Only you know when you’ve tried freelance writing or blogging long enough and when it’s smart to throw in the towel. It’ll vary for people. There is a difference between an impossible situation and an iffy situation though. For example, there are almost always feast or famine periods when you’re a freelance blogger or writer. The key is knowing if you’re experiencing a typical famine or a never ending drought.
- Have you had well paying blogging or writing gigs in the past? Yes? You can get jobs again. Try applying more often and apply for gigs that relate to gigs you’ve had in the past.
- Have you been applying to writing or blogging gigs for more than a year without even a nibble from a potential employer? Maybe you need to readjust your application process. If readjusting doesn’t help maybe you’re not a great writer or you’re not cut out for blogging. Either way, it may be time to look for another job.
But how long is too long?
As noted above every situation is different so the “too long” time-frame varies as well. There are some key issues you can look at though to help you decide how long is too long for your particular situation.
It’s most likely been too long if…
- Bills are piling up and writing just isn’t cutting it.
- It’s been over a year and you’ve never scored a job that pays an actual wage. After a year, if you’re working for free, it’s a major problem.
- It’s been over two years and you’ve never scored a gig that pays a living wage or you’re still not managing to pay all of your bills.
- You’ve been writing for a while and your expenses outweigh your income.
- You’ve been writing for a while and you’re continually making less money than you used to. Maybe you need to adjust the type of work you’re accepting or maybe your heart just isn’t into it.
- You’re not having any fun.
- You’re constantly stressed out whenever you have to think about work.
Maybe you should keep on trucking if…
- You’re still having a good time writing.
- You’re slowly but steadily building up clients. Sometimes it can take a while to build up to a full client base. If you’re getting clients, you will get there (to making a living) it just might take a little longer.
- Clients respond to you but don’t quite hire you. If clients take the time to respond often (a good sign), but don’t hire you there’s probably a little something in your application game-plan that you can tweak. You may be close to getting hired.
- Your income is rising – slowly. Slow is better than nothing. If you can hold out and manage on less income for a while you may be on the path to a full time income, especially if you know where to find the higher paying gigs. The time to worry is if your income continually stays the same or keeps shrinking.
- Bonus points if you have some back-up income (like a second job or savings) or a working spouse with health benefits you can latch onto.
Advice you can ignore…
Does everyone tell you that you should be a writer or blogger? Yes. Well, a million people have probably had people tell them they should write for a living. It doesn’t mean you can. Ignore people who tell you that you should write and focus on what’s really going on (i.e. see above). Way too many people say things like, “I was born to write” or “All my college professors told me to write.” That’s nice, but if your goal is to have money to live on, these issues really don’t matter.
Should you set a time goal?…
Setting a deadline for yourself is a great idea. For example last December I was experiencing a lull (no good new jobs) and my current writing income was not enough to live on for an extended period. Because I have a son, I can’t live on a below living wage income for too long but after writing for years it seemed stupid to quit on the fly, so I set two goals. My first goal was if I didn’t find any more blogging jobs in four months I’d supplement with other sorts of writing such as go back to magazines and business writing (which I don’t like as much but money is money).
My second goal was that if supplementing other sorts of writing didn’t work I’d head back to social work after six months. I love blogging but I don’t love it so much that I’ll make my son live without groceries. I’ll get another sort of job before that happens. Anyhow, my goals kicked me into high gear and I applied like mad for jobs that suited me and it worked out. Right now I’m good income wise but if I experience another lull at some point I’ll set some new goals.
Some people set a time goal when they first start out and others only set goals when they’re having a problem. Do what works for you. How long you set your goal for, again, depends on your situation. A smart way to go about it is to keep your day job and work on your writing career at night. If you have a spouse who is willing to support you for a while then you’re lucky but you should still have a goal, say, six months or a year. A typical goal might be, I’ll be scoring gigs within three months and by the end of the year I’ll be making enough to live on. If that fails I’ll look into another sort of job.
You tell me – how long is too long? When should you consider a new career path?