My Freelance Writer’s Manifesto

As 2011 dawns, I mark five years as a full-time freelance writer. I feel intensely grateful to have spent these five years in control of my schedule and enjoying a variety of challenging and fun writing assignments. I love the freelance life.

Through the years of hacking my way through the freelance jungle, and mentoring other writers looking to earn a living, I’ve developed a philosophy.

I think there’s a mentality you need to succeed as a freelance writer. A belief system that helps you rise above the doubt, insecurity, and fears of starvation. It enables you to scratch out a living with just your ideas and your words, month after month.

This is the creed I live by. It’s helped me to earn more each year I’ve been a freelance writer.

This is my freelance writer’s manifesto:

  1. As a freelance writer, I work hard. I deserve to earn a decent hourly rate.
  2. I won’t let self-doubt hold me back from finding good-paying markets.
  3. When I send out resumes or query letters, I won’t get discouraged or feel personally rejected. I will persevere.
  4. I know I have the power to advance my writing career.
  5. I will set goals for my writing business and take steps to meet them.
  6. If I need more work, I will market my writing services more aggressively.
  7. I will not use the economy as an excuse for not earning.
  8. Even though it may not come easily to me, I can master new technology.
  9. I will keep an open mind toward emerging types of writing.
  10. If I encounter an aspect of the new-media world I don’t understand, I will learn about it.
  11. I won’t waste my energy worrying about the recent proliferation of low-paying online writing markets.
  12. I will actively participate in writer communities for camaraderie and support. We can help each other succeed.
  13. It’s important as a freelancer to remember that I’m free. If the sun’s shining, maybe I’ll walk the dog in the middle of the day. I’ll take a few minutes to experience gratitude that I’m no longer trapped in a world of offices and set schedules.
  14. I will give back to the writing community and share what I learn.

What’s your philosophy of freelance writing? Tell us about the beliefs that guide your writing career in the comments.

Photo via Flickr user Dmitry Kichenko

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39 comments on “My Freelance Writer’s Manifesto
  1. Mark Berry says:

    Inspirational stuff. Good, sound, honest principles for any independent writer to take into 2011.
    Mark Berry recently posted..Im not a doctor!

  2. Ronda Swaney says:

    I do not have a freelance writing philosophy, but yours is so awesome I think I will steal it. : )
    I am 9 months in to my full-time freelance career, but I have found each item in your manifesto to be a very important element to the success that I have had so far. Thanks for putting this so clearly and succinctly.

  3. CynthiaK says:

    A great reminder to step back and think about my life not only in terms of my family, my volunteer work, or my hobby blogging, but also my freelance work. Too often I regard it as “those writing contracts that I have to get finished this week” and squeeze them into late night hours when the house is quiet. What I need to do is view it as my career, since that it what it is. I need to create goals, purposefully find inspiration and be grateful to those who are paving the way and offering the advice I need to maintain its success. Thanks, Carol!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Cynthia —

      Love your ‘crumbs in the minivan’ URL!

      There’s a big mindset difference between “I sort of fit this in when I have time” to “writing is my business.” Try it and see!

  4. Anita Cooper says:

    Love your manifesto…it’s great to have friends! I hope to inspire and help others one day as you have me. Here’s to a great 2011!

  5. Erika says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I am continuing to build up my experience/expertise over the next year with the goal of full-time freelancing. I so appreciate your sharing what you’ve learned — it keeps me coming back!

  6. Laurie Boris says:

    Thank you, Carol! You’ve inspired me to start developing my own manifesto.
    Laurie Boris recently posted..Have You Hugged Your Proofreader Today

  7. Leanne says:

    Thank you for this empowering list.

    To be brutually honest, the obstacle that blocks me is being judged. What will ‘they’ say if I…when I.
    What will they say when they catch me reading another writer’s blog, when I should be writing?
    What will they say when they realize that I’m home all day? Will they think I’m a housewife?
    Prehaps the key is to keep my head down and hold firm to my believes.
    I’m networking.
    I’m writing.
    I have a right to work toward my success.
    Leanne recently posted..Meet author Anne Holly

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Leanne —
      I love your addition to the manifesto list: “I have a right to work toward my success.” Dang straight you do!

      You need to read this post — How to Banish Fear.

      Just keep your house nice and messy and no one will mistake you for a housewife. I’ve never worried about that one…I’ve got a mountain of shoes and rollerskates right on the porch to prove it.

  8. Great stuff. I found your link on alist blogger.com. I’m new here. You seem like a great writer, I would love to read some of your stuff? Do you have any?

  9. Debbie Kane says:

    I love your manifesto, Carol. It’s reminding me that I planned to write down my writing goals for 2011 and haven’t done it yet!

    Leanne — ironically, I had lunch today with a former colleague who was discussing her desire to step away from the public relations field (where I also worked for 20 years). I found myself thinking that I needed to make my writing sound more important because what she does sounds important. Fortunately, I caught myself before I said something like, “well, I’m just working on…” Writing is important, as is the desire to make it a sustainable business.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, I sure think of my writing as important, since it feeds my family of five!

      It’s also vitally important because it frees me from having to go to a “job” and have one boss with the power to destroy all our lives at a whim by deciding I’m no longer needed. My hope is never to be in that position again…and writing is my tool.

  10. Ahlam Yassin says:

    Carol! I’m on information overload. Since I discovered your website, I’ve been trying to soak in as much information as possible. I’ve even taken on the A-list blogger club (Talk about A LOT of information!) I’m just feeling stuck, since I’m not going back to my low-paying gigs because I have higher aspirations. However, the money I was making is not coming in and I’m finding myself spending money on my craft as opposed to making money from it at this point. (Sorry, just venting!)

    So, here’s thing, as a writer, you have to find the courage to kick yourself forward, even when you’re feeling overwhelmed in such a Great New World. So, here I go…. off to print out my query and article for a print publication (send me your positive and successful energy).

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Ahlam —

      Wish I could tell you the information overload gets any better…but I’m in the same boat. I have a file of 17 enewsletters, podcasts and videos I’d like to have watched by now.

      And there’s definitely something to be said for investing in learning about the freelance writing biz. I know if I hadn’t invested in A-List and joined NAIWE, gone to SPJ events…I wouldn’t have anything like the expertise, support, and success that I’m enjoying right now. I know you’ll learn TONS in A-List — just take it one course at a time, my dear!

      I try to contain the learning time so there’s still time to market and write. Usually I read one A-List course while I’m eating lunch…figure I can’t hold the salad or sandwich or whatever and type at the same time, or make a marketing call with my mouth full…And that’s it. Just a little each day.

      There’s a Talmudic saying, “Too much and the mind cannot absorb” that I think really applies to learning about social media!

      I’ve never been one to advocate that anyone suddenly up and quit their job without revenue lined up from freelance writing. I’m a pretty conservative, risk-averse person that way. To me it’s all about planning. Staying fully booked, and then just gradually swapping out lower-paying clients for higher ones, until you’re where you want to be on price. When I first started freelance writing, I typed scripts on the side — anything to keep going. I did transcribing of recordings. Then I just gradually wrote more and typed less, until one day I was just writing.

      I find there are advantages to being fully booked even at low rates, there’s a psychology to that that’s really positive — even if really you only work 20 hours a week. Just saying “I’m fully booked” starts your prices rising. You seem in-demand.

      Best of luck wading through it all, and welcome to the A-List club!

  11. Hi Carol,

    Great manifesto! Love number 13 – it’s all about being as free as possible. Something we thought we left back in childhood. (I like to write about childhood!)

    Some excellent tips here, especially #2 – that’s the biggie! There are still big markets out there waiting to be discovered.

    Many thanks!

    Giulietta
    Giulietta Nardone recently posted..Follow your enthusiasm Forget the rest

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Giulietta —

      When I started this blog, I just wrote about practical tips — how to write a strong query letter, that kind of thing. Maybe because I’m not a very fear-based person, I didn’t write much about overcoming writer’s block and dealing with fear…but I’ve learned we need to take time to talk about it because insecurity issues are HUGE in the freelance writer community. BIG PROBLEM.

      I’m more sort of blundering along in a naive way, trying things because I think they’ll be a fun new experience, or doing things somebody forgot to tell me weren’t achievable, and only realizing later they were scary or hard. Sort of like at the end of the Phantom Tollbooth, where they tell him “Oops! we forgot to say your quest was impossible.”

  12. Meg says:

    Hi Carol–love this blog to death!!! I’m new to your work and delighted to find such a huge amount of information. I’ve been writing for most of my life, and have published, but have not done so for pay, apart from cheap online article writing and one little e-cookbook. My resolution this year is to actually earn a reasonable living as a writer. Your manifesto is one I’m taking to heart :)
    Meg recently posted..Meditation on a Christmas Tree Star

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Meg — well don’t die! I need the readers!

      Hope the information on the blog helps you break in and earn more from your writing. Stay tuned for an announcement along those lines tomorrow.

  13. Hi Carol,
    Well, it sounds like my philosophy is not all that different from yours. I don’t have time to take on underpaying jobs – they’d only take away from the quality of others jobs – so sorry I’ve got to make a decent wage. And after working in a cubicle, I’m sorry, if I need to to a break, for a few minutes or a few days, I’m going to – of course, whatever deadline I promise will be met, but it will be at my discretion when I choose to work during any given 24 hour period. Besides, I’m more of a 80/20 person anyway – it’s best for me to work when I feel like it – I get so much more done during all night sessions as opposed to forced day time hours.
    Hmmm…Maybe that’s too much info :D
    Kiesha @ We Blog Better recently posted..Stop Ripping Off Old Scabs

  14. Congratulations on completing five years Carol. I am glad we have writers like you in the industry :) Good luck with the up-coming year!

    -BrownEyed
    Brown Eyed Mystic recently posted..Resolutions Galore and Quick Feedback

  15. You are such an INSPIRATIONAL writer Carol.

    You are a writing HERO. You have no idea. I am so happy for you. I applaud you. I am proud of you, and I agree with BrownEyed that it is so great we have writers like you out there.

    Great, great, great.

  16. Liza says:

    I love how most of the items listed on your manifesto are basically positive affirmations, which basically echo a lot of my own sentiments in regards to writing! I’m not necessarily a freelance writer, more an aspiring novelist, but I have thought about using freelance writing as supplemental income on my road to publishingdom.
    Thank you so much for sharing, and I have definitely subscribed to this blog!
    Liza recently posted..Life Won’t Wait

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Liza!

      I highly recommend freelancing for anyone trying to get published as a novelist. If it was good enough for Mark Twain, it’s good enough for you. You acquire so much discipline writing for others and meeting deadlines, I think it’s a huge advantage.

  17. Lisa says:

    Carol,
    I am just starting to learn how to blog and this is a marvelous piece for my motivation. You put into words opportunities that I hope to have one day after leaving the “office” position.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Lisa

  18. Ian Collings says:

    I’m just starting out on the road of freelancing.
    I feel this article is like a road-sign, directing me around the pitfalls and delivering me a safer path to success.
    What a joyous gift to give somebody!
    Many thanks.
    Ian Collings recently posted..The List

  19. I have another suggested addition to the manifesto:

    “I will remember I started this because I loved writing, and will not let a bad attitude turn it into just another 9-to-5-grind job.”
    Katherine Swarts recently posted..Resolved to Write Better

  20. These are such great ideas and statements, Carol! Thank you so much! The one thing I still struggle with–although I value the right/ability to schedule my own time–is the nagging “9-5″ mentality. I still think I should be “at my desk” at 9am and that “I’m working too hard” if I still have/want to do things at 7pm or later. What is even crazier about those thoughts is that I have a global clientele–I’ve lost count of the number of time zones my clients are in!

    I going to try hard to realize that because I am naturally a very early riser, I really do my best writing work at 5am; and then I CAN take that 11:30am yoga class because I’ve already put it a 6-hour workday. When I get back in the early afternoon–AND after my mandatory one-hour nap, there is still plenty of time left to do admin work, contact clients, etc.

    I don’t make “New Year’s Resolutions”, but this year I will really work on the “freedom” part of freelancing!
    WritingItRightForYou recently posted..Title Capitalization

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think for those of us who’ve spend years in Corporate America, it can be hard to realize you truly are the master of your schedule now. I know lots of folks who mostly work 8-midnight, or 5 am to noon, and then they’re back later.

      It’s one of the unique advantages of freelancing that we can work when we’re most creative, eat when we’re hungry, and sleep when we’re tired, where a 9-5 job often makes you shoehorn your creativity into when THEY want it, instead of when you could best deliver it. I think it’s one reason we’re so much more productive.

      I find that you can train your clients to understand when you’re in, even if it’s sort of a weird schedule. It’s really not a problem. I personally tend to disappear around 2 on Fridays many times to bake challah…my regulars know this about me, that they won’t reach me late on a Friday.

  21. John B. Beck says:

    Those 14 items you listed in your Manifesto were right on the mark.
    John B. Beck recently posted..On a Wing and a Prayer

  22. I like your manifesto, Carol.

    I have built my freelance writing career by helping other writers and becoming immersed in the writing community. What goes around comes around.

    I’m always amazed at writers who work in isolation and don’t see the value in being part of professional writers’ orgs.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..the different stages of a creative writing project

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks Doreen!

      When I mentor writers, I tell them to do a local search for writers — like “Seattle freelance writer” is mine — and see who ranks well for that. And then, get to know where they network and start hanging out there. These people are savvy marketers, so it can save you some time shopping around for the right places to network.

      I have one writer friend who got referred a book contract through his network, and I personally subbed out $6,000 of work on one government contract I got to another writer who was referred to me by writers in my network. It’s essential to know other writers in your niche…never know when they might be passing on a gig and wanting to find someone for it.

  23. Cindi Jeffrey says:

    I may very well copy this off and tape it above my computer. Thank you for articulating what I needed to hear!

3 Pings/Trackbacks for "My Freelance Writer’s Manifesto"
  1. [...] My Freelance Writer’s Manifesto: Right on, Carol. Preach it! [...]

  2. [...] as a freelance writer – most of them learned the hard way.  I started surfing around, and I found this post by Carol Tice outlining her freelance writing [...]

  3. [...] Hmm. No, that should be for sure. I’ll write and be paid for it. As Carol Tice said in her “My Freelance Writer’s Manifesto”, as a freelance writer, you work hard, so you deserve to earn a decent hourly rate. I’ll be [...]

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