Editor’s note: This post was written by Thomas A. Parmalee, a long-time member of our community. We’d like to extend our gratitude to him for taking the time to write this piece to share his experience with all of you. His story is one reason we continue doing what we do. We hope you get as inspired as we do.
It was 14 years ago that I visited FreelanceWritingGigs.com and stumbled upon a job posting from a book publisher.
They were seeking someone to write book summaries on the backs of books. As someone who loves to read, I thought it would be a great way to earn some extra income.
All these years later, I am still writing those summaries for the same company. While I’m not a full-time freelance writer, I’ve managed to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars writing for this book publisher.
Granted, my tenure has been long – 14 years and counting – but hundreds of thousands of dollars is nothing to scoff at when we are talking about a side hustle. Looking back at my experience, here are some of my tips to succeed as a freelance writer.
Don’t worry about doing some work for free to land a job.
I’ve heard some freelance writers say they never do any work for free – even if it means actually landing a job. I’ve always looked at it a bit differently.
If a potential employer wants me to do a test or produce a piece of writing to judge if I can do the job, I do it. Full-time employers require this type of thing all the time if you manage to land a job interview; so why wouldn’t you do the same for someone who may hire you on a freelance basis?
The bottom line is that the freelance client is willing to pay is just as green as the money of a full-time employer. In fact, I’d argue that the money may even be “greener” since you can earn it on your own schedule.
In my case, the book publisher I’ve worked for all these years required me to do a tryout to get the job, which meant producing actual work. I wrote a book summary or two for actual books, and I imagine they probably ended up using it since they hired me.
While I did not get paid for those few hours of work, it led me to enjoy a lucrative income stream. So, three or four hours of free work was worth it.
Take a pay cut if it makes sense.
About a year or so into my gig with the book publisher, the company slashed the pay of all of its independent contractors across the board by 10%.
While I was not happy about it, I still really valued the job – it was something I could do on my own time, on my own schedule. And, I actually thought it was fun.
Even better, money was paid by direct deposit into my bank account every other week. No worrying about getting paid, which I understand is a problem for some freelancers.
I took the pay cut without any gripes. I imagine the company may have lost some of its freelancers because of it.
Over the years, I’ve found that despite the pay cut, the overall amount of income I’ve made from the client has increased dramatically. What began as something I earned a few extra thousand dollars a year doing has grown into something that makes me tens of thousands of dollars per year doing.
If I had not taken that pay cut, I would have lost out on a lot of money.
Do quality work and meet deadlines.
With a job such as this – and I imagine for a lot of freelance jobs – you can be inundated with work. If it’s a side hustle, you can also sometimes feel overwhelmed because you are juggling freelance duties on top of your full-time job.
You must resist the temptation to cut corners and turn in work that is subpar. You must always do your best, edit your work, and turn in assignments that require minimal if any editing.
You are the professional – and that is why the client pays you good money to get the job done. They don’t want to worry about you making a stupid mistake – and they certainly don’t want to worry about you missing a deadline.
Get the work done and get it done right – no excuses.Booting up the computer after a long, hard day is a privilege – and you always need to think of it as such. And it certainly is if it's for a client that is easy to work with and pays you well. Click To Tweet
It can be easy to get out of the habit of being thankful when you have had a tough day, the kids have been acting up, and you have to hop onto the computer at 11 p.m. when you are dead tired because you have to meet that deadline.
But don’t give in to the urge not to be thankful.
Booting up the computer after a long, hard day is a privilege – and you always need to think of it as such. And it certainly is if it’s for a client that is easy to work with and pays you well.
Whenever I turn in an assignment, I always sign off by thanking my client for giving me the work.
I’ve also made it a habit to send the client some Christmas cookies or a small token of my appreciation during the holidays. I’ve never expected or been given any type of gift in return – other than the fact that I continue to get work, year after year.
As far as I’m concerned, those Christmas cookies are working.
Pick and choose.
For most of my career, I’ve pretty much kept my one freelance client while doing an odd job here and there for friends. But success has not been automatic.
Before I found what I like to think of as my ideal client, I did a couple of projects for another book publisher – writing a couple of full-length books. While those projects allowed me to make pretty good money per book, at the end of the day, I felt like I was putting in too much work for what I was getting in return.
My point here is you have to make some tough decisions when it comes to money. Try out different things and find out what makes sense for you – and then stick with it.
You can straddle the line.
In my conversations with fellow writers, it seems I am a bit of an enigma in the sense that I make a pretty decent amount of money freelancing while also working full time.
I won’t lie: There have been times when I’ve gone through a difficult time at work and thought I should join the full-time freelancing crowd. Perhaps someday, I will do just that.
But if anything, my career proves that you don’t have to pick one or the other: It is possible to work a full-time job while also making a meaningful amount of money freelancing.
Lastly, I just want to thank FreelanceWritingGigs.com for producing such a valuable resource for writers. I still remember where I stumbled upon that job posting so many years ago, and I hope this guest post serves as a thank you of sorts by offering some meaningful insights.
About the author
Thomas A. Parmalee spends most of his time working for trade publications that serve the death-care profession. You can find him on LinkedIn.