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Freelancer Writer or Author? Why Being Both Can Increase Your Chances of Success

After Kasia’s previous post on Horkey Handbook (about how she uses Scrivener to write her books), many of our readers asked if being a freelance writer is compatible to being an indie author.

We invited Kasia back to explain how she juggles these two sides of writing, and how you can use your freelance writing to actually fund your authorship dreams. 

So, freelance writer or author? Here’s what Kasia has to say!

I’m an author first, freelancer second.

I’m looking forward to the day when I can say that I make a comfortable, full-time living working as a location independent writer. That means earning over six-figures a year and being able to travel around the world for research and fun.

Whether that day comes sooner or later is mostly up to me.

I can keep dreaming or I can take action by:

  1. Writing more books (duh!) -and-
  2. Writing for blogs and magazines

To make decent money as an indie author you need at least a dozen books on the market in a popular genre. You also need to spend money on a good cover designer, professional editor and some marketing too. Or you need to get lucky (think E.L. James of the Fifty Shades fame).

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I’m not one to rely on luck for my success. Hard work and persistence is the only road I know.

Being an indie writer doesn’t come cheap. There’s the emotional cost of putting your work out there and confronting the naysayers head on. And believe me, not everyone will be pleased with your confidence to become an author or a freelance writer.

The financial cost for indies isn’t pretty either.

How much does it cost self-publish as an indie author?

You need to budget anywhere from $500 to $3,000 per book depending on where you’re located and how much work your book requires. Your first book will be more expensive than your fifth, but if you’re in it for the long-term it’s best to pay up. You need to start acting like a pro before you hit the big time, otherwise the big time might never come.

Here are two ways to make sure your book comes out looking like it belongs on the ‘big time’ shelf.

Freelance writer or author - why you should be both1. Find a Professional Cover Designer

The first thing potential readers see is the cover of your book.

You want the ‘WOW’ factor, not the ‘Meh’ one. There are books that are successful with less-than-pretty covers, but those are far and few between.

Do you want to make the work harder for yourself? I didn’t think so. Hire a pro.

A decent cover will set you back anywhere from $100-$500.

You can do your own artwork if you’re creative that way. PicMonkey and Canva are two popular options. I tried and it looked terrible.

I’d rather use the time and energy to write the next book and leave the designs to the professionals. So far I’ve used two different designers. I would have stuck with the first one, but their fees no longer met my budget.

You need to find what works for you, and as a writer that’s going to constantly change as you grow and evolve. Do your research before handing over your credit card details.

(Gina’s tip: My friend, Sally Miller, is a pro at self-publishing. She has five Amazon best-sellers under her belt, and she has a super comprehensive course out that will teach you the nuts and bolts of self-publishing.)

2. Never Underestimate the Importance of a Good Editor

Editors are a little trickier and pricier.

If you write in English, you can approach editors in the UK, USA and Australia, but the prices will vary. I’ve seen everything from $100 to $1500 for just a proofread. A copy editor can cost a few hundred to a few thousand. A structural editor even more so.

Your book needs an editor. Say it. Remember it. Ingrain it in your brain.

Your book needs an editor.

Not all editors are created equal and it may take you some time to find one that you want to build a long-term relationship with. You want an editor you can trust and isn’t going to send you to bankruptcy.

Your first book might need a structural editor, a copy editor and a proofreader. Your second book may only need the last two, and then once you’re on your fifth (and have several beta readers up your sleeve), you might only require a proofreader. You need to decide at which stage your book is at and what type of editor it needs.

Let me repeat that: Invest in a good editor.

Your book really does need it regardless of what your mom, husband or best friend tell you.

Being a professional writer costs time and money. If you want to earn money, you have to be willing to spend it first. I made the mistake of paying too much for my first edit and not paying close enough attention to the finished product.

You want your book to be as error-free as you can get before you send it off to an editor. Then after you’ve paid them, you need to go through it again with a fine-tooth comb – guaranteed you’re still going to pick up errors. Hard not to when you’re looking at a 300+page document, but you want to minimize the errors as much as possible.

(Gina’s Tip: Check out how Kasia uses Scrivener to writer her books.)

How Freelance Writing Helps Me as an Indie Author

Can’t afford an editor or designer as an indie author? Why not let freelancing support your fiction writing dreams?

The last thing I want to do when I get home from my day job is to hustle. I don’t like hustling. I want to be a well-paid author who makes a serious living from her books. Gina’s a great business coach, and she keeps me accountable to keep up with the hustling – thanks Gina! Otherwise I might not be motivated enough to send those pitches.

Success without hustling doesn’t exist, and it comes at a price – emotionally, physically and financially.

I’m okay with that. Are you?

Freelancing can be the bread and butter.

The cash that comes in can cover the editor and cover designer fees or even the printer cartridge and white paper I still use for editing – I’m old school and cannot understand how anyone can edit on screen.

So in order to make becoming a full-time author work without cutting into my budget, freelancing needs to cover the costs involved in book publishing.

But it’s not just about the money… or maybe it is. What else are we doing here? We want to make a living from doing what we love, don’t we? So what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

Start pitching blog posts!

At $25 a pop, you need to write four articles to pay for your designer and you get four spots to leave your byline and link to your future book(s)! No excuses for not getting that book to market. Nab a weekly writing gig and you’ll be able to afford the editor that will help make your writing shine.

Obviously writing gigs vary in compensation, but you can figure out what you need to recoup your costs until you start making cash with your books. It’s all a numbers game. Of course you probably want to earn more – not just cash, but promotion for your books that will help you find readers who love your stories.

Freelance Writing Will Help You Sell Your Books

Freelancing can help promote your work.

You get your name out there. People start to recognize you in your niches.  They read your byline and see that you’re a fiction author. Maybe they love reading. Maybe they’ll click on your Amazon link. Maybe they’ll buy your book and love it. Maybe they’ll recommend it to their friends, and so forth.

Unless you want your writing to remain a hobby, selling must be part of your business model.

I’m assuming if you write and publish books, you want to be read which means you want to sell and make money.

Selling your book is much harder than writing your book. Trust me. I sold 27 copies of my first book in the first six months. Yes, 27 copies.

Sounds like a failure, but my definition of success wasn’t to sell a million books. (Not that I would have complained had that happened!) The goal was to push past my comfort zone, finish the damn book, have it edited, design a cover and hit publish.

This year, it’s about writing more, but also selling more. That’s where freelancing comes in. I’d like to sell and give away 10,000 books this year. It’s a big goal, but I like a challenge…

Freelancing can be the difference between selling a dozen books to selling hundreds or even thousands of them. While it doesn’t guarantee success, it does improve your chances.

Success in writing isn’t just about talent or telling a good story. If it were, then more writers would be making a full-time living.

Success in writing, freelancing or fiction, is about building relationships with your readers and your peers. Without relationships your chances of success in the industry, in any industry, diminish dramatically.

As a writer you want to make things easier for yourself and your business. Reach out, write more, freelance for magazines, websites and businesses. Get your name out there. Publish nonfiction, poetry, short stories, anything to promote yourself and sell your work.

Freelancing and authoring are not mutually exclusive. They can work marvelously together and help you grow your writing business.

The upside is that you get to stretch your writing muscles too! And who doesn’t want to constantly improve their craft whether it’s writing saucy romance, thrilling suspense or an article on the benefits of drinking red wine.

How I Find the Time to Freelance AND Be an Author

Combining freelancing and being an author is a balancing act. Sometimes one gets extra special treatment, while the other feels neglected and vice versa.

I’ve found that writing fiction in the morning works best for me. This generally happens on the commute to work. I get an hour. Sometimes I double it on the way home in the afternoon. It’s amazing how much writing you can get done in that space of time. For me, that’s between 1,000 to 3,000 words.

The train ride time also works for drafting articles and blog posts. So if I’m not having any fun with a novel, I can switch to blog posts or articles.

I leave the editing and rewriting for the evening. Preferably after an exercise session that has refreshed my body and mind after a long day in the office.

Pitching is still up and down throughout the week, but I make sure that I pitch on my days off work. If I get it done first thing in the morning, my mind and my conscious are free to work on other things.

As a freelancer and author you need to find your own balance. Sometimes it’s hard work but it’s worth it.

Do you combine freelancing with book writing? How do you balance the two?

If you want to find out more about how Kasia uses Scrivener to write her books, check out her previous post on Horkey Handbook.

Ready to Kickstart YOUR
Freelance Writing Biz?
Grab two of our most popular workSheets and get started TODAY!

KasiaKasia Radzka likes making up stories while sipping coffees in cafes across from one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. She doesn’t wait for the muse; she forces the muse to show up. If you want to help her reach her goal of selling 10,000 books, you can grab her novella, Lethal Instincts for just $1.99! Sign up for her email list, and get the second book in the series, Lethal Disposal free! Or buy it here! In her spare time…who is she kidding…in between work, motherhood, running, life, and writing, spare time only exists in her dreams and that’s just the way she likes it. You can learn more at www.kasiaradzka.com

Just so you know, this post may include affiliate links – if that’s not cool, we might not be friends. Kidding of course, but here’s our due diligence disclosure notice.

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Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey

FOUNDER & CO-OWNER

Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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