The Feast or Famine of Freelance Writing: How to Avoid Starvation
Freelance writing is always going to be a feast or famine occupation, it’s the nature of the beast. The fact is, no matter how solid your relationship with a client, their needs could change at any time, leaving you without a source of income. If you’ve based a significant amount of your payday on this client, you’ll be hurting and scrambling around for work to replace him.
Savvy writers know that the key to maintaining a relatively steady income is to diversify. Whether you’re doing press release writing, content writing, or some other form of writing for hire, the more clients you have, the better. Imagine the biggest cut your budget can stand without putting you into disaster mode. 10 percent, 15 percent? Whatever that number is, never allow any client’s potential to be more than that amount in your stable of clients.
Your Client Mix
A large variety of flexible clients is the best situation for any freelancer. The more types of client you have, the easier it will be for you to adjust when one of them slows down or drops out of site.
- Steady vs. Casual Some clients expect you to produce a certain amount of work every week, while others will pay for whatever amount of work you choose to do. Look for a number of steady clients, but keep a couple of casual ones on the side, writing one or two pieces a month for them, in case you need to move them up in the roster.
- Rate of Pay The amount a client pays for each article may seem like a no brainer, but if all your clients expect 1,000-word pieces with heavy research and multiple references, it can be hard to pop in some extra work when money’s short. Keep a client or two that wants simple and short fluff pieces that you can whip up quickly, even if their per-word rate is lower.
- Frequency of Pay Again, getting paid more for an article is almost always good, but if an emergency happens, sometimes you need some extra money quicker. Keep a mix of weekly and monthly clients on hand.
How to Find Them
It’s the old conundrum: if you’re busy, you don’t have time to look for more clients. If you have time to look, it’s when you already need more. The key is to make searching for new gigs a regular part of your daily schedule. Devote 30 minutes a day to searching for new clients, whether it’s applying to a new content farm, sending out pitch letters to magazines, or searching online for private clients. Find more clients than you need, then set up a revolving schedule of writing for each one, just to keep the contact active. If the unexpected happens, you’ll have two or three background clients ready to move up to a more prominent spot, filling the hole in your income without a break.
Victoria B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.