Thinking About Being a Self-Employed Writer?

I get asked quite often how I make a living as a professional writer and editor. Maybe something here will strike a chord with you if you are on the fence about being self-employed.

My home office

My home office

To know up front: I only have myself to rely on. There isn’t any alimony or child support or income from anyone coming to me — other than what I earn myself. I also do not have any children to feed or any crazy-ridiculous expenses to worry about such as sports teams, music lessons, camp getaways, college tuition, or anything else.

I usually hear one of these two replies: “Hey, that’s fabulous that you have no one but yourself to worry about! No money worries at all!” or “Oh, wow, if something happens to you, you might be up the proverbial river without the proverbial paddle. Does’t that stress you out?”

I don’t have a formula, but here’s what there is to know about how I am now 10 years into being my own boss:

  • When I decided to leave the corporate world, I gave myself 1 year to get my finances in order and find affordable health insurance. It was/is important to me to have at least 4 months of savings to cover bills.
  • At the time I quit, I downsized (sold my house) and have been renting ever since, which is less responsibility and has more predictable expenses (to me), so I can save money as well as pay myself.
  • I am frugal – this means I minimize my bills. I have Internet, a cell phone, use AC, and buy too much food when I go to the grocery store. It does not mean I’m working by candlelight to save on my electric bill or that I live in a library for free WiFi. 🙂 I always pay my credit card in full each month to avoid finance charges and I pay my bills monthly, not weekly.
  • I maintain my older vehicle instead of having car payments.
  • I network to meet other solopreneurs and learn how they thrive in their business and try tips I learn.
  • I use LinkedIn to find contract opportunities.
  • I only take on jobs that interest me, which keeps me happy and lets me give my best to the client (I always meet or beat deadlines).
  • I absolutely love what I do and (literally) say “Thank you” out loud every day to the cosmos.

I don’t know of a magic bullet for self-employment success, but I know (1)  it’s important to love what you do and do what you love and that you have to work at it (very much like a personal relationship). If you want it to work and approach it honestly, I believe you’re more than 75% to your goal.

And (2) having money readily available if monthly income checks don’t arrive when planned is quite helpful at keeping stress about money at under control.

What is your tip to someone thinking about becoming self-employed?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

76 thoughts on “Thinking About Being a Self-Employed Writer?

  1. I appreciate hearing your story. I’m a nurse practitioner but beginning to freelance write and plan to make it an income in the future. This story was helpful to me.

  2. I’m very happy that I don’t have to be responsible for any money just yet because I would probably manage to starve myself within the first week. I am looking at making some money blogging though just to get used to the responsibility and to have some money at my disposal.
    I’m glad to hear you manage to look after yourself, it gives me hope for the day I have to start doing the same.

  3. Hey!
    Thank you for sharing your story. It was inspiring to hear from a freelance writer as I hope to be one myself. I am a student and thus, living with my parents which ensures that I don’t have any expenditure. I hope to enter the industry this way and be well-established by the time I have to leave for college. I would really appreciate any advice on how to start up and get opportunities.

  4. Hey all,
    This is a great inspiration to get out there and chase your dreams. I recently set up a webpage and began blogging my book to chase my writing career. I hope it brings success to us all.

  5. Working for yourself is so much better ( even if shaky and scary sometimes. Love the part where you say “I only take on jobs that interest me”. Sometimes you may have to work a bit to get known and to build up confidence, but that should be the goal. Budgeting, being realistic between wants and needs, and preparing before you take the leap is important.
    Smiles over this post

  6. Thanks for sharing your journey and preparatory thought process. The idea of the frugal life and living within one’s means so as not to have relentless financial anxiety is so important. My hunch is that it’s also vital to have a peer group as you’ve established.

    • Having peers you can ask questions of is important – and technology helps a lot in that regard – I can have support from anywhere in the world thanks to the Internet! When I started writing, computers were just starting to become a thing. 🙂 I used a typewriter, had to make phone calls and meet in person. Kept options limited, but now there really aren’t many limits.

      • Well, one limit I just discovered is not recognizing that I had a notifications tab in my WordPress accoutnt that notified me when someone replied. So, sorry for the “duh” and late reply. Enjoying following your and colleagues’ blog.

  7. Thank you for such encouraging words. I have been blessed to have written and published 3 books with the 4th about to go to print. I needed some motivation today to push me to the next level and you gave that to me. Thank you.

  8. I love the fact that you say “thank you” to the cosmos! I live in some less desirable circumstances and I do that almost every day because some small miracle happens in my life–I think giving thanks for the good things is very important! Financially, I think you have it spot on. With my current employer possibly merging by next summer, I’m making plans for self employment even though I may still have a job after the merge. I feel that if I am caught up on all bills, have a 6 month savings safety net, and am generating an income to match my employed income, then it could be a go.

  9. Great story, I really enjoyed it. I love the way you keep saying (for me), because things working for you may be not good for me or the other guy. Anyway, keep up the good work, I really enjoy reading it 😉

  10. Thanks for the insight. In a future column, could you please give us a primer on using LinkedIn? I have an account and a presence, but I don’t understand it well enough to make meaningful contacts that could transpire into writing jobs. thanks in advance!

  11. Thank you! Hearing stories like this is always encouraging, especially as I move into the final months of a three-year plan to freelance full time. My advice would be to network like crazy and consider writing for companies (even in industries you are unfamiliar with). That might not always bring you a lot of joy, but it does bring a good paycheck in a shorter amount of time, relieving financial stress and leaving more hours to pursue the kind of writing you love.

    • Wow, Amanda, it sounds like you are ready to take off with your freelancing, congrats! You’re right, you most likely will take initial jobs for the paycheck and you’ll learn as you go what you enjoy the most for the pay you are bringing in. Thank you for the comment!

  12. I am currently a full time mom and a freelance German teacher. I don’t make enough to pay the bills, but it helps our income, and I like having an activity next to being a mom. I would love to add writing to my services as becoming a journalist has crept back into my head (for some reason my studies, that I did in order to become a journalist led me to forget about this goal for some time).

  13. Hi. I love to write as well and i’m only 16. I became a writer when I was ten. Being a writer allows you to express a lot of things in creative ways just by using your words. I really like your post. Continue to write and be creative. Your posts are amazing.

  14. Hi,
    Making the decision to earn a living this way does requires boldness and perseverance. I totally agree with taking on jobs that one finds interesting – otherwise there really won’t be any difference with being an employed writer.


  15. Trying to break out self employment left me with a lot of fear, as I have an 18 month old at home and another little one on the way I went back to work as I wasn’t making the money I needed writing. Maybe some day it will become a career but for now I’m happy working as a nurse

  16. I’m not exactly self-employed. I’m a retiree. So our situations are not the same. Still my piece entitled “It’s Not About The Money” (July 27, 2015) in my blog “Living The Writing” does try to address the issue of why many of us write for little or no money at all.

  17. Really great little article to read. I hope I’ll be able to transform my passion to write into a career like you have been able to; I’d love to read an expanded version of this!

  18. Good, sound advice. I do most of these things now but am working for someone else. I need to take some baby steps into the freelance world and see where it takes me. A goal to aspire to. Thanks!

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  21. There never too much good advice for the self-employer writer. Thanks for the tips. I like what you say about taking the jobs that are meaningful and make you happy. I love when you say, “I absolutely love what I do and (literally) say “Thank you” out loud every day to the cosmos.” Happy writing!

  22. Wow, you are brave. I live to write, but I don’t live on my writing, yet. It’s great to know that you can use your passion of writing as a way to earn your living. Good post, and may you be blessed may God prosper your soul as you prosper financially, and bodily.

  23. Pingback: Five Essential Tips for a Frugal Lifestyle | Internet Billboards

  24. Lisa, thank you for the “real version” of what it’s like to be a self-employed writer. I’m still balancing between Corporate America and pursuing a freelance writing career. I’m struggling with sorting through all the claims of financial independence in this field. How do you clearly define the real opportunities vs. scams? And is it necessary to have a degree in journalism to compete for the real positions?

    • Defining real opportunities vs scams, for me, follows the adage of ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’. But, also, if in researching a company that has an opportunity and you come up with close to nothing at all in Internet searches — that’s a red flag. Scams are everywhere in every field targeting every one in some manner or another – due diligence pays off.

      I do not believe it’s necessary to have a journalism degree (I don’t have one); it’s more your writing skill and ability in the field you’re working in that matters more (I think). So having writing samples is important, and if you’re pursuing a degree (of any kind) or taking courses related to writing and/or a particular field, I’d share that information in the profile.

      • Thanks Lisa! I’m learning new things about WordPress every day and just signed up for two courses there also. I’m slowly building my portfolio with bylines and including links to them everywhere. I appreciate the advice from those, like you, have traveled the path ahead of me. 🙂

  25. I’m about to take a risk and leave a very, very stable job and switch careers, entirely (from being in the army to working in publishing). I definitely appreciate your words of encouragement and tips! Thank you!

  26. Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    I’ve often wondered if I could have supported myself with writing…

    I know I didn’t get down to doing serious writing until my military pension started…

    Could I, still, make enough with words to stay alive?

    If you have a similar question, today’s Re-blog may have the answer………

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