When someone needs to stay home with young children learning virtually, it’s more often mom than dad. The same principle applies to sick family members, aging parents, and more—when caretaking needs arrive, women step up, and their careers fall behind.
However, they don’t have to. In fact, this could be the start of something wonderful. Freelance writing is an amazing way for women to make money, stay sharp, and discover their inner artist. The world of freelance writing—and that ranges from creative to technical copywriting—is overwhelmingly female. A 2012 freelance industry report found that 71 percent of freelancers were female.
However, women are still more likely to undercharge and be paid less than their male counterparts. Finding opportunities to develop your skills, find your voice, and connect with other editing and publishing professionals will not only give your creative work leverage, but will also give you a boost of confidence to enter this professional space confidently.
Enter Chrysalis Editorial, a resource for learning how to develop your voice and unleash the stories you hold. Below, we’ll explore what the world of freelance writing looks like and what first steps you can take in your blossoming writing career.
What’s Writing Like?
When you think of writing as a career, you probably picture publishing novels and going on book tours. This is a possibility, but it’s not the average vision of a writing career. In fact, most writers live lives that fit extraordinarily well into a caretaker role. (For example, the hugely successful and bestselling author, Debbie Macomber, began writing her novel while staying at home to raise four children.)
Writers work primarily through a freelance or contract model, meaning that they determine their own hours and workload without being attached to a particular employer. This offers a ton of flexibility, meaning you can work around nearly any schedule. You can find these kinds of opportunities on a freelance job board like Upwork, or by poking around in your network to see if anyone has a need. You might also consider submitting non-fiction story proposals to a variety of online magazines (think travel, cooking and baking, child-rearing, and anything you excel at or are an expert in), including your local newspaper or city magazine.
Can I Live Off Writing?
Yes, you can make a living off freelance writing, but it’s hard work. You have to learn how to know your worth, as well as what kind of writing you’re good at and interested in. Not all types of writing earn the same amount of money—generally speaking, researched journalistic work is going to bring in more income than blog writing, unless you have an expertise and develop a significant following, like Cathy Barrow did after losing her landscaping clients in the 2008 economic downturn and turning to canning, cooking, and baking (https://www.cathybarrow.com). Ghostwriting can run the gamut, from very low-paid copywriting work to lucrative book deals.
It’s easiest to start writing for websites. Even this is a relatively broad field, but there are a lot of great opportunities for beginners. For example, you can look into writing website copy for local businesses, which might be more open to working with a beginner. Starting your own blog is another great way to establish a writing routine, make some ad revenue, and build a portfolio you can use to work toward higher-paying gigs.
Finally, avoid accepting any offer where you’re paid in “exposure.” The only exception is if the piece and the publication are valuable enough to you for you to treat it as a charitable gift, or the exposure could very likely lead to other writing jobs. Otherwise, you can almost certainly find a publication that will actually pay you for your work.
Freelance Writing Pitfalls
There are, of course, drawbacks to the freelance writing lifestyle. As Kat Boogaard points out, it can be hard to find consistency: it’s the nature of contract work that even long-standing gigs can stop suddenly. You can have several mediocre months, followed by a windfall, followed by a month where you make almost nothing at all. You have to be on top of budgeting and careful about how you spend to make the lifestyle sustainable.
Moreover, work-life balance is hard for a lot of freelancers. Contract work can be a little addictive. You have the freedom to knock work out whenever you want, and the ability to take on as much as you think you can handle. This has led to many freelancers overfilling their plate and pulling all-nighter after all-nighter to keep up with their workload. Start small, ramp your work up slowly, and build plenty of downtime into your schedule, or you’ll burn out.
Freelance writing isn’t a perfect fit for all women, but it can make a huge difference for many, especially right now. Even if it’s not something you’d plan on doing for the rest of your life, it can keep your resume relevant and your skills sharp through a difficult time.
Turn to Chrysalis Editorial for workshops, coaching, and more, to ensure that your writing endeavors blossom!
Sarah Bull is a single mom of two, an entrepreneur, and a penny pincher. She is the creator of Economymom.com, where she shares tips and tricks about growing a home-based business. She hopes to inspire her readers, especially fellow moms, to take their earning destinies into their own hands using her career and money-making advice.