During your first year as a freelance writer, keeping your overheads low can be the difference between “I’ll never actually make any money as a freelancer” and “I can do this”.
You’ve probably heard that you have to spend money to make money.
It’s an old adage – and an outdated one. It comes from a time when businesses involved bricks and mortar locations, employees and physical stock. Some still do, of course, but your fledgling freelance writing business isn’t one of them. As a freelance writer online, you can make money first then reinvest it in your business later.
5 Ways to Keep Overheads Low during Your First Year as a Freelancer
1. Start small, grow organically
Richard Branson gave me this very valuable piece of advice, via his autobiography, Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way. There’s no need to make a big splash when you launch your first business. Just start working on it – quietly and steadily.
Find an hour or two each day to study, write, rewrite, edit and research markets. You don’t need to invest money at this stage. You need to invest time, effort and ideas. You don’t need premises, a business name, business cards, or even a website. Yep. You read that right. There’s no need to pay for web hosting or design just yet. Here’s why…
2. Don’t bother with a website…yet
Many people start a website as the very first step in launching a business or freelance career. Websites are easy to set up and relatively cheap. But what are you going to put on your website? You have no links to your writing, or client testimonials. As Henry Ford said:
Many new freelance writers have websites focused on what they will do for potential clients, but your website should be about demonstrating what you’ve already done for clients.
Want to know how to build your reputation and your writing portfolio before you build a website? You’re in luck. This free eBook tells you everything you need to know.
3. Always start with the free version
Smart business owners know that hooking users in to a product or service at the beginning of their freelance career makes sense. That’s why many companies offer a free option as well as a premium paid service.
I’m not referring to limited-time free trials that require you to give up your credit card details. I’m talking about free services that stay free until your business grows big enough to need premium services. Examples include LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Mailchimp, all of which offer an excellent free basic service, but make it easy to upgrade if your business grows and you need more features.
4. Enjoy the generosity of the age of information
The reason you used to have to spend money to make money was that producing and distributing products cost a lot of money. If you wanted to read up on a topic you had to buy a book or magazine. If you wanted to take a course (even a correspondence course) you had to pay for materials and textbooks.
Now you can surf the internet, read articles, subscribe to newsfeeds, sign up for newsletters, download ebooks and even take online courses, all without spending a cent. Just remember that the age of information is also the age of distraction. Try to stay focused. Read one free report or ebook before downloading the next. Study and take action on one online course before signing up for another one.
5. Have a reinvestment policy
You may not have to spend money to make money any more, but you’ll progress faster in your freelance career if you take some of the money you make and reinvest it in your business. The best courses, trainings, tools and books aren’t necessarily free. The best websites aren’t run on free platforms. The best contacts are often made at real-life conferences, not on social media.
It’s tempting (and wise) to start reinvesting your profits as you make money, but you still want to turn a profit in that first year of freelancing. It’s a great morale booster and motivator. Have a policy to spend a set amount, say 20% of your profits, on paid books, courses or trainings.
That way you’ll finish your first year as a freelance writer in the black, and that can be very encouraging as you embark on that all-important second year…
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Karen Banes is a freelance writer, editor and author of the bestselling eBook Free Tools For Writers, Bloggers and Solopreneurs. You can find out more about Karen at her website KarenBanes.com.
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>> Get step-by step instructions on how to earn a living from freelance writing online, including pitching templates and proven strategies to attract writing clients, in the Complete Freelance Writing Online Course: Beginner to Pro.