Being a freelance writer is great but being smart about being freelance is even better. Investing money in your writing career is an easy way to boost your income, exposure, and education. It’s probably a fair assumption as a freelance writer you don’t have much money to spend and may be living from assignment to assignment, or paycheck to paycheck as the rest of the world sees it. It’s true that investing time and money into your writing career can help you advance, but not doing so wisely may only hurt you as a writer. Sure, you can take courses and buy books, join clubs, and enter contests but how often do we as writers consider the cost before paying out hefty dues and registration fees? Here are some tips on investing in your writing career that you may find helpful, and suggestions on when to spend and when to save.
From supplies, to materials, software, and seminars the costs associated with being a freelance writer can add up quickly. Not being good at money management may lead to a bleak future as a freelance writer. Granted there are certain skills and tools all writers need in order to be successful going freelance. But, it is important to recognize the difference between needs and wants. Before signing up for any classes, joining the local freelancers union, or purchasing new books and software as a writer you need to decide what is absolutely necessary to get the job done. It wouldn’t hurt for many freelancers to set up a budget determining the amount of money each year to be spent on their writing career. Ideally it would be wise to set aside at least 10% of your income as a freelance writer specifically for investing in your career. If you can spend more than the allotted 10% that’s great but as a freelancer you have to know when it’s time to save. Budgeting will only help you stick to your goals and attain success in the future.
Writing Tools, Supplies, and Software
As a writer, working freelance there are certainly many things you need to get the job done. Before making purchases foolishly it is wise to consider whether or not you actually need the item and can afford it. When speaking of books, especially those that become outdated quickly decide whether or not it is something you really need to spend money on. This is an area where freelance writers can save a lot of money. Local libraries and many universities will allow members of the public to rent these tools free of charge, as long as you’re not late on returns. Even if you cannot check out some of the books and take them home at least you know a place where you can go to use them anytime, free of charge.
Considering basic supplies like paper, pens, and the like how much of it do you really need to buy? When buying supplies such as these look for bargains such as sales or buying in bulk. By purchasing general office supplies in bulk you may save anywhere from 15-50% on the retail cost. Look for sales and use coupons whenever possible. When shopping at major chains for office supplies find out if there is a members club you can join or a discount card you can use. Shopping as a member or using a discount service will help you save money on purchases. It is also better to buy the most supplies you can afford at once. If you have to keep returning to pick up scratch pads and pens every other day or week you will automatically pay full price and spend more money.
When it comes to computers and software you may think you need the latest and the greatest. But, how often can you get by using what you already have? When making tech purchases weigh the pros and cons before you buy. Do you really need all that extra ram or pro edition software? The answer is, probably not and besides can you even afford it? Many software programs offer a demo that is free to try for anywhere from 14-60 days. During this trial period run the software and decide whether or not it is something you really need. Yes, the newer software may make your life easier but is it going to help you make more money or make it faster? If the answer is no you most likely don’t need the program but want it. This is when it is critical to realize the difference between needs and wants. If you really want the new program save the money up and buy it later on down the road.
The same principal applies to the purchase of a new computer. Do you really need the newer model or do you just want it? Is it possible to make a few simple upgrades to the computer you already own or is it worth the cost to buy and entirely new system? When buying a new computer you should also consider that it is going to take some time to learn the newer configurations and programs. That learning time is definitely going to cut into your creative writing time. Consider if this is a reasonable cost. Generally speaking upgrades can cost up to 50% less or better than buying a brand new system. If you really want that new computer, once again save up to make the purchase.
Workshops, Conferences, and Classes
Furthering your education and gaining new skills can help you advance your freelance writing career. Attending workshops and classes can also help you network, pitch your ideas, and get some much needed constructive criticism. But before paying hefty registration fees, or going out of town for seminars and workshops consider what it is you hope to learn or achieve. Sure, there are plenty of these classes and workshops available for freelance writers but consider whether the subject matter is appropriate, whether the teacher or speaker has credentials, how much the course or class will cost, and how far the location is from home. If the workshop or seminar doesn’t exactly fit your needs find out what your other options are.
Local libraries, universities, and community centers may be able to help you achieve your goal of further educating yourself. Often times you may also be able to sign up for classes at a discounted price or free of charge. When considering workshops and seminars to attend you may find it helpful to subscribe to a good writing magazine. Writers magazines offer tons of information on seminars all over the country and often give you the details on price, location, and what subjects will be covered. Writing magazines are a great place to begin researching your education options. You may also discover that although pricey, you may learn more by taking a few college level writing courses without actually enrolling as a university student. Carefully consider the pros and cons of all your options before enrolling or paying registration fees.
Joining Unions, Writing Groups, and Writers Organizations
It is great to feel part of a group that is state or nationally recognized, especially as a freelancer but many of these groups also require members to pay dues. As a freelance writer you may think it helpful to be a member of a recognized organization and in some cases it may be true. When looking to join a group consider your budget, your needs, and your ability to participate in events. You may find a great writers group but you might not be able to join simply for the reason it is too far away. You might find a great organization that is close to home but you may not be able to pay the costly dues. If you can find one good writers union or organization to join that you can both afford, and are able to to participate in there is no reason not to. Even if you cannot afford to become a full time member you may be able to subscribe to online newsletters and publications. Online writing communities are also a great way to network, get feedback on your ideas, and learn how to get published in specific areas of writing. Many times these online communities are also free to join.
As a freelance writer or even as a writer in general it is nice to get noticed for your work, and occasionally awarded. But when entering a writing contest, especially those with entrance fees will it pay off if you don’t win? Some writing contests are free but many of them require some sort of fee before you can submit your work, and this rule applies to all areas of writing. Before entering any writing contest find out who the judges are and if they have any public credit. What is the cost to enter and can you afford it? Will you get any feedback on your work? Is the contest even legitimate?
Chances are if the judges and sponsors are not well known the contest is a scam, or rip off and will not help further your writing career. And, you shouldn’t have to buy something to enter such as a commemorative book, plaque, or subscription. As before stated, most if not all legitimate writing contests do require you to pay an entrance fee, but you should not be forced to actually buy merchandise to enter. As with any kind of contest you cannot win if you did not enter. Don’t just go off the assumption that so and so recommended your work, unless you personally know them and spoke to this person beforehand. If you don’t know who it is that recommended your work it is most likely some sort of con you should avoid.
Investing money and time in your writing career can be a smart move as long as you weigh the pros and cons of each financial decision you make. A wise investment will pay off in the future; hopefully sooner than later. Set a budget and stick to it when it comes to investing money in your writing career and you should have no problems. Good luck!