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 Strategies. You 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?