It’s not just newcomers to freelance writing and those considering it who ask, “Can I really make money writing?”
Even writers who’ve had some success getting published or getting paid for their writing often wonder if they can really make a good living writing. In fact, it may be the first business problem a freelance writer has.
It’s so tempting for me to just say “yes, you can make money writing” and leave it at that. But that’s not a helpful answer, is it?
First of all, assuming you write reasonably well, let me assure you that you can make a living, even a nice living, as a freelance writer. And yes, a few successful writers even get rich.
But I also know that implicit in the question are other questions like:
- What does it take to be a successful freelance writer?
- How do I solve my business problems as a freelance writer?
- How do I know I have the ‘right stuff’?
- Am I good enough?
- How long will it take me to earn enough money?
Let’s take a look at these one at a time.
What does it take to be a successful freelance writer?
The most obvious is the ability to write well. This doesn’t mean you have to be able to turn out award winning writing, although that’s nice. But I don’t know anyone who does that right from the beginning. You can grow into awards.
It does mean you have to have a reasonable command of the English language, and if you’re writing for the US market, English as written in America. Your spelling and grammar must be spot on (don’t hesitate to use software like Grammarly to help you).
All successful writers I know also find time to read. Somehow when we read we absorb not only what we read but how it’s written and that informs our own writing. An article called The Reading-Writing Connection opens with a quote by Richard Peck:
Nobody but a reader ever became a writer.
It rings true for me.
It also takes making the time to write and to market your writing, probably best summarized by saying you’ve got to treat your writing like a business if you want to consistently make money writing.
You are in business for yourself when you write
The thought of actually being in business frightens many writers. They consider themselves artists of some sort and feel like ‘the business side’ is somehow taboo.
There’s also the fact that most of us don’t know enough about business to be anything but at least slightly scared of it.
Fortunately what we need to know about business is totally learnable.
What we need is a willingness to find out what we need to know. For example, next time you go to your bank, make time to find out what it takes to open a business account. Be sure to ask what your options might be and how much they cost. You don’t have to do anything but gather information at this point, but before long you’ll probably want a business account for your writing business.
Learn about your business in baby steps. Allena Tapia, Guide to freelance writing has some great articles about business. Start with her When Should Freelance Writing Become a Business? It will give you a good overview. Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. Baby steps will keep you sane and give you plenty of time to write.
8 Top Freelance Writer Business Problems will give you an overview of the problems that are likely to come up. This series is a look at the solutions.
How do I know I have the ‘right stuff’? Am I good enough?
These are what I call ‘self-worth’ questions. Stop the negative questioning! Seriously, poor self-worth is, in my opinion, more habit than not. Sure, you may have grown up with less than optimal family support – maybe way less!
It’s also true that we all doubt ourselves occasionally, but we don’t have to keep doubting ourselves. We can improve our self-worth.
Start with this video by Ashley Wylde. Check out Lori Widmer’s Writer’s Worth Month. She celebrates it with a month worth of articles about why we’re so great and totally worthy of the title, freelance writer. Take a look at Writers, Money, Pricing And Self-Worth. Start noticing what you’re doing right – you’ll soon know you’re good enough and have the right stuff to be a successful freelance writer.
If you find, like many, including myself back in the day, that you’re finding it really difficult to think well of yourself, get some professional help. A therapist can make a huge difference in the way you see yourself, both as a writer and as a human being. You don’t need to stay stuck.
How long will it take me to earn enough money?
Ah, that’s at least two questions, maybe three.
It can really help if you’ve got some savings before you take the leap into full time freelance writing. Ideally three to six months worth of living expenses. If like many, you don’t have that, you’ll probably have to work at least a part time job until you begin to earn consistently from your writing. Jobs that don’t drain you mentally are best or jobs that let you write at the best time of day for you.
Of course, you’ll need to know how much money is enough. You need enough to cover all your expenses, including benefits. If you don’t know how much that is, finding out is a high priority. You can probably make a good estimate, but a better approach is to start tracking your spending. Tracking is the surest way to find out what your spending and what you really need.
Finally, you’ll need to decide what your hourly rate is. Even if you intent to charge flat fees, knowing how much you should be earning an hour is a great way to start. Jenn Matern over at AllIndieWriters provides a nifty hourly rate calculator that will help you get a handle on this.
I have a 4 part series on fee setting with four articles. You can find the series index page here. You’ll also find links other information about fee setting.
Of course, fees aren’t the only thing you need to think about when it comes to money. Check out the category, Money Issues too.
Making money as a freelance writer, making good money, is certainly possible. Lots of us are earning a nice living. It’s a great way to earn a living.
You can get solid information about the freelance writing business from other writers in the About Writing Squared Freelance Writers Forum. Check it out.
Write well and often,