How do You Survive Financially as a Freelance Writer

financial tips*Disclaimer – I also have a full time in addition to freelance writing.  I do have some expenses that I pay for exclusively with money I make from freelancing, however, I have a good idea of the types of planning that is required for these situations.

If you are relying on freelance writing as your sole source of income, you’ve undoubtedly experienced some pretty difficult situations.  One of things most freelancer writers struggle with is the fact that they aren’t getting a steady paycheck.  It can be very difficult to play out expenses, save for retirement, or even have a simple emergency fund when you’re never really sure when your next paycheck is going to arrive.

To make matters worse, since you won’t qualify for unemployment or other safety programs as a freelance writer, it is more important than ever to have some money saved up for those times when very little is coming in. The following tips and tricks will help you to manage your money better when you have a lot coming in, and help you to get through those times when you’re not sure where your next dollar will come from.

Know Your Expenses

When you’re living on an unpredictable income, you need to know exactly how much money you’ll need to survive.  You should start with a list of your expenses that you absolutely can’t go without.  For example, things like your electric bill, house payment and things like that are necessary.  Money to go out on a date or have that bottle of wine, however, are not.  When you know exactly how much you need to make to survive, you’ll be able to plan better.

List Expenses from Essential to Optional

When you’re making a budget, make sure you start with your most essential bills, and work your way down.  On good months, you’ll be able to pay all the bills on the list, and even do some saving.  On bad months, however, you might only be able to get to the first few on the list.  With this in mind, it is essential that you’re paying the bills that are most important.  The list may change slightly from month to month, but in general you’ll want to pay for food, housing, electrical, gas and internet first.  (Internet is a necessity for freelance writers).

Savings is Essential

Adding on savings near the top of this list is also a good idea.  After you’ve gone through all the most important bills for the month, you should be putting money away for emergencies, or those months when you’re not making enough.  You won’t likely be getting a 401(k) or pension as a freelance writer, so you need to make this a priority!  If you can have at least 3-6 months of expenses saved up, you’ll have much less to worry about financially.  Of course, this is easier said than done.

Keep Excellent Records

You need to know exactly how much money you’re making, where it is coming from and where it went.  This is important for things like planning, but it is also critical for running your freelance writing business.  By keeping good records, you’ll be able to identify trends and better predict your income, which is very important.  You can also see what impact different things might have had on your income.  If, for example, you started advertising your services in March and you see your income doubled in April, you know that the advertising was very effective.

Diversify if Possible

If you’re a freelance writer, consider starting your own blog or create an authority site.  These types of things don’t pay out well today, but over time they can be a good source of income.  The more income streams you have coming in, the easier it is to predict how much you’ll earn from month to month.  As a writer, you have the ability to create profit-producing websites for very little expense (since you can write your own content).

Always be Looking for New Clients

Many people make the mistake of finding a few steady clients, and then just relaxing and working for them without seeking out new ones.  This can be tempting, but if one of these clients leaves, it can leave you in a bad position.  In addition, the best time to look for new clients is when you don’t actually need them.  When you’re in this type of situation, you can be much pickier on who you accept, and demand higher rates of pay.  If they don’t hire you, you’re not going to miss any meals.

I’m sure there are many other great tips and tricks freelancers have to help get through the slow times, and I’d love to hear them.  Share your experiences in the comments below.

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  1. says

    It’s been such a long time since I acquired new writing clients, but there were times when I would run quarterly specials and offer my services to people “waiting in the wings” for an opportunity to work with me.

    This helped raise more money at a time when I didn’t really need it, padded the nest egg, and kept my services at the forefront of other businesses. It worked out well. 🙂
    Bonnie Gean recently posted…Video Blogging Challenge – Day #19My Profile

    • says

      I 100% agree. If I were single with no kids, I’d move there and just write for a living. I’ve talked to my wife about it before, but we both agree that we like living near family and stuff so it looks like we’re stuck in West Michigan, lol!


  2. says

    Good points! I especially agree with the comment about diversifying. The more a freelance can offer, the more they will be in demand. Although articles and blog posts are important, if a freelancer can also create ebooks, write reviews, video scripts etc., they can very much increase their demand and income. When I had my PLR store, I had someone writing my packs and he was a great help.
    Edie Dykeman recently posted…Caregivers: A Gratitude Journal Can Change Your LifeMy Profile

  3. says

    I’ve been full time at my freelance business since 1989. In the beginning (within the first 2-3 years), I occasionally took a part time job at the holidays. At first, I felt embarrassed, but I quickly got over that as it was what I needed to do to support my staying in business (and not giving up).
    Now, 25 years later, guess I don’t really think of myself as a freelancer anymore, Plus, while I still write, I am now speaking more (on the topics of copywriting, marketing & social media marketing) and sharing my knowledge with others to help them succeed.
    Debra Jason recently posted…Copywriting Tips for Harnessing the Power of LinkedInMy Profile

    • says

      Congratulations on your success. It sounds like you’ve done a great job at expanding your writing business! Speaking is something I might be interested in someday, I wrote a cool best man speech and I had a lot of fun doing it. 🙂


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