Freelance writing is how I make a living; I'm paid per word, blog, or link by clients around the world to write content around the web. It's a fun job, and I love what I do, especially working for myself. The road to get here was difficult - I worked for free for over a year. Even now I make a fraction of what I used to earn, and the lack of vacation time, sick pay, a 401k, and health insurance make the income gap even more noticeable. Still, there's no other way I'd have it; I'm as broke as I was in college, but now that I've tasted freedom, I can't go back to a cubicle.
If you want to work as an independent contractor, but you're unsure how, here are some tips I've learned from being a freelancer that may help you out.
1) Always Look For New Clients
You may have a large client who pays you regularly and well, but you never know when that client will dry up. A residency is nice, but as an independent contractor, you're the easiest asset to let go in hard times. One day the pay may dive below what you're comfortable with. The company could go out of business, or you may make a mistake and be let go. You never know what will happen, and it's best to always be prepared.
2) Stay Organized
I work on projects for, on average, a dozen clients each month. Several clients provide consistent work, but at low payouts. Others have high payouts, but I can only submit so many pieces. Juggling and balancing the needs of these clients is vital to my ability to budget and keep my books straight.
If I lose a client that pays $150 per piece, and I write three pieces per month, that's $450 dollars I need to make up. I may find a new client that pays $50 per piece, and I can submit nine pieces per month to make up for the loss, but the only way I'll know if I have time to write those six extra pieces every month is by keeping my calendar organized. In addition with my email properly organized, I can quickly find any conversations with potential new clients.
3) Network, Network, Network
No man is an island; although I work alone, I have plenty of help. People I've worked with in the past always come out of left field with new opportunities. You never know who will have a job for you somewhere down the road, so get your name out there, and save your contact lists. Obviously this works better when you're networking with the right people. It's not that someone at McDonald's isn't capable of becoming President; it's that if you have political aspirations, you have a better chance in the White House than a McDonald's playground.
4) Track and Archive Everything
It's not just your contact lists - save everything to do with your business. You'll need to file taxes, and that'll take receipts. Any numbers (especially those relating to money) are important to track and archive. You also never know when you'll need to go back to find something. Sometimes I read old notes and journals to see things at a new angle, and sometimes it's to find an important piece of a puzzle I'm working on. Take a cue from the NSA; it's better to have data and not need it than need data and not have it - save everything.
Freelancing is exactly as hard as pimpin, but it's achievable if you work smart and persevere. Resourcefulness is a necessity, and you have to be willing to put in long hours, but success is possible. Stick to it, and if you get stuck on anything, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
Brian Penny (aka Versability) is a former business analyst at Countrywide's mortgage and insurance tracking services through the transition to Bank of America. In 2011, Penny turned whistleblower and freelance writer, exposing criminal fraud by BofA subsidiary Balboa Insurance. Brian is a frequent contributor to Huffington Post, Main Street, Lifehack, Hardcore Droid, Cannabis Now, and various other media organizations throughout the web.
In addition, Penny is an affiliate of Manduka and Amazon.
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