One Freelance Writer’s Surprising Strategy for a Revved-Up Career

Carol Tice

By Pinar Tarhan

If you want to start a career as a freelance writer, you have two options:

You can quit your day job, dedicating yourself to writing full time. Or you can build your portfolio slowly, while keeping that office job.

Or so I thought. It didn’t occur to me there was a third option, until I failed to make either of those options work for me. Here’s how I found the perfect solution through trial and error:

Freelancing on the side

I had an office job when I decided I wanted to be a writer. So I first tried freelancing on the side.

Unfortunately, my job required me to work (and commute) six days a week. I was left with little time and energy to learn about freelance writing and marketing, much less time for actually sitting down to write.

It didn’t help matters that I didn’t like my job. So I quit.

Freelancing full-time

Feeling euphoric, I started writing full-time. But soon, I was lost in all the stuff I had to do and learn. When my initial queries failed me, I started applying to job ads and trying out content mills.

The highest-paying job I landed was $35 for a long travel article. I was starting to panic as my savings melted away.

Soon, I was producing a lot of articles for low pay. I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t exactly making a living.

Freelancing with a twist

After months of hard work and no tangible results, it hit me. I didn’t have to choose between a full-time job (which left me with little time, energy and motivation) and full-time freelance writing (where I was under constant pressure to make money quickly).

I could take a flexible, part-time job I would enjoy to pay the bills.

So I started teaching English as a second language.

This part-time job brought me more than just a regular paycheck:

Benefits of my part-time job

  • Happiness: I make money doing something I love, so I no longer have to take unsatisfactory writing assignments to make ends meet.
  • Time: I only teach 14-18 hours a week. Not only do I have enough time for all my writing-related activities, I am also able to have a busy social life.
  • Peace of mind: A regular paycheck motivates me to research markets more thoroughly, craft professional queries and send them to my dream publications.
  • Inspiration: As I meet so many diverse people through my teaching, I’m not stuck for story ideas.
  • Exercise: I live in a big city, and the commute on my part-time job is far less than I had with my full-time job. That leaves me with time to hit the pool.
  • Broader network: Because I meet new people, the potential for new gigs increases. I also gain more readers for my blogs.
  • Better time management skills: I have a tighter schedule than when I freelanced full time, but a lot more time than I had with my office job. I manage my time better because time isn’t spent working at a job I hate, or worrying about the bills.

These benefits enabled me to finally put a red velvet rope around my work by rejecting content mills, low-paying jobs and unreliable clients. I can now refuse to take an assignment unless I am satisfied with the conditions.

I am happier, I make more money freelancing and I feel more confident pitching to the publications I’ve been following, such as Freelance Switch and this blog.

What’s the right balance for your writing career? Leave a comment and tell us whether you prefer full-time or part-time freelancing.

Pinar Tarhan loves writing — part time — about subjects including writing, dating and entertainment. She blogs about managing a freelance writing career while writing what you love at Addicted to Writing.

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