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6 Ways to Become a Better Freelancer

Being a freelancer is often seen as an easy job, where you can pick and choose when and where you do your work. This is almost always not the case, and the job itself can be very stressful and intense. Living as a freelancer opens the door for a number of issues to arise, including lack of work and lack of exposure and lack of a decent income.

As a freelancer your goal should be looking to constantly improve on what you provide. The aim of a freelance writer is to be a specialist but also versatile enough to be able to take on non-specialist work when you need to.

Here are 6 ways in which you can become a better freelance writer.


Identify your strengths and address your weaknesses

The most important thing that a freelancer can do is to take a minute to look in the proverbial mirror. Being able to understand where you have strength is critically important, but being understand where you are lacking is also key when identifying how to improve yourself as a writer.

People presume that the only real skill a freelance writer needs to possess is the ability to write and while being able to write is obviously important there are other skills that can make freelancing a whole lot easier.

Being able to appropriately plan and organise yourselfis critical as a freelancer. If you struggle to organise yourself then you are likely to be inviting unnecessary stress on to yourself, in this technological age there are hundreds of programs or apps that can help you keep track of your work schedule.

A thing that new freelancers often fail to consider is the ability to touch type, being able to type as fast as possible makes a massive difference in how much work you can or can’t do.

Learn new skills

Investing in yourself as a writer is very important for potential growth. You should always set yourself new goals, whether they are about learning new areas in which to write or developing skills surrounding self-promotion. Any forward movement is a good movement and realizing how and where you could improve is a key skill in freelancing. Be ambitious.

If you have identified a new avenue which could potentially help you progress then be sure to follow it. Sometimes an online course or new software will arise that would make your life a lot easier, save up and spend a bit of money on yourself. If it helps you progress then it will pay for itself.

 

Identify the right price

When starting out as a freelancer most people try to take on as much work as they can, often regardless of the price. However, once you have had experience in the field you should make sure you’re being fair on yourself with regards to how much you sell your time for.

Being able to identify a fair price for your work is a skill that sometimes takes a little bit of time to get right. The likelihood is that any adjustment to your pricing scale will need a period to gauge as to whether or not the changes have been successful.

If you increase your prices and continue to get a good flow of work then you should look into increasing again. However, there is a lot to be said about being able to identify how much is enough for you to live ok, continually increasing your prices can often be seen as a betrayal by loyal customers.

 

Identify a niche

A good way of becoming a more successful freelance writer is to identify a specific area of freelance writing where you can specialize. Specialization in a specific area not only gives you the potential opportunity to become a well-known writer in your specific sphere, but it also allows you to tailor your prices according to your status in the field.

Identifying a niche is important, but that is not to say that you should be aiming to focus all of your attention on one area. You will need to remain sharp and versatile in other popular areas of writing in case the work in your field dries up. Not every area you identify as a potential niche will be successful so it is important you have the good sense to cut your losses should you need to.

Maintain visibility

Being visible can be the difference between success and failure as a freelancer. You could well be a phenomenal writer, but if nobody knows about you then you’re not going to get any work. You need to make self-promotion a priority too. There are plenty of places that will go into some detail about how you can raise your personal online presence, with one of the key examples of this being where and how to post any reviews you have.

There are people who specialize in improving visibility for their clients, so if you don’t think you have the skills to improve your online visibility on your own there are always people who are available to help. Having said that, it is always important to do your own research into anyone who you are thinking of hiring as help, working from a distance it can sometimes be difficult to gauge how legitimate other freelancers are.

Network

Networking is fundamentally important when working as a freelancer, being able to successfully gain clients or potential partnerships is the key to becoming successful. The more often a freelancer is able to network the greater the quality and quantity of their clientele will be. Ineffective networking can be a root cause for poor flow of work, so getting help or advice in how to properly network (should you need it) could completely revolutionise your success as a writer. By becoming familiar with good networking habits, you are giving yourself a chance to identify and target specific areas or people.

Freelance writing is not easy but it can be extremely rewarding for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to improve themselves. There are a great number of things that can be done to increase success as a freelancer, and those who understand that is always something that they can be doing to improve are most likely to be the people who are finding the most success.

Author Bio

Anna Clarke is the owner of online writing company 15 Writers. She is a successful entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience in freelancing, academic dissertation writing consulting, specialising in Business, Economics, Finance, Marketing and Management.

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5 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Being a Freelancer

There is a good reason behind the recent trend of quitting regular jobs to go freelance. People started to realize that nobody is forcing them to choose jobs that dictate the tempo of their lives in a way that makes them feel stressed or even depressed. Millions of people have already decided to become freelancers instead. Will you follow their example? Who knows – life is pretty unpredictable.

Regardless of your career path, it is good to know that you can always opt for alternative sources of income. If you are interested to find out more about benefits of going freelance, take a look.

Relative independence

One of the greatest advantages of going freelance is the fact that it’s much easier to organize your day.

While working from 9 AM to 5 PM five days a week has its pros, the truth is that there is no worker who genuinely enjoys being forced to come to the worksite every single morning. There are tens of possible situations that could make coming to the workplace at 9 AM almost impossible. What if a person has a terrible headache or stomach pain? Would they really be of any help to their colleagues? Or what if they’ve had an awful night because someone close to them had an accident or any other kind of a problem? Unfortunately, not many employers understand this issue.

Freelance jobs allow people to organize their business hours relatively independently. Depending on the nature of the job, a person who hires a freelance worker usually sets deadlines too. However, unlike other employers, they don’t interfere with a freelancer’s time management. Two things are very important though – to meet deadlinesand complete tasks in accordance with their expectations.

Multitasking (and more sources of income)

For many people, having only one source of income isn’t enough. But if a person works forty hours a week, it is highly unlikely that they’ll be able to find additional jobs. And, even if they do, would they really be able to manage all tasks successfully?

On the other hand, freelancers are far less limited when it comes to multitasking. For example, one can work as a pet sitter in the morning, and finish their data entry tasks in the afternoon. Similarly, many freelancers get paid to take surveys onlinefrom home because they have enough time to do as many surveys as they want. Online surveys can be filled out in a restaurant or on public transport. It’s no wonder that online surveys have become one of the most popular ways to earn extra money.

Better social life

Going freelance enables people to manage their personal commitments more easily. In comparison with other workers, freelancers are far less likely to miss family dinners or night outs with friends.

Because they are enabled to organize their working hours in a way that benefits their daily routine, freelancers who are highly organized have much more spare time. Not only does this make them more satisfied with their professional life, but it also positively affects their work performance. Having this in mind, companies who care for performance measurement are bound to be satisfied with the performance of an individual who works as a freelancer.

Both well-being and the quality of social lifeare tightly linked to a person’s work performance. Workers can’t fully enjoy their jobs unless they are given enough time to share the benefits of the efforts they put into work with their loved ones. For example, a person who works as a freelance event manager is probably going to have a vivacious social life because of the number of people they get in touch with.

Stress-free work environment

Another immensely important benefit of going freelance is that nobody is around to make noise or create unnecessary drama. Unfortunately, workers around the globe are victims of mobbing. Surviving workplace mobbing can be very challenging even for the more experienced workers. Sadly, in many cases, the employer is the one who is responsible for the harassment. This generally leads to a high rate of employee turnover.

On the other hand, freelancers are able to create their own work environment. Setting up a home office is a smart move for anyone who decides to become a freelancer. Not only is it far less likely that a person will be bothered by a representative of a company who hired them, but they could also be in full control of the working hours.

Social media managers usually have nicely set up home offices because of the time they spend using their laptops and phones. In order to satisfy the needs of their clients, people who manage social media accounts of other individuals and companies have to feel completely comfortable with their work environment. Similarly, bloggers and freelance writers will produce better content if their home offices are set up according to their own standards. Needless to say, it is essential to obtain office supplies. However, adding plants and scented candles will make a real difference. While plants reduce stress, scented candles help freelancers work in a completely relaxed atmosphere. Not to mention that listening to music during work is only possible if one works from the comfort of their own home.

Healthier lifestyle

Arguably the most important benefit of going freelance is the healthier lifestyle that comes with it.

When a person works in a stress-free environment and is completely happy with their professional life, their health improves too. Scheduling in accordance with their habits allows freelancers to regularly visit gyms and yoga centers. Besides, they don’t need to worry about whether they’ll have enough time (and money) to carefully plan their meals.

Extra benefits of going freelance include more time for outdoor activities, more time for learning new skills, more money for traveling, as well as more possibilities for soul-fulfilling relationships.

All things considered, it’s really hard to argue against becoming a freelancer. This is because jobs are supposed to complement peoples’ lives, which is far more likely to happen if they opt for a freelance lifestyle. The possibilities that come with such a decision are practically limitless. At the end of the day, the way we feel about our own lives is what matters the most. In 2018, there is no need to stick to your present job if it doesn’t enhance your life in any way.

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Business 101 for Writers: Stop Treating and Pricing Writing Like a Commodity

Before I check out on the OfficeMax website, I check to make sure I have applied all of the coupon codes they have sent me. I have discounts on paper, toner, and even a new office chair. What’s not in my online cart is a well-written blog post about freelancers and taxes.

For that, I have to go somewhere else, and when I shop for content, I have choices. I can get content from Fiverr or some bargain spot like Upwork or Elance. As long as I don’t mind sub-par or at best mediocre work, that is fine. Kind of like when you are out running errands and you get hungry. You can stop at a convenience store or a fast food spot for a snack, but it won’t be good.

Because food is not just food, and writing is not just writing. A bargain almost never means good or even great food or writing. Because creating something is a skill, and a skilled chef does not work at McDonald’s for long.

To Freelance Clients Looking for Writers

The most talented writers also do not work content mills and job boards for too long. Someone, probably them, discovers they are much too talented to work for peanuts, and they start charging real rates for real clients.

If you aren’t willing to pay higher rates you are no longer the client they are looking for, and they move on.

Notice that high-end steak houses always seem to be busy: you have to make reservations to dine there, and they seldom if ever offer coupon or Groupon offers. Why? Those offers are designed to increase business by bringing new customers in. A restaurant that is always full and requires reservations to get in doesn’t need to advertise to get new customers. Customers come to them.

The same is true of a good freelance writer. Customers seek them and pay them full market value and more for their work. They try to retain them the same way they would any other employee.

To employ a good writer, you have to make reservations. Generally they are busy, and while there are times when they can, or are willing to, slip you into their schedule, generally, that just isn’t possible.

If you’re going to hire a freelancer to write for you, know what market rates are, and be willing o pay them.

To Freelance Writers

Even if you are new, and trying to get your foot in the door of the writing business, please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t put an ad on Fiverr or Upwork and offer your services for $4 an hour or $15 a blog post.

The damage you are doing to the market is significant. There are a ton of reasons you should not undercharge for your work, and just one of them is what you are doing to client expectations. Clients should know what market rates for good writing are, and undercutting the competition just gives them leverage against other freelancers.

“I can get so-and-so to do this for $15. Why can’t you do that?” they say in a negotiation, and then the writer bidding the job has to justify the value of their work, which is significant. At the same time they have to throw you under the bus:

“The only writer who charges that low of rates is new or does not provide quality work. You want someone with my experience and credibility to handle your project.” Suddenly your work is downplayed, and all you have proven to anyone is that you will work for much less than you should.

Offering cheaper rates because you are new is fine when you are starting out, but for a client to value your work, first you must value it. Pricing it way below market is no way to do that. A slight discount may make sense, but when you figure out what you actually make if you charge super low rates will make you think twice about them.

How do you know what market rates are? Google them, look them up, ask other freelancers what they charge for certain types of projects. For good freelancers, there is more than enough work for one person to do or even a group. They will often share knowledge with you, and if they learn they can trust you and the quality of what you do, they may even refer overflow clients to you.

No matter what, don’t undervalue your writing and that of others by pricing your writing too low.

Writing is not a Commodity

A fine meal cooked by a talented chef costs much more than a burrito wrapped at Taco Bell by your neighbor’s teenage son. There is a reason for that, and a taste of each would be all the explanation you need.

Neither is all writing created equal. A good blog post is worth much more than a poorly written one, and a crafted conversion page can mean the difference between feast and famine in online sales.

You can’t pick up writing at the gas station or the office supply store. Not everyone enjoys writing. In fact, some people can’t stand it. Those who have the skill of constantly plagiarizing the alphabet over and over every day deserve to get paid for it.

Writers should also charge respectable rates for their work. Undercharging hurts the market overall and creates mistrust with clients that is totally unnecessary and undesirable.

So let’s stop treating writing like a commodity. Pay (and charge) reasonable rates. It’s the only solution for a healthy market.

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Business 101 for Writers: Contracts

It scares some people that in many parts of the writing industry, artists and writers work without contracts: essentially with no safety net: you have paid someone to perform a service (or they have paid you) with no legal contract in place. However, this is not always as bad as it seems.

However, for major expenditures like editing and sometimes graphic design, you need to have a legal agreement in place. The good news is, you might sort of have one and not even know it. The truth of the matter is, even if the person is someone you know, you should have a contract.

Friendships can be ruined, relationships ended or be damaged, or business reputations be destroyed due to lack of a contract. Here are a few simple reasons you need one:

  • Expectations: It should be very clear to each party what is expected of them: what service exactly, will they be performing and what tasks are included and not included in that service? What do you, as the author, have to provide them so they can perform those services?
  • Timelines: How much time should the project take? Will it be done in stages, or is there a single deadline? What are valid reasons for deadlines not being met, and what are the consequences if they are not?
  • Payment: How much will this cost, or is this an ongoing cost? How are payments to be made, and when? What forms of payment are acceptable?
  • Ending the Contract: If things are not going well, how can either party get out of the contract? Is there a financial penalty?

These all amount to one thing: protection for both parties. The person providing the service knows what they will get paid, and when. The person receiving the service knows what they will get in return for their money and when.

Instead of just talking about this in an ethereal way, let’s take a look at a sample contract, and go through the elements it should include.

TWO IMPORTANT NOTES:

Yes, I shouted at you for a second. The first note is that I am not an attorney. I did have one help me draw up this contract originally, and it works well in my state and for the services, I contract out and perform. However, if your needs are different you should consult an attorney. Paying for an hour of their time can potentially save you thousands later.

Second, this is a contract for services you are receiving or providing. It is NOT a publishing contract. We will cover those later in the series, but for the moment understand those are completely different, nd require a whole different level of scrutiny.

For our example, we will use an editing contract for a book. This is the contract between the editor and the author. Let’s get started:

Title: Freelance Editorial Agreement

The Title of the contract immediately tells us what the contract is for and about. Underneath the title is a simple sentence that expounds on that definition:

“This agreement is between EDITOR NAME (hereafter referred to as Editor) and AUTHOR NAME (hereafter referred to as Author) and concerns the following manuscript:”

This of course can be modified to cover design, formatting, or even proofreading by simply changing the title and the job description in the first sentence. Manuscript can be changed to cover, or whatever the person is working on.

In the case of a manuscript this is followed by three simple things:

  • Author: The name of the author of the work, even if this contract is for a cover.
  • Title or Working Title of the Work: This helps you when referencing the project in your communications.
  • Length and description: How long is the book, what is the genre, and what are any other ways it needs to be defined. In the case of a cover contract, this is simply the type of covers needed: Print, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Be careful. Some cover designers charge more for each iteration. Know what you are a asking for before you start, and make sure it is included in their fees.

Tasks

In this case, the agreement speaks of editorial tasks. It specifically speaks to different types of editing:

  • Substantive and Structural Editing
  • Stylistic Editing
  • Copy Editing

These terms are defined on later in the contract, and this section explains that. This section may also include what the editor will not do, usually

  • Scene rewrites
  • Character profiles
  • Additional writing

Sometimes this will include things specific to your case, or agreements you and your editor may have made ahead of time. In the case of things other than editing, this may include what the cover designer, formatter, or proofreader will and will not do.

For instance, a cover designer may be able to make banners and other items to go with your book cover, but that may or may not be part of your agreement. Make sure the terms are clear, and you know how much additional work will cost.

Budget will be an important part of your project, especially when it comes to marketing, and marketing materials like graphics should be a part of that. We will discuss covers and marketing shortly, but at this point just know it is important to include your future needs in contracts you develop at the beginning of any process.

Delivery

This is an important section. How will you pass things back and forth? Will it be through Google Drive, One Drive, or some other file sharing service? Will you be working in a project management software like Asana, or will you be emailing things back and forth?

In most cases, you will be working virtually with someone who is not necessarily in your area, so hand delivery back and forth will not be possible, nor is it practical in most cases. This involves additional time, and usually causes the person providing the service to raise prices to compensate.

Payment

There are several options for online payments and invoicing. I use Square, PayPal, Bill.com, and even Square Cash. I almost never take checks as payment except from major publications who still pay that way.

You and your editor, or other service provider should agree on one you both are familiar with and comfortable using. Make sure the amount of payment and timing of those payments is well defined, and that you include who pays any fees associated with that form of payment: usually these are not much, but you need to include them in your budget.

Termination

This is where you define how the contract can be terminated by either party, and why. Usually material change of circumstances or acts of God are acceptable. There should be a period of notice—usually between 10 and 30 days, and agreements of how much should be paid by each in the event of termination. Usually there is a financial penalty of some sort for the person who terminates the contract early.

For instance, if the author terminates the contract early, they must pay the editor for the work they have completed to that point plus a fee anywhere from $50-$100 dollars or more. Many editors are freelancers, and may have turned down other work or planned their budget and time around a project.

By the same token, if the editor cancels the contract, they usually pay a penalty as well. The author will have to reset and find another editor, and this may cause them to miss deadlines. Whether those are self-created or a part of a publishing agreement, it is still important, especially if they have marketed release dates and events they may have to move.

Indemnity

This is important. Editing is a process of offering suggestions and advice. You as an author can take them or not take them, depending on how you want your story to be presented. The editor should bring questionable material to the author’s attention, but they cannot read every work of fiction or non-fiction out there.

So if you plagiarize something, or you don’t change something the editor suggests and it results in a bad review, the editor is not liable for that, and you can’t hold them legally or financially responsible.

This is to protect both of you, and at the same time to let you know that, while you do not have to adopt every change and editor suggests, you should certainly evaluate why they might be saying it.

Changes

This section defines how the contract can be modified, from deadlines to payments, etc. This can usually only be done by a signed addendum by both parties. This is simply to make sure you are on the same page, and there is no confusion about side agreements or changes you have made.

Terms

Finally, there should a be section that defines terms that have been used in the contract. This includes what copy editing means, or what type of cover design will be provided. And what that means, or whatever other terms may be unclear.

If you have a question about an editor’s contract, this is the time to ask for clarification, and not just verbally. It is not unusual for contracts to go back and forth several times for revisions until each party is happy.

Signatures and information: typically, this is the place where each person signs and dates the agreement. In most states, you do not need to have this notarized for it to be legally binding, and hopefully you never have the issue anyway.

However, if you should, having a contract will make the process much easier. For the most part contracts are not used that way: they are simply used to create clarity to both parties.

What if you don’t have a contract?

In some states, a verbal agreement serves as a contract, and you can use it in court if need be if you can prove the conversation happened. Even better is an email with a simple “I agree to create this item for this price” or “I agree to pay for this service at this price” is sufficient should you go to court.

Terms can duties can also be clear from emails, so in the case of some smaller tasks a contract may be excessive. However, it never hurts to have one, and they really are not that hard to draw up and negotiate.

So, your book is done, you have hired an editor and have a contract in place. What next? What should you be doing in the production process while you are waiting for edits to come back? It’s time for cover design.

We’ll talk about that in detail next.

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Tips for Saving Money as a Freelance Writer

Some professional freelance writers earn a whopping $10,000 a month, while others earn that much in an entire year. Regardless of earnings, saving money as a freelancer may seem impossible, especially when you don’t know how much your paycheck is going to be from month to month.

There are ways to build a nest egg and reap the benefits of a rewarding career as a writer, as long as you’re being strategic right now. Here are four ways to help you prioritize your money:

Emergency funds

Most experts recommend keeping at least three to six months worth of expenses (rent, bills, food, other necessities) in a separate savings account to cover any emergencies or losses of income. Twelve months would be even better.  

“As a freelancer, you might as well double this amount to account for the added risk of being self-employed,” writes Carrie Smith of Wise Bread.

She’s referring to all of the unexpected costs, not just the bare essentials. This could include costs like car and home repairs, vet visits, and doctor’s bills. It’s those unexpected emergencies that can do you in. Freelancers need to be even more astute in budgeting because of the various income levels per month.

If you want your budget to work, you’ll need to earn double the amount of what you spend monthly on all bills. If you can’t do that, it might be time to reevaluate your housing or car situation. Emergencies happen, life happens, so it’s best to be prepared. What if you had to pay for a $5,000 brand new heating system in your home, for example?

If you are unsure where to start in determining how much emergency savings you need, online tools such as savings goal calculators are easy to use and can help you determine how much and how long to save for you to achieve a financial goal.

Save for retirement

Fifty-three million Americans are now freelancers of some sort, which means without the backing of a full-time employer, the onus is on freelancers to handle their own retirement.

One thing freelancer Laura Shin recommends is opening your own IRA with an investment management company like Vanguard, which offers low-cost investments. Also, sign up for Freelancers Union because free membership there gives you access to a 401k and will allow you to contribute an additional $17,500 per year toward retirement on top of the $5,500 permitted for an IRA.

You’ll need to figure out at the beginning of the year how much you need to earn in order to set aside that $5,500 to put into a Roth IRA. Some of the wealthier freelancers also make contributions to a SEP IRA because you are allowed to contribute a larger percentage of your income instead of being limited my Roth’s maximum.

Understand Taxes

Many freelancers are so busy writing articles and securing clients that they aren’t investing time in understanding how to properly file taxes. You wouldn’t want to end up paying penalties, fees and interest on your tax return. There are plenty of tips out there to plan for income taxes on your freelance business earnings.

Also, it never hurts to ask a CPA for help or use a professional tool like QuickBooks Self-Employed. Set yourself up for success by filing an accurate tax return.

Shin, who is a freelance personal finance journalist, says she saves specifically for taxes and keeps good track of the expenses she can write off.  Throughout the tax year, she keeps a cash flow document that shows the balance at the beginning of the month, the money coming in, regular money going out and those one-time expenses.

Affordable places to live

Unless you’re doing really well as a freelancer, you’re probably not living in a highrise in NYC or San Francisco. In fact, you should only be paying about one-third of your monthly income on rent or on a mortgage.

If your rent or mortgage is outrageous, consider moving to a cheaper place. No “creative type” wants to be a “struggling artist.” Take it with a grain of salt, but an article from the Thrillist says the cheapest and coolest cities to live include Nashville, Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Charleston. These are places you can actually afford to live and even save money, according to the article.

At the end of the day, freelance writers need to be able to depend on reliable gigs and some income coming in at all times, otherwise, you may finding yourself moonlighting with a part-time job outside the home. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

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Is Finding Freelance Gigs Using Job Boards Worthwhile?

The number one issue with being a freelancer is discoverability. Of course, you are already treating your writing career like a business, but how do you market your work and get your name into the hands of the right recruiters? Truth be told businesses are looking for freelancers with your particular skills and areas of knowledge. You just need to find them, and they need to find you.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to the disruptive nature of the freelance gig economy, businesses are hiring more freelancers for more tasks. They look for freelancers in several ways, and just one of them is through the use of job boards.

The one thing we freelancers never have enough of is time: marketing is vital, but not wasting time is essential. Job boards and content mills like Upwork and Demand Studios are a waste of time for the most part since well-paying jobs are so few and far between. So are there any job boards that are worthwhile?

The answer is yes, but very few. Putting in an alert for a freelance writer on job sites like CareerBuilder and other similar sites will fill your inbox with job suggestions from car wash attendant to security guard, but few if any will be for writing positions or have anything to do with your particular skill set.

Here are a few places where the search can be worthwhile. You will still have to vet clients, but they are more likely to be professional and the kind of gigs you are looking for in the first place.

DISCLAIMER: Job boards and these sites do not take the place of good marketing of your freelance business.

Ebyline

When looking at job boards, Ebyline is what is referred to by Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing as a “move-up board.” You are expected to be more professional, and clients who come to the board expect to pay, and for the most part pay well, or at least better than an Upwork or worse, a Fiverr gig.

This is also a good place to find fill-in work when things are slow, or you just need a gig to tide you over to your next client payment. Jobs typically pay quickly, something relatively important to freelancers when they are just starting out.

Skyword

Skyword is another “move-up mill,” and offers reasonable pay. For the most part, you will be creating branded content or other types of writing for the web. This is a place where you can potentially develop long-term relationships, and it is definitely worth being a part of.

As with any job boards, be sure to vet clients. There is nothing wrong with offering a free initial consultation, but don’t give away too much at the outset. Share your ideas in a more general way, and only get as specific as you need to to get hired. This is good advice for any job board, but especially more “content mill” like sites.

LinkedIn ProFinder

One of the better places to look for freelance gigs and to find other freelancers is LinkedIn, but if you have a strong profile, this can be a great tool for you. Since you are already using LinkedIn, it is a simple matter of upgrading to at least a Business Plus membership, and sharing your profile on their job board, ProFinder, designed to help businesses find the best local and regional freelancers.

This will cost you $59.99 a month, but it shows clients you are serious about your career. If you are going to make this move, be sure that your profile is complete, and that it includes all of your accomplishments and a job history. Ask your connections who know you for recommendations, and give them out as well.

LinkedIn can be a great place to showcase your skills and to find new clients, even using their regular job board. Due to the professional nature of the network, though, LinkedIn Profinder may be one of the best job boards currently out there.

There is a balance between working and marketing when you are a freelancer. You need to satisfy the needs of your current clients, but you also need to constantly develop new leads. Job boards, if used properly, can help you do that.

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GUEST POST: Becoming a Freelance Writing Consultant

Freelance Writing ConsultantIt is estimated that 34% of the U.S. workforce is made up of freelancers. Many freelancers have found ways to go from gig to full-time work, while others stay part-time while juggling other responsibilities. What typically differentiates a freelance writing consultant from early career freelancers is that these consultants typically already have experience in their field. The consultant will then use that knowledge for the benefit of their clients.

The current freelance economy is thriving, and is made up of 53 million U.S. workers. Becoming a freelance writing consultant is a great option for those seeking to supplement their existing income and expand their writing experiences. This can include doing typical freelance work, ie, “I assign you a project and you complete it,” but can also involve offering career advice and professional guidance.

The simplified process is as follows:

  • Market your best skills
  • Successfully complete projects
  • Build momentum through positive feedback
  • Consistently hone your skills

Say for example that you’re a editor by day for a book publisher and you’ve been doing this for several years. To someone who is just starting out writing and editing, your professional expertise can be valuable…and lucrative. Whatever skills you possess or unique talents you have on your side, you can advertise these in order to gain clients.

If you’re pursuing freelancing on the side of a full-time job, it can be difficult to maintain motivation unless you break any cycles of procrastination. Being a self-starter is a required trait to be successful as a freelance writing consultant. In addition to building up your reputation, succeeding as a freelancer will help you build the confidence you need to persist even when times are lean.

There are several ways to go about offering your services. You can use freelance marketplaces like Upwork, network through LinkedIn, build your own website, or do some combination of these three. Whichever method you use, the important thing is to present yourself professionally and demonstrate your skill set. This isn’t a passive process however. Networking is necessary if you want potential clients to discover you. As you successfully complete projects and help your clients achieve their goals, positive word-of-mouth will help you build momentum.

A challenging yet rewarding aspect of owning your own consultancy is the administrative upkeep necessary. Running your own business means you must take care of your own taxes, invoices, and the rest of the paper trail. Fortunately there are many helpful resources that will teach you how to do this and even offer sample templates that you can adapt for your own purposes. Before tax season rolls around you’ll want to have all your financials in order. Keep meticulous physical or digital records, and ideally back-up those files. Though if the worst happens and the digital dog eats your homework, you can often still recover that data from failed storage devices and hard-drives. Be thorough and document everything, or back-up your files on cloud-based programs like Google Docs or Spreadsheets.

Thriving as a freelance writing consultant is hard work, yet the freedom and experience you can gain is often worth it. You don’t need to be a world-renowned expert to share your abilities and make a difference in the lives of your clients. Put your best foot forward, always keep improving your skills, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing yourself as a professional writer. Like Hemingway said, “let them think you were born that way.”

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Taxes for Authors: Before You File and the Year Ahead

I’m not an accountant, but I have seen the movie and written about a few in my books. Not that any of those things make me an expert, but I have filed my own taxes as a freelancer and author for the last 10 years or so, and for five of those I had no “traditional income” from an employer: I started with only stacks of 1099 forms and a list of business expenses.

Before you panic thinking I am going to launch into some professional jargon, don’t. I’ve got some solid, simple advice for you that might affect how you file this year, and will certainly affect how you look at the year ahead.

Get Organized

This used to mean getting out a shoebox, or a file box if you were really organized, and labeling and cataloging your receipts. It also meant sitting down with 1099’s and your company books and totaling up your income. Much of this can be done digitally now but gathering all of your data into one place is still a necessary task.

Note that small businesses have longer to file than individuals, and even though your individual return is actually the same as your small business return, you can take advantage of these extensions if you need more time to get your paperwork together,

Tracking Expenses

You sit in front of a computer all day, and that computer should do some work for you. You should use a single debit or credit card (or a combination of the two) for business expenses. You can then use an accounting program that will track and categorize your expenses for you. These programs are not 100% accurate, so you should check them monthly to make sure expenses are properly labeled, but you can keep the manual tracking you have to do to a minimum.

You can then export these into a spreadsheet to share with your accountant or import them directly into your tax software when tax time comes around.

Where You Work

There are many different places you can work if you are an author or freelancer, from coffee shops and libraries to your own office at home or outside of your residence. When choosing where you will do your work, taxes should factor into it.

Home: Even if you work at coffee shops and libraries, you should also have a home office if possible. For one thing, you will be more productive in a structured environment, even one you have created yourself. The second is that you can write off a part of your expenses including mortgage, rent, and utilities as business expenses.

A few things you should keep in mind about your office expenses, especially if you are a new homeowner:

  • Don’t Overspend. You may be tempted to buy a new desk and totally revamp your office, but not only are you limited on how much you can deduct, but you also need to stay within your business budget. Resist temptation and be patient, doing things as you can afford them.
  • Get Good Insurance. You will need good renters insurance that is enough to replace all of your items in case something goes wrong. Be sure you have enough in savings to cover the deductible so you can get back to work as soon as possible.
  • Save for Unexpected Expenses. Just as your household budget should include emergency savings, so should your business account. This should be enough to cover your operating expenses including the salary you pay yourself for approximately three months.
  • Keep Records of Everything. Printer ink. Paper. Batteries for your mouse and other computer accessories. Carpet cleaning and other cleaning supplies. Upgrades to furniture and decorations. All of these are deductible.

Even though you should be careful not to overspend, once you do undertake improvements and remodels, be sure to take advantage of the tax benefits that offers.

Commercial Space: Some freelancers do not work as well at home and find it to be distracting. You can office share or use other creative ways to rent your own commercial space. The best thing about a commercial office is that all of those expenses are deductible, and they are easy to keep separate. Remember to include all of the expenses related to an outside office when doing your taxes, including your commuting time and mileage.

Health Insurance Coverage

One of the toughest things about being an author or a freelancer ins finding and keeping health insurance, especially if you are not covered by a spouse or significant other. You have a couple of choices.

Individual Coverage: You can use an insurance agent or even on your own search for individual coverage. With the ACA, there are some tax credits available if you do so, but that may change under the current administration.

This is still more expensive than group coverage, but you can choose if you want a lower premium and a higher deductible plan supplemented by a health savings account, or a more traditional insurance plan with co-pays and lower out of pocket costs in the case of an emergency.

Group Coverage: Even if you do not have a regular employer, you can find group coverage. One of the best places to compare coverage and options for writers is Freelancer’s Union, although they do not have coverage in every state. However, there are insurance co-ops for contractors and other self-employed individuals, and you should search for those in your area.

Google has shut down its insurance comparison tool because it was not working well, but there are dozens of other places to compare insurance coverage, including healthcare.gov and private insurance comparison tools.

Retirement

As a self-employed person, you need to provide your own retirement. You don’t have the benefit of an employer matching your contributions, but you should still donate the maximum amount allowed each year into a 401 K of some sort. You can choose either a Roth or a traditional IRA, depending on how old you are when you start, and what you anticipate you will need to retire and maintain the lifestyle you want.

Since you are self-employed, limits are higher for you as you can contribute as both your employer (since you employ yourself) and as an employee. Be sure to factor in these limits when deciding how to handle your taxes.

These contributions are tax deductible, as are other investments. A large consideration of how you invest for your retirement will depend on your tax situation, and how much you can afford to put towards it. Remember that as a freelancer, you will have to pay your own social security as well, and because you do not have an employer matching your costs it will be more expensive.

Tax Savings Accounts

More than likely you will owe taxes at the end of the year no matter how diligent you are with deductions, investments, and savings. To prepare for this, you need to have a tax savings account. You should save approximately 30% of your income, and make quarterly estimated tax payments. The self-employment tax is the combination of social security and medicare that an employer would normally contribute to you paying and is 15.3%. This is separate from income taxes, which is why you should save 30%.

The IRS demands that taxes be paid on money when it is made, so if you fall behind on quarterly payments not only will you have a huge bill at the end of the year, but you also may face penalties for not paying on time.

There are countless other tax tips and deductions for freelancers, but these are a few of the more common and often overlooked ones. As you prepare for tax time, be sure you are organized and know all of the deductions you have a right too.  Use what you learn from preparing for your taxes this year to plan for next year.

While doing taxes is not fun, having a solid tax plan is essential to having a profitable business and being an effective entrepreneur.

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