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Financing a Career as a Freelance Writer

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 29 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Publisher Cheque Bills Employment Nest

For many people who opt for a career as a freelance writer there is, sadly, no fairy-tale ending. No six-figure book deal with a major publishing house, no contract with a major newspaper or magazine. Just the hard slog of hunting around for commissions and then waiting for the cheque to arrive in the post. In between there can be long weeks of inactivity and rejections. Sometimes it can feel as if as one door shuts, another one closes.

It is vitally important to understand this when making the decision to embark on a writing career, because those that enter the profession with their eyes firmly shut suffer a rude awakening very quickly. Usually in the form of unpaid bills.

There are two main approaches to the issue of financing the new career: either build up a pot of money before taking the plunge, or continue with the current employment while attempting to build up the contacts and commissions that will make the writing career a viable and reliable source of regular income. Alternatively, you could always throw yourself at the feet of the bank manager, but freelance publishing is rarely in their top 10 list of preferred ventures.

Financial Cushion

The advantage of the first approach is that once what you consider a workable sum of money has been accrued, then attention can be paid to the writing on a full-time basis. Having that financial cushion will also mean you are more relaxed both in your approach to securing commissions and completing them at a speed that allows you to produce work of the standard that is likely to secure further work. Don't be too relaxed, though, because a disappointing month or two can quickly eat into the nest egg through mortgage payments, utility bills and everyday items such as food and childcare. How much should you be looking to put away? Well, a safe sum is one year's salary, especially if you are the only wage earner. On no account assume the writing will take off quickly and easily. It won't.

Safety Net

The alternative approach of pursuing the writing side while still in your current employment provides the safety net of guaranteed employment should the writing side hit a brick wall and guaranteed money if the cheques from publishers are slow in dropping through the letter box. The downside, of course, is that you will have to find time to write out of work hours.

An even trickier problem is that should you have a day job, then you will have to find time to make those vital phone calls and send emails to potential clients, creating potential problems with your present employer should they feel this is distracting from your duties. Remember that the proximity of colleagues means that in the office environment, little stays secret for long, especially if you are answering your mobile to clients on a regular basis.

Determination is Essential

If your extra-curricular correspondence threatens to cause problems at work, conduct it through a private email address, sending and replying in your free-time. All this may sound too frustrating for those anxious to get on with the creative process but there will always be the financial security of a wage slip at the end of every month to keep things in perspective.

In the end, it all comes down to money and common sense. Determination is essential to forging a writing career, but don't be too pig headed to realise that a reality check is more urgent than a publisher's cheque.

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