Friday, January 25, 2013

Augmenting Your Freelance Income

Basically there are three avenues to pursue to keep your freelance financial picture sunny: diligence in negotiating the best freelance deals, scouting for sources of augmenting that income from time to time, and adding secondary sources of income to the overall financial setup.

The prime ingredient in the discovery of funds to supplement income is your own ingenuity. People in other businesses have advantages you don't. They can, like the publisher of the magazine you write for, apply to numerous people to raise capital: customers, suppliers, insurance companies, banks, employees, other companies, venture-capital firms, investment bankers, and governments. If your business is a sole proprietorship, as is that of most freelancers, you don't have those options. The ability to get credit depends on your personal reputation. Third parties cannot invest in the business without incurring responsibilities for business debts as well. That usually means you have to rely on relatives or very close, good friends, which often isn’t a good idea.

If you’re thinking of getting a loan from your bank to tide you over, think again. In most cases, banks do loan small businesses money for operating capital or improvements, but freelance writing isn’t generally one of them. In fact, most banks don’t really consider you a small business. Plus, the loans they make to small businesses usually start at $50,000 or more.

An alternative to borrowing the money is applying for a grant. The pros and cons of public funding of writers are as numerous as the writers who do or do not get the grants. Living from grant to grant is much like living from paycheck to paycheck. The truth is that once you get on the grant merry-go-round, it’s hard to get off. Some writers actually write less and less the more they skipped from one grant to another since   it's easier to get a second and a third grant after you've got that first one. But getting that first grant can be a real challenge.

While there certainly are lots of grants out there, matching up their requirements to your situation is difficult. Let’s face it, if you want someone to give you money, you’ll need to fulfill their requirements. Also, one mistake on a grant application and you’re out. In fact, you may find writing a grant application harder than the writing you normally do. Grantors look for many things, least of which is good writing. For many writers, the chore of getting the grant in the first place may be more than it's worth. Searching for “writing grants” online will yield many sources.

Trying for prizes, on the other hand, may not be such a bad idea. If you have a novel on the back burner or if you write in a specialized field—travel, science, business, etc.), you may qualify for annual prizes given by a variety of organizations, some of which come with a cash award, no strings attached. Many prizes, even if they don't carry a cash award, will eventually help line your pockets, since the prestige of winning can be a feather in your cap and portfolio. If you do win a prize or receive an honor, milk it for all it’s worth. If you think you have a chance, take the time to fill out the forms and send in the required material.

Get creative when thinking up ways to bring in additional income. Perhaps you have an extra room in your house that you can rent out to a college student, or if times are especially tough, consider taking in a roommate or housemate to help meet your bills. You could also rent out equipment you have that you use only once in a while. Post notices everywhere, locally and online.

Lastly, consider selling items on eBay. While selling one or two items won’t bring in much, you could set up a sideline business selling items in a particular category such as collectibles. To do this successfully, you’ll have to set aside time to purchase inventory and pack and ship the things you sell. This will eat into your writing time, but money is money, no matter how you earn it.

If you look around you may find you have that other sources of income, no matter how small, that would help relieve the strain on your business budget.

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