How to Start a Freelance Writing Career… Alongside a Day Job

Build freelance writing career with day jobStarting any new business venture is hard work. Add a day job to the equation and you’re looking at a few sleepless nights and some busy weekends.

If you want to start a freelance writing career, it does take hard work but it’s not rocket science. You can build a profitable freelance writing business without quitting your 9-to-5 job straight away. It’s just a case of creating procedures to optimize your time.

I’ve been writing on the side while working my 9-to-5 job for approximately one year. My system isn’t perfect but it’s working for me and I’d like to share it with you. That way, you can adapt my process to suit your needs. The first step is to plan your routine. But how?

Make time for work

I used to watch TV for 1-2 hours every weekday. Since I gave up my Friends reruns, I now use this time to work on my freelance writing career.

Think about how you spend your time. Don’t worry, you don’t need to completely cut out all your favorite activities, you just need to reduce the time you dedicate to them in some cases.

You’re much more likely to stick to smaller, less dramatic new habits. Can you wake up one hour earlier? Could you go to a coffee shop near your office and write one piece before going to work?

Do you have coffee breaks and lunch-time? Use it to do some research, pitch clients or schedule your social media updates.

Establish goals and write a to-do list

Set realistic goals based on your available time and your long-term goals. I’ve found I can finish important tasks surrounding my freelance writing business working just 14 hours per week – that’s just 2 hours per day.

Write down everything you need to do – from starting your website, writing samples and pitching to clients. Assign one or two tasks per day to see how you handle them and take it from there.

Create systems

Use apps and tools for tasks like invoicing, accounting or project management. Even if it takes time to set these systems up, automating procedures will make your life easier in the long run, meaning you can get more writing done.

With the planning stage over then, it’s time to get stuck in…

Get a website

Focus your efforts on your about page, a contact form, your writing portfolio and good testimonials (once you have them). You need to be able to sell your writing services and it might be a good idea to start a blog too – but this is by no means essential.

Create social media accounts

Find out what the most popular platforms for your freelance writing business are. You may want to cover the basics like Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. Depending on your niche, you could add other sites. For example, if you’re a travel writer, you might want to create accounts on Pinterest or Instagram for all those travel shots.

Write for recognized websites

As long as you choose websites that accept contributors and your pitch is outstanding, your lack of experience shouldn’t be a deal breaker. You could try pitching to smaller blogs to practice your skills and gain some confidence before approaching the more popular sites.

Get testimonials

You already have job experience – perhaps not regarding freelance writing, but job experience nonetheless – so you could ask past employees to write a testimonial for your website about what sort of worker you are.

You may also want to get in touch with the editors who accepted your writing contributions mentioned above and ask for referrals.

Get your finances in order

Freelancing is an interesting business model because you don’t have to invest a lot in order to start making money. Your most valuable asset is your time. Of course, it’s a good idea to keep your finances in order to avoid future headaches. Here’s how:

  • Separate your personal savings from your business bank account
  • Set up an online payment processing system
  • Save enough money to cover your bills for the next 6-12 months

(Note from Kirsty: If sorting out your finances as both a freelance writer and a full-time-jobber fills you with dread, you should probably speak to Rosie.)

Start charging for your services

  • Identify your ideal client
  • Research potential clients in your desired niche
  • Approach prospective clients and pitch to them

Stay motivated

You may envy your coworkers when they tell you how they spent their weekends on the beach while you were finishing up a blog post or pitching prospective clients. This is perfectly normal – don’t let it put you off.

Find an accountability partner or set milestones to measure the success of your freelance writing career as ways to keep motivated.

You’re trying to build a stable business here. Overnight successes are rare so aim for those long term goals.

Have fun

Make time for fun. Don’t focus just on your freelance writing business or you run the chance of burning out. Every once in a while, go out with your friends for drinks. Play the piano. Whatever it is you love to do, make sure you still get to do it.

Make the leap!

If you want to start a freelance writing career that will eventually become your full-time job, ask yourself the following:

  • Do you have enough money saved?
  • Do you have a number of well-paying, regular clients?
  • Is your income relatively stable?
  • Do you have enough reasons to continue working at your day job?

Evaluate your unique situation and if it works for you, give your notice to your employer and celebrate!

You’re a full-time freelance writer. And wasn’t that the dream all along?

About the author:

Karen Martínez is a freelance blogger for hire. She also helps writers to build successful businesses and fulfilling lifestyles. Download her manifesto and improve your freelance business!

Image courtesy of Ponsulak Kunsub /123rf. Text added.

7 Comments

  • Rosie Slosek

    Reply Reply November 4, 2014

    Thanks for the mention Kirsty 🙂

    I’m a tax return coach specialising in cake-loving freelancers in the UK. So, if you are a freelancer – or want to be – and you adore cake like I do, some of my blog posts may help to add to the great content here.

    http://onemanbandaccounting.co.uk/quit-your-job

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply November 4, 2014

      You’re welcome Rosie. You’ve certainly helped me out a lot. 🙂

    • Karen Martínez P.

      Reply Reply November 4, 2014

      Hey Rosie,

      I love cake, do I qualify? haha

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      • Rosie Slosek

        Reply Reply November 5, 2014

        HI Karen,

        You would except you’re in Panama City. Fabulous place (well, except at Spring Break possibly)but not in the UK. On the other hand, a lot of the content of my blog is universal so have a look and check what is different for you Stateside.

        Cake is always universal. I had wheat free vegan peanut butter pumpkin chocolate chip muffins in my newsletter this week 😀

        Rosie

  • William Ballard

    Reply Reply November 4, 2014

    Another great post Kirsty!

    Thank you Karen for the opportunity to have a glimpse into your writing life.

    I really liked the idea of asking former or current employers for testimonials about your work ethic and so forth (I wish I would have thought of that).

    I wish all the best for you Karen.

    God Bless.

    • Karen Martínez P.

      Reply Reply November 4, 2014

      Hi William!

      Thank you for reading it! 🙂

      I guess our clients just want to know we’re reliable and we’re capable of delivering results. Employers already know that, so it’s a good way to use our past experiences.

      All the best to you too!

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field