Writing as a Full-Time Job

Tips for Freelancers in 2021

Your humble ghostwriter with her favourite mug.

Can writing be a full-time job? I wonder how many times this has been Googled. I know that I’ve done it a few times over the years. When I had stressful days in the classroom (I was a teacher in my past life for those who didn’t know), I’d come home, get a glass of wine and Google whether or not writing could be an actual job. Of course, you heard of people who wrote as their careers but the people either worked for big companies or did it in their spare time. I had two pretty impressive degrees but neither was in writing. I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to apply to jobs in that arena given that my degree was in Teaching and Education and there would be tonnes of graduates with degrees in that specific area who would be applying too. As fate would have it, I reached a point in my life where I realised that I needed to be my own boss. I needed to control my own schedule, my own hours, my own duties. I stumbled across Guru and Fiverr and the rest, as they say, is history.

Yes, writing can be a full-time job. There are different fields to go into, of course, and in certain areas, you’re inclined to make better money. For those interested in the cash, take a look at copy-writers, those guys make the big bucks. Freelance writing as a job, like an actual job that you fill in on your car insurance paperwork and have to register as a sole-trader with the government, is something you don’t hear a lot about. Why? The world hasn’t quite come to terms with freelancing as a career path just yet. But it is happening. And now, thanks to Covid-19, more people are exploring remote working, working from home, and freelance working for themselves, not necessarily by choice, but rather by necessity. You see, freelancing has often been seen as something arty-farty, especially in the world of writing and other forms of art, and therefore people don’t see it as a viable option to make money.

Of course, freelancing has its problems. Firstly, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get enough work to sustain your lifestyle. I was ever so lucky in that my wonderful partner was more than happy to support me while I built my business and gained clients, but that’s not viable for everyone. Freelancing is a notoriously fickle path to go down. One which is not for the faint of heart, or those who just need a regular paycheque to feel safe and secure. That’s fine, it’s not for everybody. You also have to consider where you’re going to work, what equipment you’ll need, how you’ll advertise and gain clients, and how you’re going to maintain your training and development.

Freelance writing brings freedom in more ways than one. Despite the uncertainty that can surround a freelancing career, it also brings with it a hell of a lot of freedom. Freedom to choose your area of work, your hours, your pricing, amongst other things. Being a freelance writer might not be something I dreamed of as a child but it is my dream job right now. How lucky am I to say that I am working in my dream job? I get to ghostwrite other people’s books for a living and that is crazy to me. I’ve found my niche and passion, and that is helping others to find their voice and write the stories they have always dreamed of.

2021 seems like the perfect time to test the waters of your freelancing career. With the world turned upside down at the moment, taking the leap into the waters of freelancing doesn’t seem quite so daunting for a lot of people. It seems like the risks associated are dissipated thanks to the already tumultuous climate we are all living in. Freelancing during a pandemic is not something I could have ever imagined myself doing but I’m coming up to two years as a freelance writer and editor, so it comes with the territory that I have to adapt to whatever is going on in the world. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people choosing to go self-employed increased from 3.3 million in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017. Not only that, but there’s been a 31% annual surge in UK freelancers.[1]

Covid-19 has had an impact on my work. To be truly transparent, as I would always like to be, Covid-19 has definitely impacted my freelancing projects but not in the ways I thought it would. I had an idea that things would be up in the air for freelancers of all areas of expertise and I’m sure that’s the case. I kind of thought that I’d have fewer orders and a few quiet months. But that’s not the case for me, and I know I’m so lucky to be able to say that. I count my blessings every single day. I have had clients, unfortunately, that have had to postpone projects for the time being thanks to the impact of the pandemic on their lives. I’ve done what I can to adapt and accommodate for these clients where I can. But on a different thread, I’ve had more enquiries than ever before. Something I’m profoundly grateful for.

I’d like to take a moment to share some tips for becoming a freelancer.

Independent of whether there’s a pandemic or not, becoming a freelancer can be a huge and nerve-wracking step for people to take. It can be hard to know whether it is the right step for you. It is important to know that the road ahead isn’t going to be easy. I think often there’s this rose-tinted misconception that being a freelancer is so easy, that you hardly ever work, and that you can stay in bed all day reading books or watching Netflix. Let me tell you that this is far from true. It’s very rare that I ever have a full day without working, something that as a teacher I was already used to. There’s that reality check to consider. Finances can be difficult to manage, there’s the business side of things too, not just the writing/photography/artwork that you love. Don’t go into it expecting freelancing to be perfect and easy. Go into it with a realistic approach.

You have to be so incredibly disciplined for it to work. Something people are now realising, thanks to the pandemic forcing people to work from home, is that working from home is difficult to manage. Finding the discipline and energy to work when surrounded by your home-comforts is a huge difficulty for many people. If you’re good at setting boundaries and self-motivating then you’ll be fine. The freedom of being a freelancer is great but if you can’t stick to your boundaries you’ll find it difficult. Make a routine and stick to it, as somebody who’s done this for a couple of years now, I know the importance of a good routine. It can help you stay as productive as you possibly can, therefore making the most of your time.

Work out your prices in advance. Research what the going rates are for people of your experience and qualification level. Think of this with business goggles, maybe charge introductory rates to help you gain more reviews and clients. A quick Google search will let you know what ball-park you should be aiming in, then work from there. Similarly, you have to know where you are going to get your clients from. That’s a big deal. No clients means no work. Might I take a moment to plug Fiverr for those of you starting out and developing your freelancing business? It’s worked out well for me, and still, the majority of my work goes through the site.

Make sure you are registered with the HMRC if you’re from the UK. That’s a big one to remember!

I love being a freelancer! It’s not for everybody and you still get some weird looks when people ask what you do for a living, but for me, Sarah Jules Writing is more than just a job. It’s my life. It combines my favourite things in the world (reading and writing) and I get to do that as my actual, grown-up job. Like, it’s my job! I’m so lucky to be in this career and to have the support I have had. Would I recommend taking the plunge to those of you out there considering becoming a freelancer? That’s a hard one. For me, it is the best thing I’ve ever done for my career. For you, it might be that too. I suppose the only way for you to know, is to go for it. Being a freelancer isn’t an easy way out, it’s bloody difficult at times, so if you go into it knowing that at least there’ll be no nasty surprises.

As always, wishing you love and books that make your heart skip a beat,

Sarah Jules x

P.S, I’d love to hear of your freelancing stories. Please do share them with me if you’d like. My comments are always open and I’ll help in any way I can.

If you’d like a blog post talking about a certain topic, then feel free to reach out too! Let me know what you’d like to learn more about.

[1] https://www.simplybusiness.co.uk/knowledge/articles/2019/07/how-to-become-a-freelancer-in-the-uk/

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