Saturday, March 21, 2009

Are You Ready for Full-Time Freelancing?

Are You Ready for Full-Time Freelancing?
By Bev Walton-Porter

When is the right time to go from part-time, moonlighting freelancer to work-at-home full-timer?

There are guideposts to go by, progress you can chart. In this article we'll discuss how to assess your readiness for full-time freelancing so your entry will be as smooth as possible.

Now, I do understand there are a lot of you who freelance just as a part-time proposition and maybe you're never planning on going full-time. Hey, that's no biggie! Not everyone goes full-time—nor should they. But still, there are quite a few people who want to go full-time but the idea of making the jump into uncharted waters scares the doodles out of them.

To be sure, making the decision to go full-time is not for the faint of heart. If you're the type of person who has to have a future that's constantly stable and predictable and who has to have everything "just so" all the time, then don't freelance full-time. If you do you'll end up getting gray hairs if you don't have them already or you'll chew your nails down to the utter quick -- and maybe past the quick!

What does it take to be a full-time freelancer? Well, there are many combinations of traits and it's probably true that all freelancers aren't alike down to the tooth and nail, but I contend that if you're a full-time freelancer you're probably an optimistic, confident risk taker at heart.

Some people may say, "Oh no! I'm not a risk taker! I'm very well organized and blah blah blah—anything but a risk taker." I disagree. In your heart of hearts you are a pioneer and a risk taker. With the boldest of actions you chose to go where most men and women in life never even dream of traveling: into the wild, unpredictable wilderness of working without a net.

When you work without a net that means you are not guaranteed the same paycheck every two weeks (or perhaps, every week) like most American workers. Your job doesn't guarantee health care or dental insurance –although you can sign up for such plans through writers' unions. You literally have to go out and find jobs over and over again. You also have to be a marketer, a salesperson and a publicist –among other things. You not only have to sell a product you also have to sell yourself, in a manner of speaking.

By the same token there are benefits to freelancing full-time, not the least of which is the satisfaction of working for yourself and not a boss who stares over your shoulder all the time. You can also work any time you want -- day or night. You set your own hours.

However, this is a double-edged sword; you must be disciplined enough to work without supervision. You have to motivate yourself each morning to get up and get cracking. Of course, nothing motivates people more than a looming house payment!

What are the telltale signs that you're ready to consider striking out on your own as a full-timer? Here's a list to get you thinking:

1. Increasing sales. Are you pulling in assignments on a consistent basis? Have you gone from selling four articles in one year to selling 40? If so, this is a good indicator of your ability to sustain regular assignments.

2. Have you mastered the art of composing an effective query letter? More importantly, are your query letters targeting the appropriate publication markets and pitching ideas that fit just right most of the time? Are your queries hitting the target more often than not? If so, this is a good indicator of full-time readiness.

3. Before you slap that feather in your cap and begin to whistle a gay old song of self-employment bliss, you'll have to take into account your ability to wear many hats: writer, administrator, marketer, salesperson, promoter, publicist, researcher and producer.

Full-time writing is not just writing, period. If you have a difficult time managing more than one job responsibility, then you'd better be a quick study in multi-tasking. Until you are financially successful enough to hire people to assist you with these tasks, you'd better get used to the idea of being a one-man or one-woman band!

4. So you can write. But can you market what you write? If you plan to sell regularly you'd better figure out how to market. What is marketing? It involves not only figuring out what to sell to which market, but also how to advertise it, put it together into a pleasing product and deliver it on time to your client.

In my own freelancing business, marketing is just as important as the written product. Writing without marketing know-how is like a car without wheels—it may be a nice ride, but without wheels, it ain't gonna take you anywhere!

5. Do you have a manager hidden inside? If you're planning to go full-time, you should have an ability to manage not only your time, but your finances as well as records, too. You should also know how to think ahead and decide how many assignments you plan to tackle for the next month, six months or a year.

6. Can you fend off procrastination? Will you be able to slay writer's block? These are deadly enemies to the full-time freelancer.

Often you'll have to turn out articles or other projects dealing with a range of subjects, and you'll have to research, too. Being able to hit the ground running with interviewing and research, as well as writing on the fly, are assets. You don't have time to be inspired or motivated as a freelancer when deadlines are looming. Motivation and inspiration often equals butt in chair (as I've heard many times before!).

One caveat: beware of too much research—you don't have to be the world's foremost expert on a subject to write a decent article about it. Get the best facts you can and the best, most well-informed sources you can. Interview by e-mail when possible: when you get the experts' replies in their own writing, it's hard for them to say that they've been misquoted!

7. Another eater-away of your writing time is interruptions. Can you effectively handle interruptions and complete your writing assignments despite all sorts of scenarios that may pop up? Because time means money when your bounty pays the bills, watch for time stealers. We've touched on this before: interruptions, unnecessary phone calls during your working hours, an overabundance of e-mail that has nothing to do with writing. These are all ways to entice you to procrastinate or waste time. I must admit, e-mail is my biggest downfall, so be especially wary of that.

8. Finally, do you have a financial Plan B? What I mean is this: until you get the hang of full-time freelancing and are firing on all eight cylinders, do you have a nest egg or a spouse to help pay the bills when they come due?

Let me say this again: freelancing does not offer a guaranteed income and before you make the decision to do this full-time, cover all your bases—most especially your financial ones.

Hopefully I've given you some valid points to consider in your quest for full-time freelancer status. In no way does this article cover all the ins and outs of making the leap, but this can at least give you a jumping-off point for exploring all the avenues and the pros and cons of your future decision.

Bev Sninchak (writing as Bev Walton-Porter and Star Ferris) is a professional writer/author who has published hundreds of stories on a wide variety of subjects and written four books: “Sun Signs for Writers,” “Mending Fences,” and “The Complete Writer: A Guide to Tapping Your Full Potential,” co-authored with three other writers. Her fourth book, “Hidden Fire,” is due out in 2009 from Whiskey Creek Press.

Bev also works as a contract editor, writing instructor and creativity coach. She has edited and published the award-winning e-zine for writers, Scribe & Quill, for the past eleven years. She is a member of The Authors Guild as well as the co-founder of the International Order of Horror Professionals.

Please visit her Web site at:
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