To be a successful freelance writer, you need to treat writing like a business, not a hobby or pleasant pastime! Never forget that you’re an entrepreneur — someone who has to work hard to sell services or products – not just a hobbyist writer.
Before the tips, a quip:
“Publishing is a business, and aspiring writers who take the time and expend the effort to learn about that business and what it demands give themselves a leg up on success,” says Donald Bain in How I Got Published: Famous Authors Tell You in Their Own Words (edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsay).
To learn more about how writers get published, click the book cover. And, read on for 10 ways to treat freelance writing like a business, read on…
10 Ways to Treat Freelance Writing Like a Business
1. Get business cards and hand them out whenever you can. Paper clip them to magazine query letters and book proposals. Toss them in the glass bowls at restaurants, and pin them to community bulletin boards. Take them to conferences and workshops. Be generous with your cards, which should of course state your name, occupation, specialty, book title(s), and/or blogs.
2. Learn how to create a website or blog. Read 6 Website and Blog Building Tips if you don’t have a web presence already. Treating freelance writing like a business involves learning from other people’s mistakes and doing it right the first time!
3. Create a website. My website – The Adventurous Writer – includes links to my online articles, a list of my print articles, links to my Suite101 Psychology articles, a description of Quips & Tips for Successful Writers (and all my Quips & Tips websites), a link to See Jane Soar, my resume, and a brief description of me.
4. Keep an accurate list of submissions. I meticulously detail my magazine article queries in an Excel spreadsheet: editor or publisher’s name, email address, type of magazine, my article idea, date submitted, and response. When I get a contract or assignment letter, I jazz up the date the article was accepted (IN ORANGE CAPS!).
5. Keep track of your income. My “Income From Writing” Excel spreadsheet includes the magazine & article, date accepted, the amount due, the invoice date (which is the same date as I submit the article), the invoice number, the amount received (hopefully the same as the amount due on the invoice but not always), when the payment was received, and miscellaneous notes. This also gives me a current total of my income for the year.
6. Pay your taxes. To treat freelance writing like a business — whether you expect to earn $10 or $100,000 in any given year — set some money aside to pay your taxes later. In Canada, you’ll have to charge GST if you earn over $35,000 per year. To treat freelance writing like a business in your province, state, and country, research how your tax system works.
7. Keep track of & deduct your expenses. Don’t just keep receipts for the obvious business expenses (laptops, ink cartridges, scanners/printers, blog hosting service fees, etc) – keep your receipts for the writing books, heat and space in your home, etc.
8. Stay professional. Treating freelance writing like a business has to mean acting like a professional entrepreneur at all times. A successful entrepreneur meets deadlines, treats clients and sources with respect, acknowledges all business emails, and writes formally at all times. For more writing advice, read 6 Tips for Building a Successful Writing Career.
9. Be businesslike on the phone. This means no kids wailing in the background, no dogs howling, and no putting sources or editors on hold while you grab the other line. Consider getting a second line, dedicated solely to your business calls.
10. Doesn’t disrespect magazines or editors in public. This includes not posting about a negative interaction with a magazine publisher or accusing an editor of stealing your ideas. Treating freelance writing like a business involves accepting that the service or product you’re selling doesn’t suit everyone’s needs all the time.
What have I missed about treating freelance writing like a business? Feel free to comment or ask questions below!