4 Things You Need To Know You’re In Business As A Freelance Writer

by Anne Wayman

freelance writer's officeCarrie Schmeck asked, in comments:

At what point did you start to take yourself (and your writing business) seriously? What did you differently then?

I did three things and added a fourth when I could:

  1. I created a home office. When I went ‘pro’ I had a small room off my bedroom. I turned it into a writing office with a desk for my typewriter (!)  and a box for files. Later that’s where my first computer went. Gradually I added a bulletin board and some other nice-to-haves. Finding a ‘permanent place’ for my writing work, an office, helped me feel like a ‘real’ writer. Since then when I look at new places to live where my desk will go is a critical part of my search.
  2. I opened a business checking account. It was way easier way back then. Today, in some financial institutions, you need a business license or some other documentation. However you do it, I think it’s worth doing because it helps you see yourself as a business person as well as a writer. Just seeing my name on a business check with the words ‘Freelance Writer’ helped convince me I really was. I started tracking my business expenses.
  3. I got business cards. This is so much easier today than it was when I had to go to a print shop. Vista Print let’s you get cards for almost free and if you spend a bit more you can get custom cards there. Handing someone my card made me feel professional.

  4. I put up a website. I couldn’t do this back when I started because the web didn’t exist. But as soon as it did I registered my name as a domain name and host and built annewayman.com. We didn’t have templates when I build my first site, but these days they are good enough so I’d use one.

Notice I don’t say anything in this list about clients or marketing or even making money from your writing. Nor am I saying anything about the marketing you need to do. I find, at least for me, and as I watch others, that these four things are what I need to know I’m in business. They help me switch my view of myself from a hobbyist or a wannabe to knowing I’m a professional writer.

It’s out of that self-recognition of myself as a pro that I behave in a more business-like manner.

How do you know you’re in business as a writer?

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Image: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Kelly Sue

 

 

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth West August 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I have #3 and #4! :) Well a blog anyway.

It felt good when I got my first pay for my content job, but I still kinda don’t feel like a “real” writer yet. When I publish something besides those two things, it might, or when I see something I wrote in the bookstore(!)
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Jenn Mattern July 19, 2011 at 6:00 am

For me it was when I finally made myself start working at a desk. While I still move about when I need a change, I don’t spend my days writing from bed or curled up on my couch anymore (well, rarely). It was a little change, and one that happened years ago, but it changed how I treated my writing.
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annew July 19, 2011 at 11:47 am

Jenn, I love the idea that moving from bed to desk was your signal… and it makes total sense to me. ;)

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Ron's Web SEO Copywriting Blog July 22, 2011 at 6:16 am

Yes, even I can understand what Jenn is trying to say. Turning your amateur writing into a profession is the first step, of course.
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Megan Collins Quinlan July 18, 2011 at 2:09 am

It was pretty cool when i had to complete my first tax return as a self employed person. Of course sending off your first invoice is an amazing moment as well. For me being and feeling professional started at the very beginning. I just knew it would eventually become a full time thing. It took me 18 months but I got there and being professional was a big part of that process.

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annew July 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Eighteen months isn’t that long in a lifetime…

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Richard Bauman July 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm

From the very beginning (forty years ago) I took myself seriously as a writer. I intended to get published and get paid for my writing. Why I thought those two things would happen, and happen quickly, was naivety on my part. But they actually did. It’s important to view oneself as a writer even when others doubt your abilities. Mindset, more than environment, made the difference for me. I had a corner of our bedroom for an office, a desk, an electric typewriter and a small file cabinet. Nothing glamorous but I wrote and published a lot of articles in that dusty little corner.

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annew July 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Sometimes I think it’s easier for men to take themselves seriously work-wise… at least in our generation. That seems to have changed fortunately.

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Cathy Miller July 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm

I remember the first time after I set up my business that someone called me a professional writer – sheer bliss. :-)
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Carrie Schmeck July 15, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Well, thank you for answering my question (and for the link)! I’d have to agree on all points (and feeling pretty good because I’ve done them). The hard part is the time between all the initial LOIs and the work.

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annew July 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm

You’re welcome.

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Wade Finnegan July 15, 2011 at 3:49 pm

When you set up these things then it seems more real and then marketing becomes easier. I believe having the confidence to put yourself out there starts with having something in place, otherwise it’s just a hobby.

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annew July 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Exactly.

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