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  Lesson 1: Why Start Freelancing?

Why do you want to be a freelance writer?

The first step to advancing your career is one of the hardest. So congratulations! You’ve taken the leap to a creative, exciting, and hopefully lucrative future as a freelance writer.

Since you like to write, keep a notebook handy during this course so you can jot down ideas. A dedicated folder on your computer will also be helpful as we work through the lessons.

You might be thinking, Why do I need to identify the reason I’m taking this course? I already know: I want to say I’m a writer! I want to make money!

To paraphrase personal finance expert and get-out-of-debt guru Dave Ramsey, You have to identify why you’re doing something.”

That’s because when the going gets tough—and it will—you need to remember why you started this journey and why you’re doing this.

You’ve invested money in this course because you want to change something and learn new skills.

Here are some common reasons why people tell me they want to be a freelance writer (or a freelancer in general):

  • They’ve always wanted to be a writer.
  • They want to make money on the side.
  • They want to see their byline in their favorite magazine or on their favorite website.
  • They want to work from home in their pajamas.
  • They want to travel the world and work from anywhere.
  • They want to spend more time with their families.
  • They want to eventually quit their jobs and commutes and support themselves with their own business.
  • They want to be their own boss.
  • They want to share stories and help people improve their lives with articles.
  • They want to be home with their kids.

These are great reasons, but it’s important to get specific about your why and identify your goals as a freelance writer.

Give yourself a few minutes to really think about your whys, and write them down.

Go back to this list on days you’re feeling frustrated with the writing process.

When I was starting out, writing articles for my college alumni magazine and short blog posts for an e-commerce site called Groomsonline.com, my rates weren’t that impressive, but I didn’t care. I loved that I was writing about new topics, making new connections, honing my interview skills, and simply writing and getting paid for it. Those factors alone felt good. I’d set goals such as making $500 to pay for summer vacation. I started a simple website early in my writing career, and I recommend you do too.

Getting experience and making money on the side were my whys early on when I started freelancing, but they changed a few years later—and that’s OK. With magazine layoffs mounting, building up my freelance writing portfolio and working with new editors made me feel like I was reinforcing myself, like bracing my home for a hurricane. When I got laid off from a magazine job in 2013, I was nervous and scared. But I also thought, Thank goodness I’ve been freelancing for all these years. I’m going to see if I like full-time freelancing. And I did.

Your whys might change too. The industry is changing, as is the labor economy. Some surveys estimate that by 2020, 40 percent of the American workforce will be independent contractors, including freelancers and temporary employees. This is a great time to start your freelance career, so you’ll be prepared for changes.

What do you need to get started? We’ll discuss that in the next lesson.