Want a Freelance Writing Career? Here’s How to Achieve That Dream This Coming Year

As we approach the New Year, it’s a good time to take a look back to assess what you did right, what you did wrong and what you can do differently in the coming year to achieve your dreams.

Note: This is a long, windy post. I often get sentimental at the end of the year. I figured it was as good a time as any to share with you why I believe some achieve success and others don’t. And, how I did it. I hope you find it inspiring — and gets you on the road to achieving your dreams, whether it’s freelance writing or traveling or running a marathon. Whatever it is, just get busy doing it.

A Surefire Road to Success: The Value of a Plan

It’s amazing how things work out when you have a plan. While they don’t always go exactly the way you want them to, when you work from a plan, it allows you to stay on track. I’ve been freelancing since 1993. For the first 5 to 7 years, I just kind of winged it. I had no real plans other than making enough money to pay rent and hang out with my friends.

I was living in New York City then, a 20-something-year-old with a carefree existence.

The Importance of Having a Life Plan

About 10 years ago though, I started to take my freelance career more seriously. In my early 30s, I got married. Once this happened, I started to take life in general a little more seriously. Things like retirement, mortgages, life insurance and the possibility of children started to loom on the horizon.

Now in my early 40s, they are not only on the horizon, they are a part of my everyday existence. I don’t know if it’s because I freelance or because I’m just a Type A personality, but I think about the future – and how I want it to pan out – a lot.

I truly believe that if you don’t have a life plan, you plan to fail at life. I take issues like saving for retirement, paying off my home in 10 years instead of 30 years, staying in shape and having enough money to do what I want to do when I retire seriously.

And, I don’t want to wait until I’m in my 60s to retire. I want the option of retirement at 55. That’s just about a dozen years away. If you’re a regular reader of my blog/website, you’ve heard me express this sentiment before.

I recount all of this to get across this one simple point as a New Year dawns — life moves at an amazing speed. And if you keep putting off something you want to do, you’ll look back and wonder why you never gave it a shot – because the years will slip by before you know it.

So if you want to have a freelance writing career – go for it! You will stumble along the way; there will be dry spells; you will wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into sometimes — but this is all part of achieving a dream.

My Freelance Writing Career & the Dawn of Success

Working towards a dream is never easy. If it was, everybody would do it. I’ve only achieved the kind of success I dreamed of for years in the last two years or so. And again, I’ve been doing this since 1993. If I’d had a plan, I might have been successful sooner. But hey, better late than never.

I receive so many emails from wannabe freelance writers and those who are frustrated because the freelance writing jobs aren’t flowing in like they need them to. And I tell every one of them, “This is part of paying your dues. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

It’s universal karma; you must pay your dues in order to achieve success – that’s just the way it is. So when you’re having a hard time landing assignments – and you’ve been doing everything “right” (ie, marketing your butt off consistently) – chalk it up to good ole karma (dues paying) doing its work.

Sometimes, I think the Power Superior (as my ex-husband refers to God) tests us. He tests us to see if we really want what we say we want, and to see if we’ll hang in there long enough to get it.

If you really want to have a freelance writing career (or whatever your dreams is), then you’re going to have to weather the ups and the downs. And, this is what keeps many from even trying. They get so scared and kill their dreams before they even give them a chance to flourish.

The American Workforce: Rethinking What Job Stability Means

Yesterday, I retweeted a news story that said that 14,500 journalists were laid off this year, ie:

. . . the powerful forces of the global economic meltdown, plummeting advertising costs, and the shift of readers from print to the web would force seismic changes on traditional media. . . . Paper Cuts, an online site, that tracks layoffs at newspapers and magazines says more than 14,500 journalists have been laid-off  or bought out this year.  [Source: HighTalk.net, The Great Media Collapse of 2009: Part 2]

Many shy away from freelancing in search of job stability. I quite frankly don’t think there is such a thing anymore. Many of the jobs in manufacturing, for example, have disappeared – and they’re not coming back. And in our field, journalism, jobs are disappearing at an alarming rate.

I argue that freelancing is the new form of job stability. [Related Content: See column, The State of Freelancing]

I’d much rather freelance and have 30 or 40 clients I depend on for my living, than 1 client (an employer) to provide for me.

Think about it this way: if you lose one client as a freelancer, you still have others you can turn to for work – and you can always market to bring in more. While your income may slow down, it doesn’t stop. When you lose a job, on the other hand, you’re a** out.

You panic — because there goes your healthcare, your retirement account, literally your daily bread — because all of your financial eggs are in one basket. As a freelancer, you have a more diversified portfolio.

Freelancing Provides More Job Security

Now yes, when you’re employed you have a steady paycheck. And it’s hard to argue this point. But how long is that paycheck going to last? No one knows that. Just 10 years ago, who would’ve thunk that GM would go belly up. These workers are learning the hard way that no job is safe. And, many of them don’t know how to do anything else.

As a freelance writer though, you learn out of necessity how to do a lot of things. You learn computer skills, how to write and negotiate contracts, how to put together marketing kits, how to write a business plan, how to budget and allocate funds, how to break into new niches – and the list goes on and on.

These are valuable skills – many of which you’d never learn on a full-time job because corporate America pigeonholes you. Your job is X, Mary’s Job is Y, Joe’s job is Z – that’s the corporate formula. But it sets you, the American worker, up for failure. Why?

The Global Economy: What Workers Need to Succeed

New technologies are coming down the pike every day and workers must be nimble and mercurial. It’s no longer enough to know how to do one thing and do it great. You need to know how to do a few things in order to compete.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been offered full-time positions by clients. And, a lot of times it’s because they see that I know how to do so much. If I’d stayed in corporate America, I know I wouldn’t have learned even a quarter of what I’ve been able to learn by being a freelance writer (author, blogger, webpreneur).

Securing Your Financial Future

I believe that in order to secure your future, you need to know how to make money under your own steam. Even if you work full time, always have something going on on the side. My stepfather, who could never seem to hold down a steady job, taught me this.

What My First Small Business Mentor Taught Me

He was the type of worker who would walk off a job in a hot minute. BUT, he always brought money home at the end of the week because he knew how to make money under his own steam. He was a hard worker and as long as it was legal, he’d do it. He never got organized enough to have a formal business, but he had so many side gigs that I realized years later that he was my first small business mentor.

My stepfather was an artist – he could draw and paint with the best of them. He had real talent. And he used it. He was a painter by trade (and I mean house painter, not artist). But he put his artistic skills to use. He’d paint decorative signs for businesses, in addition to painting their walls . . . “for a little extra.” He was a true hustler (the good kind!).

He could have been a gazillionaire he was so talented and had so many business ideas. But again, this took planning – not one of his strong suits. My mom was somewhat of an entrepreneur too. She sold Avon for years, all while working a full-time job. My biological father was an entrepreneur too — the unofficial kind that could never seem to hold on to a job either. If someone pissed him off, he’d simply walk off a job.

But because he had needed skills, he always managed to make a living. He was a carpenter, electrician and auto mechanic – no formal training in any of this stuff. But, he was so good at it – and everyone knew it – that he always had more work than he could shake a stick at. He could build a house from the ground up, fix a car with super glue and if it was electronic, he knew which wire went where. He was another one with amazing talent who never got organized enough to make a formal go of it as a business person.

My mom and stepfather always told me and my sisters to have side gigs. I’ve cut grass, waited tables, sold perfume door to door, made and sold decorative housewares (pillows, placemats, etc.), wrote resumes, etc. Even when I worked full time, I always had a side gig. And I‘m glad I learned this lesson early on.

I say all this to say that I guess I come by my entrepreneurial spirit honestly.

As I wrote in the post, SEO Copywriting: 3 Reasons to Train for this High-Paying, Work-from-Anywhere Career:

I’ve always thought a little differently than others. Having “just a job” never appealed to me. I’ve always been the kind to want to do my own thing.

And now after all these years, it’s all paying off. I don’t panic or worry about my financial future — even when funds are low — because I know how to make money under my own steam.

I believe this is the wave of the future.

I wrote this long post to get across the point that that the New Year is an excellent time to set goals – and really go after them. As my mom used to say, “Time is going to pass, it’s up to you what you do with it.”

Want to Live Life on Your Own Terms?

I’m off to Jamaica for 5 weeks on Monday. And yes, I’ll be working while I’m there. I have a life I wouldn’t trade for anything – because I have a vision, a plan and the courage to act on it.

You can too!


Happy holidays, and I hope to see you back here in the New Year.

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    1. […] course, there are many more steps to take to transition to a career as a freelance writer. But, these are the broad ones that get you on the right […]