Most freelance writers begin their freelancing journey by working part-time.
They squeeze in their client work before and after their “day job.” This can mean writing as much as you can, sometimes late into the night, into the early morning hours, and on weekends.
For many, starting off as a freelance writer creates a delicate balancing act.
Between work responsibilities, children, and family obligations, any time you can devote to your freelance business is a hot commodity.
However, there comes the point in many freelancers’ lives where the idea of going full-time becomes too tempting to pass up. It feels like it could be a reality where you have the whole day open to write, pitch, and fully devote yourself to the work you’ve always dreamed of doing. You’ve already made some headway in the field, so why not now?
Do you think you’re ready to take your freelance writing business full-time and leave the 9-5 world behind? If so, good for you!
While it’s quite a liberating feeling to decide to take that leap into full-time freelance writing, there are a few essential boxes you should check off before putting in your notice.
Let’s dive into what you should do before saying “sayonara” to the corporate world.
Get Your Financial House In Order
Freelancing can be an uncertain industry, sometimes with steady paychecks few and far between. Even when you’re flush with clients, payment is not always immediate.
To make full-time freelancing work, getting a strong grasp on your money situation is imperative to your success.
Before going full-time, making sure you have a firm understanding of your financial standing and obligations is of utmost importance.
After all, what is a business without money?
Now is the time to start a detailed report of your outstanding debt, incoming funds, and recurring bills. By doing so, you’ll get a clear picture of what you need to bring in each month to cover your expenses.
Before I left my “traditional” job, I was able to not only understand the exact dollar amount I needed to get by each month, but I also saw where I could save some cash.
Trim The Fat
While I did want to find places to cut back on my monthly spending, I wasn’t willing to give up living my life altogether.
That $10/month subscription of beauty products? I could live happily without it, so I canceled it.
However, taking care of my body is important to me, so completely cutting out the gym wasn’t an option. Instead of quitting altogether, I was able to find a cheaper membership elsewhere and saved $30/month just by switching gyms.
If you have debt, like many of us do, see how you can best get rid of it ASAP.
For example, the majority of Americans carry some amount of credit card debt.
Call around to your card companies and see if you can get your interest rates lowered. If you’ve been a long time customer, chances are they’ll be happy to oblige.
There are plenty of places you can save money, as long as you know where to look for them. Having a clear picture of your finances is one way to do just that.
It may seem like small potatoes now, but these changes can add up and help keep your bottom line down without living like a pauper.
Build A Nest Egg
Building a nest egg is another bit of valuable advice for any freelancer.
As we’ve mentioned, regular income isn’t guaranteed.
Even if you’ve trimmed your budget, there may be times where making your monthly target is a struggle.
Your nest egg mainly serves as a safety net. If you come up a little short on client work one month, your savings can help cushion any outstanding bills or expenses.
I can’t stress enough how important having some savings can be for a freelancer. Between delayed payments and light months with your workload, your nest egg could mean the difference between struggling to keep the lights on and living comfortably.
Budget. Then Budget Some More
Once you’ve got a strong understanding of your finances, cut expenses wherever possible, and started a nest egg, you should next focus on creating a budget that works for you.
Keep in mind, you may need to revise monthly (or even weekly), but a budget needs to be a priority.
Paying “The Man”
One aspect of going into business for yourself full-time means that employer contributions or withholdings now solely rests on your shoulders.
What does this mean?
Those taxes, retirement, and health insurance plans are up to you and need to be an integral part of your monthly budget.
Most freelancers opt for paying quarterly taxes over year-end taxes, so you should speak to an accountant to learn what that means for your particular situation. While you should certainly seek out a tax specialist who is familiar with freelancing, a good rule is to put 20% of your earnings into an account that you won’t touch. That way, come tax time, you won’t be left grasping.
An accountant will cost you, but they’re worth it; as a self-employed worker, a professional will be better able to tell you where to find deductions and give you a better picture of your projected tax bills.
Unfortunately, I was never among the lucky bunch whose former employer matched my retirement contributions. I did, however, have a portion of my salary automatically deposited into an IRA account.
Once I went full-time with my writing, I needed to reassess how and when I contributed.
While your contributions as a full-time freelancer may look different, it’s important to continue to contribute to your retirement whenever and however you can.
After all, even freelancers will need to retire at some point, and planning for the future shouldn’t be overlooked.
If you’re married, you may be able to get on your spouses’ health insurance plan. If their plan is too expensive or you’re single, you’ll need to look into independent health plans and budget for them accordingly.
Depending on where you live, insurance can be a hefty expense and absolutely needs to be part of your financial plan.
A full-time freelancer’s budget may look quite different from those who work part-time. Getting a handle on your expenses before leaving your current position is a good way to ensure a smooth transition.
Get Your Client Work in Order
It’s likely you’re thinking of making the full-time leap because you’ve already landed some decent-paying and recurring gigs.
Some veteran writers would advise only going full-time when you have a full schedule of client work to replace your income completely.
That’s where I disagree.
While it’s important to have some client work lined up (after all, you DO have bills to pay) going in with a full load can be a bit overwhelming.
Be A Jack-of-All-Trades
What you may not know is that freelancers tend to work more hours per week than those in a traditional 9-5 setting.
That’s partially because freelance writers often do much more than simply write.
When you work for someone else, you’re given tasks specific to your position and leave them at the office at the end of each day. Freelancers have many more responsibilities that fall entirely on themselves.
As a freelancer, you’re often forced to wear many hats.
Just some of the other “jobs” freelancer writers take on
- Finding and pitching clients (Recruitment)
- Completing tasks with quick turnaround (Scheduling)
- Background legwork (Research)
- Editing and rewrites (Editorial)
- Invoicing (Billing)
- General finances (Accounting)
- Marketing (Advertising)
- Website, blog, and portfolio (Web Design)
It’ll take some adjusting to be able to handle all the associated tasks on a full-time scale, and overwhelming yourself with a full load of client work right out of the gate can leave you scrambling or even worse, handing in less-than your best work.
Learning to schedule your workdays and tackle each task efficiently is another way to ensure full-time success.
The ultimate goal is to have a full load of work, but it may be best to work up to it.
Going full-time may also open your horizons to new and more time-intensive projects that you may not have had the hours to take on before. Try starting with two or three more clients than your current part-time load and move up from there as you adjust to your new schedule.
Have A Strong Support System
At times, it may seem like freelancing full-time is lonely work.
Gone are the days of lunch breaks with co-workers or chats by the water cooler.
Some writers focus best when they work in solitude, but having people that support and understand your journey are vital to your continued success.
Support is incredibly important if you’re in a relationship where shared finances are in play. Even with a nest egg, going full-time can mean needing to lean financially on a partner, at least in the beginning.
With your steady, bi-weekly payments as a thing of the past, be sure to include your partner in the conversation regarding your budgeting and planning.
I’d also suggest joining a mastermind group for freelance writers. Being a part of a community of individuals working towards the same goal can give you much-needed encouragement and advice during your transition in addition to moral support.
Full-time freelancing is full of pressure.
Deadlines, rejections, and demanding clients are just a few of the obstacles you’ll be up against.
Even if you’ve dealt with these types of issues while you were part-time, handling them full-time when your primary source of income is at stake may be more pressure than you’re accustomed to.
Surround yourself with friends and family who support your journey to bring another layer of motivation for when you feel stagnant.
Confidence Is Your Secret Weapon
Last but not least, you’ll need to believe in yourself.
Cliche, yes, but also so very true.
With all the uncertainty freelancing brings, it’s easy to become defeated. But don’t give up!
You’ll have great months and ones that make you want to throw in the towel. Find the confidence to ride through the rough times, and the good times will follow!
No one became an overnight success, and you’re no exception. It’ll take hard work and a lot of on-the-job learning to hit your goals. But you WILL hit those goals.
Going full-time with your writing business is both thrilling and terrifying.
Leaving the stability of a 9-5 can be undeniably uncomfortable.
But remember why you want to go full-time and all the things you’ll gain.
Even with all these items squared away, no one will deny that starting a full-time business is no walk in the park.
You will mess up; you will wonder if you made a mistake leaving your job. But that’s just your self-doubt talking. Remember, you’re a professional, accomplished writer. Stick with it!
You’ve got this!