The financial issues of being a freelance writer


Being a freelance writer can be both an exhilarating and a daunting career choice. In the early days, the freedom that a contractor-style lifestyle can offer is exciting, as opportunities are explored and new horizons open up. However, it can also be an anxious time, especially for anyone who has previously been used to the financial security that a regular salary offers. For writers, it can be a simple decision to make, because much of the actual work involved is quite solitary and the need to be a self-starter is part and parcel of a writer’s mindset.

How hard is it to make a living?

The age of austerity that we’ve been living through has meant times have been hard for many people in recent years, but for some, the changing conditions have thrown up greater opportunities. As more employers look to cut costs and drive down overheads, freelance working has opened up doors that might not have been available to writers before. Add to this the fact that the internet and self-publishing via blogs or other means has given writers a far greater scope to advertise their work and you’ve got a very different playing field than existed in the past.

Can it be lucrative?

The difference between simply making a living and earning large amounts of money is something that any freelance writer needs to address. A jobbing freelancer will usually be trying to spread their work around and so is likely to receive different rates from different jobs that are often more or less the same, content-wise. Becoming a columnist on an established publication or bagging a book contract from a publisher are still really the only two ways to make seriously big money from writing, but it really all comes down to your own personal circumstances as to how much you need to earn in order to feel well off.

Potential problems

The main problems that a freelancer faces in terms of financial issues basically revolve around getting enough work and then being organised enough to fulfil the contracts. Any writer worth their salt will have to have a decent degree of in-built dedication and drive, so once you actually get jobs you shouldn’t have any problem completing them to deadline. This might be difficult if you’ve been used to someone else preparing your work schedule, but a freelancer quickly learns how to schedule their own workload if they really want to make a go of things.


Being a successful freelance writer is all about networking. The best way to get work is to let people know you are available to do it, so building up a networking of commissioning editors is essential. Of course, pitching is also a big part of getting your writing published and once again this means knowing who the right people are to pitch ideas to. This side of the work is often overlooked by writers who are just starting down the freelance path but it soon becomes apparent that it is vitally important and often might take up as much of your time as the actual writing side of things.

Success stories

If some of this sounds like hard work, that’s because it is! As with any other endeavour, it is always worth taking inspiration from someone who has trodden the same path and made a success of it. Alison O’Riordan is a perfect example of someone who has put her talents as a writer to great use and subsequently won the attention of editors and publishers who now regularly feature her output. With her growing reputation as a current affairs writer for a number of popular publications, Alison shows any aspiring freelancer writer that a dream can become a reality if you really want it to.

A business attitude

One final thing that can play heavily on the financial issues of being a freelance writer is that you really need to get into a business frame of mind. This means that you need to apply yourself in a rigorous way, even though you now have the freedom to pick and choose when and where you work. If you have previously had a nine to five routine, you might find your new found freedom too liberating and lose focus on the fact that you need to put the work in to get the paying jobs. Also, dealing with negotiating rates, issuing invoices and chasing up payments comes more easily to some people, so you really just have to make sure you do everything that is necessary to make a success of things.

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