How to Survive as a Writer in the Real World

When I became a full-time freelance writer in 2008, I dreamed big dreams of lucrative commissions for national magazines, free meals at fancy restaurants, overnight stays at flash hotels and the thrilling rush of impossibly tight deadlines.

Luckily I reserved most of my dreams for sleep-time, and spent my waking hours facing the stark reality of what it’s like to get into freelance writing with zero experience in the freelance marketplace:

  • I had no magazine or newspaper clips
  • Most editors, especially for big publications, won’t take a chance on a newbie writer with no credentials
  • I have bills to pay, and it was hard enough getting one paid commission; to get enough work to make a full-time living felt impossible
  • There were already loads of people out there established as professional writers; how could I compete with them?

Almost two years later, I’m still a full-time freelancer, still making ends meet, but still nagged by these same concerns from time to time. Which is why I really liked yesterday’s article on Freelance Folder by Laura Spencer about how to survive in the crowded freelance writing marketplace. There she listed some very good reasons why it’s still possible to compete and suggests a few ways to strengthen your freelance writing brand.

One of her points rang especially true to my experience:

Consider the more lucrative writing fields of copywriting or business writing. While it’s nice to have a byline, it’s even nicer to get paid. Businesses have the money to pay and the need for writers.

It’s not exactly press passes and celebrity interviews, but business writing is a great way to stay afloat while you establish yourself in more journalistic roles.

I currently work part-time writing marketing reports and copywriting. This takes up about 75% of my working week; the rest I spend on my own projects and writing endeavors. Sure, I might establish myself more quickly as a writer if I devoted myself to pitching full time; but I’ve gotta make a living, and the business writing makes it possible.

It’s all about doing whatever it takes to enable the next step. Right now I’m about 75% business writing / 25% my own stuff. Next year that might be 65% / 45%, who knows.

For me, one of the most important points is that I’ve stayed freelance this whole time. So even if I go into a business environment, I’m still calling the shots, still keeping my head high as an independent contractor. It may not sound like much, but the confidence boost of going freelance is huge, and it just keeps pushing you harder and harder to stay freelance, and to make the next job that much more awesome.

So while you’re figuring how to be awesome yourself, go check out Laura’s piece for some great advice:

How to Survive in the Crowded Freelance Writing Marketplace

One Response to “How to Survive as a Writer in the Real World”

  1. Laura Spencer Says:

    Hi! I’m really glad you could relate to my post on Freelance Folder. Definitely thanks for recommending it to other writers. 🙂 I think business writing is often overlooked.