When is the Right Time to Become a Freelance Writer?

I admit that I lurk around on various message boards and the discussion that I see get me thinking. I’ve been following one discussion about when it’s a good time to launch a career as a freelance writer. These options have been suggested, and both of them have valid points:

  • Save up enough money until you have several months’ worth of expenses and go full time.
  • Start part time while working in a “day” job and build up a good client base and ease into freelancing.

The idea here is to have some kind of a “fall back” position in case the whole freelancing thing doesn’t work out. I fully appreciate this idea, but there is something to be said for going full tilt and not worrying about the bridges you leave behind. If you are good at your craft and you look after your clients well, you won’t need them.

I must take exception to the idea that “security” comes from working for someone else. It doesn’t. Really. If you are an employee, your employer has the power to decide that your services are no longer required at any time. If the company needs to make cuts, your job may be affected, no matter how well you did your job. Where is the security in that?

If you want to be a writer, then be one. There is no better time than right now to get started. The freelancing has room for people who want to work at all different levels, from those who rely on the income to put food on the table to those who use their earnings to save for something special that they want. If you are waiting for the exact, risk-free time to launch your career, you will be waiting for a long time. It’s not going to happen.

And if you are holding back because you don’t have faith in your abilities, I found a great quote that covers that point too:

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt; perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” (Robert Hughes, Time)

Now is the time. We can’t live in the past, because it’s gone. We don’t know what the future will bring (unless you have a crystal ball that works…I don’t). All we have is the present, so make the most of it and go after what you really want.





8 responses
  1. Jenni Avatar

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’ve been wanting to go freelance for quite some time, but not had the guts. There’s something to be said for having a part time job until you are confident you can make enough income through freelancing though.

  2. RC Avatar

    This is so true! I have always wanted to be a freelance writer, but I never had the guts to make the leap. Recently, I found the courage to just go for it, I quit my job to pursue freelance writing and guess what? My previous employer hired me to do several writing projects for them for way more than I ever expected to make. I’m learning that I can make this work and it is worth the effort.

  3. Jennifer L Avatar

    Good points, Jodee! I’d add “If you want to be a writer, just WRITE.” You have to start somewhere.

    And as the kind of person who tends to be scared to take a big leap, I’d be more likely to advocate for writing on your own time before quitting your day job. But again, that’s just me, the big chicken talking. 🙂

  4. Meghna Avatar

    Wow… I find that quote really inspiring.

    Even though I have been working as a freelance writer for over 3 years now, I still have huge doubts about picking up new type of projects. I am going to keep that line in my mind now and go for them.

  5. AuroraGG Avatar

    For my first four years I worked full time and freelanced in any spare time I could find. When the time came that my freelancing earnings near matched my day job, I quit the day job in a flash. Taking the big risk and just “doing it” was out of the question for me. Without the day job taking up 8 hours a day, I soon realized that I could double my freelance writing time and corresponding earnings.

    I think most will have a different comfort level, but if you have a day job where you can slowly ease back on hours — and then put those hours directly into your writing business — you should be able to gauge if this is going to be the right thing for you to do. In hindsight I wish I had of done that. I believe I would have moved to doing this full-time much sooner than I actually did.

  6. Alicia Avatar

    Thanks for this article. I was recently “workforce reduced”, and have contemplated a career change for a long time now. I’ve always had some talent in writing, and am making steps to pursue writing professionally. I must admit though, it is scary changing careers, particularly since most writing jobs want someone with writing experience. I’ve written for my work positions, (company newsletters, investigation reports, etc), but getting the kind of “previous experience” companies are looking for when you are just starting out is difficult. It can be discouraging. I am expecting to work a “day job” for a while until the writing really gets going. Under suggestion from my career counselor, I recently started a blog to get back in the practice of writing for enjoyment. I believe it has helped. Your article, and especially that quote helps to give me some inspiration.

    Thanks much.

  7. Jodee Avatar

    @ Jennifer L: I admit that I’m the one in my family who always does things “the hard way” – but it’s always worked out in the end. Looking back, I could have done a lot of things differently, but I’ve learned some great stuff along the way, so it was all worth it.

    @ Alicia: You can take the experience you have in writing for work and put in on your resume. Starting a blog is a great way to get in the habit of writing regularly, and you can use your posts as samples.

    @ Everyone: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. 🙂

  8. Shannon Rist Avatar

    This was an interesting article. It was the instability of my corporate job that landed me in the position to pursue writing full time. I too was a person who thought working for someone meant security. I found out this was not the case when the economy crashed and I was laid off.

    I live in Oregon, which has the 3rd worst job market in the country, so I’ve had to be creative. I have about 3 months of unemployment, so here I am going full-steam into writing.

    The funny thing is, I have a degree in English Literature and always wanted to be a writer. Yet when I graduated 13 years ago, having an English degree meant either teaching or being a technical writer. I had no idea that the growth of the internet meant, here in the new millennium, numerous writing opportunities.

    So really it took me being laid off and desperate to start pursuing my passion. Think I can do it? I have until August 31st to find out!

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