As a freelancer writer, you are completely responsible for your own earnings. You have to be the salesman, the marketing director, the writer, the editor/proofreader, and sometimes even the publisher. It’s up to you to seek out new positions and potential clients, because if you don’t, there won’t be any work for you to do.
Of course, despite your best efforts and hard work, there will be times when you just don’t have any interested clients. Maybe you just finished a big project and didn’t have time to look for other work. Maybe you got sick and couldn’t work or promote yourself for a few weeks. Maybe the market is just slow. Whatever the reason, it’s a dangerous position to find yourself in. You have to be prepared.
You have to be your own safety net. Freelancers and independent contractors can’t collect unemployment when they are out of work. This means that during slow times, you are living off your savings. While you are working, make sure you are putting away as much as possible for the lean times. Ideally you will have several months pay saved up at all times.
You also need to know where you can trim your budget. Obviously as an Internet-based freelancer, you have to maintain one expensive utility that others might consider a luxury: your Internet connection and bundled services. This means you might have to cut in more typically protected areas, like gas money. The less you spend, the longer your savings will hold out.
Join a few of the content mill sites I’ve written about. Many people do not consider those places to be “real” freelance writing, but they can be a godsend when you are in a jam. Often you get paid the very next week for all the work you did, and you can work as much or as little as you like. You won’t earn as much as you could by submitting to magazines and other publications, but something is always better than nothing.
Replenish your savings with anything you spend. Once you are back on your feet, it’s important to replace the money you spent out of your emergency savings. This means continuing to watch your budget so that you can put more away than normal – you want to replenish as quickly as possible and get back to putting extra cash in your savings.
Freelancing gives you the freedom to decide when, where, and how you work. With that freedom, however, comes the responsibility for managing your own cash flow. You are a business, and you have to act like it.
(Thanks to Zuul over at Zuul’s Space Bar for the inspiration)