How the Cloud Puts the “Free” in “Freelance”

I have a confession to make: I’m a bit of a cheapskate.

It’s a leftover habit from college, where I squeaked by every day with just enough cash in my wallet for the bus home and a cheap meal. In fact, the first day they raised the bus fare, I had to bum change from one of my fellow passengers!

I’ve improved much since then, but old habits die hard. And it’s a good thing, because this habit was excellent preparation for the feast-or-famine life of a freelancer.

As a freelancer, you have to run a tight ship and be ruthless when handling expenses. Writers tend to have fewer than most, but that’s still not the same as none at all. Fortunately, there are loads of cloud services out there that let you run your freelance business without spending a cent on software. But these services are “free” in other ways, too!

Don’t Wait for the Job You Want – Create It!

As freelance writers, we have a special gift: we listen to our clients and transform their needs into engaging copy to enchant a wider audience and profit all of us. Hunting down these jobs takes time and attention to detail. Pinar Tarhan has a great post up on finding legit, paying web markets on this very blog, titled, “9 Simple Ways Writers Can Find Paying Web Markets.”

But there’s an alternative to hunting down vacancies posted by someone else.

Create your own job.

The 3-Step DIY Business Plan for Freelance Writers

I’m going to be honest with all of you – I suck at writing business plans.

In fact, despite operating four separate companies over the past seven years, I’ve only ever written a true, formal business plan as part of a Home Ec project in high school.

It’s not that I don’t think writers need to have business plans. Quite the contrary! Although it’s unlikely that most freelance writers will ever need to seek out bank loans or other types of financing (typically the impetus behind crafting traditional business plans), we do still need the structure of a plan to ensure that we’re meeting goals and growing our businesses in a sustainable, financially-savvy way.

So that said, here’s my “short cut,” DIY method for coming up with a viable business plan that doesn’t waste time on cheesy mission statements or unnecessary financial projections:

How Writing for Content Mills Can Hurt Your Career in the Long Run

When I started freelancing, all I wanted to do was get paid right away and never thought of much else. Unfortunately, writing for content mills was probably the worst decision I’ve ever made. Yes, I didn’t get paid much, but that’s beside the point. Writing for content mills had an impact not only on me emotionally, but creatively too. I was setting myself up for failure in the long run!

I’m here to tell you how content mills hurt me so that it doesn’t happen to you.

Yes Virginia, You Can Make a Living as a Freelance Writer…

There’s been a lot of uproar in the freelance community recently as a result of journalist Nate Thayer’s decision to publish an email conversation he had with one of the editors at the Atlantic Magazine. The whole thing is worth a read, but it basically resolves around Thayer’s (highly unnecessary, in my opinion) decision to attack the editor for requesting an “exposure only” article for the Magazine’s website.

(For the record, I think he made great points – I just think that he targeted the wrong person in his attack and aired his grievances in an inappropriate venue. More on that a little later…)

The result of this fervor has been an uptick in blog articles asking the question, “Can anybody make a living as a freelance writer anymore?”

9 Simple Ways Writers Can Find Paying Web Markets

I love writing for the web. Really. I mean, what’s not to love? It is fast, interactive, concise and fun. You usually need to use a friendly tone; and editors often encourage you to get personal, deriving from your own life to relate to your audience.

It’s not just the writing style that I love, though. Researching your market is easy, fast and usually free. An online publication’s previous issues are on the net for your familiarization. Oh, and you no longer need to deal with SASE, or wait for your mail to be delivered (though there are few web markets that don’t accept e-mail submissions.) And most web editors aren’t crazy about phone calls either. I don’t know about you, but I belong to the group of writers that cringe at the possibility of a phone pitch, or a query follow-up.

Not to mention, most online markets are more open to new writers. There is a “Show me what you’ve got” attitude rather than the “Let’s talk after your portfolio gets impressive” wall.

But of course, like most cool things, there’s a catch.

Finding Private Disability Insurance for Freelance Writers

One of the trickiest things about leaving your job to become a full-time web content writer is figuring out how you’ll replace all those cushy fringe benefits you had (or, hopefully had) at your last day job. Health insurance is the obvious elephant in the room, but don’t forget about the other perks you enjoyed – specifically, life and disability insurance.

Depending on your financial situation, you might not need life insurance. If you have a small amount of savings, no debt and no dependents, a life insurance policy may be overkill – as your unexpected death wouldn’t leave a financial burden for your loved ones. (Sorry, there’s no way to be super cheerful when discussing insurance policies!)

Disability insurance, on the other hand, is more of a necessity than most people realize. According to the Social Security Administration, just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.

How I Trick Myself into Being Productive

Funny story… I worked as a freelance writer for more than four years before I started to think about it as a creative profession (and even then, that realization only happened because a friend asked me, “Is it hard to have to be creative all the time?”).

For a long time, I thought of writing as something that you just “do” – like eating meals, sleeping at night or doing any kind of rote work. But the reality is that writing is an inherently creative process, and that means that it comes with its own set of challenges and demands that must be balanced to ensure continuous productivity.

There are days when I feel like my creative juices have run out and days when I feel like I have absolutely nothing left to say about the topics I typically write on. I’m sure anyone else working as a writer has experienced this type of burnout before – and while I don’t have a solution for the larger overall issue of managing creative energy sustainably, I have found a way to trick myself into being productive when it feels like I couldn’t possibly write another word.

Why Your Freelance Writer Website Makes You Sound Like an Idiot (And How to Get Your True Voice Back)

Your dream client is visiting your freelance writer website right now, while you’re reading this.

They heard about you, they think you sound awesome, and their budget is huge.

But… what they read on your website puts them off the idea. They don’t pick up the phone. They hit backspace, and they go somewhere else.

Do you want that to happen to you?

Of course not.

But it happens more often than you’d ever like to think. So let’s do something about that, today.

Quitting Your Day Job without a Safety Net

As a freelance web content writer, finding the ideal moment to quit your day job for full-time self-employment can be a tricky process. Although you might be dying to put in your two-week’s notice, flip your boss the bird and ride off into the sunset of your new freelance career, most of the “so-called experts” out there recommend that you have at least a six-month emergency fund and a full roster of clients on hand before you even start inching towards the door.

But this is the real world! You and I both know that things don’t always go the way the financial experts tell us that they should – and I’ve found that, for many freelance writers, this results in a tremendous amount of confusion as to when the appropriate time is to actually make the leap to self-employment.