“Do you honestly believe I don’t have a plan B? And if that fails a plan C? Then a plan… You know how the alphabet goes, don’t you?” Katherine Pierce says in The Vampire Diaries, episode 6 of season 2 after Salvatore brothers, her arch-enemies and former lovers, take care of her plan A.
Though she’s one of the villains of the show and makes life very difficult for my favorite characters, she has my respect due to her strategic thinking. Freelance bloggers should take a page or two out of her planning book – just not the evil endgame part.
Because like life and all compelling TV, freelancing can be maddeningly unpredictable. Unexpected illnesses, recurring health problems, romantic distractions, loss of loved ones, disappearing clients, constantly changing editors, and more keep you on your toes, terrified to look at your bank balance.
Luckily, you already took efficient measures to keep one step ahead of the damn fast curveballs: your plans B, C, D and beyond:
Plan B: Stay Updated on Your Original Field
Whether it is your favorite writing niche or the area you majored in school, staying atop of on what’s going on in an industry can help you take on extra writing gigs or even a temporary office job, should the need arise.
You can keep up with any industry by setting up *Google Alerts to catch up with the news, following the most popular blogs in the niche, reading current bestselling books in the area or by taking inexpensive or free courses. But before jumping into buying another training program, I urge you to read Ashley Gainer’s post.
For a more social approach, you can join networking events and meet-up groups.
Just don’t neglect to update your resume and portfolio with your new clips, certificates, and courses to attract better clients.
(*You can use Google Alerts to find jobs as well.)
Plan C: Save Whenever You Can
Ramit Sethi (bestselling author of I’ll Teach You To Be Rich and founder of GrowthLab) defines a rich life as the ability to splurge on areas you care about the most and cutting back from areas you aren’t passionate about.
Until you become traditionally rich, you don’t need expensive retail therapy, fancy coffee, luxury travel, weekly mani-pedi, etc. all at once. Save, so that when payments are late, or you lose clients, you have money to fall back on.
You can increase your savings by budgeting, using a free app to track your spending, and investing your money in an account that gets interest.
Not every frugality tip will work for you. However, it is important to remember some things add up: eating out every week, buying only hardcover books, buying new stuff even when you don’t need them (I’m guilty of this with notebooks and make-up – it is fun!), finding expensive ways to celebrate accomplishments and so on.
Cut as much as you can without feeling miserable. Read a couple of personal finance blogs for ideas.
As uncomfortable as it might feel to drink less than your friends or make your own meals (and trust me, I don’t like cooking either, so I know your pain), it will more than make up for it when you realize your safety net – aka savings – has grown substantially.
Plan D: Invest in Evergreen Skills of Freelance Blogging
Spend time, money or both so that you are not just a writer. You can brush up on your knowledge by taking free or paid courses, reading popular blogs and doing some experiments on your own. Having multiple skills will make you a valuable writer that won’t keep you “clientless” for long.
You don’t have to do all, and you shouldn’t try to, but having at least some of these skills will keep you ahead of the competition while helping you charge more:
- Managing and promoting content on social media.
- Managing a WordPress site
- Creating images or infographics
- Copywriting, newsletter writing, email marketing
- Knowledge of basic SEO and how to find the balance between writing for your audience and ranking higher in the search engines for more shares and better ranking (which will make your clients happier, and it will give you room to negotiate for higher rates).
Plan E: Always Be Marketing
Let everyone know what you do for a living. You don’t need to shout you are a writer from the rooftops, but let people casually know you are a freelance blogger and what it entails. How much time you spend on this can change, but marketing when you are busy with client work is a lot more fun and a lot less stressful than when you are broke.
I’m never shy when it comes to marketing. Pretty much everyone I meet knows what I do for a living.
The problem is, saying “you are a writer” doesn’t usually suffice. Most people think writers as published authors, journalists with bylines in famous magazines or both. So be ready for the follow-up questions:
“What do you write about,” or its more famous cousin, “Have I read anything of yours?”
To bypass these questions, you can just start with your elevator pitch instead.
Then if your audience is hooked, you can delve into the mysteries of blogging, ghostwriting, self-publishing, and beyond:
- “I mainly write about luxury travel for travel blogs.”
- “I earn a living via my popular gadgets review blog.”
- “I write B2B articles for health industry websites.”
Your descriptions may vary in length and content, but it’s important that you can get across what you do while people are still focused. And then if they need your services, they will think of you next, because they already met you in person, and hopefully you hit it off.
Unless I’m not talking about fiction, my answer is something like this:
“I’m a double freelancer.”
This is attention-grabbing and true. I freelance as a blogger as well as an ESL teacher for adults. So the next time someone needs to improve their language skills, they think of me. And the fact that I’m good enough to have bylines in English-language blogs excites them, and gives them an idea of the level at which I use the language. And vice versa: The fact that I’m a language teacher sounds good to people who are looking for people with meticulous grammar and editing skills.
Your pitch can and should change according to your audience.
Some great free marketing tactics include business cards, your blog about your niche(s), guest posting, attending marketing events, publishing an ebook, creating downloadable content, maintaining a social media presence, creating an e-course and so much more.
Plan F: Consider Teaching Your Skills
Do you like helping others out? Then consider teaching. Whether it is writing, social media or another skill all together, teaching provides you with extra income, better recognition and a lot of story material. You can teach in-person, online or through an e-book you created. Nothing helps you keep sane and well-fed like multiple income streams.
What are some of the platforms you can use to teach your skills? Teachable, Thinkific, Udemy and Skillshare are some of the more popular options. Thinkific, for instance, offers a free plan for beginners.
I have taken courses on all four, and I’ve been quite happy with the experience as a learner. My only beef was that when I wanted to become an affiliate for a course on Teachable, I learned you can only get paid via PayPal, which cannot be used in all countries. (You should always check if a product you find valuable has an affiliate program. It’s a great way of diversifying your income streams and back-up plans.)
I’m also currently toying with the idea of creating a course with a writer friend, and the only thing that scares me is the video aspect. I’ve never loved the sound of my recorded voice, and as a writer, I tend to favor the written word over podcasts and videos.
But sharing what I’ve learned in my over 7 years of blogging is worth leaving my comfort zone.
The freelance blogger’s life never comes with guarantees. That’s why we need back-up plans in place. The moment we feel like things might turn south, we can turn them around. And if they do go south, we can find north again. It’ll just take some effort on our part to create back-up systems. Remember to save money, market your business, keep up with your industry, invest in your skills, and maybe teach other bloggers.
What about you? What are your back-up plans for a steadier freelance blogging career?