I used to be a teacher with a 180-student roster, meetings at 7:30 am, and a bell schedule that cued my body when to pee, sit, and have lunch. Now that I’ve left the educational system, I still have a strict schedule, hard deadlines, and a roster of articles to write. I’m not making a trillion bucks but I’m happy—and successful in that I’ve changed the course of my life in one year. I’m a freelance writer with 15 clients, 5 serious publishers and a 2-year travel itinerary. I’ve designed and managed this blog World Winder. Being a freelance writer is work like anything else, except I don’t have a boss and the views outside my apartment in Baños Ecuador are wonderful.
I’ve been able to pursue this career and lifestyle with great advice and guidance from friends around the world. So, here are my tips for having a writer’s life and becoming a freelance writer:
Have a Schedule
My Manhattanville College professors Jeff Bens & Joanna Clapps Herman said: “Writers write.” No excuses. If you don’t make time, you’ll never write. Even if it’s only 20 minutes in the morning, it’s a start. I first began writing (in secret) on Sunday mornings while Neil slept. Then, I etched out 45 minutes of writing at my school from 6:45 to 7:30 am before my meetings started.
Freelancers work for themselves but schedules are hardly loose and free. Conversely, as a freelancer you’ll be under strict time requirements. Especially as your career gets going, you’ll have articles due at 9am, back-to-back meetings from noon to three, and remittance invoices to create. Each workday should be scheduled out and optimized for productivity. I’m a morning person. I pop out of bed around 7am, grab a cup of tea, and start tapping away on my MacBook. I write for 2-3 hours with a snack at my side. Afterwards, I make a late breakfast, write some more, have lunch and take my first break around 2pm.
My afternoons vary depending on clients, workload, and domestic demands. Sometimes, I continue working. Sometimes, I run errands and shop for groceries. Other days, I’m answering emails and networking on forums. But no matter what happens, I clock out no later than 6:30pm. Otherwise, my mind doesn’t get a chance to rest and the wheels continue to spin way past bedtime. So:
-Block out your most productive hours of the day specifically for writing
-Commit to a firm number of hours to work per workday (2 or 4 or 6)
-Create time for house, health, partner, and of course yourself.
Freelance writers are tied to their computers–kinda. But we’re not living solitary lives—or at least we shouldn’t be. Networking is the fastest way to make great contacts and clinch new clients. So:
-Scan databases where freelancers and publishers congregate. Check Media Bistro, Linked In, Suite 101 Writers Forum, Facebook Pages for Freelancers.
-Be vocal. Socialize face-to-face with people. Tell everyone and their second cousin Timmy that you’re a writer and you’re looking for clients. Carry a horde of business cards and hand them to everyone! All you need is one person to start the buzz, one person to say: “Hey! I met this woman on the bus…”
-Make friends online. Engage in discussions. Add quality and personal experience. Be open to others. I’ve two great friends that have helped me change my career: Miranda Miller and Vago Damitio. Both I met online. Both have mentored and guided me. Both I consider close friends even though we live on 3 separate continents!
-Tell your partner what you’re planning. Two heads are better than one. When I first started writing, Neil was my biggest supporter. When we switched to freelance writing, he became my editor and motivator too! We’d a new life plan. He continued to teach in the Bronx, maintaining a steady income for us as well as health insurance. Meanwhile, I kick started our freelancing career as a copy editor, blogger, and SEO writer.
-Keep moving forward. Consider the nature of freelance work and the tough economic times. It’s best to diversify your portfolio. Work for a range of publishers and clients. Maintain positive, healthy relationships. But also stay involved with the outside world. Look to include new clients to your roster, especially when you’re starting out. One lead could dry up. Another company can fold.
Invest in Your Work
Freelance writing is not an easy job. But when you do something right, give yourself credit. Update your blog, revise online profiles, redesign your website, and change your Facebook Page status. This way, potential clients and peers can see what you’re up to. They can literally keep up with your progress. A pat on the back is a good thing, especially if it attracts new clients.
It’s been 53 weeks since I decided to freelance.
Now, it’s 9am. I’ve had my tea and drafted one blog post. I’ve my list of articles to write, a fridge full of food, and the Andean Mountains outside my window.
I wonder where the next 53 weeks will bring me.