Many people want to be freelance writers. (After all, the financial and professional freedom it affords you are pretty amazing!)
But sadly, most are afraid to make the jump.
The biggest thing holding them back? The money.
While these hopeful writers know they can make a decent living freelancing – maybe even a six-figure one like mine – they also know it won’t happen right away. And that scares them.
I often get asked …
“How will I pay my bills, cover my rent or support my family?”
“Is there any way to guarantee I’ll make enough to get by?”
“Why should I leave my 9-to-5 when it gives me reliable paychecks I can count on?”
I get it…your full-time job is your safety net. It keeps you afloat, and it ensures you have the funds you need to survive and thrive.
But you know what?
Freelancing and full-time work don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, most freelancer writers start their careers while still at their full-time jobs!
It’s true. Millions of successful freelance writers (me included!) choose to get their feet wet in freelancing before diving in head-first.
So if you’re worried about quitting your 9-to-5 or choosing between a reliable paycheck and a rewarding freelance career you love, don’t be. You can do both, and it may even make you more successful because of it!
How to Start a Freelance Writing Career While You’re Working Full-time – The Keys to Success
The key to becoming a freelance writer while still working your full-time job is to simply take it slow.
Your main goals during this period need to be:
- Understanding how the freelance world works. How will you get clients? How will you work with clients or charge them? Discover what systems and processes work best for you.
- Discovering where your strengths lie. What content are you best at? Are there any niches or specialties you can focus on? How long does it take you to complete a project? These will all play a role in the type of freelance writer you will become.
- Building up a portfolio. The more samples you can build up during this period, the better you’ll look to potential clients and the more you will make. Use this time to build a portfolio of varied, high-quality content that shows off your skills.
- Making connections. Your first clients will be the ones who can refer you to others, vouch for your talents and connect you with more potential business. They may even turn into long-term customers you can rely on for years to come.
- Securing enough work to make the big leap. Ultimately, your biggest goal needs to be building up enough clients and projects to financially support yourself. Once that happens, you can quit that 9-to-5 with confidence and excitement.
If you want a simple 30-day plan to earning as a freelance writer, have you checked out my “30 Days to $1K Daily Action Plan” for freelance writers yet? It outlines my strategies for setting up your portfolio/website and also reveals my personal 30-day plan for earning $1K as a freelance writer in 30 days. Learn more here.
A Step-by-Step Plan
Here’s a step-by-step method that spells out exactly how to start a freelance writing career while you’re still working full-time. I used these tactics when I was just starting out, and I can assure you: they work.
- Land your first client. All you need is one client to get started.
Reach out to old colleagues, post to your LinkedIn page, or check out job boards, Craigslist postings, or even bidding sites to find a client who could use your skills and abilities.
You may not be able to charge premium prices at this point if you have no writing experience, but remember, you’re just starting out. Use this as an opportunity to get introduced to the industry and make yourself a better, more marketable freelance writer in the future.
- Figure out the right schedule. This is crucial since you will be juggling freelancing with a full-time job.
During the bulk of the day, you may be stuck at a desk completing work for your boss or sitting in on meetings. You may not be able to work on your freelance projects or find new clients.
Set aside time every weeknight for your freelancing efforts. You can work some on the weekends too, but don’t overwork or overwhelm yourself. You want this to be an enjoyable experience, not one you regret. Fit freelance work into your lunch break or, if you ride the train or bus to work, into your morning commute.
- Manage expectations. Start slow.
Don’t take on too many projects or make clients sky-high promises. A two-day turn-around on a 10,000-word project isn’t doable if you’re working a full-time job.
Work with clients to set deadlines that are manageable and fitting for both of you. You don’t want your first freelance projects to set you back. That won’t help you build a good reputation.
- Deliver great work. A great freelance career begins with great work, so do all you can to really deliver for those first few clients.
Maybe you’re not getting the huge payday you’d love, but put that aside for a moment and think of all the other benefits: The other projects the client may send you, the connections and colleagues they could refer you to, the higher pay you could command if they really like your work.
Deliver stellar, on-time work, and do everything you can to be responsive, helpful and flexible. They’ll be happy to help you in your career if you help theirs!
- Build on your portfolio site. You should already have a portfolio site in place, but if you don’t, create one now.
Your portfolio should include a detailed bio, a list of your specialties and services and a list of your best writing samples. As you work with new clients, go back to this site and update it with new samples and information. Create a page for testimonials from those you have worked with. This site will be your main source of marketing as you get further into your career, so invest time in it now.
- Keep moving up. Don’t stay static.
Once you complete a project, immediately look for another one to replace it, and if you ever feel like you can take on more, consider adding on another client or two (just don’t overdo it!). As you get further into freelancing, start looking to move on and up, too.
If you started with content mills or bidding sites, start moving away from those and looking for gigs on writing job boards or through local publications and magazines. Start to aim higher, charge more and get the jobs your talents warrant.
- Save, save, save. At the beginning, you’ll probably think of your freelancing writing paychecks like play money – just a little extra cash in the bank to use when having fun or going out with friends.
Though it might be tempting to use this added money for non-essentials, instead, funnel that cash into a savings account. It might only be $50 or $100 at a time, but the more you can save, the quicker and easier your transition into full-time freelancing will be. Eventually, you’ll have a financial safety net that will allow you to quit that 9-to-5 and enjoy your career.
- Know what the magic number is. You don’t want to juggle freelancing and full-time work forever, so find out what amount of money you need to be able to quit your full-time job.
This doesn’t just mean the amount of money you have in the bank, but the amount of reliable, paying work you can count on each month to support your lifestyle.
Does it need to be the exact amount your full-time job pays you? Or is there a minimum amount you can make to still get by and cover your rent, utilities, food and other necessities? You’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you hit this number if you really hustle.
I recommend saving at least 3 months worth of your full-time income before you jump into freelancing full-time. This way, you have some money to fall back on if you need it.
If you have any questions on your transition into freelancing, please ask them in the comments below. I’m here to help. Good luck!
And if you want more information on the beginning steps of freelance writing, check out my article, The Definitive Step-by-Step on How to Become a Freelance Writer.