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Getting by as a freelancer

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by golfnut8924, Aug 11, 2009.

  1. golfnut8924

    golfnut8924 Guest

    The "writing for mags like New Yorker, Esquire...." thread provided some good stuff relating to this but I wanted to get more specific.

    After being laid off from two daily papers in a span of two years, I finally took the hint about the current state of the newspaper industry and decided to say "fuck it" and be a lone wolf. I've been working strictly as a freelancer for about 6 weeks now and while I've landed some assignments, the pay is not anywhere near what it was as a full-time newspaper staffer (as sad as that sounds). I know it's only been 6 weeks and I know it will take some time to get myself established.

    I know there are some current and former freelancers on here and I was hoping to gather some advice about how to get kickstarted and any tips/tricks to making ends meet as a freelancer. I know it's a tough living to make, but any calming words or success stories would be great. So, for those of you that have figured out the freelance thing, what's the secret?? Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    The secret: Have a day job. Or have a wife who has one. Then the freelancing is a lucrative sidelight instead of a lousy living.
     
  3. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    I used to be a lone wolf...
     
  4. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    I'm getting enough work, thankfully. Just finished three major projects, two of which led to more work. That's not the issue.
    The issue is I've been paid every two weeks for my entire professional career. That spoils you.
    Now?
    One company paid me a shitpot of money but took forever to get it to me. Others pay within a week. Others take six weeks, others two months.
    It is a pleasure to find a check in the mail. I wish I had a fucking clue when they were coming.
     
  5. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    You better have money in the bank, money coming from a part-time job or some other project, or a spouse making some coin. Pay off any bills when you can. Live frugally.

    Freelance budgets have been slashed or eliminated at a lot of publications. The forecast doesn't have much hope for a return in the immediate future.

    One thing to do is try to branch out to other areas you enjoy aside from sports and be more versatile.
     
  6. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Do a search here, you'll find plenty of discussion on this.

    I've been doing this for five years as a full-time gig. I've had some excellent years, but this won't be one of them. Sports, for me, has dried up as a consistent source of work, and I'm not wasting much time anymore fretting over it. You can't as a freelancer, where your life is 75 percent chasing the next gig and 25 percent working on the gigs you have. Actually it's been good to get out of the sports box; I'm finding and accepting assignments and making contacts I wouldn't have had a year or two ago when I was involved in sports beat work.

    The secret is to network like crazy. Make sure every power broker at the local chamber of commerce, tourism office, sports commission, etc., has your contact info. They need to know golfnut is ready and available when people come to them and say they need a local writer. IMO, you can't make a living out of pitching all your own stuff. You need people to come to you. That's gonna take time.

    And yes, I wouldn't be doing any of this without my fully-employed wife.
     
  7. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    One of the biggest issues is to maintain some semblance of health insurance, which is why it's helpful to have a gainfully-employed spouse. If you have to maintain your own insurance, it takes a huge bite out of the monthly budget, and you're way too smart to try to get by without coverage.
     
  8. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    Trying to get by solely as a freelancer is near impossible. In my case, I am working as a sub teacher and freelancing. The freelance gigs are hard to come by these days. You have to look everywhere to get them, online, radio, magazines. Don't limit yourself to just newspapers and don't limit yourself to just sports. And I have found, if you have the skills, don't limit yourself to just writing. If you have any design skills or copy editing skills, fish for those types of jobs too. They're out there. But it does take some looking to find them.
     
  9. golfnut8924

    golfnut8924 Guest

    Kind of a sidebar question to this ......

    I've seen a lot of stuff on here about self-employment taxes. I assume this is the freelancers' contribution to social security(??) My question is, how and why should a freelancer be expected to contribute to social security when said freelancer has no 401k or any type of retirement plan themself??? I'm self employed as a freelancer so I don't get any benefits. So why should I have to put money in the social security pot to support everyone else's benefits?? Either I'm not grasping this correctly or this is some total bullshit.
     
  10. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    You're not grasping it correctly. Someone else can explain the 'why' better than me, but the bottom line is you gotta pay The Feds. Start setting aside 20 percent of your paychecks now and make quarterly IRS payments, or you'll get slaughtered in April. If you get slaughtered in April it might take you a while to settle up, which will hinder your abilities to make the next year's quarterly payments, and so on. It can be a very hard cycle to break.

    In short: put away money for The Feds. Now.
     
  11. golfnut8924

    golfnut8924 Guest

    playthrough:

    I understand I gotta pay up just as I did when I was a full-timer at a paper. But the difference is, when I was a full-timer, I had benefits (such as social security) so paying up was fair game. But now that I'm strictly a freelancer, I have no benefits coming my way. Which is why it's hard to understand why I should pay a social security tax when I don't have a social security benefit myself.
     
  12. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    When you were a full-timer you didn't "have" social security, you were required to put into the pool like everyone else. Same concept with your self-employment tax, some of that goes to social security. I'm sure you understand that you don't get the actual benefit until you're at least 62 (if there's anything left in the kitty, which of course is a topic for another thread).
     
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