Transitioning from your ’safe‘, benefit-supported 9-to-5 job into freelancing is a daunting undertaking. Especially in a country with as many regulations as Germany. After all, we are famous for our red-tape tendencies. But regardless of the country you plan to get self-employed in, there are things to consider before taking the leap into freelance writer-dom.
I’m currently at this very stage of information gathering and -processing, in preparation of what I’m hoping will one day turn into a full-time career. For now, here’s a list of things I’ve been considering before making the switch.
Full-Time or Part-Time
Do I ease into freelancing as part-time, next to my bill-paying day job? Or do I risk everything – my savings, my steady income, my home – by quitting my day job and diving in full-time?
If you have some money saved up, option two may be viable. Option one is safer, but your day job will eat up time you could have otherwise used on building your business and becoming solvent that much faster.
In the end, the two questions you need to be able to answer before making this decision are these: How long could I live on only my savings, if necessary? And is it enough time to start earning enough money to cover my fixed monthly expenses?
To answer these questions for yourself, the best approach is to create a small business plan.
A simple chart set up in an Excel-spreadsheet can be enough for you to figure out how much you must make per month to cover your expenses. It can help you determine your necessary hourly rates, and calculate whether your savings will support your freelance beginnings in a worst-case scenario.
Figuring out your fixed monthly costs, and how low you can go by cutting ‚luxury‘ expenses, will also help you determine your rates and decide if you can go full-time right away.
There are lots of blogs, articles and books on copywriting and making a living as a writer to be had, most of them for affordable and fair prices. Here are some resources that I’ve found very helpful in getting started:
The Yahoo Style Guide by Yahoo
The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells by Robert W. Bly
The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less (English Edition) by Peter Bowerman
Praxisbuch für Freiberufler by Martin Massow (details the manifold rules and regulations for starting a freelance business in Germany)
The niche is something I’m still struggling with. They say you’ll make more money faster if you choose a niche you’re knowledgable in. It should ideally be a niche that few people are experts in but many people want or, better yet, need. But it should also be something you can see yourself writing about for years to come.
So, yeah… kudos to you if you already know your niche, or at least have a good idea. For myself, I’m still hashing out several very different possibilities. I feel like this is the one issue that most of my success as a freelance copywriter will hinge on. It definitely plays a role with the next item on my list…
A website is still the best way to let people know you’re out there, what you have to offer, and how to get in contact with you. As long as this basic information is there, easily accessible and found, the website can be small and simple. There are several free website builders that aren’t too difficult to set up.
I used one of the free templates of WordPress, and am satisfied so far. I did decide to invest in my own domain name, meaning the web-address doesn’t include „wordpress.com“ but a simple „.com“ at the end of my domain name. Most website builders offer to secure a domain name for you, which usually costs around 20€ per year.
The one thing to absolutely include in your new-fangled website besides your email address and phone number, are samples of your writing. If you’ve already written articles or blog posts for clients, great! Include them in your portfolio or samples page on your website (if allowed by the client).
If you haven’t written anything yet, don’t fret – do so now. They don’t even have to be written for a specific client. Just come up with several topics in your chosen niche, write great articles on them, and post them. If you have a blog on the subject, even better. If you can find other blogs or online magazines that will run your post – perfect!
Anything that shows a potential client that you can write, as well as your writing style and voice, will do the trick.
This isn’t technically an issue until payments start to roll in, but I like to be prepared. Setting up a system from the get-go will make things easier in the long run. Since I’m still muddling through this issue myself, I’m hereby referring you to 10 Tips To Invoice Your Freelance Clients Professionally by Kevin Harter. I’ll soon be combing through his tips on the subject myself.
These are the universal challenges every freelance aspirant faces, but they aren’t all of them by any means. What other issues or challenges did you or are you facing as you head into this adventure of a lifetime? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Stay tuned for…
As a German writing English text in Germany, I have specific rules, laws and regulations to contend with that differ from most other countries. In my next blog post, Freelancing Laws, Rules and Regulations to Consider in every Country, I will focus on these issues to consider when heading into your freelance writing career.