Q: How can I make decent money working from home as a freelance writer?
A: When I became a mom, the idea of working in an office for hours each week away from my baby was just not okay with me. Living someone else’s dream in a 9-5 job? Thanks, but no.
If you, too, get frustrated working for someone else and putting money in their pocket with work that does NOT motivate you, then you might understand why I was so desperate to do something I was more passionate about, while being able to spend time watching my baby sleep.
I’d always loved writing — the sum total of my two year career was two days as a junior copywriter, then the rest of the time as a senior copywriter, when the other person they hired quit. I had no real training, and I didn’t even really understand what a copywriter was when I started, but I liked writing, and that was enough.
And in my sleep-deprived, new mom state, I assumed that I’d figure it all out. I’d be a freelancer — stay home, watch my baby girl, and make money from writing.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. You can’t sit at home, watch your baby giggle, and magically make money around the clock while doing no work. Not at all. Freelance writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
It requires work—lots of it— especially in the beginning. You will need to get yourself in front of people and businesses that can pay you money to write what you are knowledgeable about. You will need to get in front of a LOT of people in order to make a good income from home. But you WILL be able to do this from anywhere — and if that happens to include a house full of kids, then freelance writing can be a fabulous career choice.
You don’t need any fancy certifications. I certainly didn’t have any when I started out. I had one baby and decided to start pitching myself to pregnancy and parenting magazines, because I obviously knew what I was talking about — you know, because I had one kid.
You can write about nearly anything you want — you just have to be interested enough to learn about it, or have some firsthand experience.
And if you’re worried about giving up the steady income, consider this: when you run your own business, how much you earn is ultimately up to you. You won’t suddenly be surprised with a trip into the boss’s office to let you know that business is slow and they have to let you go. You control your financial destiny.
If you’re thinking about freelance writing, here are my top tips for you:
1. Learn from someone who’s done it. The beauty of being alive in 2018 is that there are plenty of people who have already figured out EXACTLY how to do the thing you want to do, whatever that thing is. Let those people help you. If you want to be a freelance writer, I have a free course designed to get you started — and there are plenty of similar resources that exist in other fields, too.
2. Manage your time effectively. If you’re a work-from-home mom, then slot your work time around your family schedule. Get up early and work before your kids wake up. Do work in the evenings when they are in bed. Work while they’re at school, or if you homeschool, then do it when they are at activities.
Be realistic about your time. When you see that you have two hours between dropping your kids off and picking them up, don’t assume that you can fit a full two hours of work in that slot. You can probably only work for 45 minutes or an hour, because in the real world, the phone rings, you need to eat, and you may be distracted by a really cool giphy.
3. Get creative about childcare. You can save plenty on childcare costs if you’re smart about it. Pay the teenage neighbor $5/day to take the baby out in the stroller for a 90-minute walk. Team up with another mom and trade mornings so that you each have uninterrupted work time.
4. Be prepared to get out there and pitch. Freelancing means working with clients — which means you have to go out and find clients. You’ll need to reach out to businesses or send queries to magazines for assignments. If you aren’t willing to put yourself out there, you won’t get work. You can also use online job sites, and if you’re careful and use them correctly, they can add plenty to your bottom line.
5. Write for money, not for exposure. When you’re starting out, you’ll come across people who want to “let” you write for them in exchange for the “great exposure”. Here’s a fact: People die from exposure. You write for money.
By the way, in addition to money, you can get some very cool perks as a freelance. Back in the day, I heard that a major tech site was hiring freelance writers so I pitched them and they hired me. For over two years, packages showed up at my door daily from companies that wanted me to write about their cool tech gadgets.
And when I had my fifth baby, I convinced the parenting site I wrote for to let me hold a stroller showdown, which meant that I got to test out (and keep) 14 strollers.
6. Learn to follow directions. Most clients will tell you exactly what they want, and if you give it to them, they’ll be thrilled. If you’re applying for work and the post says to submit your sample in the body of the email, do what they say. If you can’t follow their directions, they’re definitely not going to hire you.
Freelance writing is a fabulous option if you’re a mom who doesn’t want to choose between raising her kids and building a career. You really can have it all — and you don’t have to compromise.