Freelance work certainly has its pros and cons, but nonetheless continues to grow as a popular option for employment in the United States. In fact, the Freelancers Union cites that one in every three American workers – or 42 million people – are self-employed.
Last week we looked at freelance statistics in terms of personal finance, schedule and workplace satisfaction. Today we’ll get an insider’s perspective on the life and finances of a freelance writer from Shane Snow, a journalist who dabbles in freelance writing for publications from Mashable to Fast Company. He is also the founder of Contently, an online tool that partners freelancers with brands and publications.
From a personal finance standpoint, what are some of the pros and cons of freelancing?
SS: The pro of freelancing is, if you’re good, you can end up making more per story than you’ll make as a staffer of a newspaper or magazine. Not to mention the flexibility that comes with being independent. The cons, however, are unpredictability of work, and having to be your own salesperson, collector, bookkeeper, and tax filer.
What are your top tips for someone just starting out in freelance work?
SS: Build a great looking portfolio. Get on social media, and start building a following. Figure out what you want to be known for and then lean into that. Sometimes that means specialization (being a cloud computing writer might be more marketable to some clients than just a technology writer), and sometimes that means a unique voice and personality. Either way, you want to start accumulating as many logos on your portfolio as possible, so when someone sees your site they immediately get a sense of who trusts you enough to write for them, and what topics you cover.
Do you have any tools or strategies that you recommend for freelance time management?
SS: That’s a great question. I just met the author of a nice book called The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment that talks about prioritizing your time and achieving a good work/life balance as an independent worker. So I’d recommend that. Also, there’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is more of a self-transformation type of book, but I think it applies nicely to freelancers.
How can freelance writers benefit from Contently?
SS: Every writer, but especially one who’s freelance, needs an online presence where he or she can showcase work and put the best possible foot forward. Contently is the easiest way to build a beautiful online portfolio for your writing, and we offer that for free. Use it however you want (many have written in telling us they’ve gotten jobs because of it). Additionally, for those freelancers who mark their status to allow their portfolio to appear in Contently’s search, it’s possible for our publisher clients to find you based on your past work and offer you paying gigs. We vet publishers in order to only include those who understand “you get what you pay for” in the creative and journalism world, which is a big stress relief for a freelancer.
Freelancing is just one of many ways that workers can earn extra money on the side. For more ideas on earning extra cash, check out our YOUconomy series, which features gigs from renting to babysitting to teaching.