Wishing to become a fulltime freelancer is an admirable goal. Many dream of this job, yet few take the initiative to actually attempt it, and the majority of those that do end up failing within a year. Why is there such a failure rate amongst those who wish to become fulltime freelance writers? Because one other thing they share beside enthusiasm is a lack of preparation; deciding to become a freelancer is the easy part; it is everything that follows that makes you question your sanity.
The first step in becoming a fulltime freelance writer is acknowledging that it won’t actually happen for at least another year. Quitting ones day job to write full time without any professional writing experience, without a thick portfolio, without writing samples and networking relationships, will cause the monetary equivalent of death.
You must spend one year doing both your day job and freelancing on the side. If you do everything detailed below consistently for one year or more, you should be ready to take the plunge into becoming a fulltime freelance writer.
You must start saving every penny you can, literally. You should have saved the equivalency of 1 year’s salary at the time of becoming a fulltime freelancer. This is because work, especially when starting out, will be few and far between. There will literally be months with no money coming in and days where you go without eating.
Because you also have to start writing everyday, working over time should be avoided. You need this time to freelance. The solution? You have to start living well below your means. Cut out all extra expenses. Only buy absolutely necessary food. Switch to basic cable. Cancel the magazine and movie subscriptions. Don’t go to the movies, don’t stop for coffee, take the bus or walk whenever possible, and hoard every dollar like a squirrel hoards nuts.
If this idea horrifies you, or you think you can’t do this, don’t quit your day job. Freelancing is not for you.
Make a Budget
This should always be step number two. Make a budget of the absolute minimum you can’t live without currently, and make a budget of the minimum you will need to survive once you begin freelancing fulltime.
You need to live by budget number 1 before becoming a fulltime freelance writer. This budget should include things like car and house payments, gas, utilities, food, emergency savings, credit card bills, etc. Things that you must absolutely have and nothing more. The second budget should include the minimum you need and nothing more. Include things house and car payments, utilities, household expenses, clothing, gas, food, and freelancing equipment [paper, ink, internet, etc].
For example: Say your first budget comes out to $30,000 dollars yearly, and you are currently earning $42,000. This means by the end of the year you should have saved $12,000, not assuming taxes.
Now assume that the absolute minimum you will need after you begin freelancing is $32,000 yearly. This means it will be approximately 2.5-3 years before you’ve saved enough to safely freelance full-time.
Pay off Debt
A simple way to cut down on the amount of money needing to be saved is to eliminate debt. When you get rid of the monthly credit cards payments, you pay off the car, etc. you can deduct all those expenses from your annual monetary needs.
There is another reason beside the aforementioned one to eliminate debt, however. When you have no official ‘job,’ it will be very difficult for you to get assistance in paying off debt. Loans will be next to impossible; pay advances won’t be possible at all. Debt needs to be eradicated before becoming a fulltime freelancer.
If you still own money on your car, I highly suggest trading it in for a cheaper, yet reliable car that you will not have to pay off.
Raising Your Credit Score
This is a good time to work on raising your credit score. A higher credit score will mean better credit cards, and being able to manage high end credit cards will benefit you in the future. Since you are living well below your means, be sure to pay your credit cards bills on time.
Start Off By Writing for Free
Now I know what you are thinking, did I really say write for ‘free?’ Yes I did. You see, the odds are, you will not get any jobs writing for payment. There are some places where you can, such as Associated Content, but for the most part this will not be possible, and you will spend longer searching for markets than you will actually building your portfolio. Remember, the goal right now is not to work for money, because right now you still have your day job. Right now is to build experience and a portfolio, so that once you do start freelancing fulltime, you can make money doing it.
I’m not saying to spend the entire year writing for free. I’m saying, accept that for the first month or two you will be writing for free, and that you should never fear non-paying markets.
When you write for non-paying markets, there are some things to be sure of:
That your name is included with the article.
Preferably, a byline with your email and/or webpage should also be included.
That you retain the rights. When writing for free, never give the rights away.
That the market your write for is a reputable one. Writing for a tabloid, vainity press, etc. will mark you as an unreliable writer and you will have to start over, with a new pen name. If a market meets these requirements, by all means write for it. Send out articles constantly, writing for several different places, with several different interests. If you are planning on writing on a specific subject once you become a full-time freelancer, than be sure to include those kinds of markets into your list, but do not write for them exclusively, at least for the first year. You need to be a well-rounded writer, and will get more jobs that way. However, be sure to write an ample amount for the field you want to write in [finance, fashion, hunting, etc.].
Here is a list of reputable market listings to monitor for free and paying listings:
Absolute Write.com: – Paying – http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=24
– Nonpaying – www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=25
Freelancewriting.com – http://www.online-writing-jobs.com/
Writers Weely.com – http://www.writersweekly.com/
BellaOnline.com – http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art1489.asp
ForWriters.com – http://www.forwriters.com/markets.html
WritersWrite.com – http://www.writerswrite.com/fiction/markets.htmThis is a small listing of the markets available online. These sites have the most up-to-date listings, and you are sure to find much work from browsing them.
Hone Your Skills
This year is also your chance to hone your writing skills. Become a master of the English language. Learn the difference ‘than’ and ‘then,’ learn to conjugate in your sleep, memorize how to write in the MLA, APA, and Chicago Manual Style. Grammar and writing skills are an absolute necessity, and CANNOT be skipped. If your writing skills are lacking, you will not get work as a writer.
These are the basics of becoming a fulltime freelancer and are by far not exclusive. These are the very basics needed before you quit your job. Learn from the mistakes made by others (myself) and follow everything listed above down to the very word. Skipping over any, quitting your job before your ready, not preparing your portfolio enough – all of these can permanently throw you into debt and ruin your chance at ever being able to freelance fulltime.