy Daniel DSilva May 10, 2010 at 9:13 am

That’s a very interesting post. Down here in India, working from home is like a sacred fruit, they find it interesting – but they want to lose their so called stability of a 9-5.

One more thing that I’d like to add – and that’s out of personal experience – is that a person should have at least two years experience of working down in the dregs, even if just to learn how to get out of difficult situations regarding clients.

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Clara May 8, 2010 at 7:49 am

I’ m still stradling the… fence…Needless to say, the coward in me keeps me from taking that giant leap of faith. I “love” what I do and am hardpressed to take my work to the next level but, what if editors,publishers & such hand out a verdict of “Not so much?”
.-= Clara´s last blog ..Mother’s Day Special-Article Blast-Off @ Clara54! =-.

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Anne May 8, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Clara, it is scary… do you have a clear idea of what sort of freelance writing you want to do? I didn’t, but that clarity can help get you off the fence one way or another.

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Rebecca May 7, 2010 at 8:41 am

I met with a member of a screenwriting group that I used to be apart of and gave her my “freelance writing” story. She wants to transition into freelance writing and will not have a problem. Her niche will be corporate copywriting, but she’ll branch out. I told her to make sure she has a website and to get involved with social media, but not to go crazy with it.

I’m branching out to magazines. I finally stopped procrastinating and have committed to sending out three queries per week. We’ll see what happens…
.-= Rebecca´s last blog ..What do Freelance Writers and Snakes Have in Common? =-.

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Anne May 8, 2010 at 9:50 am

Snakes? Okay… I’ll go look.

Three queries a week for several weeks will probably get you at least a couple of assignments… come back and tell us about it.

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P.S. Jones May 6, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I see posts like this all the time and kinda wish that I had done these things. But the truth is that after freelancing part time for years, I just quit my job one day when I was pushed over the line. (And for the record, it was more like I was drop kicked over the line.) It was April Fools Day and everybody thought I was joking, but by April 2nd, I was a full time freelance writer. I’ve never really looked back, either.

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Anne May 8, 2010 at 9:44 am

P.S. – as Carson says, that’s one way to do it and closer to the way I did. The truth about me is I’m a hard worker and an absolutely terrible employee.

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Carson Brackney May 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I’d add one other thing to that list…

Accept risk and just do it.

No matter how many times you run the numbers and no matter how well you plan, you’re going to realize that there’s a legitimate risk that you’ll fall flat on your rump.

There’s no reason to take an unjustified chance with your or your family’s financial well-being, but at some point you’ll need to accept the fact that risk is inevitable.

You might fail.

But if you want it enough, you’ll accept that potential for a wipeout. You’ll do what you can to avoid it, but you won’t let it stop you.

This working for yourself thing isn’t for cowards. That’s one reason it’s so fun.

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Anne May 8, 2010 at 9:40 am

Good one Carson, I should have thought of that since it’s what I did. Maybe I’ll do a post telling my story. I didn’t follow my own advice. And yea, there’s true fun in that edge.

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