It’s a tough time to be creative. Unemployment skyrocketed in the creative sector during the coronavirus pandemic. While pandemic relief programs extended a lifeline to unemployed writers and authors, those benefits have ended while the creative economy is still rebuilding.
What can you do if you’re still unemployed and searching for the right opportunity? You could walk dogs, drive for Uber, or pick up any number of gigs, but there’s a more lucrative way to use your time and talents. Becoming a self-employed writer keeps your skills fresh and your resumé current while between jobs.
Laying the groundwork for self-employment
Whether you’re working in the gig economy or starting a freelance business, there are certain things to know before striking out as a self-employed writer.
Cash flow can be inconsistent
Self-employment income ebbs and flows. Unfortunately, your bills don’t. Budgeting and building an emergency fund is more important than ever when you don’t have guaranteed income. Try a budgeting tool that lets you track expenses by category and watch your progress towards savings goals.
You need to pay quarterly taxes
Unlike W-2 employees, self-employed workers don’t have taxes deducted from their paycheck. You’re responsible for tracking earnings and paying quarterly estimated taxes if you’ll owe $1,000 or more in tax.
Insurance is a must
Writing is unlikely to cause personal injury or property damage, but there are other risks to worry about as a self-employed writer. Professional liability insurance protects against lawsuits related to copyright infringement, defamation, libel, and errors and omissions. It also makes you a more attractive hire for clients concerned with their own risk profile.
Creating a portfolio
Help yourself find job opportunities by creating a stellar portfolio, which will include sharing your best work with prospective employers. You can conveniently share your writing samples in one file by using an online merging tool to combine PDFs. Once all your samples are in one PDF, you can order them as you see fit.
8 ways to make money as a self-employed writer
What are the most lucrative ways to put your writing skills to work? Here are eight ways writers can jumpstart their income while between jobs.
Self-publish on Amazon
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system has made self-publishing easier and more accessible than ever. Of course, simply publishing an ebook doesn’t guarantee it sells. Research your book idea to see if it has traction on Amazon and invest in a great cover design and book description. When your e-book is complete, map out a launch plan to promote your work.
Pitch guests posts to blogs
Websites are hungry for content and willing to pay for high-quality blog posts in their niche. By selling guest blog posts, you meet this demand while building your own following as well. The most successful guest posters target blogs in their niche with an engaged readership. Look for blogs with a high volume of comments and social sharing and pitch posts that align with the site’s brand voice. If you have something you’re passionate about, you could even launch your own blog!
Join a content platform
You won’t earn as much writing for content platforms like Contently and Textbroker as you would as an independent writer, but you do avoid a lot of the legwork that goes into finding writing jobs. That makes content writing services a good solution when you’re juggling a side hustle on top of parenting, school, or other responsibilities.
Become a copywriter
If long-form content isn’t your style, copywriting is a reliable way to pay the bills for writers with a marketing background. Most copywriters specialize in a particular type of copy, such as advertising copy, product copy, social media copy, or email marketing copy. While you don’t necessarily need the experience to break into copywriting, a portfolio is a must for landing jobs. You can build a portfolio with spec work if you don’t have copywriting experience.
Find freelance jobs online
Writers can also compete for assignments on freelance job boards like FlexJobs, Upwork, and Guru. Clients on these sites are looking for technical writers, editors, PR experts, white paper authors, and other specialized writing services. However, freelance platforms do charge fees to users so you’ll need to adjust your rates accordingly.
Offer ghostwriting services
Do you know someone with a great story who needs help getting it on paper? Authors with established reputations can earn good money ghostwriting. Tap your network to see if old clients are sitting on a potential project. You’ll have the most success as an up-and-coming ghostwriter if you position yourself as an expert in a particular niche.
Host writing workshops online
Hosting workshops is another way writers can leverage their following. Writers can sell pre-recorded courses or livestream instructor-led workshops covering a wide range of writing topics. The most successful writing courses include multiple sessions and opportunities for feedback.
No, I’m not talking about magazines. Subscription marketing takes one-off sales and turns them into a recurring income stream. Paid newsletters, short story subscriptions, and fee-based membership sites are three ways writers can earn money with subscriptions.
No one wants to find themselves out of a job and out of cash. But when you’re a writer, temporary unemployment is no reason to panic. Experienced writers are in high demand and you can earn good money for your skills on the freelance marketplace. Who knows — it might even be the start of a flourishing career as a self-employed writer.