Diana Kelly Levey

The Most Common Freelancing FAQs

Two people sitting with a laptop.

September 6, 2022

As a freelance writer, I get a lot of questions from friends and strangers when they find out what I do for a living. I thought I’d share some of the silly and serious freelancer FAQs I get about being a freelance writer, freelancing while working from home, whether all writers are struggling financially (um, no!), and the best time to make the leap to full-time freelancing–whether you’re a beginner freelance writer who’s just getting started or a seasoned side hustle freelancer looking for freelance help to take your business to the next level and earn $100 an hour freelancing.

Once you have these freelancer faqs answered, check out my freelance writing tips.

Common Freelancer FAQs Answered by an Expert

  1. Freelancer FAQ: Do freelancers work in their pajamas all day?

Nope. I wake up and change into workout clothes or shower and change into workout clothes in anticipation of possibly working out. Depending on what I have planned for the day, I’ll put on jeans or pants with a waistband. I find it helps me get into “work mode” to have a morning routine that sets me up for a productive day. (Psst: Making sure your jeans still fit is crucial when you don’t want to gain weight working at home.) 

That being said, no judgment on what you’re wearing while you freelance. The work you do and your commitment to it is more important than what you wear while working.

  1. Freelancer FAQ: How much do freelance writers make daily?

Yes, people ask freelancers all the time, “How much do freelancers make?” (And no, I don’t ask that person their salary in turn.) In all honesty, I make more money freelance writing than I ever did when I worked full-time on staff at magazines. In this freelance writing blog post I share the daily rate goal I had for myself at that time a few years ago. This post shares what I did to become a six-figure freelancer for the past few years. These days (2022) I don’t worry about a daily rate but aim to earn an annual six-figure salary while working less than 20 hours a week. I’m able to do that by working with higher-paying clients and setting hourly freelance rates that help me achieve my goals.

As a freelancer, time is your most valuable asset. Make sure you use it wisely.

  1. Freelancer FAQ: Do you sit on the couch and watch TV all day?

I usually watch  TV shows while checking and responding to emails in the morning while my kids are getting their days started. Before having kids, I used to occasionally watch TV in the middle of the day when I’m not working but it’s rare and I usually would feel kind of guilty, like I should be doing something else.  I find that going on a walk while listening to a freelance podcast helps me feel rejuvenated and creative. The exercise and break often helps me come up with new article ideas.

If watching TV or doing something passive and enjoyable helps you take a much-needed break from work that leaves you feeling refreshed, go ahead! I find that when I’m procrastinating writing something, I often need a little break. (And yes, naps help, too!)

  1. Freelancer FAQ: Do I need to have a college degree to be a freelance writer?

I don’t think freelancers need a college degree, a graduate degree, or even a degree in a writing or communications field. In fact, I think high schoolers and college students can make great freelancers and enjoy some supplemental income while gaining valuable experience freelancing.

I do think you need to have a solid command of the English language and grammar (or whatever language you will be offering freelance work in) or a willingness to learn these skills in order to become a successful freelance writer for an English-speaking outlet. (If you want to get started as a freelance writer and are short on time, check out my weekend freelance writing course on Teachable.)

  1. Freelancer FAQ: How do I get published if I don’t have any clips?

This question on how beginner freelancers can get published if they don’t have experience or freelance article examples comes up a lot and it’s a bit of the chicken or the egg dilemma. Editors and potential clients will want to see your writing samples before they give you work to do, but, you can start writing on your own and show samples of the types of articles you would write on your blog. Practice writing the type of freelance work you plan to do, whether that’s SEO article writing, copywriting, blogging, service journalism, or something else. You can even put these articles behind a wall that a client can access when you give them permission if you aren’t ready for the world to see your work.

Learn how to get started freelancing even  if you have no experience with the tips in this e-Book.

  1. Freelancer FAQ: Can I be a stay-at-home mom and be a freelance writer?

I say yes! Why not? Or a stay-at-home dad. I’m a mom to two little kids and a fur baby who scaled her freelance business in recent years working about 10 to 15 hours a week. Some of the moms who are able to work from home as freelance writers told me that they hire babysitters to take care of their children while they’re working and either go work in a  room with a door or leave their home in order to take work calls and get writing done. Feel free to reach out if you have questions about working from home as a parent and freelancing! I’m always pivoting and needing to find new ways to be flexible with my business and life as a mom but learning new hacks each day on how to make it work.

Don’t underestimate what freelancers can get done in 15 minutes to build your business.

  1. Freelancer FAQ: How do freelancers get paid?

I wish I could say I get paid direct deposit from every client as soon as I turn in my article, but that’s not the case. Some freelance clients pay me via PayPal, others via Bill.com, some pay directly into my bank account, and others via a check in the mail. As a freelancer, it’s important to have a solid savings safety net in place because it can take months to get paid for your assignment sometimes. (I address the money decisions you should make before going full-time freelance in this blog post.)

It’s not necessarily the editor’s fault when payment is late; paperwork could get lost in the accounting and/or administrative departments. Make sure you know when you can submit and send an invoice, and how long it takes to get paid and note it in your accounting system. I use Google sheets to keep track of assignments, freelance due dates, invoices out, and invoices paid. It’s simple but it works for me. (Check out the best apps for writers here.)

Some print magazine clients won’t submit an invoice until a magazine hits newsstands–a few months out–and then it could take 45 days to see your payment appear. I had one client that assigned stories about seven months out from the issue’s on-sale date, and then they didn’t pay until two months after it appeared on the newsstand. That’s nearly a year. I liked working with them, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth that ridiculous wait. (While I was earning $1 a word, the assignments were only 300 words so waiting nine months for $300 felt mentally draining at times. ) That first payment from a new client taking forever is one reason why I suggest freelancers don’t take one-off assignments.

  1. Freelancer FAQ: How do I decide where to pitch a freelance article idea?

Many of my freelance students have a ton of ideas but they’re not sure of where they can get published.  Knowing where to pitch an idea is more complicated than it looks, but, simply put: do your research. Spend time determining the best outlet for your idea and write a pitch that editors want to assign. (Check out these magazine article pitch examples that sold!)

I help students focus on the best magazine or website to pitch their article idea to in my course or with one-on-one coaching. This blog on how to find editors’ names to pitch to is one of the most popular freelance writing blogs on my site. (For examples of winning article pitches that got sold, check out my PDF “20+ Pitches That Worked.”)

  1. Freelancer FAQ: Should I quit a job I hate to go full-time freelance?

No! Don’t jump ship and quit to freelance if you don’t have experience, clients lined up and on retainer, unless you are a trust-fund baby.  People tell me all the time that they want to quit their jobs because they hate what they’re doing, they don’t like their boss, they’re bored, they hate their commute, and they think freelance writing and working from home in their pajamas and not answering to a boss will be the answer. (As many of you learned while working from home during the pandemic, working from home has its benefits but isn’t as enjoyable as it looked from the outside.)

I love being a freelance writer and I want you to be able to earn a great salary freelancing and doing work you love. But, it took me nearly a decade to make the leap to do this full-time and be able to make a living in NYC on a freelancer’s salary. (Check out my freelance coaching services for one-on-one help and guidance to earn a higher freelance income.)

If you want to get started freelance writing, start it as a side hustle.

  • Make sure you don’t mind sitting in front of a laptop by yourself for hours, and that you have the discipline to send out pitches all the time — it’s called freelance marketing. 
  • Remember that you’re writing for clients. Writing for yourself for fun is much different than writing for clients. (Learn how to find higher-paying freelance clients.) You have to deliver what they want and keep doing revisions until it’s the way they want your article to look. Sometimes they will assign you articles that are extremely boring. Or complicated. Or they don’t know what they want until you submit the article and your copy isn’t it. All of the writing you do won’t be glamorous and exciting and feel emotionally fulfilling at all times. It’s work.
  • Filling out paperwork for clients and following up on invoices is also very tedious.
  • You also have to be comfortable marketing and selling yourself. (Marketing myself led to $10,000 worth of work one summer.) Promotion of your work, networking, and staying on top of (and frankly ahead of) the latest trends and topics is a part-time job in itself. That’s why it sometimes pays to freelance for a niche.
  • Bottom line: Do it if you’ve been freelance writing for a year at least a year, are making close to your salary already and have a few months of living expenses saved up.

10. Freelancer FAQ: How much do freelancers pay in taxes?

Ahh taxes, the bane of many freelancers’ existence (other than clients that don’t pay!). I’m not an accountant or tax expert so I recommend you find one if you’re freelancing to answer your freelancer FAQs for taxes. Some quick and dirty advice (for Americans) if you’re new to freelancing and curious about your taxes:

  • Set aside at least 30% percent of your gross earnings for taxes throughout the year.
  • Get help with business write-offs for your taxes. Many of your expenses (electric bill, rent/mortgage, internet, subscriptions) can be a partial write off if they help your freelance business. Write-offs mean you get to pay the government less in taxes. It doesn’t mean you should spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need because they are “write-offs.”
  • Establish a business checking account and credit card.
  • Pay estimated quarterly taxes after your first year.
  • Be prepared to pay all kinds of taxes you didn’t expect while freelancing depending on where you live–and where your clients are based.
  • If you can afford to contribute to a 401K, do that (and throughout the year), it should help with the taxes you owe and you’re paying your future self so you can retire.
  • If you’re having a wildly successful year and it’s only June, talk to your accountant about possibly adjusting your estimated taxes.

Check out this tax tips for freelancers guide for more information you might want to bring up to your accountant.

Here’s what seasoned freelance writers wish they knew when starting out.

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