Peruse any number of blogs on Bloglovin’ or Blogher and more often than not it seems like they are written by stay-at-home-moms. Which is fine. However, it can be frustrating as a working mom (or dad) to try and figure out how to carve out enough time for a full time (outside of the home) job, family and writing. We can’t all be mommy bloggers. For the past eight years I have worked an eight hour a day office, five days a week job, with four kids (though one is now 19 and in college, so I’m down to three). I should also mention I’m divorced, so no extra help nor second income – hence the need to maintain my freelance writing career on the side – it has paid my rent, and now my mortgage, all these years.
I am often asked how I started freelancing, so I thought it would be easier to put into a post than keep answering individual emails.
I had the luxury of being a SAHM for a couple of years. I enjoyed it immensely – I had time to spend with my very young children and it was when I really started trying to write for a living. I was married at the time, but we really couldn’t get by one (rather sporadic) income. So I began researching how to publish magazine articles. Out of that search, I fell into online writing. This was around 2006-2007 just before social media and blogging burst onto the scene, so even though it has been less than a decade since I started freelancing, a lot has changed. But at the bare bones of it, being a writer, takes…writing. On a regular basis. Here are the things I did (and still do) to maintain and grow my freelance career:
- Write About Your Passion. Make sure you enjoy what you write about it. It shouldn’t be a chore. At least not during the first draft. Publish your writing on your blog (even if no one reads it except your Mom and your Aunt Staci. (If you don’t have a blog see #2.) Having good quality pieces of work on your blog will give you some examples to share with potential freelance clients. Let your voice shine through. It’s pretty hard to find a topic that no one has written about. Your voice is what will set your content apart and make your writing stand out from the crowd.
- Start a Blog. When I started writing online, blogging was not the professional writing gateway it is now. I had to take many, many crappy assignments to build up my resume, because I had no other way to show that I could write. Think of your blog as your calling card and resume, all in one. It is a place to showcase your work. It will also help you get comfortable sharing your writing with the whole world and help you hone your personal writing schedule.
- Ask for feedback. Preferably from someone who will be honest. Ultimately your blog is your voice, but they might point out thing you don’t notice, like you start too many paragraphs with “Honestly” or “for example.”
- Draft. Edit. Polish. Repeat.
- Pick a schedule and stick to it. I know, I know – this can be challenging with kids and work and maybe even a social life of sorts. Be realistic about how many hours a week you can commit to writing and blogging. I was queen-bee of setting lofty goals like “I am going to get up every morning at 4:30 am and write for two hours, six days a week.” And then when I failed to do that, even once, I would berate myself endlessly. (I do the same thing with exercise). Over time and much trial and error, I have a found a rhythm of writing that works for me. I get up three – four mornings a week at 5:30 am and write for an hour-hour and half or work on social media stuff (usually just one morning a week). I spend another hour or two editing – usually on the weekend or during some downtown between sports games.
- Find a time that works for you. Early mornings are my jam, to borrow an expression from my daughter. Some people like to work out in the morning. I like to write. I get more done in that first hour and half than I do the rest of the day.
- Always carry a notebook. I jot down ideas whenever they occur to me. That could be at baseball practice, in the check out line at Wal-Mart, in my work office. Jotting them down in one place ensures they don’t get lost somewhere in my head.
- Look for contributor writing positions. LovetoKnow, Freelance Writing Gigs, and FlexJobs are just a few places that regularly post writing jobs on a wide array of topics. If there is a blog that you love to read, contact the owner as and ask to be a guest contributor. I know that I would jump at the chance to have someone write a guest post about clean eating or historical cooking (hint, hint).
- Update your resume. Many freelance companies ask general questions of applicants, such as what makes you qualified to write about a certain topic, and they often want examples of your work. Have all that stuff ready in one document and tweak it to fit each position you apply for. Plus, writing why you are qualified to write about a certain topic is a confidence booster. Solidify the idea that you are the best person for the job.
Figure out how much you are worth. There are loads of content mill websites that will pay writers as little as 1 cent / per word. Meaning a 500 word article pays $5.00. You can’t eat at McDonalds for $5. Don’t whore out your writing skills for a cheap buck. Your worth more than that. Personally, I’d rather work for free than for cheap. Writing for free means you can write about topics you are genuinely interested in. For cheap, you could be writing about carpet cleaning, male enhancement, or airport attractions in Sacramento (sadly, all true stories). My golden rule is if I wouldn’t be interested in reading it, I won’t write about it. Been there and done that. Even when boring assignments pay decent, I don’t think it’s worth it. If you write something awesome for free, you can always add it to your resume. Think of it as an investment. For me, writing about Renaissance Europe and the History of Christmas (for mostly free) – landed me my best freelance job at About.com.
If you’ve enjoyed this post or want to know more about how I started freelancing, leave me a comment!
Header photo credit: Hailey Mealey