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3 Must-Dos To Run Your Writing Like A Business

Someone named Patrick commented here and I followed his link to his blog, Spoiler. There is a post there called After The Dream which tells the story of a web designer who after considerable success quit, largely due to business frustrations.

Or at least that’s how I read the post and it reminded me how important treating our freelance writing as a real business is.

The short form is if you don’t treat your writing like a business you may also quit in frustration. On the other hand, if you learn the business side of your writing and use it you’re much more likely to both stay in business and know how to make the changes that always come along to sustain your business.

When I started freelancing the business side was a mystery to me and I mostly ignored it. Truly a case of don’t do what I did. I constantly ran out of money. I didn’t know how to set fees or collect them. It was pretty awful.

What is the business side?

Business majors will consider this an oversimplification, but for me the business side of my writing falls into three categories.

Knowing my income and expenses

Unless I know how much is coming in and how I’m spending it I have no clear idea of how well I’m doing. This means separate accounts – one for the business and one for me. It also means setting rates and tracking your money.

Setting aside money for taxes, and a prudent reserve

Savings is an integral part of running a freelance writing business. You need to save for taxes and it’s easier to save a percentage out of every check – how much will vary widely. You also need what I’ve come to call a prudent reserve. I actually have two of them – one which I use to balance out my up and down income and another for longer term. I generally set aside 20 percent, 10 percent in each savings account out of every check.

Finding a way to market yourself consistently

Consistent marketing is the only way you can be reasonably sure you’ll have a constant flow of business. Lori Widmer has a nifty book called Marketing 365: Daily StrategiesYou could do far worse than do one of her suggestions each and every day. There’s also a whole category on marketing for freelance writers right here. If you market regularly rather than waiting until you need to you’ll find it easier and the trend will be upwards even if some of your efforts don’t pay off.

It can also help to occasionally take a course on some aspect of business. I’m currently enrolled in Molly Gordon’s course on profitability. She’s an amazing teacher and I can’t recommend her enough. Mark Silver of Heart of Business is another excellent source. There’s often productive talk about the business side of writing in the 5 Buck Forum, and it’s a great place to ask questions, and always nice to know you’re not alone.

However you do it, find your way to treating your writing like the business it can be. You’ll be glad you did.

What’s your approach to the business of freelance writing?


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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Wonderful article as always, Anne. You’ve always inspired me to do better with my writing each day. While I continue writing for About.com, I’ve now started my own Website on freelance writing as well – please check out AboutWritelancing.com. Feedback/tips/advice would be highly appreciated! 🙂
    Many thanks,
    Priya Viswanathan recently posted..Questions to Ask a Client before Accepting a Ghostwriting ProjectMy Profile

    • Thanks! I’m glad I inspire you… good luck with your new site.

  • I totally agree with the fact that if you continue to market your product or service, you will obviously notice an upper trend, whatever happens.
    Ron – SEO Copy-e-Writing Blog recently posted..Social Media Affect Your Site’s SE Rankings Or Not?My Profile

  • Amen, sister!
    Lori recently posted..Your Payment TermsMy Profile

  • Great tips, Anne. I second your advice on setting aside money for taxes and building a reserve. As a solo entrepreneur, you never know what might happen to sideline you temporarily (unexpected illness, sudden move, etc.) and a reserve would certainly come in handy for the short-term.
    Kimberly recently posted..Are You For Real?My Profile

    • And a nice savings account makes negotiation easier too.

  • The business side of writing is no fun:( but something that must be done in order to stay afloat and fed.

    Clara Freeman recently posted..Whatcha Doing Clara54!?!My Profile

    • I find that as I get better at it it’s less awful… closer to fun.

  • Writers outside the U.S. might not have to worry about taxes as much, but ‘prudent reserve’ can be a godsend, especially in your days of ‘famine’. But even I wish to set aside some of my income or maybe invest somewhere else, current situation won’t allow me 🙁
    Ali | Writers Blog recently posted..The Naked Truth About Earning Passive Income With Your WritingMy Profile

    • Ali, I’ve made it a habit to put 10 percent of any income in savings even if I have to take it out the next day.

  • Good advice Anne. I’m comfortable with my writing skills, but not with my business sense. I’ve never taken a business course, so that is something to consider doing. There are so many aspects to consider with freelance writing.
    Wade Finnegan recently posted..Content Marketing Strategy You KnowMy Profile

    • Wade, I’d rather not do the business side either… check around and see if you can find business for entrepreneurs or your local SCORE branch.

  • June Summers

    Thanks a lot for the advice Anne. For any freelance business to be successful and not just writing, it is very crucial to treat it like a real business. I have some freelance businesses that I do and I take them pretty seriously.
    June Summers recently posted..kimkardashiantaped.comMy Profile

  • Thanks for the link, Angela! Your interpretation was pretty much spot on, and the advice you bring up here addresses a lot of the concerns that he shared. Excellent stuff.

    Do you have any advice you can give with regards to handling clients (Or maybe you already discussed it in a previous post)? That was another of the designer’s big complaints and one that I find particularly vexing.
    Patrick recently posted..After The DreamMy Profile

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