I started freelancing when I was still in college. I was majoring in English with a focus in Writing and really wanted to get some toes in the door before I graduated. Something other than "Lit Mag" to put on my resume, you know? I reached out to a bunch of different online publications (the days before Buzzfeed, if you can believe those days existed!) and sent in some pitches. After a while, I started getting some nibbles and my love for freelancing was born.
Freelancing has so many pros when it comes to a career. You get to be creative. You get to pick your own hours. You get to be your own boss essentially. You're on your own terms. But there are also quite a fews cons to consider. You don't have health insurance through your company. Job security isn't always there. Writer's block can stop you have being able to afford food! If you can't think of any pitches, sometimes you're eating ramen for a week. It happens. It's happened to me.
I even had a horror story that involved me being stupid and not saving any of my freelancing money for taxes. Let's just say, I owed a lot of money to the IRS and didn't have a dime to my name. All of these money mistakes while freelancing really have shaped me into the saver and budgeter I am today. I had to go through these rocky times in order to find some financial peace when it comes to being a full-time freelancer.
Here are some quick tips when it comes to saving and working as a freelancer.
1. Make sure you're saving with every paycheck
This may be a "no duh" tip, but trust me, I learned this the hard way. It's not just taking out 10% for your savings but it's also about saving for tax season. A lot of the times, paychecks for freelancers are not taxed and therefore, you end up paying that income tax later during tax season. Trust me: Save, save, save! It's better to have a nice stash of cash saved from all your hard work than be in debt because you spent more than you could truly afford.
2. Don’t quit your day job until you feel secure
Sometimes freelance jobs don't work out. Editors disappear. Online publications can't afford to pay their writers anymore. Your niche column is no longer relevant to readers. It happens. This is why I recommend always working with a publisher for at least 6 months before considering that income in your overall budget. I always consider a new freelance job "extra cash" for the first six months before making part of my day to day budgeting. Stuff happens. Things fall through. And as a freelancer, you always need to be prepared for that.
3. Get a "real job"
I know this one is super lame and not fun at all, but it's the truth. Life as a freelancer is hard and sometimes even scary. If the jobs aren't coming in and editors aren't emailing you back, you can be left with very little money in your pocket. I've been in this exact situation a few times. When the dream is to freelance full-time and be able to live life comfortably doing what you love...then you have to go get a "real job"? It can be a lot to grin and bear, but sometimes, it's necessary. There is no shame in grabbing some shifts at a coffee shop or working at a marketing agency while still trying to freelance. Sometimes, the dream takes time and in the interim, we have to make money a different way.
Freelance work comes and goes which is why taking it on full time can be scary for a lot of people. Security is a nice feeling that freelancing doesn't always provide. While working toward the dream of full-time freelancing, saving, waiting, and working "real jobs" can help set you in the right direction.