By Susan Gilbert
For the past 4+ years, I have run a successful freelance writing business from my home. In late 1992, I had just moved to the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. My oldest son was 4-1/2 and son number two was 10 days old. After taking about 9 months off, I decided it was time to get busy. When son #1 went off to Kindergarten, I found a sitter 3 days a week for son #2 and I went into business providing writing services for area companies. My background included work as an account executive at a public relations firm and work at a writing company, plus I had a Masters degree in communication. I knew there was work out there, I just had to go get it.
I had no business contacts, so I started making calls and sending direct mail letters. Within two months, I had work. A strong sales letter has been my main method of marketing. If I meet with someone, I take a portfolio of my writing samples. I also put together a brochure, but I don't use it too often. My main challenge has been letting people know I'm available to them. Then the business seems to follow.
Most of my projects are of the marketing-communications type, i.e., newsletters, ads, direct mail, brochures, annual reports, sales materials, journal articles, etc. I try to carry one or two newsletters for steady income. I've worked with one-person businesses as well as some of the largest corporate clients in the area. Each company has different needs. Some have writers who are overworked and need help. Some have no writer and can't really justify creating a writing position because writing projects are sporadic. A qualified freelance writer can fill these niches. The high hourly rate that a writer can charge (anywhere from $25 - $100/hr. depending on your location), makes this a worthwhile part-time business.
As far as working from home goes, I feel you really have to treat this as a business, not a hobby. My clients don't always know that I work part-time. They want to be able to reach me at any time, and they don't want to hear little voices in the background. I have e-mail, a fax, and the phone service that lets people leave voice mail even when I'm on the phone. I've gotten by with one phone line so far, but it is a different number from my personal line, and has a special ring. This is very helpful when I'm home with the kids!
For child care, I've used sitters who watch children in their homes. If you're going to write, you need some quiet time! Some writers have sitters come in, but that's not for me. Other writers try to get by with no sitter, and write during naps and at night, but I like to have official "office time." My favorite schedule is to work Monday, Wednesday, Friday. It takes some juggling, but works fairly well. I have since had a third child who is now 2-1/2. She and her 5-year-old brother go to pre-school, so I don't have the full day of sitting that I used to, but I view all of that as temporary. If I want to take on more work once they reach school age, I will.
Overall, business has been quite good for me. The business world is always looking for good freelance writers.