Sunday, June 6, 2010

Freelance Writing: Living the Dream

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about freelance writing, and living the dream of becoming a self supporting full time freelancer. When I received my statement of last year’s earnings for some of the sites I write for (it was tax time, yuck!) I was quite stunned to see my earnings laid out for me, in black and white! At this half way point of this year, I’m well on my way to exceeding last year’s earnings.

As I’ve been working as a content provider, I’ve become acquainted with things like the self employment tax, and Schedule C. I was thinking about making jewelry, as a sideline, but I like the thought of keeping my freelance business operations very simple, so I’m sticking to writing for now, because I don’t have any inventory or major expenses. My taxes this year were relatively easy to figure out, which I like! At some point soon I’ll probably have to think about estimated earnings, and possibly find an accountant (I was a business major, I like keeping track of my own finances!)

I get a check certain times of the month, and each time I go to the mail and receive a payment for my articles, I get really excited. I’ve been writing online for almost three years now, and the thrill is definitely not gone. Somehow, it’s a lot more meaningful for me than the checks I’d get when I used to punch a time clock. I feel like the rewards of being a freelance artist (in my case, freelance writer) are so great and it’s completely worth it to take the big leap into the freelance world.

I remember being locked in to a 9 to 5 job in the corporate world, sitting with my good friend and co-worker, literally counting the moments until 5p.m., our quitting time; unfortunately, we did that most days of the week. Now, I work most days of the week on my writing, on a freelance schedule, and when I take a break to look out a big window here, I see the grass and the birds and the sky, and I feel so blessed to be doing this work that is so fulfilling, and to be able to work from home.

I’ve really come a long way from my beginnings as a freelance writer in the summer of 2007. Back then, I was just content to see my name in print on web sites as my articles were published, and to make a few cents, then dollars here and there. Now, I want more. I want to feel fulfilled as a writer; however, I also want to make a full-time living from my article writing.

In today’s dismal economic climate, that often feels like the impossible dream. Some writers do live the dream by making a full time living from their print and online articles, and they inspire me so much. Today I’ll be talking about what does and doesn’t work for me, writing online. Lately, I’ve been thinking about other options I could explore, in addition to freelance writing, and how to continually grow my writing income into a full-time living.

Pros and Cons of the Writing Dream

In my three years writing online, I’ve realized that there are pluses and minuses to the freelance writing life. Is pursuing the dream of becoming a full time writer right for you? If you are self motivated, willing to work harder than you ever did in the 9-to-5 with no one else to manage your business operations but you, and can deal with living on a shoestring at times, then you’ll do well as a self supporting freelancer.

I find that many people can’t budget around the irregular paychecks that freelance writers receive, and they can’t work without a lot of supervision or someone over their shoulder making sure assignments are completed. Also, it can be hard not to buy everything you desire, or to have to work weekends to catch up on articles when everyone else is out having fun.

I’ve noticed that as time goes by and I have more and more invested in being a freelancer, I don’t mind not being able to spend a lot of money on material things. Buying the newest or the latest items isn’t worth it to me if I have to give up my writing and take a higher paying corporate job that would cover higher expenses. So I try to keep my expenses very low so I’ll have the freedom to pursue the writing life.

I wear many hats as a freelancer, also. I am my own accountant, secretary and any other hat I need to wear, as well as writer. A freelancer is responsible for every facet of your own business operations. I have to do all my own boring tasks, like keeping my own records, paying my taxes and just keeping track of my freelance operations. Plus, I have to keep up a writing schedule of producing enough articles that will yield me writing income, so most days of the week I’m thinking about writing, researching something, writing articles or keeping track of my online earnings.

On the plus side, I have enormous freedom and flexibility, the thrill of seeing my work online and I receive wonderful feedback from my readers and fellow writers, a sense of peace and fulfillment that comes from being in charge of my own working life, and the chance to express myself creatively on a daily basis.

Do you think that the positives outweigh any negatives of the freelance writing life? If so, read could be a freelance writer too!

My Favorite Sites to Write For

Here are my picks for my favorite writing sites 2010:

Three years ago in July, I had my first article published on a great travel site called BootsnAll. I was intrigued by this site I heard about called Associated Content that offered upfront payments for articles as well as residual earnings on page views for my writing. I was also very excited to learn that I could publish articles there and retain the rights to republish my articles on other sites also.

Associated Content remains the backbone of what I do, as a content provider. I’m working on publishing three hundred articles there this summer (I have over two hundred published as of this blog post). With the combination of upfront payments from AC and page view earnings, it’s definitely possible to make significant earnings on Associated Content; in fact, many writers work there to support their families.

AC was recently acquired by Yahoo and there was a lot of panic and confusion about this news. Many writers including myself feared that their portfolio of articles at AC would be taken down and the Associated Content we all know and love could disappear. Since the news broke, there have been reassurances that AC will go on as before, but with more opportunities for AC writers as the site merges with the mighty Yahoo.

I felt scared and dismayed at first, but now I’ve relaxed a bit about the Yahoo acquisition; in fact, now I smile when I see “Associated Content from Yahoo” across the AC pages. Kind of cool! That being said, I still think AC is a great place to write for, but I’m backing up my work and diversifying what I do as a writer. The Yahoo acquisition of AC takes place in the third quarter 2010; in the meantime I’m backing up copies of all published articles and taking a look at some other sites I can write for, just in case the AC/Yahoo combination isn’t all we writers hope it will be.

I’ve been a bit lazy about diversifying my articles across a few web sites, because when I find a writer community I enjoy and where I make good money, I tend to settle in and not look around for other writing sites. The other site I really enjoy is Xomba. I’ve been writing for AC for three years this July and working on Xomba for two years this September.

Xomba is a really fun site with a great attitude and sense of humor, and a nice group of writers who are quite loyal to the site. The Xomba mascot is an alien called “Abmox” and Xomba writers are referred to as Xombies! You can write brief articles there (or any length you desire really) or you can do social bookmarking of your published articles from other sites (or bookmark anything online that strikes your fancy!) I bookmark my published articles from AC and Triond; this increases page views on these articles and then I share in AdSense revenues from these bookmarks. As time permits, I also bookmark other interesting things I find online, like articles, photos and blogs.

Xomba has been lucrative for me, but this year my AC earnings have really exploded. What I love about AC is the way my page views earnings increase as I go up the Clout Index there. I’m earning more and more in page view revenues there each month, not as much as AdSense, but it’s rising. Right now, I’m just concentrating on page view earnings, not working for upfront offers on AC.

My strategy as a freelance writer is to build residual income streams from my published articles and bookmarks. Some writers have a group of steady clients and they rise at dawn to write all day for these clients, turning in packages of articles on an agreed upon topic and often giving away all rights to their work. I’ve never been a pen for hire type; I’m more of a free spirit who likes to write on whatever topic I like, publishing the work on my own schedule.

However, I’m aware of the fact that if I hit the freelance writing job boards on a regular basis, scoping for regular clients to write for, then wrote packages of articles and turned them into those clients, I might be achieving the freelance writing dream of being a totally self supporting writer. By going my own way as a writer, and writing mostly what I want when I want, and publishing my work on a non-exclusive basis with sites like AC, it does take longer to build up that residual income stream.

I’m willing to live with that. I do think that being more independent as a writer and selective about writing jobs means that you’ll have to look for a part time job or outside work to supplement the writing income, and I’m okay with that too. I’d rather take some outside work (that probably isn’t a restricting full time corporate job) than take writing jobs that I wouldn’t enjoy just for the money.

I’ll still be working from time to time on Triond, but things are a lot slower for me there. The Triond AdSense integration happened last fall, and if it’s possible, my earnings went down even more! Triond is a great community and I’ve made some wonderful writer friends there who are truly gifted writers. I do believe that being a great Triond writer isn’t enough; you have to be willing to do a lot of promotion of Triond articles in order to earn more than a few dollars from your Triond work.

My 2010 Writing Plan

So in conclusion, I’ll be writing a lot more articles for Associated Content, and for Xomba. Sometimes, I think about writing some Hubs on, but probably not right now. Some Triond writers moved over to, which they seem to like better, so I’m thinking about trying that site too.

Definitely, as a freelance writer, get out there and explore writing for web sites, and see what works for you! Good luck in your writing endeavors; keep on working toward your freelance writing dreams.

Happy 2010!