Many readers here are aching to get out of full time jobs and move into freelance writing.
Of course the logical way to make the switch is with at least three months living expenses in the bank, and as much as six months or more. And that is in fact what I recommend.
It’s not, however, the way I did it. Here’s what happened more or less.
I had been writing and not making much money in the San Francisco Bay area when the world wide web struck. At least that’s how it felt. I’d gotten into computers early because word processing programs would check my spelling. (Anyone remember WordStar?)
I had drifted online before the web through The Well, probably the original online community. That led indirectly to becoming an early Match.com employee where I wrote a newsletter and other stuff, and then on to a high paid temporary tech writer for HP.
My first grandchild was born about the time the gig at HP was winding down and I landed a job in San Diego (complete with moving expenses) as a full time tech writer with First Virtual, a long-defunct ‘net payment system.
I got fired from that job!
Not over my writing, but over a quarrel with my immediate supervisor. At least that’s how I remember it.
I also remember that I’d been longing to work on a book about addiction and was saving money with the idea of quitting in about six weeks. Being fired was one of those mixed blessings. I was furious, and I was grateful.
Since I was in San Diego but had been working in the much higher paid Bay area my unemployment was paid on my much higher salary there. I had just enough to write for six months. I finished Powerfully Recovered! which I had tried to sell several years before with the help of an agent. I didn’t know why I had to finish it, but internally it felt like I did. As I came close to the end three things happened:
Here are three take-aways:
- I got hired by MiningCo because I’d seen them mentioned on The Well and wrote and asked them if I could also write for them. Writing forums work.
- The reason the client found me is I always tell everyone I’m a writer. I was living on a boat at the time and Chris came down to the almost end of the dock and asked if I was the writer he’d been told about.
- I’ve always been alert to publishing opportunities and when I saw my first self-publishing ad dug around until I found one I could afford.
With the two clients and a self-published book I was freelancing! My expenses were low so I could make it work even when the unemployment ran out.
It wasn’t the first time I’d broken out, but it was almost the last.
The next piece that had to fall into place was learning to charge enough for my writing. Until then I’d taken what I call throw-away jobs including telesales.
Finally someone challenged me to start charging more and I, after also working on my own self-worth, was able to begin to do so.
Looking back the overall advice I’d give is to save money, work to bring your rates up and then, take the leap.
How did you break into freelancing, or if you haven’t yet, what are your plans?