Not treating their writing like a business is probably the number one reason people give up on freelance writing. If you don’t treat your writing in a businesslike manner you’re unlikely to be able to earn a consistent living at it.
That doesn't mean you need an MBA degree or to spend hours of your precious writing time learning to be a business person. It does mean, however, your learn enough to get the job done. And the sooner you start the quickler you’ll start seeing positive results.00
Actually, it’s pretty simple. There are three things you must learn in order to be successfully in business for yourself:
- Learning to handle money with clarity
- Setting aside savings
- Marketing yourself and your writing
Learning to handle money with clarity
Unless you know how much is coming in and how you’re spending it you’ll have no clear idea of how well, or poorly, you’re doing. Clarity on money usually means clarity about your writing business. For the most part, the way you handle your money is the way you do the rest of your life, including writing
The first step is having separate accounts – those for your business and those for the rest of your life. It also means setting rates and tracking your money. if you don’t know the first thing about tracking income and expenses, that’s okay; it’s a totally learnable skill, You’ll hear us say over and over again, none of us were born knowing this stuff.
Start with separate checking accounts – one for your business and one for your personal life.
Consider opening both at a local credit union. Credit unions work for their members, unlike the big, well-known commercial banks that work for shareholders. That usually means higher interest on savings and lower and even fewer fees. Should you join a credit union? Here's what you need to know at DailyFinance.com gives you an great overview of the advantages of credit unions.
If your city requires a business license you may need that before you can open an official business checking account. But there’s no reason not to open a second ‘personal’ bank account and use it only for business until you’re ready to buy a business license.
Part of clarity around money is actually keeping track of your income and expenses. There are lots of ways to do this. Some use spreadsheets, others use software. Currently I'm using YouNeedABudget.com. No matter what method you use it will take a bit of effort and time to get set up. After than you'll find you rarely need to spend more than 10 or 15 minutes on it each business day.
Setting Aside Savings
Savings is an integral part of running a freelance writing business. You need to save for taxes and you need to save for equipment, including replacements and you need to save so you have at least three months income, preferably six months so you don’t have to panic if your business conditions change.
It’s easier to save a percentage out of every check – how much will vary widely. One guideline that works for many is to save 30 percent for taxes, 30 percent for other savings and live on the 40 percent that’s left. If you use this formula for a year you’ll be able to tell exactly what formula you need in the future.
I actually save another 10 percent out of what I pay myself, and divide that into all sorts of categories including cat care and trips I want to take.
You don’t have to do it the way I do, but do set up some sort of regular savings – you’ll be glad you did.
Marketing Yourself and Your Writing
Consistent marketing is the only way you can be reasonably sure you’ll have a constant flow of business. Which is why we have a separate section on marketing. Meanwhile, Lori Widmer has a nifty book called Marketing 365: Daily Strategies. You could do far worse than do one of her suggestions each and every day.
There’s also a whole category on marketing for freelance writers right here at AboutFreelanceWriting.com. If you market regularly rather than waiting until you need to you’ll find it easier and the trend will be upwards even if some of your efforts don’t pay off.
It’s totally okay if you don’t have all this in place from the moment you start freelancing, but the sooner you do the better. If you need help, consider taking some courses – maybe at a local community college.
Of course, feel free to ask questions about the business side of writing in our forum.
Lori often writes about marketing your writing business often at her Words On The Page blog. Check the archives of for her blog posts – archives can be reached through the dashboard once you’re logged in. I do too at AboutFreelanceWriting.com.
Decide right now you'll take a business-like attitude for your writing. You'll be glad you did.
Assignment 3 – The business side of writing
If you don’t yet have a separate checking and savings account for you business, set them up now. Then come to the forum and tell us you did so we can help you celebrate. If you already have them, tell us how you got it done
Forum link to: Start the Business Side of Your Writing
Decide how you’re going to track your money – report that on the forum, and if that topic confuses you, know you’re not alone.
Forum link to: Track Your Money
Make a commitment to regular marketing and tall us about it on the forum.
Treating your freelance writing as a business improves your chance of success immeasurably. Sharing it in the forum means you don't have to do it alone... feel free to ask questions, whine (a bit) and work it through.
Forum link to: Commitment to Marketing