Four Ways Freelance Writers Overspend

We’re freelance writers. All we need to get the job done is a laptop, limber fingers, and a heaping dose of writing skill. To the outsider, it doesn’t seem like we could possibly overspend within our freelance writing businesses. Oh but we do. These are just some of the expenses that trip freelance writers up:

Office Supplies – You buy color coordinated post-it notes even though you spend your whole day at a computer with Evernote right at your fingertips. Or, if you’re like me, you tidy your office supplies away in the name of “organization” and then forget you bought them and replace them the next time the printer starts squawking or two pieces of paper just beg to be held together with a metal spike.

The Swankiest New Technology – Freelance writers sometimes think that owning the latest fancy technology makes them more productive or perhaps, more professional. While that can sometimes be the case, we freelance writers are in the unique position of being able to do most of our work from a plain old word processing program.  Is that fancy new MacBook Air really necessary for work, or did you buy it just to impress that cute hipster at the next table? And come on, how are you really going to justify that iPad to the IRS as a “business” machine?

Unnecessary Domain Names – Web-based freelancers have a bad habit. We come up with a great idea for a website, buy the domain name before anybody else can snap it up, and then forget about it. Or, more likely, realize we don’t have the time to build and run a whole new site.  Then, because many domain names auto-renew, we end up renewing a domain that’s going nowhere year after year. Most domain renewals are cheap, but do you really want to hang on to the ill-conceived year after year?

The Coffee Shop – I know I’ll dodge tomatoes for this one, but let’s face it, barista-brewed coffee isn’t cheap. And then, after a couple of hours of intense research, those blueberry scones start to look exceedingly yummy and totally worth the $4 price tag. Soon enough a day working at the coffee shop has cost you closing in on $20. If you head to your “corner office” every day, that’s a $100 a week, $400 a month… You get the picture.

Next week? How to catch and curb all this wild spending. Until then, have you looked at your Profit & Loss sheet lately? Did you catch any rampant overspending?


26 responses
  1. Thursday Bram Avatar

    Oh my goodness, I totally have a long-standing addiction to domain names. I love domain names and I’ve got myself convinced that if I don’t buy that brilliant domain name, someone else will. Of course, I always have a project in mind when I buy each domain name, but some projects move faster than others.
    .-= Thursday Bram´s last blog ..Constructively Productive: Teaming Up With Other Freelancers =-.

  2. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

    I’m right there with you, but I always thought domain name addiction was my secret shame. It wasn’t until attending SXSW for the first time that I realized it was a fairly common occurrence. I think the strangest one I own (and it was a great idea at the time!) is
    .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..13 eCards for Freelancers =-.

  3. Jim Kimmons Avatar

    I’ll admit to the domain name addiction, but I’ve been letting them go lately. But, I fully intend to be able to justify my iPad for business. With the bluetooth keyboard and some really great apps, I’m tracking my consulting time with Time Master app, writing with word count with My Writing Nook app, billing out writing by the word with Time Master, doing my accounting with Active Money app, and much more on it. In fact, there are around 60 apps on mine, and none are for fun.

    1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar
      Jennifer Escalona

      More power to you, Joe! I just know that, if I bought an iPad, I would be tempted to use it more than solely for business (I would have to let my cat play the piano, for example) and that would negate it as a tax deduction. Now if I could buy two iPads… That’s a different story!

      1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar
        Jennifer Escalona

        Oh! And right after I posted that, I found a way to get around the business/personal use of the iPad. You just need to keep track of your business and personal use (maybe using that handy time tracker app you mentioned?) Here’s more info:

  4. Carrie Avatar

    Guilty of the office supply habit and the “corner office.” I had to crack down by designating a percentage of income to business investment and opting for the brand spankin’ new public library two blocks away instead of Starbucks.

    1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar
      Jennifer Escalona

      Carrie, it’s tough, isn’t it? I’m an office supply junkie. I feel so professional when surrounded by my paper clips and army of black ink pens, but I had to curb the addiction by making a list and sticking to it when I go to Staples. Otherwise I come out with gold stars, thumb tacks and dozens of other things that I don’t need!

  5. Leslie A. Joy Avatar

    I have an ebook addiction. I’ll find a blog I like, and next thing I know I’m buying every ebook they sell and any they recommend.

    Heaven help me if I ever get an ereader.
    .-= Leslie A. Joy´s last blog ..To Be Productive and Fix Your Habits, You Must First Realize What’s Blocking You =-.

    1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

      eBooks? That’s a new one on me, though I can see from all the great ebooks out there how this would become a problem. How do you plan to curb your addiction, Leslie? Maybe an eBook budget? 🙂
      .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..A Few Tricky Ways to Stay Current on Business Books =-.

      1. Leslie A. Joy Avatar

        Haha! I think I’m going to have to. Creating a book budget definitely helped curb my book spending. The hardest thing is their so easy to justify. “I’m supporting a site I love! It’s for work!”
        .-= Leslie A. Joy´s last blog ..To Be Productive and Fix Your Habits, You Must First Realize What’s Blocking You =-.

  6. Jennifer L Avatar

    I loved new crayons and markers as a kid, and as a freelancing adult, I love me some new post-it notes and colored paperclips. Guilty!
    .-= Jennifer L´s last blog ..Looking for more about the flood? =-.

    1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

      You touch on a good point. I think the office supply addiction has something to do with all the bright colors post-its and markers come in now. You can’t walk by them in the aisle without visions of a colorful office dancing through your head. At least I can’t.
      .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..A Few Tricky Ways to Stay Current on Business Books =-.

  7. Jennifer Perry Avatar

    Domain name addiction? that’s a new one on me. How did I miss that? I try to keep down the ‘corner office’ costs, but I do love, love, love a tidy, cute, coordinated office.

    1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

      I really thought domain name addiction was my secret shame until I started hanging out with other web-based freelancers. You’ve managed to avoid it so far, Jennifer. Try to keep it that way!
      .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..A Few Tricky Ways to Stay Current on Business Books =-.

  8. julie Avatar

    I’m a sucker for communication channels: a fax line, a land line, a cell phone, Internet. Different folks contact me via different mediums, so I keep them all.

    1. Claire Wagner Avatar

      Julie, bingo! I have wifi service at home plus a rather expensive broadband modem service that I use on the road or in the library when I can’t concentrate at home. I justify the modem because I do travel and it also serves as a backup – like when I have to move next month, I won’t have service disrupted. But I’m not sure it really pays for itself. I could map out free wifi instead if I wasn’t so lazy…

    2. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

      Julie, I think you just use good customer service. It’s friendlier to let people contact you how they want to rather than make them contact you how you want to be contacted. As for a fax line, I’m now, thankfully, able to do without one. After a 6-month ordeal where I tried out a bunch of online faxing services (I got badly burned by I settled on As long as you have a scanner, it works wonders and its only $10/month!
      .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..A Few Tricky Ways to Stay Current on Business Books =-.

  9. Genesis Avatar

    I’m a recovering domain addict. I had over 30 at one point that were not in use . . . now I’m down to 3. 🙂

    I actually do buy Post-Its but I use them all the time to keep track of my assignments since I just can’t get properly organized on the computer. So that’s justified.

    The new laptop, I really do need one! As I type, I’m on my kids’ rickety old PC and there are brown lines zigzagging across the screen that just don’t go away. But I’d settle for a sturdy portable machine.

    1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

      Brown lines on the screen? Okay, for pete’s sake. That’s totally justified! I cant imagine having to write through soup.

      Congrats on recovering from your domain name addiction. Is it like AA, I wonder? Are we never truly cured, only recovering? 😉
      .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..A Few Tricky Ways to Stay Current on Business Books =-.

  10. Amanda Hevener Avatar

    I have been an Office Supply Junkie since I was in college. Now that I’m a freelance writer, my addiction has increased tenfold. Do I really need 80 different blue pens and a drawer full of Post Its? No, but I’m going back to Office Max to buy more tomorrow anyway.

    1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

      Girl, I know I just wrote a post about overspending, but hey, if it makes you happy, it makes you happy. 😉
      .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..A Few Tricky Ways to Stay Current on Business Books =-.

  11. Murlu Avatar

    Coffee and domains have been killing me lately.

    Every morning I generally grab a cup of coffee but you never just get a cup, you end up grabbing a snack or another drink for later in the day. This adds up quite a bit day after day.

    Domains are another issue. I don’t want to miss out on a great domain name so I snag it up. Unfortunately, renewal is coming up and I’m looking at quite a huge fee to get them all. Gotta assess which ones I actually do plan to work on and let the others go.
    .-= Murlu´s last blog ..Time Management For Successful Bloggers =-.

    1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

      Hi Murlu, I have the exact same problem. I finally let some of the really wack domain names go, but I won’t confess to how many I still plan to work on. You know, in my “spare” time.
      .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..A Few Tricky Ways to Stay Current on Business Books =-.

  12. Ashley Festa Avatar

    I have to wear blinders when going to the office supply store. Even if I’m just at Walmart, there’s a mysterious gravitational pull from the school supplies aisle that sucks me in, and I get that fat-kid-in-a-candy-shop look on my face.

    1. Jennifer Escalona Avatar

      Same. Don’t you just want to roll around in all the markers? Sniff all the ink pens? Open every cute journal up to that first, fresh, clean page? Aaaaahhhh Office supplies.
      .-= Jennifer Escalona´s last blog ..A Few Tricky Ways to Stay Current on Business Books =-.

  13. Dee M. Avatar

    I disagree on the MacBooks. They last longer than most Windows laptops, and one of the biggest perks of being self employed is being able to choose hardware and an OS that you enjoy using. Spending a little more on something that gets the kind of heavy use that a freelancer’s laptop does is not money wasted if it helps you enjoy your work. I’m usually pretty cheap, but I shell out the extra money for Macs because I really do strongly prefer them to Windows machines.

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