Below are the details of my nonfiction/how-to manuscript, How to Make Money as a Freelance Writer. I look forward to hearing back from you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Title: How to Make Money as a Freelance Writer
Author: Katie Parsons
Projected length at completion: 30,000 words
Audience: People who are considering a career as a freelance writer, or who are new to the industry.
Summary: Katie Parsons has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, currently earning a six-figure income in the role. In this book, she shares actionable tips on how to find work, land work, charge clients, avoid red flags, keep good tax records and more. Written with a narrative tone, Katie Parsons shares some of the weirdest freelance writing jobs she has taken -- and some of her mistakes along the way.
Katie Parsons is a freelance writer and journalist, featured in a combined 150+ places online and in-print, including USA Today, the Huffington Post and Scary Mommy. Before freelancing, she worked at major U.S. newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel. She is the creator of the parenting blog Mumbling Mommy which has 1,300+ posts.
Katie Parsons is also a podcaster, and social media and branding consultant who currently works on the Webby-nominated Champion’s Mojo podcast and with The Moving Picture Institute. Katie is an avid runner and swimmer and has completed two marathons and 12 half-marathons. She hopes to complete her first triathlon when the world is safe enough to do so. She is raising five children alongside her husband, Brant.
As a well-connected freelance journalist, Katie Parsons has a long list of platforms to share this upcoming book with -- and places she can do interviews for the book. Some of those are listed below:
There are other books on the market that give advice for freelance writing but none contain the decade+ of personal narrative that explains what has driven my career. Though my book is written for anyone interested in breaking into the field, my story as a mother of five who made the decision to take her work home will surely resonate with other parents who read the book.
Some books that would likely wind up on the same bookshelf as mine include:
How To Become a Freelance Writer: Your Step-By-Step Guide To Becoming a Freelance Writer by HowExpert and Jared Wax
How to Make a Living with Your Writing (ebook) by Joanna Penn
Chapter 1: The Gig Economy
Chapter 2: Types of Freelance Writing Work
Chapter 3: Freelance Social Media Writing
Chapter 4: The Age of the Link Builder
Chapter 5: Blogging, Vlogging, Podcasting and More
Chapter 6: Related Freelance Jobs
Chapter 7: What Should I Charge?
Chapter 8: Bookkeeping and Tax Considerations
Chapter 9: Hidden Costs of Freelancing
Chapter 10: Red Flags and Fraud
Chapter 11: Where to Find Freelance Writing Work
In the summer of 2011, I faced a work-life dilemma. I had three children who were age 4 or younger and a rising career in journalism that I absolutely adored. My husband and I were newly married, combining my one child with his two to create a five-member family unit of our own. It was the first time I’d lived with a husband and after three years of working full time outside of my home as a single mom to one, I became a partial caregiver to three little ones overnight. It seemed implausible to me that I would quit my job; based on income alone for our family, I needed to work.
So I let go of the career I thought I wanted, the one I’d pinched myself every morning to have, in exchange for a path that better fit my family and my needs at the time.I became a freelancer writer.
“I’ll go back to work in a normal setting once the three-year-old is in Kindergarten,” I remember telling my husband back then. Working in a freelance capacity was a temporary means to an end.
Fast forward a decade, and our brood of three children has grown to five. The original youngest starts middle school this year and the true youngest started Kindergarten during the coronavirus pandemic. The freelance path, as it turns out, was not temporary.
I’m still working from a desk in my home office (or the nearby Starbucks, libraries and sometimes even the beach) and I’ve vowed that I’ll never go back to the way I used to work before my life as a freelancer started.
The work-life harmony that freelance writing, editing and proofreading has brought me is hard to quantify. What started as an economic necessity has morphed into a lifestyle that I feel so blessed to live. I can ride my bike with my kids to school in the morning and be there at the bike rack at the end of the day. I can make my own lunch at home every day – or shove a bowl of cereal in my mouth without judgment. I can switch the laundry in between tasks, make appointments during normal work hours and sit on my couch with my third or fourth cup of coffee, writing about the task at hand. I can type, make phone calls, send invoices to clients, pay bills and promote myself in my pajamas (if I want – there is something to be said for “getting ready” for the day too).
As a freelance writer I’ve been published (and paid) by more than 150 places, totaling more than 1,000 pieces. I’ve also built and maintained a popular parenting blog and hosted a daily podcast for two years. Oh, and I also make money – to the tune of six figures per year, from a combination of freelance and ongoing projects that I’ve accumulated.
I did not start out that way though. I started out much in the way a traditional small business owner begins: with zero income, spending more time trying to land paying work than doing actual work. I had to start from a ground zero place and work smart, be resilient and push myself to keep learning and putting myself out there.
The advantage to freelancing, however, is that there are no astronomical startup costs. If you work at home (or even buy a few hours with the most expensive item at your local coffee shop), there is little overhead for office space. You can start out freelancing as a sole proprietor, simply using your social security number for tax purposes, and work up to signing up for an LLC or S-Corp later on, or never (more on that in the chapter on taxes). While I do feel my degree in English has helped me, there are no requirements for writing, editing or proofreading on a freelance basis. You make your own rules and schedule on how you will operate your freelance enterprise – and then clients can decide if they want to hire you based on your experience, enthusiasm and terms.
Essentially, you can start freelance writing today – this very minute. The words in this book are my attempt to harness everything I’ve learned in my decade of freelance writing, editing and proofreading into a concise guide that can help you get started. I’ve been successful, but I’ve made some mistakes too. I want to help you avoid those mistakes, be successful and make the money you want, need and, most importantly, deserve.
I want the type of income earning and time freedom that I’ve found for other people.
It does not come without hard work, though. When I first started out, I was accepting $20 and $30 projects just to earn SOMETHING and get my foot in the door. I woke at 4 a.m. to get in a few hours of writing before my young children woke up. I worked during every naptime. I worked after bedtime and on the weekends too. Yes, my schedule was flexible and I was tending to my family’s needs in the process – and avoiding an astronomical daycare bill. But there was a lot of sacrifice involved too.
I tell my friends this over coffee when they ask me how they can get started in freelancing and so I’m telling you too: There is a lot of unpaid time as a freelancer, from reading this book to joining online writing networks to bidding on jobs you may never land to emailing clients back and forth to preparing and sending out invoices. Upfront, you will spend more of your time on these unpaid tasks – particularly preparing your online persona, applying for work and responding when potential clients want to see more of your work or have questions for you. It is not like a standard American job where you get paid for training and are then handed work. To be a successful freelance writer, you must have hustle. For most people, that type of work is backward and different from what they are used to and maybe even challenging.
Once you have done work in this fashion for a while, though, you start to love it. You really do! At a traditional job, you may be paid for all your tasks, but that pay does not fluctuate. Even in a job where overtime is available, that rate-per-hour stays the same. As your own boss, and especially in freelance writing where the overhead cost is so low, there is no limit to what you can earn. I’ve had a combination of clients that give me a set rate for work they’d like completed, which I can accept or decline, and clients who ask me how much I’ll charge for a certain task. The latter represents about 80 percent of my work at this point. While I try to bid fairly and reasonably, I’m also very aware of my time and how much of it is often spent OUTSIDE a task. I add that to the amount I charge. Trying to figure out a competitive rate for work as a freelancer, while still earning what your time is worth, is an ever-evolving process and one that I’m constantly tweaking. I’ll share with you what I have learned, though, so that you have a great starting point.
Freelancing in any field comes with its share of challenges but starting out in the field as a writer today is especially tough. It is a saturated market, full of both people who freelance on the side and those who need the work to pay the rent. Standard rates per word or project do not exist, with the amounts ebbing and flowing based on experience, budget of client and even the whims of both writers and clients. There are guides, though, and things you can do to boost your attractiveness as a freelancer. That’s all part of this book, too.
My hope is that by the end of it, you feel informed, empowered and supported in the first steps of your journey as a freelance writer.
The time to get started working as a freelancer is now -- or, more accurately, yesterday. But don’t fret if you are a little late to this party, but it is still just getting started. The technology, volume and workflows exist to connect you to writing work that can be done from anywhere, and generally speaking, on your schedule.
That is a good news, bad news situation. On one hand, anyone with an internet connection can be a freelance writer. That means if you bought this book online, you have the means to start freelance writing on your own. It also means that same thing for everyone else with internet access. This book will help you rise above your competitors in the freelance writing space to land, and keep, work.
As a freelance writer, editor or proofreader, you’ll become a part of the “gig economy,” which roughly translated means individuals who are employed independently and use their specific skill sets in many places, instead of with a single employer.
The word “gig” conjures up live musicians who play at weddings or local bars or the type of work that Christie or Claudia rustled up after school during their Babysitter Club meetings. Yeah, actually, gig work is just like both of those things.
As a gig worker, you are your own marketer, your scheduler, your bookkeeper, your secretary and your own biggest cheerleader. Much like a musician, you may have a season that includes an avalanche of work (think weddings and graduation parties for a band) that is followed by crickets chirping in response to your bids on writing work. Much like a member of a babysitting collective, you will have to make yourself available more time than you will actually be paid.
Working in the gig space means less stability in when and how much you are paid and a lack of employer-funded benefits, such as paid time off and insurance.
But here’s the payoff, and it’s a big one: you can take, or reject, as much work as you want.
You are your own boss, available to work on your terms and for the amount of money you feel you are worth. These perks do not just show up at your doorstep, of course, and there is a lot of strategy involved in becoming a successful freelancer which I’ll discuss throughout this book. But joining the gig economy has quite an upside -- and the gig economy is burgeoning right now.
While it is difficult to truly determine how many people are freelancing for work, particularly since many do it as a side job and government statistics cannot truly encompass all of it, a McKinsey Global Institute survey from 2018 found that as many as 27 percent, or 68 million, of U.S. workers are independent workers – or self-employed. That is compared with 43 percent of traditional workers and 30 percent of people who are not earning an income.
Upwork and the Freelancers Union’s most recent statistics point to 57.3 million freelancers in the U.S., accounting for 36 percent of American workers who freelance on some level (The McKinsey stats are really just referencing full time freelancers and not those who do it on the side).
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One of the more difficult concepts to understand as a new freelancer or contractor is that you have to track your own taxes. Most Americans are used to taxes being taken out before we are ever paid a dime, but for freelancers, the money all comes in first. So freelancers are put in charge of making sure they have paid their own taxes, on time. When you are starting out, managing your own taxes is possible to do and you can generally just do it once per year, when you file your normal taxes. When you start to earn more of an actual living freelancing, you may want to switch to sending in your tax payments on your own quarterly.
Here is a quick freelancing tax glossary:
So you’ll owe your own taxes, which may seem like a drag at first but the truth is that you’ve always been paying taxes, assuming you’ve worked as a traditional employee. The only difference now is that you are in charge of making sure those taxes are paid, and on time. For me, the fact that there is no ceiling to what I can earn is well worth paying my own taxes and I’ve never been unhappy doing it. That being said, there are plenty of tax breaks for freelancers -- writers and otherwise. Here are some of the items you should track to make the most of your freelancing earnings.
Tax Break #1: Your cell phone bill. You cannot deduct your entire family plan cell phone bill, but you can get a break for some of it. First, determine what percentage of the time you use your cell phone for business purposes — calls, texts and emails. This might be something you want to track for a month or two prior to tax season to get an accurate number. Next figure out which portion of the bill applies to JUST your service. Take that amount of the bill and multiply it by the percentage of time you use it for business. Take that number and multiply it by 12. Voila. You have the yearly amount you can deduct.
Amount of the bill that covers your services: $50 out of $200
Percentage of time you use phone for work: 75%
Formula: 50 X 0.75 = $37.50 X 12 = $450
This would be the amount you can deduct in a year.
Tax Break #2: Your office space. If you work from home, you cannot deduct your entire rent or mortgage payment (I wish!). Instead, do you best to determine the area in square feet of your official work from home space in comparison to the rest of the house. For me, it was an 11 X 11 room in a 2,200 square-foot home. My workspace represented 5.5% of the area in the home. If my rent payment was $1,000 (working some really easy math right here), I could deduct $55 per month or $660 per year.
Tax Break #3: Transaction fees. In an increasingly digital payment world, transaction fees can be a really big expense for freelancers. To give you an idea — in 2018, I paid out just over $750 in fees to sites like PayPal, Guru and Elance. If you have not tracked these throughout the year, it is really easy to run an annual report on these sites. If you do not claim these legitimate business expenses, you are potentially throwing away hundreds of dollars. It adds up! Claim it!
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