As a freelance writer, you likely use occasional gigs to supplement your full-time income. There are many advantages to this setup, including having the practicality of a steady paycheck while making extra money doing what you love.
But if you love the process of freelance writing more than your current job, you may wonder about converting those one-off gigs into a full-time stream of available work.
Is it possible for you to turn your freelance work into a sustainable business?
Factors to Consider
Before you take the next step, make sure you consider these potential factors:
Financial stability. You may have a steady gig, but finding steady full-time work as a freelancer will be more challenging. You’ll inevitably experience significant fluctuations in both income and workload, and you’ll need to be able to tolerate those changes. Before you get started, you should make sure you’re in decent financial shape, and capable of living through at least a few months of financial turmoil before you earn more consistent income.
Your passion. How enthusiastic are you about writing? If you aren’t at least somewhat passionate about the art, you may lose interest before you can build the business to a livable level. On the other hand, if writing is your whole world, be prepared for some disillusionment when writing becomes your full-time job.
Your niche. There are thousands of freelancers out there. What makes you unique? New clients are only going to hire you if you’re relevant to their specific needs, so it’s better to target a highly specialized, small audience, than a general, large one. If you don’t already have a dedicated niche, this is the time to choose one.
Your personal brand. How much experience do you have? How much visibility do you have on social media, and in your niche community? Your personal brand can make or break your freelance business, so if you don’t have one, it’s a good idea to build one before going off on your own.
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A backup plan. No matter how good of a writer you are or how much research you’ve done, there’s always the chance that things won’t work out as intended. Before you drop everything to pursue a full-time writing career, take the time to sketch out a backup plan. How will you make money if you lose a major client? What career can you pursue in its stead?
Steps to Get Started
If you’re ready to get started, these are the steps you’ll need to follow.
- Create a business plan. You can’t improvise a business and blindly hope it will turn out for the best. Instead, you’ll need to create a formal business plan, so you can think through each element of your business, scrutinize its feasibility, and make adjustments to ensure your business is profitable and sustainable over time. You’ll need to evaluate your level of competition, how you’re going to make money, current demand, and how you’ll expand your business (if you plan to) in the future.
- Secure your initial assets. Next, you may need to invest in a better setup. If you’re working on freelance gigs, a small laptop is often enough, but if you’re going to work a full 40 hours a week (or more), you’ll want to invest in an office. That may mean finding office space in your city, or building out a home office with a desk, ergonomic furniture, and other accoutrements. If you need help getting started, you may need to take out a small business loan.
- Invest in new tools. As part of your initial investments, you’ll also want to invest in new tools to help you manage your business. Some of these may include new hardware, like an upgraded laptop or tablet, but mostly, you’ll want to look at software. You’ll need at least entry-level accounting or bookkeeping software to keep track of your expenses, and possibly marketing management software if you’re planning to market yourself online.
- Scale up your current work. Next, consider talking to your current clients and asking if you can scale up your current workload. If you’ve done a reliable job for them in the past, they may be able to increase your workload immediately. If not, they may be able to refer you to a client who can help keep you busy. It’s an easy and fast way to build an initial client base if your current workload isn’t enough to sustain you full time.
- Begin marketing yourself. Make sure you leave enough time to market yourself as a writer. The best way to gain new clients is to earn more attention for yourself and build your reputation, which means working on your own blog, supporting your social media profiles, and getting involved with higher authorities in whatever niche you’re targeting. Prepare to spend at least a few hours every week promoting yourself—especially if your current client roster is limited.
If you have the right mindset and are committed to building a real business, there’s nothing stopping you from turning your occasional gigs into a full-time revenue stream. Demand for writers is currently high, so as long as you can distinguish yourself with your expertise and approach, you should be able to remain competitive.