By Sharon Korbeck Verbeten
(c) December 17, 2009
If you’ve purchased a first home, you’ll recall how that experience took research, planning, expense, time and a healthy dose of resolve. It also likely involved a leap of faith.
That’s not unlike starting your own freelance writing business—which I did five years ago. And while launching All Write Creative Services was just as unpredictable as buying my first house, my decision has proven just as comfortable as that modest two-bedroom ranch.
After more than 20 years working in magazine and newspaper journalism, I summoned up my desire and connections (along with motivation and moxie) to break out on my own. At first, I needed a bit of convincing, but with the support of family, friends and business associates, All Write Creative moved from a longtime desire to a reality.
Here are three things I learned from launching my own business.
1. Remember: You aren’t just a freelance writer. You’re a business owner.
You’re not just a freelance writer; you’re a business owner. Before you begin, write a proposed business plan to determine the specifics of your business. What will you call your business? Proposed business expenses and income? Will you work 9 to 5 or have more flexible hours? Work from home or rent an office? Incorporate your business? Hire an accountant? Specialize or offer more broad-based services?
Proudly introduce yourself as a small business owner. Presenting yourself in a professional manner–complete with business cards and a title (I chose “editorial director”)—allows others to take you seriously. Too many people still believe that writing is something people do just for fun. Let people know this is your business, and they will be more likely to treat it as such.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of networking.
Even if you’re extremely well connected, never underestimate the value of meeting new people. You never know where your next assignment will come from. More than a decade ago, I worked in the funeral industry; a former colleague of mine heard I was freelancing and later called me first when she learned of an editorial project in that industry. In another instance, I was chatting with an old friend who knew an editor in the waste management industry. Now that editor offers me regular work. Sure, in both cases, I had to introduce myself, follow up, provide writing samples and prove I could do the work, but I may never have pursued—or even known about—those opportunities had it not been for these contacts.
Don’t overlook other freelance writers. Consider them connections, not competition. Some of my best connections with editors have been through referrals from their regular writing stable. There’s plenty of work for talented, dependable writers, and editors trust their better writers’ referrals.
3. Working on assignment…and other misconceptions.
Before I started my business, I thought I’d always be flush with assignments from my “regular” editors. It doesn’t always work that way. And while these clients are good to me, sometimes they’re too backed up with stories to need anything. Or they may be too busy to respond or make a formal assignment. That’s why you always need feelers and queries out there—to your regular clients as well as to new markets. And remember, once you break into a new market, be sure to ace the assignment (turn it in clean and early!) and foster the relationship so they become one of your regulars.
Much like any major decision in life—buying a house, having a baby—starting your own freelance business comes with its own set of “must haves” and “must knows.” Remember that the key to staying sane while serving up success is being prepared and organized—while still being ready for the unexpected!
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Sharon Verbeten, a regular contributor to Tripping on the Ladder, is editorial director of All Write Creative Services in De Pere, Wis. Before starting her own business, she worked for 10 years as editorial director of three national hobby magazines. A 20-year veteran of journalism, she now writes for many national trade and consumer publications in the antiques, library, funeral service, waste management and business sectors.