Every freelance writer’s career is different, but if there’s one thing that running this blog has taught me, it’s that we have more in common than you may think.
Regardless of how much we currently earn as freelance writers, we all have to overcome similar hurdles.
We come across the same problematic clients. We face the same issues with rates, publishing platforms and invoicing. And we all go through the inevitable ebb and flow of business that can sometimes drive us mad.
The best way to overcome these issues is to talk about them openly. By sharing what we experience with other writers, we can make these hurdles easier to tackle and, as a whole, we can all be more successful.
Here are just a few of the issues I’ve had to handle in my day, as well as a few I know other professionals have dealt with. I hope they make your career just a little bit easier!
Deciding when to raise your rates
Just because you’re no longer in a 9-to-5 job doesn’t mean you don’t get raises anymore. The only difference is that, as a freelancer, you have more control over them.
I make it a point to raise my rates every year. This goes for both new and existing clients. If you are just getting started in your career and you have a lot more room to grow than I do, you may want to raise your rates every 6 months.
Now, I know discussing money can be difficult, but if a client values your work, they will be more than willing to raise your fee to keep you around. Just don’t hike the prices too high.
Stick to small, incremental per-word or per-project increases every time, and the client shouldn’t have a problem with it.
For example, if you have been working with a client for a year for 8 cents a word, you might want to think about increasing it to 10 cents a word. And, for new clients, think about starting at 12 or 15 cents a word.
Breaking up with that first client
As thankful as we all are for that first client – the one who gave us the confidence we needed to go full speed ahead into this freelancing world of ours – that doesn’t mean you owe them anything.
There comes a time when every client relationship has to end, and if you’re no longer profiting from, enjoying or learning from that first customer, cut the cord.
Don’t keep a lower-paying, less meaningful job because of guilt. Respect your talents and abilities, and recognize when it’s time to move on and move up. Plus, there are plenty of new freelance writers who would be more than happy to snag that gig.
Finding a niche
Having a niche can make you more in-demand. It can help you land guest blogging opportunities, magazine features, and maybe even your own business (like me!)
The key to finding your niche or specialty is to pay attention when you write.
What subjects come easiest to you?
What are you able to inject the most voice, opinion and thought into?
What requires the least research?
Maybe it’s a topic you studied in school, your favorite hobby or just something you do naturally. Or maybe, like me, it’s your own skills and career.
Losing a big client
Losing a big client can be devastating. Not only is it a blow to your ego, but it also leaves a huge gap in your schedule – not to mention your bank account.
Before you get too stressed about it, let me tell you a secret: It happens to the best of us.
Sometimes, clients move on. They find cheaper writers elsewhere, they cut their budgets, or their needs change. Sometimes, they just disappear off the face of the Earth completely.
Whatever their reason is for leaving, don’t take it personally. Take a few days off to regroup, and really think about where you want to take your career.
Then, update your portfolio and resume, hunt down some potential jobs, and dive into pitching and applying. You can even take this opportunity to raise your rates for the next client you take on.
If you are going through a slow time, this blog post may help: Business Slow? 11 Places to Get a Freelance Writing Job Quickly
An overwhelming workload
As hard as we try to space projects out and take on only what we can, sometimes the stars just don’t align that way.
You end up with too much work, not enough time and way too little sleep to even begin to think clearly.
This is when it’s time to prioritize. List every single task you have in the pipeline. Include deadlines and any other details you may need to know.
Then, with a calendar in hand, break down each day into one-hour increments. Start scheduling out your tasks one by one, allotting a single task for every hour, two hours, whatever you guesstimate will be so you have enough time to complete the project.
If possible, allot a little extra wiggle room (maybe 15 minutes) for each item, just in case you run over or need a little mental break. If you’re super-efficient, you may end up with an extra hour at the end of day. Use it to hit the gym, or just get ahead on the next day’s work.
For more help in this area, visit my post, 8 Tips for Managing the Freelance Writer’s Never-Ending To-do List.
Taking time off
One of the most frustrating things about being a freelancer – and not a 9-to-5er – is that you no longer get paid vacation, sick days or even holidays off.
Not only is time off difficult to arrange with dozens of clients, projects and to-do lists hanging in the balance, but you also lose money in the process.
All those hours you’re sunning in Cancun? Those are hours you’re not getting paid – and it’s coming out of your bottom line.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here: This is one of the worst parts of the job. But taking time off is possible; it just takes a lot of planning and forethought.
You have to plan long before – I’m talking at least a month or more – and let each of your clients know you’ll be gone from X to X dates. I like to add an extra day or two on both ends of the trip to give myself time to pack, unpack and recuperate.
You may also need to put in a little overtime in the weeks preceding your trip, just to ensure you meet any outstanding deadlines and complete any unfinished projects. You don’t want to be stressing over unfinished projects while you’re away; you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself!
Every job comes with its own hurdles, and being a freelance writer is no different. Plan ahead, work hard and keep at it, and you’ll get through it just like I did.
Have any other hurdles you’ve faced or are currently going through? Post them in the comments.
Also, don’t forget to check out my other related posts on how to become a good writer and build a profitable freelance writing business.