Becoming a Freelance Writer: Should You Go into Debt to Finance This Career?

I’ve been freelancing since 1993; full-time since 2007. One of the things I loved about becoming a freelance writer is that it’s a career with a low bar of entry – money-wise. I mean, if you already have a computer/laptop and an internet connection, you can start this home-based business. That remains true to this day.

However, as my freelance writing career progressed, I ran into situations where I had to spend money to make money. Before I get into that, however, let me back up a minute and explain what prompted this post.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Here’s the site’s affiliate disclosure policy for full details.

Using Credit: A Bad Idea to Finance Your Freelance Career?

One of my income streams as a freelance writer is developing and teaching online writing classes. One of the ways I suggest for students to finance a class is via PayPal Credit (not an affiliate link; just a happy user of the service for years).

One reader wrote the following in response to this suggestion:

Forgive me but I think that encouraging people to use credit instead of having saved up for their course is wrong. This debt-ridden society is what got the UK, US and loads of other countries into trouble – and individuals as well. As you have a financial background I am sure that you know the truth behind so-called credit cards, and I am surprised at you.

Hence, this post. I wanted to give some insight into this.

5 Good Reasons to Use Credit to Finance Your Freelance Writing CareerGet Trained to Start a High-Paying Online Writing Career

In my opinion, there is a time when it’s okay – indeed, even advisable – to use credit to get your freelance writing career off the ground.

One of the main reasons I say this is, when you think about the cost of a college education – and the time it can take you to recoup that investment – financing your freelance career on credit can not only be a wise investment, it’s one that can pay off almost immediately.

Following are a few areas where it’s okay, in my opinion, to whip out the ole credit card or apply for a line of credit to start/grow a freelance business.

I. Website Design/Redesign

In 2008, this blog was still in HTML. This meant, of course, that it wasn’t mobile-friendly, which meant I was losing traffic, not to mention sales of my ebooks and ecourses.

Although cell phones, tablets and e-readers weren’t as common then as they are today, readers kept telling me that they couldn’t view some of the information on the site that well on their mobile devices.

They had actually been telling me this for a few years, but I just ignored it, opting to handle it at “another time.” While I kept putting it off, other sites around me (my competitors) weren’t.

I realized that not only was it bad from a reader’s point of view, it reflected poorly on me as a SEO writer – a niche in freelance writing that is particularly focused on something like this, ie, being mobile-friendly.

It’s hard to quantify lost sales, but I knew that being mobile friendly was something my potential freelance writing clients cared about, so it was something I had to care about, too.

Hence, I went looking for a web design firm to handle it for me. And let me tell ya, it wasn’t cheap! I didn’t have the ready cash on hand, so what did I do? I charged it.

It took me a couple of months to pay off that bill, but I felt better about the professional face I was presenting to the world, which ultimately lead to me marketing more – and marketing more confidently.

Again, it’s hard to quantify lost sales, but I KNOW that helped my business – and led to more ebook and ecourse sales.

Note: You don’t need a fancy website for your freelance business. In fact, simple can be better. But, what you do need is for your website to work seamlessly for web surfers. Otherwise, “The Big G” (Google) will punish you in search results. So again, this was money – on credit – that was well spent.

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II. Increase Skills / Gaining Knowledge

I’ve been dibbling and dabbling in affiliate marketing for years (since 2008). But, I could never seem to get my income to remain consistent. Some months, I’d earn a couple of thousand dollars, then it’d dip back to a few hundred. Then, I’d just get tired of trying altogether and abandon my efforts.

That’s how I rocked along for years – until 2017. I decided to get hella serious about it, and one thing I knew I had to do was learn what the heck I was doing wrong; or, not doing right.

That meant investing in some kind of class or seminar. The one I chose was the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course. Once I took it, I was like, “No wonder your earnings have never been consistent!

There is a ton of free information online about affiliate marketing. So you really don’t have to pay for anything. But the value of a class/course is, in short, you don’t know what you don’t know. Hence, you don’t know what to look for, what to implement, what to dismiss and what to double-down on.

The Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing ecourse taught me so much – things it quite possibly would have taken me years to learn and implement. Thanks to the knowledge I gained in that course, I began to put systems and processes in place that helped me to start stabilizing – and more importantly, growing — my affiliate marketing income.

And get this … the price I paid for the course? I more than earned back within the first couple of months in sales, because I ultimately became an affiliate for the course.

Note: Get the free report, Increase Your Affiliate Earnings: 7 Things I Did Immediately After Taking Michelle’s Course That Can Help You Earn More, if you purchase via my affiliate link. Read my in-depth review of the course (and learn more about the report).

When to Finance a Knowledge / Skill Class, Course, Coaching, Etc.

Financing anything that helps you gain more knowledge and/or increase your skill set (so you can earn more) is worth it, IF:

  • It’s a career you’re invested in for the long haul;
  • You can see your way to paying the debt off within a defined period of time, ie, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, etc.; and
  • It doesn’t put you/your family in any kind of financial jeopardy (eg, draining an emergency fund).

III. Put Out a Better Product

One of my income streams is ecourse creation and teaching. In April of 2017, I migrated all of my courses to the Teachable platform. Before that, I’d been dispensing them as simple pdf files. This process was effective and acceptable – for years.

One day, I was perusing another freelance writer’s site and I discovered that she had her courses hosted on Teachable. It looked so much more professional. But the thing that really got me was — it was hands-off presentation!

You see, with my courses, students paid, then waited for me to email them the course. Then when I updated them, I had to double back and email them the new material.

Needless to say, this was a pain. It also took valuable time away from what could be other income-producing tasks – and when you freelance, time is money.

With Teachable, once a student signs up, they can immediately access the course material. And when I go in and update material, that information becomes available to them right away.

Additionally, students have lifetime access, so I never have to worry about individually sending updates again. This frees me to focus on other aspects of my online writing business.

And to repeat, Teachable is just a more professional way to present material. Students can access it seamlessly from all their mobile devices, whenever they want to, at any time of the day or night.

Teachable even allows you to set up your own affiliate program, and they handle all the back-end tasks, eg, paying affiliates. All of this has led to increased course sales for my business.

I use this example to illustrate how investing in creating a better product, service and/or user experience is always money well spent, because this kind of investment will almost always pay for itself – if not immediately, then definitely over time – especially if it’s something in which your competitors are investing.

Customers will expect the same seamless experience and if you’re not delivering it, you’ll look outdated, and lose sales.

IV. Cover Professional Fees

Do you have any auto-charges attached to a credit card, debit card, or PayPal account?

Have you ever had a charge hit, and you smack your forehead and go, “Gosh darn it, I forgot that was coming out today!”? Lord knows I have — one too many times.

In fact, there are several running monthly expenses I can point to in my freelance writing business which, if I hadn’t opted to pay them out annually, could have potentially caused overdraft charges – and other fees with my bank and credit card company. For example:

If you can’t afford to pay all of your fees out annually, then using credit as overdraft protection can be a good thing. For example, if you have a PayPal Credit account, you can set it up so that all of your payments come out of that account (instead of your balance, for example).

This way – if you maintain enough of a balance, you will never have to worry about not having enough money in your PayPal account. Then, when money does hit your PayPal account, eg, from a client project or ecourse, ebook, or affiliate marketing earnings, you can just pay that balance off.

Just because you have credit does not mean you have to use it all. In fact, you shouldn’t. Try to use only what you need, and work to pay the balance off in full as quickly as possible. This way, you can always have “ready cash” available when you need it, even if that “cash” is “OPM” (other people’s money).

V. Peace of Mind

One of the things you’ll find out, if you research freelancing before starting your business, is that it’s a lot lot harder to get credit than it would be if you had a full-time job, for example. And the reason for this is, lending institutions like certainty – which means a track record.

If you’re a freelancer and you’re taking out a home loan, for example, most will ask for two to three years tax returns. When you first start freelancing, of course, you likely won’t have that. So applying for credit before you leave your 9-to-5 is not only a smart move, it can give you peace of mind.

This is particularly helpful as your freelance business starts to grow and you encounter some of the expenses/types of expenses discussed here.

Financing Your Freelance Business on Credit: Conclusion

One of the things I love about running an online writing business is that the cost is really next to zero compared to other types of businesses. And even though I can well afford the monthly outlay for my business now, I wouldn’t have gotten here as quickly if I hadn’t used credit at some point.

Credit is not a bad word, as some might think. In fact, it can be one of the smartest financial moves you ever make in your freelance career. Just be wise about it, weighing the pros and cons from the beginning, just as you would any other financial move.

I hope this insight helps you understandf a bit better about when/how to use credit to finance a freelance business.


P.S.: More Freelance Writing Opportunities Than You Realize!

There are a wealth of freelance writing opportunities brought on by the digital age, as the opportunities in this Work-at-Home Summit guide highlight. Some require training; others don’t. The bottom line is, most can earn back your investment relatively quickly; again, especially when you compare it to the cost of a college degree.

P.P.S.: Start a High-Paying Online Writing Business: Free Ecourse

There are so many online writing opportunities these days. And with the right knowledge, it’s an excellent way to earn a living from home – on a PT or FT basis. Get trained to get started!Get trained to become a highly paid SEO writer. Start for free.

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