When I tell people I’m a freelance writer, one of two thoughts goes through their head: They either think that I am ridiculously wealthy, living the life of Stephen King, making money in my sleep, showing up at my home office at 11:00 am and working until approximately noon, when I take lunch with my other fabulously wealthy writer friends; or they think that I am a poor slob, sitting for 16 hours a day at my computer—in the dark because I can’t afford electricity—begging the gods to inspire me to greatness, praying that I will receive money from somewhere so that I can stop avoiding my landlord and finally pay my bills.
The truth—probably for most freelance writers—is less cliché than that. The truth is that since I became a freelance writer I have paid my rent and my bills every month. I occasionally have lunch with friends, but not too often because I still have to make a living. I spend approximately five hours a day writing and spend another three hours researching for articles or marketing myself.
Now, the goal, of course, is to make more money. I’ve been a freelance writer for a few years now and although I’ve managed to pay my bills on time, every time, I’m not exactly getting ahead.
So, to use a phrase that I used in a previous blog post, I’m treading water. If I were to guess, I would say that a lot of freelance writers are treading water. Why? Maybe it’s because we are used to not making a lot of money. Maybe it’s because we know that it could be worse—we could be the person unable to pay the bills, writing by candlelight because there’s no electricity—so we’re happy just to pay the bills.
Maybe it’s because we’re so desperate to ensure we have money coming in that we’re unwilling to charge what we’re really worth. That’s a valid concern because there are always people willing to charge less. The problem is that it becomes a terrible cycle of underbidding each other until we’re all writing 10,000-word articles for $100 and thanking the publisher for giving us “exposure”.
The thing about treading water (yes, I’m sticking with the treading water theme) is this: If you only ever tread water, you’ll never get back to the shore. You may keep your head up, indefinitely, but at any time your legs could get tired and that’ll be it. You’ll never really get to where you’re going. In fact, you’ll never get anywhere.
It’s time to charge what you’re worth, not what you think the next guy over is charging. If you’re good at what you do, your clients will come back. And you won’t have to work nearly as hard to make that next $100. Think about how much time you spent to make that $100—all the research, writing, rewriting and editing that went into it. At the end of it, you may have earned less than minimum wage. The thing is, you’re worth so much more. Being a writer doesn’t mean being a slave for the next $100.
Treading water is okay, for a while, but getting to the other side, making more money, is so much better.
In the interest of making more money, I highly recommend Paul Lima’s book, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing…” which actually includes two of his books, “The Six-Figure Freelance: How to Find, Price and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments,” & “Business of Freelance Writing: How to Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines.” I’m working my way through “The Six-Figure Freelancer,” and it really is a wonderful book, full of fantastic advice and tasks you can do to determine how much you should charge. His book can be bought at www.paullima.com.
I’ve purchased a copy of “The Wealthy Freelancer,” by Steve Slaunwhite, Ed Gandia and Pete Savage. I haven’t received it yet, but I’m following these guys on Twitter and I like what I’ve seen so far. My feeling is that this book is worth a read, too. I’ll let you know more when I’m done. The Wealthy Freelancer can be bought at thewealthyfreelancer.com.