Freelance writing is a rewarding career where you get to see your byline in many different publications. You also get to hand-pick your assignments and turn down those that don’t work for you. But being a freelance writer isn’t easy. Not by a longshot.
The good times are a sea of plum assignments and good fortune, where your favorite editors seek you out and your ledger is full of expected payments. But the bad times … oh, that’s when you tear your hair out, lose sleep and hope against all hope that things will improve.
Don’t worry. They will.
As we inch toward 2020, now’s a good time to assess what’s been good in 2019 and what you should change in 2020. These five goals for 2020 are a great place to start:
- Save Half – One of the downsides of being a freelancer is that no one will force you to take money from your paychecks for taxes. There is no accountant subtracting these payments for you (well, unless you hire someone to do this) — instead, you have to do it yourself (and make quarterly estimated tax payments). The alternative is to not do it and pay a fine at the end of the year. Saving half of everything you earn will help you be more financially responsible — able to both pay the quarterly taxes and built yourself a cushion for the lean times. Your best bet? Create a savings account just for this — your savings.
- Say ‘No’ (If You Can) – It’s a hard thing to do, especially in that uncomfortable pocket of the month when you are waiting for payments to arrive, but saying no is so important when an assignment just isn’t good for you. Maybe it’s too much work for too little pay. Maybe it’s a topic that bores you to tears. Maybe it’s busywork that you feel like you need to do to make sure you have enough work. But instead of saying ‘yes’ out of fear, say ‘no’ and channel your energies elsewhere — unless of course, that assignment will mean being able to pay the rent (or not). In that case, do it anyway.
- Take Days Off (and Unplug) – Do you sometimes go weeks (or months) without truly taking a day off? Though I understand how that happens, it’s not healthy for any of us. In 2020, make planned time off a priority so that you can refresh yourself regularly. Set designated days off — at least one, ideally two or three per week — and let yourself relax. I can practically guarantee that your work will improve as a result. And while you are at it, hide the smartphone, tablet and laptop on those days — you don’t want to be tempted.
- Read More – Every writer should be reading regularly — blogs, newspapers, magazines, books, you name it. Reading expands your mind, shows you how others spin words together and it gives you new knowledge that can even spark ideas. To be a better writer, you need to read. Plus, the escape of getting lost in someone else’s words is awesome too.
- Get Out and Do Something – Does this sound familiar? You get up, have coffee and settle in on the couch with your laptop and get to work. Your breaks take you a mere 10 to 20 steps to the kitchen or bathroom. And you repeat this day in and day out. If so, then you are doing yourself — and your writing — a great disservice. So set aside time for walks. Go to the gym. Explore a new area. Or work in a different place. Your mind and body will thank you.
What would you add to this list?