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Two Minute Tips

The business of freelancing

January 15, 2019

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To be successful in freelancing, it’s important to treat it like a business. (Photo by Pixabay user rawpixel)

If you want to freelance for a living rather than a hobby, it’s essential to treat it as a business. The tips below will help you get in the right mindset and start taking steps that’ll get you there.


When you’re first getting started, you may need to retain a part-time job. Or you might need to juggle different types of freelancing.

For example, you may run social media for a local business or do content marketing in a certain area while covering a different beat as an independent journalist. Just make sure to avoid conflicts of interest or to disclose them when avoiding them isn’t possible.

Diversifying might include creating different types of content, too, which is where your podcasting or video skills may come in handy, or where you might want to dust off your digital camera or brush up on your infographic skills. Or, you might want to teach classes or give workshops to adults in some of the skills you have from which they could learn.

Track Your Time and Pay

Treating freelancing as a business includes paying close attention to how you’re making your money.

While it’s tempting to look at how much a site or publication is paying per post or article or even per word, it’s smarter to start tracking pay per hour. A publication that pays a dollar a word or more may end up paying less per hour than a site with more modest pay.

Of course, an individual article might require more interviews, research and revisions than another for the same site, but paying attention to pay per hour will eventually allow you to negotiate for higher pay for material that will take more time.

Get a Contract

A contract is sometimes an official one you sign (and get countersigned) on HelloSign or a similar app, or it could be a simple email to your editor stating that you understand from your phone call that you are writing a blog post of X words by X date for X pay, with a response on the thread from that editor. It’s good to have one on hand in case you do have to take a client to small claims court.

Send Invoices and Reminders

Make sure to invoice every site you write for. You can make your own invoices or use some of the invoicing apps, many of which are free for certain types of payments.

Don’t be afraid to follow up if you haven’t been paid in accordance with your contract. Some websites have accounts payable departments that you can contact in addition to your editor.

Stop Working for Anyone Who Owes Payment

If a company hasn’t sent payment in a set amount of time, it’s okay to wait until they do before committing to another article, post or project. It’s worth communicating with other writers to see whether they’ve also had similar experiences with the publication in question.

If you don’t know other writers you can check in with about a specific publication, searching on social media, freelance boards or newsletters, or sites like Who Pays Writers can be a good idea.

If a publication doesn’t pay after multiple requests, phone calls, and even an invoice sent via certified mail, it may be worth going to small claims court (or collections); more on that in my next post.

Promote Your Own Work

Don’t be afraid to share your own work on social media, include it on your website or in your newsletter (if you have one), and send a link to people you’ve interviewed so they can consider promoting it to their network. Staying on people’s radar can help you with future sources and assignments, too.


  • Yael Grauer

    Yael is an investigative tech reporter covering privacy and security, digital freedom, hacking, and mass surveillance. Yael currently works at Consumer Reports as a tech journalist and the content lead of CR Security Planner. She has freelanced for m...

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