Can you mix writing for fun, and still make good money as a freelancer?
For many copywriters and content writers, words are everything, their life and livelihood. But there are some who take it even further.
When not typing away at headlines, emails and blog posts for clients, they craft and publish stories, personal essays, and novels.
There’s no doubt that all wordsmiths need space away from the page.
- How do these folks do it?
- How do they juggle writing for fun when writing is their day job, too?
I reached out to 5 busy writers who do it all, and this is the advice they shared.
Certifiable Sentence Guru
By day, Andria Kennedy crafts blogs, site content, and infographics for clients ranging from veterinary PIMS to biotech to the outdoor industries. By night, you can find her pouring her heart out onto the page with her speculative fiction writing (which has received honorable mention, silver honorable mention, and quarter-finalist status in the Writers of the Future Contest).
Andria makes the distinction clear between her writing times.
- Writing for profit: Andria ensures clients understand she keeps 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday business hours, and she sticks to that timeline.
- Writing for fun: “That leaves the remainder of the calendar open for whatever writing I wish to do,” says Andria. “And if I’ve finished client work and crossed off my marketing goals for the week? Bonus!”
Why does she write creatively on top of her paid work?
“As a child, I told people I wanted to be a unicorn when I grew up, and that imagination never left,” says Andria. “But not every client is interested in giving my whimsy and weirdness free rein. [Creative writing] gives a part of me that dream of being a unicorn.”
When it comes to calling herself an author or freelancer, she votes for neither. “I’m a writer. Whether I’m working on something a client’s requested or whatever my brain’s conjured, it’s all writing.”
Book coach, copyeditor & ghostwriter
Andrea Susan Glass is a professional book coach, copyeditor, ghostwriter, and university instructor.
On top of dealing with all those words, she still writes and publishes her own nonfiction books as an author.
Writing for fun: While her personal projects have been “more for business than fun,” she still loves to write outside of her day job.
“I published my two nonfiction books on Amazon in 2021,” says Andrea. “This year I’m writing a book about building a business around your book.”
The balancing act…
When it comes to balancing her writing, Andrea says she bases it on how much work she has.
“If I’m editing a 100K-word book, I tend to work on my own books on weekends,” says Andrea. “For me, it’s about priorities and timelines.”
Why does she write so much?
For Andrea, creative writing is like breathing.
“Ideas come to me all the time,” says Andrea. “I have to form them into something, whether a blog post, a social media post, or an idea for a book. Creative writing is an art form, and I am an artist in many genres. I have to create to be me!”
Wordwrangler, carrotdangler & storyteller
Scott Frothingham is a freelance writer specializing in marketing materials such as ad copy, website content, sales materials, case studies, and emails. He has also written and published a number of books.
Scott considers himself lucky to have fun with the assignments he’s paid to write as well as his creative writing.
“On my own time, I research and write books, picking subjects based on whatever my mood is at the time,” says Scott.
And Scott’s topics certainly are fun, from a cicada cookbook to children’s books to business books and more.
“If I weren’t getting paid to write, I’d still write,” says Scott.
Writing for fun or profit, what’s the difference? Deadlines
“One of the aspects of non-paid work I enjoy is the time and flexibility to wander deeply into the research,” says Scott. “It’s also nice to be able to put aside a project for a while until I’m inspired to pick it up again.”
Scott says he writes creatively to feed his curiosity. But there’s at least one other source of motivation…
“Another benefit is that when one of my books sells, some of that purchase price finds its way into my bank account,” says Scott.
Freelance sustainability writer
A freelancer who is also an author, Colleen Valles is looking to turn that all around and become an author who freelances on the side. In her paid work, Colleen covers sustainability issues, such as water quality and availability, transportation, energy, and housing.
Writing for fun is all about urban fantasy for Colleen. “Who doesn’t want their own magical powers?,” says Colleen.
Colleen’s first book, an urban fantasy series based in Aztec mythology, was published last month: Book of Star Demons: 5th Sun Series Book One
How did she get the book done?
Colleen: “I attend Shut Up and Write meetups virtually three mornings a week. That’s the time I dedicate to my fiction writing. I will also try to schedule it in the other four days so that there’s not a day that I’m not writing fiction.”
The give-and-take approach to balanced writing
Colleen admits if she’s behind on client work, she uses the Shut Up and Write time for that, but she’ll make up for it in other ways.
“I also get up early to write for about half an hour in the morning before everyone else wakes up,” says Colleen. “I try to spend 30 minutes to an hour each evening on my creative writing.”
What does she get out of her creative writing?
Colleen: “I find I am able to concentrate on my work better because I don’t have so many other ideas floating around and distracting me. Also, it’s fun!”
The home improvement copywriter
This freelancer and author starts off her week by writing:
- Blog posts
- Website copy
- Case studies…
- And more for the home remodeling and building industry.
But on the weekends, it’s all about writing for fun.
You’ll find her typing away at her personal and creative projects in the time she carefully and purposefully blocked off for it.
How it all started
Carol started her creative writing journey in college, where an advisor told her she wrote “second-rate poetry” and not to expect to make a living at it.
But Carol doesn’t let her naysayers get her down. In addition to publishing a cookbook in 2014, she is 36K words into a novel and has published numerous motivational essays.
“The essays are an outlet for my voice in the world,” says Carol. “I share my thoughts and opinions on topics that I otherwise wouldn’t have anyone to share with.”
From her novel, Carol is learning all about her family.
“The novel is my way of interpreting the life of a grandmother I never met,” says Carol. “My brother and I have traced her life through public records, but the novel breathes life and interpretation to a pile of facts that really tell us nothing more than addresses and dates.”
Carol’s best advice for writers trying to balance it all?
“To motivate me to work on my creative writing when I don’t feel like it, I imagine my 80th birthday and having to tell my family the novel is still unfinished,” says Carol. “Someday never comes. Today is the only day you have. Take the opportunity to do the things you really want to do.”
Writing for fun & profit: You can do both
Balancing writing for fun and writing for pay boils down to one primary truth—you are a writer.
If writing is in your blood, then you’ll find a way to make it work. Whether that’s blocking off time on the weekends, visiting a writing group for accountability, or diving into research with family or academic motivations, there are plenty of ways to stir yourself up for more writing.
How do you balance writing for fun & profit? Leave a comment below.