How did you become a freelance writer?
I always enjoyed writing. At first it was just humorous bits emailed to family and friends. I also dabbled a bit here and there when I worked in publishing. I began to write professionally in 2000 with a humor column. The pay scale was very low but it was an awesome opportunity. I was able to take those clips and use them to get freelance writing jobs in the US through some higher paying websites and eventually I landed a newspaper column.
The work was steady and it only took a couple of hours each day. Now, I have more work than I can handle and am fortunate to freelance full time. Many of my clients find me through my blogs or recommendations from other writers and clients. I have also aligned myself with some web designers who outsource their writing projects to me.
How do you balance being a stay at home mom with doing freelance writing jobs?
I think it's important to remember that I left my office job to be a stay at home mom. This means I'm spending time with my son during the day instead of working. At four he's less needy now than when he was a baby, but I still can't sit down and work steadily when he's at home. Instead I wake at 4:00am and work until about 7:00 or 7:30am.
I'll work a couple more hours when preschool is in session and again for another hour or two at night. My husband and I also trade off on the weekends. If I do get some quiet time during the day, I'll use it to update my blog or handle correspondence and phone calls or other bits of business where it doesn't matter if I'm distracted.
What are the secrets to surviving as a freelance writer?
I suppose you have to be a stubborn sort. You have to develop a thick outer layer because you're constantly being criticized. A "can't give up" mentality is key. I'm not sure if I should admit this, but there have been times when I just want to cry because of rejection or because I have eight things due on the same day or an editor was in a bad mood and took it out on me.
You also have to have a place and time to work uninterrupted. This is so important. Once you lose your train of thought, you lose the momentum and rhythm that goes along with it. I wake up very early because it's unrealistic for me to expect the world to stop turning during my writing hours. If you can't find a quiet place and time to work, you won't make it.
Finally, you need to learn how to price yourself accordingly. Right now the trend is to offer very low rates to get the work, but it's not cost effective at all. If you're a good writer with good, regular clients, you can set a decent living wage.
What do you love most about freelance writing?
This is going to sound so shallow, but I love seeing my name in print. Seriously, it's more than putting words together to form sentences and paragraphs. It's being able to take an idea and relay it to others so they "get it." There's no better feeling than "reaching" your audience. I always wanted to write; knowing that I can do it with success is empowering.
What do you not like about freelance writing jobs?
Working when I don't want to. I get up early to work on Christmas, my birthday, Easter...even when my family is taking a vacation. Writers, especially freelance writers, can't always take time off to enjoy holidays. There are also times when I'm tapped to write about something that doesn't interest me. It's all I can do to get through these projects.
What advice do you have for people who want to be professional writers?
It's not enough to wake up one day and say, "I want to be a writer." There's a lot of research to do first. What do you want to write? Who do you want to write for? Do you want to write for web or print markets? There's a difference, you know. Fiction or non-fiction? How do you plan on getting those jobs? Do you know how to format a manuscript? What does an editor look for in a query? What should you earn?
This will probably get me into a lot of trouble, but because of the very low paying web content trend, I'm seeing people view writing as just another job description for stay at home moms. It's not. You have to have a little skill and know what you're getting into. Not everyone can do this for a living.
What is the average salary for a freelance writer?
Is there an average salary for a freelance writer? I'm not sure. I do know many of my web writing peers earn between $1,000 and $2,000 a month. It can be a lot more lucrative than that, however. My friend Carson Brackney actually challenged himself to earn $125,000 in a year. He can do it because he built up a loyal client base and is able to work in a separate office space during the day. Now, I'm not sure I'll be in the six figure writer's club (though it would be nice) but once my son is in school full time, I expect my freelance writing fees to rise.
How does your salary compare to typical freelance writing fees? Does it have the "write" stuff? Find out with our salary calculator.