Become a Freelance Writer — Even if You’re Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Leap into freelancing — even if you’re broke. Makealivingwriting.comI didn’t plan on leaving my job to become a freelance writer with next to no money and my 6-year-old laptop.

I had a 5-year goal to become a “real” writer, but my plans had to change. I was too tired and burned out with my career in addiction services — my stress level reached a point where it started affecting both my physical and mental health.

When I talked about quitting my job to write, people thought I was crazy. Maybe I was. I had less than $500 in my savings account, a house, a car payment, and three kids. My husband was a year into his business and barely turning a profit.

The time seemed anything but right, yet I made it work. My kids didn’t starve, my car wasn’t repossessed, and over a year later, I’m still writing full time.

Here are my tips on how to become a full-time freelance writer without a safety net:

Give yourself time

Once I decided to leave, I gave two months’ notice to my employer. This short timeframe actually worked better for me than the 5-year plan. Five years was too long to spur real action toward my goals.

Knowing I was only two months away from leaving my job forced me into serious planning mode. Procrastination wasn’t an option.

I was going to be out of work — and income — soon. I had to get ready.

Live on less

Since I expected a drop in income, I set out to cut expenses.

I cut satellite TV and switched to a lower-cost phone data plan. Grocery bills were cut with couponing and meal planning. I canned, preserved food, and made my own laundry detergent. Instead of department stores, I shopped at consignment shops. Barter reduced expenses, too — I traded writing services, eggs, whatever I could, to get the things I needed.

I cut my average monthly expenses by about $1,350, which helped us get by.

If you’re serious about starting a freelance career, but your checking account can’t seem to hit four digits, see what expenses you can cut. It’s amazing what you can live without.

Find hidden money

To help make those initial ends meet, I sold things on eBay, from an old iPod to my daughter’s outgrown clothes. I found old savings bonds and turned them in.

Still concerned about unpredictable income, I cashed out my 403(b) and tucked it in a savings account, creating a six-month cushion in case I needed it. I did end up using some of these funds, but not much. (I’m not saying this is the best choice for everyone, but for me, cashing in my retirement fund was the right fit.)

When you want to become a freelance writer and you’re short on cash, look for it in even the most unlikely places — make the things you don’t need work for you.

Go beyond your passions

Before I started freelancing full-time, I’d been writing on topics I was passionate about, and I was naive enough to believe it would continue. But it didn’t.

Instead, I wrote about employee surveys, tendonitis, and even how paint dries (not kidding!). While not the most exciting topics, these assignments paid the bills.

When I start freelancing, I quickly learned that you don’t have to write about your passion to be passionate about writing. Look for writing jobs beyond your immediate interests and a whole range of possibilities arise.

Market your butt off

I was writing for content mills when I quit my job, but I knew that wasn’t my goal.

On days I wasn’t writing, I was marketing. I’d spend six hours sending my best samples to companies I found on job boards. I handed out business cards to everyone I met at my small town’s business expo.

Within two weeks, I had three paying clients. Admittedly, I was only getting $20 an article, but it was better than the content mills were paying, and these jobs gave me the opportunity to gather clips and references, the exact thing I needed to break into better earning jobs.

Quitting your job to become a freelance writer isn’t easy, especially when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, but it is possible. I know, because I did it.

With a little planning and a lot of motivation, you can, too.

How did you make the leap to freelance writing? Tell us in the comments below.

Molly Carter is a freelance writer who specializes in health & wellness, medical, addiction & mental health, sex & relationships, outdoor recreation, and more.

Writing Tips: Join the New Freelance Writer’s Launchpad: A small-group mastermind for new freelance writers. Presented by: Carol Tice & Angie Mansfield. LEARN MORE

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101 comments on “Become a Freelance Writer — Even if You’re Living Paycheck to Paycheck
  1. Karla says:

    I stumbled upon this website and was intrigued by the topic. Soon, I found that I’d read the article and all the posts and replies, because they are inspirational and speak to me. I am not a writer currently and have no formal experience in the field, but like a lot of people who have commented, I am highly burned out from my day job and dream of working at something I feel passionately about. One of the things that holds me back is health insurance. I haven’t heard anyone mention how they manage the costs of decent health insurance. This is a necessity, especially with children. My husband’s company offers minimal quality insurance for high costs, so part of the reason I maintain my job is to ensure this benefit for myself and my children. Do you have any recommendations regarding how you manage this as a freelance writer? Thank you in advance if so!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m glad you asked, because NOT letting the healthcare issue stand in the way of freelancing is one of my big passions. There are many possible solutions, as I’ve written about here: And that post was a year ago, so by now there may be even MORE options.

      Yes, it costs money. I currently pay on the order of $14K a year in premiums. But it’s worth it. I couldn’t imagine still being an employee! (And remember, it becomes a business expense you can write off.)

      Also, remember that with the rise of Obamacare we are all transitioning AWAY from corporate-based to self-selected healthcare anyway. Companies will offer fewer and fewer benefits in future now that healthcare marketplaces exist in each state, so staking your career on that is a bad idea. More companies will be offering perhaps a subsidy for you to choose a plan on your own, and that subsidy will shrink.

      I speak as someone who left a 7-year job with TERRIFIC healthcare benefits. Still, no regrets. I mean, at the end of your life do you want to say, “I worked every day at a soul-sucking job — but at least I had good health insurance?” I’m thinking that’s not what you want on your tombstone.

  2. Lorianne Johnsson says:

    I hate to be a buzzkill, but cutting back expenses isn’t always an option. It certainly isn’t an option for me. I have never made much money so I have always lived very frugally. I don’t have cable and I never go out to eat. I haven’t bought clothes in years and I gave up having my hair done 20 years ago. I have never owned a car. I don’t have stuff to sell or a retirement policy to cash out. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad things worked out for the OP, but saying anyone can do it fails to acknowledge that planning and motivation aren’t always enough. They haven’t been for me.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m definitely not saying everyone out there has expenses to cut — but many do. I’m sure we could all benefit from the frugality habits you’ve picked up over the years! And I never pay to do my hair, either. 😉

  3. Mike says:

    Lovely, helpful and humorous..found this particularly funny “had to make my own detergent” and writing about “how paint dries”. Thanks for the tips and for communicating them in such an engaging manner. Please do you have any book recommendations on how to improve my writing skills? or any of your blog posts that touch on this subject at length? Thanks very much

  4. Martha Mayo says:

    Hi Molly,

    What an informative post!

    Thank you so much for your example of great writing, plus sharing your knowledge and experience.

    Much appreciated:)

  5. Tomi Joshua says:

    Hi, Molly. Great post! I really related to the bit about being passionate about writing even when you’re not writing about topics you’re passionate about. Most times, it’s all about doing whatever is necessary so you can pay the bills.

  6. Joshua says:

    Quitting a full-time job to become a “real” writer can be daunting. Try telling people who you are closely related to that you are quitting your job to start a freelancing business and they’ll give that doubting look that says “Will you really make a living writing?”

    I have no doubt that there are so many people who make a living from freelance writing.

    It’s important to acknowledge that there will be a drop in income so that one knows the expenses to cut.

    Your tips are realistic.

  7. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for your post! I am in a similar situation to the one you described and I am terrified to make this leap! You have helped me find the courage to go for it!

    • Molly Carter says:

      It’s scary, Amy. And there were days in the beginning that I really didn’t know if it was going to work out. But I stuck to it, put my neck out, and didn’t give up just because one (or five) things didn’t work out. Now, I can’t imaging going back to a day job. The idea makes me sick to my stomach. Good luck on your venture!

      • Rhonda says:

        One more comment, if I may? I’m launching my freelance business in May, website and all (glup!). Just from reading a ton of blogs, it seems that in order to make what you need to quit the day job, you need to have ebooks and courses, which appear to be the real income stream that gives you this independence? Is that true, for the most part? Thanks!

        • Carol Tice says:

          Rhonda, that’s so not true. I was earning a full-time living entirely from freelancing for YEARS. And when I say full-time living, I mean $60,000-$100,000.

          Not everyone is cut out to teach, or to self-publish, or deliver courses online, and marketing and actually earning from those things is HARD WORK and extremely time-consuming. Just take a look at my post Wednesday about what I’m doing to launch my current e-book for a sample! I think a lot of experts like to make it seem like it’s a snap, but it’s not.

          Most freelance writers aren’t writing blogs and selling courses — they’re busy serving their clients.

          • Rhonda says:

            That is so good to know, thank you Carol. And by the way, I’m learning tons from your site – I’ve was recently given access into The Den – and feel so much more empowered with the knowledge I’m finding there. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us. It has made me feel even more confident in my abilities – I’m a 20-year career professional at a daily newspaper and I’m extremely burned out. I want to do something for me, now, and I know I’ll enjoy the continued interaction with people who will be clients. I’m slowly finding the best support from career freelancers, and The Den will be a part of that, I’m sure.

            • Carol Tice says:

              I think learning to run your own freelance business NOW, before your paper lays you off because they’re all shrinking, is smart, Rhonda. 😉 Glad the Den is helping you make it happen!

  8. Eva Suwek says:

    Hello, I loved this article! Great advice. You’d mentioned that you looked at job boards – which ones did you use or recommend?

    • Molly Carter says:

      Well, if you’re a member at the Den, the one there is great. I’ve gotten two jobs off of it just this year. Maybe even three? I also scour Problogger and BloggingPro. When I first started, I used FreelanceWritingGigs all the time, but you get a lot of Craigslist ads.

  9. Jeremy says:

    I got into the field after quitting my job as an ESL teacher … launching this career move from SE Asia helped a lot, as living costs are so low that I was living a middle class lifestyle on less than $1,000 per month (in Chiang Mai)!

  10. Lisa K says:

    Great article! What I find truly inspiring but fairly common is the loss of a job becoming the great motivator to finally start pursuing something better! Honestly, love this article!

  11. I should have said that I truly enjoyed your article Molly!

  12. Geri Spieler says:

    Hi Molly: Great inspirational story. You have guts. I’m trying to launch my freelance career. I have on client that is paying me for being her writing coach for her book. I love it and pleased to have her. What I am trying to grow are freelance writing jobs. Sometimes I feel that I’m spending more time “learning” than “doing?” How or when do you flip the switch and how? Everyone seems to have a different idea of how to market.

    • Molly Carter says:

      I did a lot of that too, Geri, until Carol Tice pointed it out to me when I was setting monthly goals. As much as I love to learn, I’ve cut back to only learning one new thing month, whether it’s a bootcamp, workshop, or whatever. While learning is fun and helpful, it’s really just another way to procrastinate.
      So how do you flip the switch? You just start. If you’ve only got one client, than make a commitment to send 15-30 LOIs/Queries a week. Find a few job boards you trust and commit a specific amount of time each week to look there and on LinkedIn for companies that hire freelance writers. Spend a day in a local town or city and go business to business handing out business cards. Attend an expo in a niche you’re interested in and introduce yourself. Don’t allow yourself to do a “learning” activity until you’ve reached your weekly goal. Hope that helps! ~Molly

      • Rhonda says:

        I relate with Geri. I spend too much time “learning” and not enough time “doing.” That’s what I’ve decided to change. Going online from site to site, for some reason I have yet to define, deflates my confidence. I’m pulling back and trying to find three sites I will make a point of visiting regularly. The Den will be one of them when enrollment opens again. It looks like a site that has much of what I need to know right now and down the road when I’m looking to advance my career. I’m not sure about the other two sites yet. I’m open to suggestions (hint, hint).

        • Molly Carter says:

          I think we do that because it *almost* tricks our minds into thinking we’re really working when we’re not. But, as you said, at the end of the day, it doesn’t make us feel productive.
          As far as writing sites, I follow hundreds! 🙂 But the ones I read on a semi-regular basis (because like learning, I have to regulate my reading time or I waste hours a day) are here and the Den, Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Writer, Jon Morrow’s Boost Blog Traffic, Brian Clark’s Copyblogger, and Darren Rowe’s Problogger. You’ll see these names everywhere because they’ve been around, they know what they’re talking about, and they’ve proven what they teach is effective. There’s so many good ones, I feel like I’m leaving them out. I’m also a big fan of the Social Media Examiner, but that’s because I use a lot of social media marketing. The point is, learning and reading blogs is NEVER going to get you the income you want. Only writing and marketing can do that.
          The Den has so much information in it, you can literally spend a year there and not get through it all! ~Molly

        • Carol Tice says:

          Rhonda…the Den is often only open to the waiting list, so be on it if you want to get in!

      • Geri Spieler says:

        Wow. Very helpful advice. Thank you. And, yes, when I posed a similar question to Carol, she said the same thing: Control your time “learning” and don’t let it get in the way of “doing.” Thank you for the tips. They will begin tomorrow morning.

        Again, excellent article and excellent advice.

      • Martha Mayo says:

        Molly, your post really hit home! I love, love the “learning” part of a new adventure. Yet, learning will not begin to bring me any experience, or income, until I add ACTION!

        Thank you for all the great suggestions on how to take action!


  13. Shakeena says:

    I was just making comments about how I intend to write full-time for a living and many people think I’m joking and ask, “why would you want to do that?” or “why would you want to leave your job and work for yourself?” Luckily, it’s not for them to decide.

    Thanks for the article. It couldn’t have come at a better time. 🙂

    • Molly Carter says:

      So glad you gained something from it Shakeena. You’ve got to have guts to go out on your own freelancing, and most people don’t have it. Good luck with your writing! ~Molly

  14. Rhonda says:

    How timely and inspiring. My sister and I have just this week decided to blog – she’s the idea person, I’m the writer. I’ll handle the content and blog design – even the photos! I feel a shiver of excitement when I think about taking this first step – or is that nausea from fear? Sometimes the feeling’s origin blurs. I have a newspaper writer/editor career that is suffering from severe, very severe, burnout and hopelessness. Before I go completely over the edge, I need to take a leap of faith, follow my dream, and recapture my passion. Thank you so much for this article.

    • Molly Carter says:

      Good luck, Rhonda, and congrats on taking the plunge. If I was starting over with my first blog, I’d write a business plan from day one, and treat is as such instead of as a hobby. Just my .02. And I love that you want to recapture your passion. That’s what life’s about! ~Molly

      • Rhonda says:

        I’ve actually decided to do that – seems like I read it in reference to taxes, or something like that, but I decided long ago to treat it as a business from day one. Thanks so much for your encouragement.

  15. Marte Cliff says:

    I’m laughing to myself over all the people whose friends and families want them to get a real job.

    Most of the people I know don’t think I have a real job – and in fact can’t figure out what it is I do or why I can’t drop everything and go somewhere or gab on the phone for an hour – or get on the computer and do research for them.

    I’m just hanging out at home – surely I must have time for whatever they want me to do.


    • Molly Carter says:

      Right?! I get the “You’re a writer? What do you do?”
      Um… I write. And I have family that questions the amount of time I’m the computer. Or my phone. Yet I don’t have games on my phone. I’m researching, responding to emails, updating LinkedIn, something. But whatever it is, I’m not playing Candy Crush!

  16. Ann says:

    *Writer’s, not wroter’s. Silly phone. Grrrreat start, eh? 🙂

  17. Ann says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story! I’m severely underpaid as a copywriter, with the same company for 4 years. I’m at my breaking point: if they thought I was worth more by now, I wouldn’t still be stuck. I think I’m going to set up a timed email of resignation to send two weeks from now, giving me a month to get my freelance on! I’ve started a blog/writer’s website and I have the clips and experience, just need to find some leads! I recently joined the wroter’s den, so I am looking forward to learning a lot.

    • Molly Carter says:

      The Den’s fantastic. I just taught a class on blogging and recommended it to all the students.
      You obviously have the skills, so making the switch shouldn’t be too difficult. Maybe even turn your current employer into a client! And good luck! ~Molly

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ann…do YOU think you’re worth more? Have you considered asking for a raise? I find not much good comes of waiting for clients to get the idea in their heads that they should pay you more. Instead, build your case for all the value you deliver.

      • Ann says:

        Thank you both for your replies! Carol, yes I definitely know I’m worth much more than I’m being paid. I have asked for a raise and have been told “it’s not a good time/it’s not in the budget/you are worth more but we just can’t right now…” They did give me a generic annual adjustment for “cost of living” that everyone gets, based on a percentage of annual salary… I got $900 for the year. I’m underpaid by nearly $20,000 per the averages for my area so it was almost insulting (though I hate to sound ungrateful, of course.) :/ Thanks so much for the mini chance to vent. 🙂

  18. I took a forced leap of faith due to personal issues. I still struggle immensely, but I am not giving up on my dream. My schedule is now very similar to the authors as far as marketing being the key for me.

    I have blocked out over forty hours to work, but if you ask my husband Im addicted to making it succeed and spend much more time. The money might not be free flowing, but I am learning a ton and I will get there.

    • Molly Carter says:

      Hi Nicole, You will get there. The more work, the better the clips, and then the more money you can demand. Remember to avoid the Craigslist ads, as they’re typically looking for the lowest bidder. There’s sometimes I think I work 80 hours a week if you count researching, editing, writing, marketing, bookkeeping, etc. But sometimes I work 20. You’ll find your balance. Keep at it and good luck! ~Molly

  19. Evan Jensen says:

    Hi Molly – Thanks for sharing your experience leaving your day job for freelancing full time. I know I’m at a tipping point where leaving my day job for f/t freelancing is on my mind a lot. Nice to be reminded that it can be done.

  20. Dawn Wooden says:

    I just get giddy reading stories like this one! Just last week, I left my job to dive into a freelance writing career. I have 3 kids in private school, a hefty mortgage, and credit card debt, but I just couldn’t stand NOT pursuing my dream of writing any longer. I, too, will likely be using my small retirement to fund the first few months and will be cutting back wherever I can. I wholeheartedly agree with what you said about a few months being a better plan than 5 years. I’ve been on the 5-year plan since…I can’t remember when. The necessity of replacing an income is great motivation. And don’t even get me started on the naysayers! I was so tired of being afraid of sharing my decision to leave my job that dove in and sent a long mass email to just about everyone I knew announcing my new venture. So for now, I’m putting up with the snide remarks about when my novel will be released and will be happy to send updates about my success when I get there. I have replaced fearful, doubting self-talk with the positive, motivating advice from Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli. There is too much at stake for me to fail, and I am determined to teach my children that it is never too late to pursue a passion. Thank you for sharing your story. It is motivating to know that there are others like me – stepping out in boldness to follow our dreams. A friend recommended the book, The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. I’ve only perused the first chapter so far, but it looks like a great read. Best wishes!

    • Molly Carter says:

      Hi Dawn, and good luck! It is scary, but it can be done. And if you don’t try, you’ll never know. I have people in my life that still, nearly two years later, email and text me when they see jobs that “seem perfect” for me. I smile and remind them I’m a writer. It’s my job.
      My suggestion, get those clips and start sending emails. If you’re part of the Den, utilize it. And congrats for starting on your freelancing adventure. ~Molly

  21. Laurinda B says:

    This past January, I walked away from a 6 figure salary in Corporate America to freelance. I was an engineer/program manager. I’ve been blogging for 7 years. I had savings to cover the first few months – then life happens: needed a new roof. But I’m not letting that deter me.

    I’ve cut all my living expenses back. Even before I quit I knew how much I needed to make to survive, which was half my corporate salary. I’ve been pitching to corporate execs, public speakers and a couple of celebs to ghostwrite their books since December of last year. Last week, phone calls started coming in. I’m hustling like crazy. I haven’t touched the content mills and will not. I’ll go back to Corporate America if necessary, but I believe my hustle will pay off.

  22. Lou says:

    This has come at such a great time. I’m just about to leave my job and go freelance so it’s really great to get these tips now – thanks!

  23. Leslie Dahl says:

    Very encouraging, especially about the need to spend time marketing and being willing and ready to explore outside our ‘passion’.

    Last week I found a job posted by a fairly new business training company. Business is a passing interest but not my ‘passion’—so I thought.

    As I created my pitch, I realized that I actually had considerable experience in business, especially in developing positive customer experience and staff training. Last year I had coached my daughter, who managed 9 gift shops in 2 hotels at the time. In less than a year she turn around the operations at both hotels to become the top locations for the company (staff morale and sales).

    I sent my pitch, but got no reply. So, I created an irresistible email subject line and title, wrote a gripping hook, and submitted an outline for an article. I got a reply the same day asking if I would write 2 articles per month ($50 per article is a good start).

    As Ciaran pointed out in his comments, our passion really is writing and because that is our core motivation, we can learn to write well (even passionately) about anything—and start to make some money.

    Thanks, Molly for a great article. Thanks all who commented. It’s nice to know we’re not alone on our journey.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Love that win story, Leslie! Too many writers send a pitch, don’t get a response…and implode.

      Where you had the CORRECT response — try harder! Keep refining what you’re doing, and write the heck out of your pitches.

    • Molly Carter says:

      Thanks for sharing your success story, Leslie! And for showing how persistence pays off. You’re exactly right about writing being the passion, and how it translates. ~Molly

  24. Lisa says:

    Thanks for writing this encouraging article! I’ve never done any freelance at all, but would love to try it just to pay off some debt. How do I get started??

  25. Great advice! Very inspiring and perfect timing for me! I just left my full-time job last week to focus more energy on my freelance career.

    I was working full-time for a local newspaper, under a ton of pressure to produce and not earning very much in the way of hourly pay. The experience was incredibly valuable, because I learned how to write so quickly and efficiently that I can earn a much higher hourly rate from contract work paid based on content length.

    I’m still writing for that paper, but as an independent journalist. Before I made the switch, I lined up a side hustle blogging for a small business. With only these two gigs, I’m now earning the same monthly salary I was as a full-time reporter, but have an extra 15-20 hours per week to pitch bigger clients!

    I’m excited!

    • Molly Carter says:

      Hi Lauren, and congrats on making the jump! I write quick too, and try to never take jobs that pay by the hour. I’m sure with your journalism background, you won’t have any trouble finding work, especially if you spend those extra hours marketing! Good luck! ~Molly

    • Carol Tice says:

      Local papers pay so little to staffers, I’m not surprised to hear you’ve done better as a freelancer, Lauren.

  26. Debbie Curtis says:

    Great advice,especially how to cut expenses, and canning, freezing, etc. I’ve traded eggs for things, too, and I buy ‘ingredients’, not already prepared food. I’m a school bus driver with one steady
    freelance customer, who had a friend who did my freelance website
    on WordPress for $200, and I owe him a couple writing favors (which he hasn’t needed yet). I took a personal day last Thursday and spent
    4 hours on assignments for my magazine client, and we e-mailed back and forth all morning and got one entire issue finished – it was like being a full-time writer for that day! Loved it! From now until the end of the school year I am absolutely saving every penny (I have a large garden, chickens to butcher, etc.) and going full-time writing this summer. If all goes according to plan, I will not be driving a bus come September. I am soo ready for this, I’ve taken about every class Carol and Linda offer! They rock!

  27. Marte Cliff says:

    Molly – How did you find time to stay at your job for 2 months, care for a husband and three kids, write, market, AND do your own canning, etc.? Perhaps you didn’t sleep?

    When I started I didn’t write for content mills, but I did get a lot of jobs through Most didn’t pay well at all, but they gave me experience, and a few did lead to ongoing work that paid better.

    When I left the real estate field after 19 years I was determined to write for other industries. That worked for a while and I enjoyed getting acquainted with people doing jobs I’d never even thought about. But… somehow I gravitated back to real estate. Now I write for agents all over the U.S. and even in other countries.

    • Molly Carter says:

      I keep busy, that’s for sure! When I turned in my resignation, I scheduled my remaining vacation days so that I had every other Friday off. This gave me the time I needed to figure out what I could. Also the resignation was planned when the kids went back to school, and before harvest hit. 🙂 And isn’t it funny, how sometimes we end up almost where we started? Thanks for sharing. ~Molly

  28. It’s almost like you wrote my story, Molly. I was also burnt out and physically and mentally at breaking point. All my colleagues expressed how brave they thought I was leaving a secure job behind. In fact, I saw envy in their eyes – many said they wished they could do the same thing.

    I, too, cashed out my retirement funds. I knew it was not the best move, but it was the only way I could do it. I needed money to live off while finding my feet. It’s been a tough couple of years, but I got by. I also do house- and pet-sitting as a sideline and that helped get me through many a difficult month.

    I also know what you mean about drastically trimming the fat and cutting out as many unnecessary expenses as you can. It’s amazing how much less we can get by on. When I think back to how much money I was really just wasting in my old 9-5 life… when there’s a set paycheck coming in every month, you don’t think twice about just buying stuff.

    So great to read about someone else who’s journey was similar to mine. 🙂

    • Molly Carter says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Deevra, and glad you could relate. The retirement thing was a big decision, and like you, I knew I probably shouldn’t be doing it, but it seemed like I had to. Not only to help me get through if I needed it, but for the confidence to know that I could get by with no income. That and knowing that if I had to, I could go back to the 9 to 5.
      And it so amazing the money we waste. We still live on less and have more money in savings than ever before, just from the experience of having to live on less. ~Molly

      • Carol Tice says:

        I recently had a writer comment to me that his expenses were ‘set in stone.’ I immediately gave him about 10 different suggestions on ways to save.

        At one point around here, we hauled our own garbage to the dump for a few years to save $50 a month. Seriously! Challenge every bill you’ve got.

        Also, I’d add — look at time banks and swapping hours! You’d be surprised what you can trade for.

    • Carol Tice says:

      As a business-finance writer who’s learned a lot about this area, I am strongly against people cashing out retirement funds…but I gather statistically, the vast majority of people cash out the company 401k each time they change jobs! So it’s not more foolhardy for freelancers to do the same. But seriously, people–don’t you want to retire some day?

      I’m thankful I hung onto my company 401ks when I left my two jobs that offered them. A decade later, there’s a serious chunk of change in there.

      • You are absolutely right Carol. I would not advise anyone to cash out their retirement funds. I have always been someone who transferred my funds from one job to the next, and never used to cash it out.

        But desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. If I had not left my job when I did, I would probably have had a mental breakdown or developed a serious physical illness. At one point I even got Shingles, which is directly related to heavy stress. My body was giving me signs. So I did what I had to at the time. But to everyone else reading, listen to Carol – hang on to your retirement funds!

        • Molly Carter says:

          Totally agree. With both of you. I, too, was at the point of a breakdown. Would go to bed hoping to wake up sick, just so I’d have a reason to not go in.
          It’s so important to keep putting money into retirement, especially when you’re freelancing. We still need to retire at some point! 🙂

        • Carol Tice says:

          Some plans will let you BORROW out and repay the funds without penalty…something to look into.

    • You make a great point, Deevra, that more money isn’t necessarily MORE money (and let us not forget the extra expenses most 9-to-5ers put out for day care, extra travel, looking-good clothes and gadgets, etc.).

      I’d say that most of the principles in this article apply equally to a far more valuable and fairly distributed asset called TIME. The world is full of people who “have no time” to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams–and they may work for salary 50 hours a week or be living off the generosity of family with next to no set commitments–but could find it quickly enough if they made the decision to give up evening television, writing gossipy e-mails, or waiting in coffee shop lines.

      As someone mentioned in a networking group just this morning: taking several weeks off just to “plan your future” without a definite schedule for that planning, is like thinking you can spend a million-dollar inheritance sensibly without a budget. Either way, the mere fact of resources LOOKING unlimited actually hampers productivity by encouraging a halfhearted attitude.

      • Molly Carter says:

        So true on all your points Katherine. Although it’s cliche, there’s true to “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

        And if this adventure’s taught me anything, it’s that life isn’t about things, and when you let go, you soon realize that living on less is way more gratifying than always striving for more.

  29. Ciaran McEneaney says:

    Totally right about the passion thing.

    I found myself writing about some really tedious stuff and really enjoying it. I got a real kick out of working in weird analogies or a bit of wit here and there. It really surprised me actually as I never thought I enjoyed writing so much until I wrote about stuff I had no interest in.

    Crazy coincidence the hidden money thing. I’ve just gone a bit nuts this last month selling everything and anything that wasn’t nailed to the floor of my house. You really don’t realize how much money is just lying around your house until you look for it.

    • Molly Carter says:

      Hi Ciaran. I’m a nerd at heart, so I love learning. And when you’re a writer, you’re constantly learning about new things. It makes me totally geek out and is one of the reasons I love it.
      It is nuts, the amount of money we have in stuff. Just stuff, laying around, gathering dust, and making clutter. Sell it! That’s what I say. ~Molly

      • Carol Tice says:

        My husband has a shocking cache of photography equipment that he keeps SAYING he’ll unload — I hope he does, because I’m betting there’s a small fortune sitting around here in that.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Exactly — if you fall in love with the challenge of making weird/dull topics a great read, you build some terrific writing skills. And you’re going to earn well. 😉

  30. Williesha says:

    Well, my safety net was my husband, but we had only been married a week! LOL I lost my job and was forced to get started. Used Facebook networking groups to find clients. I still do sometimes!

    • Molly Carter says:

      Hi Williesha, and thanks for sharing your strategy. I’ve never tried the networking groups on Facebook, but it’s definitely something I’ll look into.

      And what an exciting way to start out your life together! Nerve-wracking, I’m sure, but something you’ll never forget. ~Molly

  31. I recognise so much from this great post! I also left a very well paid job (for a number of reasons, but stress and burnout played a large part), and wrote for content mills to make ends meet. I’ve written on all kinds of weird and wonderful things (The Export Market for Manganese Ore in Ghana?!).

    Last year I decided to quit the content mills for good, and although it took a while, I’ve finally done it! I have a couple of regular clients, but I know I need to do lots of marketing to get more.

    It’s really encouraging to see that you’ve managed to succeed – this post has motivated me to try harder!

    • Molly Carter says:

      Hi Elizabeth, and great job getting out of the content mills. The mills drag you down and can make you second guess freelancing. But once you break free, it’s like you can breathe again. And have money to eat! Marketing is the key. The more you do it, the better gigs you get. Good luck! ~Molly

  32. Linda says:

    This is encouraging Molly. I’ve been wanting to break out of the field I’m in, even though I’m freelance, and over into more lucrative gigs. I’ve written for several magazines, but made a pittance, and then landed a writing position where I became a generalist. All my varied past experience was a great contributor, and I’ve done well, but I got lax and am back where I was when I worked for Corporate America. It’s time to market my butt off, find that hidden money and get going. I have not doubt I’m an excellent writer, it’s just getting my head out of my backside long enough to get the good gigs and make better money. And write the things I want to write–case studies, ghostwriting, white papers. I’ve got a lot of potential ledes, I just need to get the lead out and hook them.

    Thanks for your motivator. It’s another boost to get me going. Great post, Molly.

    • Molly Carter says:

      Thanks Linda, and great job getting out there with the leads. I know one of my biggest problems freelancing is becoming complacent when I’m busy. I’ll slack on marketing. I’ll slack on watching for potential new clients. And suddenly, I realize I haven’t worked with anyone new in months and have to put my nose back to the grindstone. Good luck getting those hooks! ~Molly

  33. Cynthia says:

    So true! When I started out 3 years ago, I too wrote on everything from plumbing to diapers to cigarettes. Geez, I even wrote for a company that sold weed! The best thing about writing beyond your passions is that you become able to write on anything, which is a skill that I find so valuable. I’m in a better position now but I really learned from those random gigs I took up during my initial years. Great post, Molly 🙂

    • Molly Carter says:

      Thanks, Cynthia. And you’re right. Writing beyond my comfort zone has probably improved my writing more than anything else. Keep up the good work! ~Molly

      • Carol Tice says:

        I’ve written about everything from surety bonds to advanced washing machine technology. If you have a natural curiosity to learn new stuff, and how things work, it can take you far in business writing.