(The following is a guest post by one of my favorite bloggers and writers, Yuwanda Black of Inkwell Editorial. Enjoy! -Laura)
One of the most frequently asked questions I get usually goes something like this: “I really want to make freelance writing my full-time job. Right now, I work full-time and I just can’t figure out how to make the transition without my income suffering. Can you give me some insight?”
Without a doubt, income interruption is the number one concern many who want to make the leap to full-time freelancing have. They worry that they won’t be able to earn enough to pay their bills. I totally get it. So, following are five things you can do to make the transition smoothly.
1. Get Intimate with Your Numbers
As in, figure out exactly what your monthly expenses are – all of them.
I advise saving four to six months of total expenses before quitting your job. Six months to a year would be better, but many are either too impatient to do this, or it’s such a big number, they don’t see how they could ever save that much.
If you’re really serious about freelancing, four to six months should give you enough of a cushion to step out and hit the ground running without worrying about making next month’s rent/mortgage, especially if you complete the rest of these steps.
2. Research Niches
The reason you want to research niches is, you want to select one where there are enough high-paying clients who need your services that you won’t have to worry about working for pennies.
Once you have a niche nailed down, then all you have to do is produce good writing samples proving your abilities, then it’s just a matter of marketing to that niche.
3. Determine Pricing
This is without a doubt probably the number one stumbling block many new freelancer writers encounter – how much to charge. This is because it’s about so much more than what you’re getting for a particular piece of writing.
It goes to self-confidence and how you interact with clients, which has a huge effect on your freelance writing career. This is why it’s important to get pricing right. Not right as in a specific number; that can always be adjusted. But, right as in not being afraid to ask for what you deserve.
The first thing you’re going to do to figure out your pricing is some research. As Laura so rightly points out:
There is no need to reinvent the wheel or take a total shot in the dark about what you should price your work at. One great way to do this that is very low cost and very easy is to actually set a job on a board like Upwork or to post a request in a Facebook group acting as though you’re the client.
So speak from a place of being your ideal client. Do some market research. What are other people charging? Now, this is not a tried and true method that you should apply to your business all the time. Just because other people are charging $20 an hour or $50 an hour and above doesn’t mean that’s what you’re limited to, but it will give you a general idea of what demand in the marketplace is showing. It’s a great starting place.
Once you’ve done your research, you will have a very good idea of what range you should fall in.
FYI, one thing I’ve learned over the years is to ask for more. So, for example, if you do research and think, “Hmmm, I’ll charge $75 per post. I should be able to get that pretty easily.” Push the envelope; start at $95.
Why? Two reasons: (i) you just may be surprised that clients don’t balk at your rate, in which case you’ll be earning more right from the beginning; and (ii) if you’re finding it harder to land clients at the higher rate, you have room to maneuver down.
It’s always easier to lower rates than raise them and keep/get clients. So start higher; you literally have nothing to lose by doing so – especially as you still have income from your full-time job.
One last thing about setting your freelance writing rates: keep your monthly expenses in mind. Are you setting them high enough to be able to replace the income from your full-time job and/or to be able to pay your expenses? Make sure that you are.
And this is not a dollar-for-dollar match. Remember, you’ll be responsible for paying for things you might get as employee benefits right now that don’t cost as much, eg, healthcare, vacation, and sick days, retirement contributions, etc.
4. Land 2-3 Clients
In short, start your freelance writing career if you haven’t. If you have, the goal is to land two to three steady clients.
Landing clients will give you a good idea of the entire freelance process – from marketing to getting clients, to what it’s like to work with them on an ongoing basis. You’ll get an idea of what the sales cycle is like; what doing the work is like; the kinds of questions clients ask in the process of a project; what invoicing and collecting payments is like; etc.
This will give you a chance to iron out any wrinkles, eg, adjust pricing; put up a Q&A section on your site to answer frequently asked questions clients may have; add/delete services; etc.
You’ll be much less anxious once you start freelancing full-time if you have this kind of experience under your belt.
5. Select a Quit Date
You’ve selected a niche.
You’ve set your pricing.
You’ve landed a few steady clients.
You know exactly how much you need to live on.
Now, all you have to do is get your nest egg in place and select a quit date. And if you’re freelancing while you’re working full-time, this will make it easier to save.
Again, six months to a year of saved expenses would be ideal, but if you’re serious about making freelance writing your full-time job and have a four-to-six month emergency fund saved, you should be fine.
The longer you freelance, the less scary making a go of it is. If you keep a financial cushion under you and are consistent in your marketing, the dry spells – which we all have – won’t be as long. Before you know it, two or three years will have passed and you’ll be wondering why you were ever so afraid to step out on your own.
Good luck if you decide to make the leap.
About the Author:
Yuwanda Black is the publisher of InkwellEditorial.com, a blog devoted to teaching others how to make money writing … for themselves and/or for others. She’s also the author of The Ultimate Freelancer’s Guidebook, which can be found in bookstores and in major online outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Connect with her on Twitter @InkwellEditor.