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Everyday I’m Hustlin’: 5 Tips for Anyone Who Makes a Living Freelancing
Want to make a living as a creative freelancer? It’s a challenge — but we think you’re up to it.
Here are a few tips from our interview with “Scratch” author Manjula Martin on the complex intersection of art and money.
1. Remember Artists Aren’t Usually Paid Well
We’ll give it to you straight: Creative work is no pot of gold.
You can make a living at it, and a select few can even hit it big. But it’s not like clocking in and cashing a paycheck.
Publishing and journalism aren’t exactly booming industries — yet, there’s a demand for a ton of content on the internet. That means a lot of sites resort to asking for free or cheap content from writers, photographers, graphic artists and videographers.
2. You Won’t Get Better Pay Unless You Ask for It
Martin says the system needs to change — but won’t, unless we start demanding change.
That doesn’t just mean memes, tweets and protests (#paywriters). It means educating yourself so you understand the financial side of your business, what’s going on in the industry, and how to write and enforce a contract.
If you want to negotiate better rates, you need to know how and why.
3. Man Up
If you want to hack it as a freelancer, get comfortable with the pitch.
“I talk to a lot of women who feel (insecure) in asking for more money or in offering their services unrequested,” Martin said. “So to women writers (and artists), I’d say pitch like a guy. Men pitch more, men pitch more frequently, men pitch stuff that is less refined.”
The hardest part? You’ll be rejected a lot.
It’s part of the game. Suck it up, and pitch again.
To make sure you’re making the most of your efforts, find out which outlets accept cold pitches. You can see rates for writers at Martin’s site, Who Pays Writers, and check out our list of places to find freelance writing jobs here.
4. No One Likes Talking About Money
Your editors and clients are probably just as squeamish about payment as you are. Someone has to bring it up, so go ahead.
“It’s perfectly OK to acknowledge there’s no standard in the assignment process for when and how you talk about money,” Martin said. “Acknowledge that, be polite and you should be fine.”
5. Payment Takes Time
Congrats — you landed an assignment! Now a quick note: It’s going to be awhile before you get paid.
Some publications will PayPal you right away, but most will take a few days, weeks or even months to cut your check. (And, yes, plenty of places still mail actual checks.)
If freelancing is your main source of income, plan for inconsistent payments. This is especially important to remember early on, but it never stops. Even regular clients can drop off at any moment.
Here’s how to budget with an irregular income.
Your Turn: Are you a freelancer? What tips can you add for making a living?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).