WordCount – Freelancing in the Digital Age

By Michelle Vranizan Rafter

Guest post: Going freelance in a down economy

with 9 comments

Going out on your own is scary enough, so why would any sane person do it in an economy like this one? Because a bad economy may actually be a good time to start a freelance career.

At least that’s what Susan Johnston is hoping. Johnston is a Boston writer and creator of The Urban Muse blog, which I’ve mentioned here before. Though Johnston has freelanced for some time, she recently left a steady job to pursue it full time. She’s agreed to talk about what led to her decision and how she’s making it work in this WordCount guest post. Here’s her story:

I’ve been freelancing for several years, but I finally made the leap to full time freelancing a little less than a month ago. Most of the people in my life were supportive but a few practical people wondered, “Are you sure this is the right time? Why not wait until the economy bounces back?”

I concluded that there is never a “perfect” time to make a major life change, so I trusted my gut and jumped in. Here’s how I did it.

1. Minimize spending. Even though I had a bit of cushion when I quit my job, I also know that editors and clients can take a long time to process payment. In the case of one website, it took over a year for me to get paid – needless to say I don’t write for them anymore. Fortunately, I’m a saver by nature and several of my clients do pay promptly, but working from home has made it even easier to curb my spending. I can go to the movie matinee instead of paying full price. Plus, I’m not buying as many convenience foods and I don’t have to pay for dry cleaning or commuting costs anymore. Which makes me wonder why I didn’t leave my job sooner.

2. Diversify. I’d love to spend all my time writing magazine features, but with advertising dollars down, many of my editors just aren’t handing out as many assignments as they used to. Fortunately, I also do copywriting, which offers a decent hourly rate and steady work while I send out queries. I also picked up some extra cash proofreading marketing materials and writing for a local guidebook. Though I haven’t had to rely on it yet, I also contacted some creative staffing firms about picking up extra work through them. Other writers tell me this is a great way to fill the gaps between assignments.

3. Use those contacts. When I told my boss I was going full time freelance, I softened the blow by offering to complete some projects remotely and train my successor. He gladly accepted my offer, so now my old company is one of my new clients. I also ran into a friend of a friend at a networking event and mentioned that I’d just gone full time freelance. She publishes a local guidebook I mentioned above and invited me to contribute. Give people examples of the type of work you do and they might know someone needs you.

* * *
Here are other WordCount posts on freelancing in a down economy:
Freelancers strategies for prospering in bad times
Taking my own advice for beating bad times
Marketing your freelance writing in bad times
What me worry? Magazine startups venture into an uncertain economy

9 Responses

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  1. Don’t we all wish we could do this writing thing full time. Good for Susan. I read her blog over at The Urban Muse and look forward to seeing her other work in print. The blogging community is small I find. I almost feel like I know everyone personally. I see an article in a national newspaper by some of my online friends and I think “hey I know that person”.
    I have also bought two books from my interactions online. It will be neat reading them seeing I “know” the authors, who are bloggers over at Ask Alison (Alison Winn Scotch) and Trish’s Dishes (Trish Ryan).

    Patricia Robb

    May 28, 2008 at 4:15 am

  2. Thanks, Patricia! I met Trish for coffee once and she is every bit as funny and gracious in person as she is in her blog.


    May 28, 2008 at 10:04 am

  3. […] Going freelance in a down economy – Susan Johnston tells why she chose to start her freelance business during a slow economy and why it might be the best time to go freelance. […]

  4. […] Going freelance in a down economy – Susan Johnston tells why she chose to start her freelance business during a slow economy and why it might be the best time to go freelance. […]

  5. […] freelancers, one is able to diversify more easily than those in huge companies. As a freelancer, what do you do to help yourself during this […]

  6. […] Going freelance in a down economy – could be the best time to make the switch. I’m delighted so many writers are feeling so positive. […]

    Writers and Recession

    November 4, 2008 at 7:43 am

  7. […] one more great article on going solo in a more challenging economic environment.   For our readers who are solo practitioners, how is […]

  8. […] Going freelance in a down economy – Bad times didn’t stop former copywriter Susan Johnston from pursuing her dream to freelance full-time. […]

  9. Susan, you are my inspiration!

    Style and Inspiration

    June 5, 2009 at 3:48 am

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