Freelance Writer? That Means You’re In Business!

Guest Post By Anne Wayman

If you’re serious about freelance writing that means you also must get serious about the freelance writing business. By business I mean all the things that go on in addition to writing so you can make a profit and even a good living at your chosen profession.

Since you’re thinking about getting seriously into freelance writing I’m going to assume you’ve at least started to make some money with your writing and you suspect you could make more if you knuckled down a bit. That means you need to pay attention to the two M’s of business:

Money and Marketing

Money and the Freelance Writer

Freelance writers often tell me they don’t have any idea how to handle money and that, in fact, the very thought of money scares them. Others simply don’t know what they need to do.

The sooner you start to track your writing income and the expenses associated with your freelance writing the better off you’ll be. Many do it on a spreadsheet, but I find it soon gets too large and I feel absolutely lost.

For years I used QuickBooks, but a major glitch that Intuit told me couldn’t happen led me to AceMoney. It’s almost free – a mere $45 for a single computer which includes a lifetime of updates. (I wish they had an affiliate program!) And if you’re into mobile computing they have components for that as well.

AceMoney lets you set up multiple accounts and download your transactions to help you track your income and outflow easily, which will simplify and make your tax person truly happy. You’ll also be able to get truly clear on where your money is going. You may be surprised, pleasantly I hope.

I use Kyle Kodra to do my taxes each year and I’m sure he’d work virtually with you, but there are good tax people everywhere. I use a tax person because I can’t understand anything the IRS says in it’s letters. If you want to do your own taxes, great, but you can’t ignore them.

I actually save about 12% of every check that comes in which I use to pay quarterly self-employment taxes. I know, the notion that we pay extra to be self-employed is almost enough to make you give up freelancing, but don’t. Start some savings and soon you’ll be in the rhythm of it.

You’ll also need to save at least 10% of your income for what some call a prudent reserve. I actually use this account to smooth out the income dips freelancing always seem to bring, and save another 10-20% for things like vacations, car repairs, my cat’s visits to the vet, etc. You’ll need to handle your own health insurance if you’re in the U.S. as well.

Marketing and the Freelance Writer

Many writers also tell me they hate marketing. I understand. I also understand that unless I let the world know I write no clients will every find me.

The first marketing tool you must have is your own website, hopefully in your own name or in something that’s easy to remember and associate with writing. These days I suggest folks set them up as WordPress blogs, although that certainly isn’t the only way. I also suggest that until you’ve earned enough money to hire a designer you do it yourself. Not only will that save money, it will also teach you enough about blogs and sites so when you do hire someone you won’t get ripped off.

The second marketing tool is business cards. I use VistaPrint. In the beginning I used the free cards and no one seemed bothered by the VistaPrint logo. Now I spend more, but that’s not the point.

The point of having business cards is pass them out freely. I often give people at least two, sometimes three, and tell them to give the extra to someone. Most people seem glad to have them – my phone number and email are there making it easy to contact me. I slip them in to envelopes along with payments, often put one when I pay my bill at a restaurant, and have been known to put them on community bulletin boards.

The third marketing tool is my email signature – again with my phone number so people can get in touch with me. It goes out with every email.

The rest of your marketing depends largely on what kind of writing you are doing and want to do. Magazine articles require writing and submitting queries on regular basis. A book will mean writing and maybe putting together a proposal for agents or publishers.  Blogging requires not only blog posts but marketing the blog including social media and guest posts on other blogs. Corporate writing means getting in front of the people in organizations who hire writers – probably by telephone.

Getting comfortable handling money and marketing yourself are important parts of running a successful freelance writing business.

Anne Wayman is a ghostwriter, writing coach and blogs about freelance writing at http://aboutfreelancewriting.com

Comments

  1. Curious about the glitch, since I’ve been using QuickBooks for 15 years — not touting it, per se, just want to make sure I don’t run into same issue.

    I would also recommend that writers spend a little time learning basic bookkeeping/accounting. Even though QB and other programs make it easy, basic understanding helps you in running a profitable business and in notincing any problems when making entries in software (e.g., entering a business credit or depreciation on the wrong side of the ledger).

    A little bookkeeping/accounting knowledge can also open up some writing opportunities because you have some knowledge that other writers don’t.

  2. I love Anne’s advice and her blog.
    .-= allena´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Blogs: Cream of the Crop Posts =-.

  3. Phil, I can’t be sure, but it happened when my bank, WAMU became Chase. Something happened and I had all sorts of duplicate transactions and they weren’t all sequential. Intuit insists that can’t happen – which is an attitude I hate in customer service. Whatever their duplication checking actually is didn’t work with the automatic bank change… suspect it’s not something you’ll run into often, if ever.
    .-= Anne Wayman´s last blog ..Twitter for Freelance Writers: A Brief Primer =-.

  4. Anne:

    This is a great post. I think it’s one of the elements of freelancing that many just do not feel the full impact until they get started. I know I didn’t – and I was sure I would – having worked in management for years. I am totally going to get someone to do my taxes and as soon as I’m able to outsource the admin. of some of the work.

    Thanks for the tips. You definitely gave me some to follow up on.
    .-= Cathy Miller´s last blog ..Why I Love Ghostwriting =-.

  5. Thanks Kathy – getting a good tax guy and a good virtual assistant plus some other great people makes my life sooooo much easier.
    .-= Anne Wayman´s last blog ..Twitter for Freelance Writers: A Brief Primer =-.

  6. I love these tips from Anne. They tell me , a fairly new freelance ‘business’ writer (2 yrs & counting) exactly what I’m not doing as I aim to increase my client/profit base.
    Thanks, Anne!

    Clara.
    .-= clara54´s last blog ..Some T.G.I.F. News! =-.

  7. You’re more than welcome Clara. Truly.
    .-= Anne Wayman´s last blog ..Details and the Story =-.

  8. Great advice! I use Zazzle.com for my business cards. I like them because they have very creative backgrounds and designs. I had my friend design my logo for me, but I also like to have a cool background on business cards as well. I’d like to have my website revamped. I’m no web designer and have no desire to be one. I moved my website from Weebly.com to WordPress, but I’m thinking about moving it back to Weebly.com. I found a web designer that does awesome work, but she only works with Weebly. I haven’t made a definite decision just yet. Paying your taxes is important as is making estimated payments. This way you won’t receive sticker shock at the end of the year. The other alternative is to put money away for your taxes and unexpected expense.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Is Your Writing Moldy and Stale? =-.

  9. Oops! I meant “unexpected expenses.”
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Is Your Writing Moldy and Stale? =-.

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