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How I Made The Switch To Full Time Freelance Writing

change to freelance writingMany 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:

I got hired by MiningCo.com which became About.com; I stumbled into a client who would pay me for my writing and self-publishing got started.

Here are three take-aways:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?


Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Nikki L.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • The very thing I noticed, you started “early”! That’s a great thing to do. Start early…that’s the most important takeaway from this post, I b’lieve.
    Ron’s Copywriting Blog recently posted..Freelance Writing: Interview With Anne WaymanMy Profile

    • oh, maybe. Doubt if that’s the most important thing… doing stuff is more important. Writers have to do stuff.

  • I wasn’t fired… yet. It was coming down the pike though, and fast. My son has autism and crisis after crisis was unfolding. I had already used up almost all my FMLA for the year and it was only May. I had been writing fiction for awhile at that point, and I began finding out about content farms (don’t judge) and then I found this site and others that showed me I didn’t have to settle for pennies. I decided to drop the ax before my boss got the chance. Now I have time to deal with the crises in a calm and collected manner and even his situation has helped to open doors for me.
    Amelia Ramstead recently posted..Interviews Part One: Choosing Your Victims, I Mean IntervieweesMy Profile

  • Similarly – I was fired. It wasn’t a mixed blessing, either. It was a full-on blessing. I saw it coming a month before it actually happened, so I’d managed to clear out my desk and take home contact info. That info led to my first freelance gigs.
    Lori recently posted..Your Online Business Planning Session: Part FourMy Profile

  • Great story! I seem to be stumbling in one direction to another – mostly the wrong one(e.g. triond, helium, etc.). My first goal is to just bite the bullet and finish up my darned profiles for eLance and oDot.
    Ellen recently posted..Straw dogMy Profile

    • And don’t forget linked in Ellen – it seems to be a must-do place.

  • Thanks for the post! This is an encouragement that full time freelance can indeed be done. I will be going on contract at my current day job so that I can work full time freelance and stay home with my first child due in March. After freelancing on the side for the past two years, I am excited about the change. However, I wish I had the 6 month savings.

    • Sometimes I think the 6 months savings thing is a myth, or an ideal… and since you’ve got a contract you’ve got some security making the move. Good luck.

  • Hi Anne – what a great story! I am not full-time, yet, but I’m moving down to part-time hours at my day job in Feb (after four years freelancing on the side), and that’s when we’ll see what I’m really made of.
    Steff recently posted..Christmas Greetings from SteffMy Profile

    • Sounds like you’re on your way Steff. Keep us posted.

  • Jack

    I have the ambition to write, as I am not officially a writer, yet. I have always loved English Literature and the Language Arts. Command of the English Language is slowly slipping away with every text, tweet, and Facebook post. It’s truly disgusting to know that one of my extended family members, (who is still in school, by the way), cannot differentiate between the two words, “than”, and “then”. Not to mention spelling, punctuation, and proper grammar. Before I begin ranting and raving, I just want to say that your story is an amazing inspiration. Thank you for your valuable time and efforts! Have a nice day.

    • Jack, what’s preventing you from claiming to be a writer?

  • Great story Anne! For me full-time freelancing came unexpectedly. I didn’t have a plan (yikes!), but an intention to write. I think what really helped me was networking with other writers. I actually contacted a local newspaper and got in touch with one of their writers. He was kind enough to invite me to his office where I got to chat with him and an editor. Knowing that editor is what helped me land my first full-time freelancing gig as a copywriter and things just kind of sprung off from there.
    Brandi recently posted..On Becoming a WriterMy Profile

    • That’s a nice story too, Brandi… and see, you took action – contacting the writer. Taking action seems to be key.

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