10 Ways to Fund Your Creative Writing Projects

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Managing a writing career is tough. It’s even tougher when you’re worried about money and how you’ll pay bills every month. Not everyone who begins a writing project or business will have the financial wherewithal to support themselves – at least not at first. Most writers, including yours truly, have had to find ways to support themselves while keeping alive their creative passion.

Below are 10 possible avenues that you can pursue to fund your writing career or a specific project. Granted, it might mean less free time to work on your masterpiece, but it will also give you some peace of mind, knowing that you can make ends meet.

  1. Personal savings. If you’ve been in the work force awhile, or were lucky enough to have had a previous career that offered a savings plan, such as a 401K, those funds can act as a cushion for when you’re transitioning to your writing lifestyle. Experts suggest having at least six months of savings in case of emergencies, and with the current economic climate, I’d recommend more than that. Things always cost more than you think. Be sure to budget yourself and refrain from overspending on non-essential items. That will stretch out your savings even further.
  2. Part-time jobs. There is such a thing as scaling back on your schedule to allow more time to do what you love. As with your personal savings, budgeting will be key to success because you won’t have as much of an income to live off of. But at least a part-time gig will give you some cash flow to cover basic expenses while freeing up valuable time in your schedule for writing.
  3. Freelance and contract gigs. Most writers I know choose this option because it gives them the freedom to set their own schedule. On the other hand, you may spend more time marketing yourself and searching for well-paying assignments than actually working on your own writing projects. Many clients don’t pay enough to cover your basic expenses, so you have to pile on lots of small assignments for any reasonable income, which can cut into your personal writing projects. You’re better off with three or four steady gigs that pay well rather than 10 or 12 that pay pennies.
  4. Temporary assignments. Temping can provide some stability and a somewhat steady income whenever you need it. But the days when temp agencies automatically offered assignments is long gone. These days you need to apply for assignments as if they were regular full-time jobs, which means you may be competing for work against other candidates. On the positive side, you can choose to work a few days at a time or longer assignments that last more than a year.  You can opt for part-time or full-time assignments too. Even with its somewhat inconsistent nature, temp work can provide financial support when you need it.
  5. Internships. If you’re starting out with little or no experience, internships can help you gain valuable real-world experience that looks good on your resume and helps you build a portfolio of samples that you can show to future clients and employers. Some internships pay, others do not. But you gain in real-world experience while on the job. Find internships on job sites like Indeed or Internships.com.
  6. Grants and fellowships. If you don’t mind working for the experience and earning living expenses while you do so, then grants and fellowships may be right for you. Grants are an outlay of cash that doesn’t have to be paid back. They may require a certain expertise or writing focus such as writing about social justice issues or being of Native American descent. Read the grant application requirements carefully.

    Fellowships are usually offered through a university and allow you to earn money while you contribute in some way to the writing department. You may be required to teach classes, manage the writing lab and attend workshops in exchange for a stipend. Fellowships give you a chance to work on a specific project and get feedback on your work from fellow students in the program and instructors. Some fellowships can be done at a distance while others require in-person sessions. Study the application carefully to make sure you understand the requirements. To find grants and fellowships near you and to learn more about them, check out Profellow.com.
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  7. Home equity. Tapping into your home’s equity can be a practical choice, especially if you’ve lived in your home long enough to earn significant amount of equity. If you’re uncomfortable tapping in your home’s equity, author and artist Cassandra Gaisford suggests another option. Instead, ask the bank for a mortgage holiday of two or three months. Then use the savings to finance a business startup or live off of it while you focus on your writing project.
  8. Crowdfunding. If you have a specific project you’re working on, try setting up a crowd funding page on one of the crowdfunding platforms. Some have categories for publishing and other creative projects. Crowdfunding can help you test your book idea with potential readers and gain financial support from them if they like your idea, especially if you plan to self-publish. Check out Indiegogo, Kickstarter and Unbound.
  9. Sponsorships. Is there a local business you support that could help you in return? Perhaps a coffee house you frequent where you’ve been drafting your novel? Or some other place that knows of your efforts to get published? Ask them to sponsor your work-in-progress. Even a small amount of cash can help you defray publishing expenses. In return, off something that can help them, such as offering a free banner ad for their business on your website or plug their business via social media.
  10. Seek investors. Don’t be shy about asking friends and family members for their financial support, which can help you get the project or business off the ground. Just be sure to put all expectations and financial requirements in writing so all parties know what’s at stake. Be clear about what your needs are and whether and when you’ll be able to pay them back.

Starting a writing project can be both exciting and daunting. There’s no cost to you to begin your writing project, just a steady supply of paper and pens will suffice. But when you’re ready to publish the manuscript, produce a play or design a website, that’s when costs can become apparent. Still, if you plan your time well and stick to a budget, you can make your writing dream a reality.

Tips for Creating Work-Life Balance as a Freelancer

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Editor’s note: I’m busy with a personal writing project, so I am reposting this article from 2019. I think the information is as pertinent now as it was then. Also, remember to check out the weekly writing prompt on my website!

When you work as a freelancer or independent contractor, you are your own boss. You can set your own schedule, goals and priorities. You can take time off when you want to. You have more freedom. 

Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

But the fantasy rarely lives up to reality. More often than not, that self-imposed schedule and responsibility can get out of hand if you’re not careful. While it doesn’t happen often, freelance work can result in forty-hour plus workweeks — or longer. For many freelancers, the opposite is true. There isn’t enough work and they’re scrambling to find new clients. Constant fear and worry can nag at you about making ends meet or getting clients to pay on a timely basis.

When you work for yourself, it’s easy to focus more on your clients than your own family. Even more than your own well-being. It’s easy to lose track of your schedule. It’s easy to forget that you have a social life.

But take heart. There is hope for all freelancers. According to the 2018 freelancer survey by Upwork, 77 percent of full-time freelancers reported having a better work-life balance since becoming self-employed. It is possible to achieve that balance. But like everything else, you have to work at it. Most important, you have to plan for it.

Having work-life balance is critical for your well-being for several reasons. It helps prevent burnout so you won’t feel overwhelmed by all your responsibilities. It helps you feel more energized and refreshed so you can face each new challenge. It removes needless stress from your life so you can think more clearly.

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Once you decide to begin working for yourself, it’s important to establish work-life balance early on in your freelance career. When you shift from a full-time job with a fairly set schedule to not having a set schedule at all, it can be easy to lose your sense of balance. As your own boss, it’s up to you set create that balance. Make it a part of your business planning. But how do you do it?

Here are a few ideas to help you create more work-life balance in your freelance career:

1. Set a regular work schedule. Establish consistent work hours and stick to them. If you worked a nine-to-five job previously, establish a similar type of schedule when you first start out. Make sure you give yourself two days off each week. Setting up a regular schedule with two off days keeps you in a routine that you can sustain.

2. Stay connected with family and friends. When you work for yourself, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you are alone. That’s not true. No matter how busy you are setting up your business and pursuing new clients, don’t forget about your family and friends. They are your support system, and they can give you proper perspective when business gets too hectic or if things don’t go as smoothly as you planned.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no. No to assignments that would be a waste of your talents, no to outside obligations until you meet your deadline, no to clients who don’t pay on time or change their requirements. Know your limits. Know when you have too much on your plate. It’ okay to pass on the assignment or refer it to another professional. Or hire a subcontractor to help you meet the deadline.

4. Keep your calendar organized. Keep all appointments in one place, both personal and professional so you don’t accidentally overbook yourself. Also set clear goals and priorities and list them in your calendar as a quick reminder of your obligations.

5. Detach and disconnect from devices. Information comes at us 24/7 via our devices, social media, computers and TV screens. It can be difficult to shut it out. It’s up to you to do that. Set aside a day or a weekend to do a digital detox. It might be helpful to put those detox dates in your calendar too as a reminder to stay balanced.

6. Set up a “fun” account. Small Business Trends, an online publication about small business practices, suggests setting up a separate bank account to be used solely for fun activities. As you get paid from clients, set aside a small amount into this fun account so you have money to splurge on that weekend spa getaway or ski trip you’ve had your eye on.

7. Practice self-care. To be your best for clients, you need to live healthily, suggests experts at FilterGrade.com. Eat properly, get proper sleep, practice meditation and yoga, or take long walks. Do anything you can to clear your mind and center yourself.

8. Keep up with personal interests. Maintain your hobbies, whether that’s playing tennis, reading the latest best-seller or attending concerts. Volunteer with your favorite cause. Sometimes when you spend time with those less fortunate, it puts your own troubles into perspective.

Whether you’ve been freelancing for for some time or are just starting on your journey, setting aside time for yourself is as critical to your success as helping your clients. When you work for yourself, it’s up to you to make work-life balance a priority.

Related Articles
7 Strategies for a Better Work-Life Balance in the Freelance Economy, Forbes
Here’s Why the Freelance Economy is On The Rise, Fast Company

Why Freelancing Appeals to Older Workers

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It may seem that the gig economy is dominated by millennials, but that may be only partly true. Perhaps their desire for independence and the necessity to make ends meet and pay down student debt necessitated their move toward project work. But increasingly, older adults over age 55 are easing into retirement by taking on short-term gigs and freelancing.

The Economic Policy Institute analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, comparing statistics for independent contractors and freelancers for 2005 and 2017. Older workers over age 55 accounted for 37 percent of all independent contractors in 2017. For those in the 55-64 age group, 22.97 percent were independent contractors, up from 18.8 percent in 2005. For those over age 65, the numbers were similar. The share was 14.1 percent in 2017, up from 8.5 percent in 2005.

Over the same period, the number of total workers employed as freelancers and independent contractors fell slightly – 10.9 percent in 2005 versus 10.1 percent in 2017. So while the pool of independent workers got smaller, the over 55 workers made up a larger percentage of it. And the folks at EPI expect this trend to continue.

So why are older workers gravitating toward freelancing? According to a recent Forbes article, there are several reasons.

1. The barriers to entry is fairly low. That makes it easier to enter the gig economy. Digital platforms like Freelancers Union, Upwork and Flexjobs have made it easy for anyone to tout their skills compared to traditional word-of-mouth methods. All they have to do is complete their profile, talk up their skills then wait to be connected.

However, as simple as all this sounds, there is no guarantee that there will be a suitable connection between the older worker and an opportunity. It’s a passive approach and there’s a lot of competition. It’s easy for their profile and resume to get lost in the pile of applicants.

2. There’s no apparent cap on what they can earn. As a freelancer, older workers can negotiate their rate more readily than if they were hired. This arrangement can appeal to older workers who may be frustrated by age discrimination that they might have faced in the job market.

3. Older workers’ expertise is more valued as freelancer. When companies hire freelancers, they search for the most qualified candidate. They WANT someone that has experience. They don’t want to train a new person or risk possible mistakes. Experience counts, which is why freelancing may appeal to older workers.

4. Attitudes about “idle capacity” are changing. Older workers don’t want to spend their later years doing nothing but gazing out their window and the world rushes by. They want to participate. They want to be productive members of society and do meaningful work. That’s why many older workers are staying in the workforce longer, and why many of them gravitate toward gig jobs and freelancing.

5. Older workers want to remain connected to the outside world. Without a part-time job or a freelance gig, many older workers would feel isolated. By working, they are more engaged with the world. They join groups and form friendships, which give their lives meaning.

If in doubt about the impact of older workers, consider this statistic by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By the year 2020 (next year), one-fourth of the U.S. workforce will be over the age of 55.

Older workers are not going away any time soon. They want to work. They want to share their knowledge and expertise. They want to remain relevant and provide meaningful service in our communities. Many of them are choosing contract work and freelancing as a way to do just that.

Two Surveys Give Differing Perspectives of Freelancing

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What is it really like to work as a freelance professional? It seems many Americans are gravitating toward that kind of work lifestyle these days. According to the 2018 Freelancing in America survey by Upwork, nearly 57 million Americans worked as a contractor or freelancer in 2018, making up roughly 35 percent of the workforce. That percentage is expected to grow to 50 percent by 2027.

In Upwork’s survey, a majority of freelance workers work independently by choice, not out of necessity. While many freelancers surveyed admit they earn less money, they also enjoy better work-life balance (77 percent).

With so many freelance professionals flooding the workforce, it might be helpful to learn more about this independent work arrangement. What is so appealing about working  freelance? What are the pros and cons? What type of work do they do? How do they find clients? What are the benefits and challenges?

A survey by Flexjobs.com of 1,000 flex workers and freelancers provides some valuable insights, including some that are surprising and unexpected.

According to Flexjobs, the typical worker whose freelance work is their sole source of income is a female, generation Xer working in the marketing, editing, writing and creative career fields, primarily for small companies and individuals and juggling two to three clients at one time. She has been freelancing for at least three years and plans to continue freelancing for the long-term.

Interestingly, that conflicts with the Upwork survey, which indicates that Millennials and Generation Z workers are the driving force behind freelance work. I suspect that many of Upwork’s estimated 12 million site users fall into those demographics, while Flexjobs’ users are older, more experienced professionals.

Flexjobs reports that while 45 percent of respondents have been freelancing at least three years, 38 percent have been doing so for less than one year. That’s an awful lot of newbies in the market. Interestingly, that percentage dips to 18 percent for one to two years. My guess is the drop off occurs because the newcomers have decided to return to full-time work or that the first year of freelance was to test the waters.

While most freelancers work in multiple fields, the highest percentage are writers (29 percent) followed by customer service professionals (23 percent) and administrative professionals (21 percent). While writing is still considered a valued skill by employers, it seems they’d rather hire them out on a project basis than full-time.

Roughly 24 percent report that their work is a combination of freelance and employee jobs while 45 percent choose to freelance full-time. While 39 percent of freelancers work between 21 and 40 hours per week, 35 percent work less than 20 hours a week. I suspect those working fewer hours are new to freelancing and have yet to build up a steady client base. Or perhaps they choose to work freelance on a part-time basis.

More than half of respondents said they found gigs through networking (56 percent) and from job sites (47 percent). While you would think large companies would be the source of most assignments, that isn’t the case. Instead, most freelancers work for other individuals (56 percent) followed by small companies (46 percent), and mid-sized companies (30 percent). Freelancers worked for large companies only 17 percent of the time. The takeaway from this is if you want to find work, the best sources will be other professionals or small businesses.

Another surprising tidbit: Three-fourths of freelancers do not have a website to support their freelance business. If your work is good and you perform client assignments well, word gets around. Clients will find you. Don’t underestimate the power of a strong referral. A website may not be as necessary for your long-term freelance success as you might believe.

The biggest benefits of being a freelancer are flexible schedule (84 percent), work-life balance (66 percent), freedom to work where they choose (61 percent) and no commuting (60 percent). The desire to be your own boss was cited the least (49 percent)

The biggest challenges for many freelancers are finding clients, cited by 65 percent, and having a steady income, cited by 64 percent. That’s nothing new. Despite the romanticized view of freelancing, often by traditional employees working 60-hour work weeks, freelancing is hard work. One critic of the Upwork survey and the rosy picture it painted of the freelance industry said this: “People who don’t have to freelance love to romanticize freelancing – the actual truth is that making a living as a freelancer is harder than hard and sucks a ton of the time.”

Bottom line: Not everyone is cut out to be a freelancer or entrepreneur.

Despite the challenges, two-thirds of freelancers in the Flexjobs survey reported a better overall quality of life. Sixty percent said freelancing helped them become healthier, 66 percent are less stressed than when they worked in a traditional job and 59 percent are less financially stressed.

Anyone considering freelancing needs to consider the good, bad and the ugly side of the business. For all its outward glamour, the freelancing lifestyle still requires a lot of hard work just to make half of what you earned in a steady gig. Upwork may boast 12 million freelancers using the site, but only 400,000 of them actually earned money in 2018, says Stephane Kasriel, Upwork’s founder.

“Like any business to be successful, specific competencies are required, and our most successful freelancers are painstakingly aware of what they need to do to remain successful. That means having and investing in the right technical skills. But it also means having the right entrepreneurial skills, the ability to sell, deliver, evolve your skills and keep improving over time,” says Kasriel in a Forbes interview.

Which might explain why so many freelancers and small businesses struggle within the first year. Freelancers don’t think about the extra time and work involved to evolve their skills or to sell their services when they set up shop. It’s important to think about these factors when considering joining the freelance movement.