You’ve always wanted to write, but never really pursued it as a full-time career. Luckily for you, you live in an age when there are more writing opportunities than ever, whether you pick up a few part time writing gigs on the side or decide to finally write and self-publish a novel. Although freelancing part time can give you an idea of what it’s like to write while maintaining the security of a full-time job, it’s not exactly easy street. Establishing a few basic ground rules for yourself can help you get a part-time writing career off of the ground without too much stress.
Manage Your Time
Time management is a critical skill for all freelancers to have. You need to find that sweet spot between having too much on your plate and not having enough. Even though you might be writing less than a full-time freelancer, time management is even more important when you’re part time. Depending on your work schedule, you might need to devote 40 hours a week to your job, if not more. You’ll also want to leave some time in the week for family, friends and yourself.
Set a firm schedule for yourself when it comes to writing. You might be able to devote two hours to writing every day after work, for example. If you can devote two hours, don’t try to schedule three, or you’ll end up overworked and burned out sooner rather than later. Remember that freelancing is more than just writing — leave space in your schedule for pitching and marketing, too.
You want to be paid, and fairly, for the work you do. Set up payment terms with the people you work with, just as you would if you were doing this full time. Have a system for invoicing, if needed, and a plan for what you’ll do if someone pays late. You might have the income from your job to fall back on, but that doesn’t mean you want to deal with people who don’t pay.
Don’t expect to have to give a discount to someone because you aren’t full time, either. How much time you spend writing every week shouldn’t be reflected in what you charge. When giving someone a rate quote, focus on the quality of your writing as the selling point.
Deal with Taxes
Yes, even part time freelancers have to figure out taxes. As a freelancer, you’re responsible for both sides of your Social Security and Medicare tax, also called self-employment tax. Self-employment tax is slightly more than 15 percent of your taxable freelance income. Even if you don’t plan on earning a lot from writing, it’s a good idea to set aside at least 25 percent of your freelance income for taxes during the first year. If you expect to owe more than $1,000 in taxes, it’s worth it to make estimated quarterly payments to the IRS.
If you’re totally confused about taxes and what to avoid making any mistakes or owing more money, hiring an accountant who works with writers or other freelancers is a great idea. As a bonus, you can most likely deduct the fees the accountant charges from your income.
Find the Right Work Life Work Balance
Time at your main job, time writing, time with the kids, and time with your partner — getting the balance right can be a challenge. There’s a good deal of trial and error when you first start writing. A project might take you three times longer than you had expected, meaning you have to either bail on it or miss your kid’s ballet recital. Your partner might start to get upset if he or she thinks you’re focusing more on work than on family.
One way to find balance is to develop a routine. Tuesday nights can become date night, when you and your partner turn off your laptops and phones and focus only on each other. Thursday night can be family night, where you take the gang out to dinner, without any distractions. You might also decide to dedicate one weekend day to writing, leaving the other day open for time with family and friends.
Whether your ultimate goal is to become a full-time writer or not, working part time gives you a chance to test the waters and see if you actually enjoy writing as a job. If you don’t, you can always fall back on your other career. If you do love writing and freelancing, you’ve opened the door for a great new career.
Amy F has an MFA in theater criticism and has worked in many capacities on- and off-stage. She’s also an avid baker, vegetarian cook, gardener, and reader. Favorite authors include Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood and Ben Marcus.