Freelance writing changed my life — I make no bones about that. What began as an experiment in 2010 after relocating for my then-husband’s job (a “hmm, I wonder if I can turn this into something that brings in more than I made in my last job” experiment) became my lifeline when that marriage imploded and I was left picking up the pieces while caring for my very first newborn. And then it became my lifeline again with the shocking end to my second marriage, this time with FOUR kids in tow.
I’ve freelanced as a kid-less at-home wife, while an underemployed nonprofit employee, as a single mom with no childcare, as a married/pregnant mom of kids who aren’t yet old enough for kindergarten, as the full-time provider with the stay-at-home dad, and as a single mom of four kids 10 and under with a nanny. There are probably more iterations and ways to organize a family, but I think I’ve pretty much covered all the big ones.
Suffice it to say, I know a thing or two about why being a freelance writer is an ideal way for at-home moms to bring in some income.
These are just some of the reasons why I love — and teach — freelance writing for at-home moms.
1. It lets you put your smarts to work for the highest good of the family
These days I run a multiple-six-figure “one person copywriting agency,” but previously I spent a lot of years as an at-home mom with tiny kids. And before aaallllllll of that, I picked up a bachelor’s degree in journalism from one of the top j-schools in the country, an IB diploma and some pretty decent SAT scores, and a curious work history that involves lots of time with nonprofits in three different states and zero time in “real jobs” (the way most people think of real jobs, anyway).
Fear held me back from really using my smarts, for a looooong time. But when the necessity became bigger than the fear, guess what won? The smarts.
Freelance writing was — and still is — fantastic because I get to learn about all kinds of topics I would never know about otherwise — and I get paid to do so. What’s even better is the fact that I’ve been reading and writing about some of these topics so much that my effective hourly rate for all that writing can easily soar upward of $300/hr with client work.
This is a true win-win-win — I get paid to use my skills and expertise, my clients get to have solid, valuable copy, and my family gets the benefit of me being home with them. Even if your hourly rate isn’t as high as mine, it can still make a HUGE different for your family. In fact, I recommend that new writers aim for an effective hourly rate of $50 at the very minimum. Not bad, eh?
PLUS, if you plan on going back to work at some point, your resume stays active. So yeah, there’s that too.
2. It gives you an outlet when there aren’t always easy outlets
My freelance writing colleagues have all kinds of backgrounds. Some of them began as casual bloggers who picked up traction and eventually began getting paid to write for other blogs. Others decided they hated their jobs and deliberately set out to replace that income with freelance writing work as b2b copywriters and whatnot. A few people I know in these circles looked into freelancing because of health issues that prevented them from being able to hold down a “regular job” but they still had something to contribute (and also bills to pay). And still more started freelancing because they were at home and had various needs and desires to meet (things like money, stimulation, adult interaction, and an identity outside of mom-mom-mom-mom-mommy-mama-mooooommm).
No matter the primary driving force, freelance writing has been the resoundingly successful answer for many, many at-home moms. Are you the next one to join our ranks?
3. The pay is completely legitimate… as long as you follow legitimate advice
If you ask most “experts,” they’ll tell you to get your start on bidding sites like Fiverr and Upwork.
If you ask this expert right here, those sites are (generally) a terrible place to start. The pay is awful, the clients tend to be awful, and you won’t really get anywhere.
**A caveat: I am starting to come around to Upwork, as long as you are strategic. There seems to be a way to use Upwork to your benefit if you do it well. And no, I can’t help you with that… but Daniel Throssell can. (This is not an affiliate link, but if you use it to join his email list — which I HIGHLY recommend — he’ll know I sent you and I’ll get brownie points, ha.)
Here’s what you need to know about sites like Upwork and Fiverr (and freelancer.com, and People Per Hour, and all the rest): the vast majority of people who hire workers on those sites are out to get the cheapest writers they can find. I know, because I hang out with “online entrepreneurs” all the time, and they’re constantly talking about how and where to find cheap writers, graphic designers, and more.
When you join up with one of these sites, you aren’t seen as a service provider, which is what you are. Instead, you become a commodity… and not a valuable one, either. You won’t be treated fairly on those sites, and you’ll end up wasting a lot of time doing work for impossible-to-please clients who don’t care about you. There is a better way.
Take my advice: avoid those sites. They are the actual worst. Check out a few of the best blogging job boards instead. Need recommendations? Check out ProBlogger, MediaBistro, and Journalism Jobs.
Learn how to pitch. Learn how to reach out to your personal contacts. Find ways to contact potential clients directly. Build rapport with your freelancing colleagues. This is how you start a freelance writing “side hustle” that pays you fairly from the beginning. (This is also what I teach in Booked-Out Writer, in case you’re interested.)
4. The barrier to entry is low
One of the things I love about being a freelance writer is that the barrier to entry is extremely low. You don’t need a degree in this stuff. You don’t need fancy training if you’re willing to learn on your toes (though it’ll help you get traction faster). You don’t have to have a dedicated landline, an office door that shuts, and specific hours you must be available.
You basically just need a simple website, a tiny bit of know-how, and some gumption. Know-how and gumption don’t cost money, and you can get a good-enough website up and running for less than the cost of dinner and then just a few dollars a month after that. Totally stuck on the tech stuff? Do yourself a favor and use Wix. You can always move to WordPress or somewhere else later.
Now, let me be clear: buying some helpful resources like a class, coaching, or even a book will help you leapfrog into higher pay brackets quickly, but they absolutely aren’t a requirement. Plenty of scrappy mamas have been able to get started with next to nothing. You can do it, too, if that’s your style.
Barrier to entry doesn’t get much lower than that, at least not for many of us in the Western world.
5. You can do it from anywhere, at any time, and you control your schedule and workload
So…that subhead pretty much says it all, but I’ll expand a little. When you’re a freelancer, you’re bound by deadlines but you aren’t bound by any kind of set working hours. If you have an assignment due at 5pm on Tuesday, it doesn’t matter when (or where) you write it as long as you turn it in on time.
And when it comes to deadlines, you’re in charge of how many you take on at any given point. If you want to go on vacation, you can just not accept deadlines that week. If you’re feeling a little pressed for time, you can cut down on your workload and not send new pitches. If your kids start delaying bedtime by 2 hours, you can stop planning on evening work hours and start getting up in the morning before the little goobers. (Speaking from experience on that last one.)
Find a topic unbearably boring? You can stop writing about it. Prospective client doesn’t treat you respectfully? “It looks like I’m not the right writer for you. All the best.” Cutting back from 3 posts a week to 2? “My business has shifted and I need to reduce the number of posts I’m sending you. Can we drop down to 2 per week?”
That’s the beauty of freelancing. You’re in control.
Further thoughts on why freelancing is great for at-home moms
I’ll be totally frank and say that freelance writing isn’t right for everyone. But if you’re reading this and thinking that it might be worth a try, then I will come right alongside you, squeeze your hand, and help you make the leap.
In my experience, the people who can really do well with freelance writing are the people who read about it — and that’s you. It doesn’t “speak to” people who would be a terrible fit. If you feel this tugging at you, then keep reading here on the blog. Better yet, hop into my Facebook group and start asking questions. It’s a warm, supportive community in there. And if you’re totally ready to start and you just need a writing portfolio, you might be interested in Clips Camp!