The Train



It’s moving so fast…

How will I ever catch it?

I’ve been running so long…

I don’t remember…

when I left the station.

Was there a station?

It seems…

it’s always been…


the train…

the landscape.

Everything rushing by.

Tracks running through the open country…

going on forever…

and me…


never able to catch it.

Keeping pace…

but never catching up.

Always alongside…

never close enough to jump aboard.

Always running…

just to maintain.



I tripped.

I fell.

My falter…

so ill-timed!

It was at that moment

the train

came to a halt.



running to get up and on,

I felt my heart sink

as it started up again…

and pulled away…

just as I got going again.

So close…

but still…



Other times,

it slowed…


I stumbled…

and was…

unable to catch it,

even then.


Still running…

Can I keep this up…


So exhausting…

So monotonous…



I fall again.

This time…

I can’t get up.




Beating the ground with my fists,

I lift tear-filled eyes

to watch the train

pull forever out of reach.


it’s there.

It has stopped.


I dare not move.

I dare not hope.

Rising to my feet

will only make it start up again…

start the running again.

I lay there.

I look.

I wait.

I wonder.


In my stillness…

I see a figure…

like that of a man…

fill the door frame of the nearest car.

His wave

beckons me come.

I stand.

No energy to run…

I stumble…

broken and tired…

to the train.

I reach the figure,

who is holding out his hand.

I look,

and finally recognize his face.

“Come aboard,”

he tells me,

“I’ve been waiting for you a while.”


“Waiting?” I ask,


all the running…

I’ve been trying to get here…

for so long.

If you wanted me aboard,

why didn’t you…

stop the train?

Why didn’t you…

wait for me?”

“Ah, yes…

the running,”

was his reply,

“I am so glad you stopped.

All this time,

the train has been keeping pace…

with you.

The faster you ran…

the faster it went.

I’ve been trying to keep up…

with you.

I wasn’t willing…

to let you get away.

I had hoped the obstacles

I put in your path

would make you slow down.

You did stumble.

Once you even fell.

But, you simply got back up…

and started running again.


you’ve stopped.


the train has stopped.


My Father is conducting,

and he is simply waiting

for you to climb aboard,

and he will take us on.

He knows exactly where we should stop

and when.

He has prepared for us…

a magnificent adventure.


Come aboard…

and feast with me in the dining car.

Come aboard…

and delight with me in the scenery.

Come aboard…

and share with me in this journey.

Come aboard…

and stop running.”

He saw the hope in my eyes…

and I felt it

fill my heart,

as I stuttered my next words to ask…

“You mean…”

His strong but gentle hand

guided me onto the train…

and I collapsed in his arms

as he offered the word

my soul

was desperate to hear…

“Yes, my child…



Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve started earning income as a freelance writer.

Now what?

If you’ve received paychecks for more than 30 days, you’ve probably noticed that the bottom line is not the same every month. In fact, it might feel a bit like feast or famine. One week you’re scrambling to keep up with all the writing assignments. The next, you can hear crickets in your inbox.

How are you supposed to function on such a variable income?

By living on a variable budget.

So…what does that look like?

It probably looks slightly different for each person, but I’ll give you the run-down of the Nenn Pen, Ink version, and you can take it from there. Following is the method my husband and I use for budgeting with an income that changes each month. Make whatever adjustments you need to make it work for you.

1. Create Your Budget

Literally, write or type out a budget on a piece of paper (or in an app if ya wanna get all fancy). If you’ll be working on the budget with a spouse, a printed version can be easier to look at and make notes on together.

At the top of the page, list your income for the month. Add up everything you earned to create a grand total (after taxes). This is your net income or take-home pay.

Subtract 10% for your tithe.

The remaining funds are what you must allocate to your various expenses for the month. As Dave Ramsey would say, you’re giving every dollar a name. I say, you’re telling it where to go.

To work with my fluctuating income, my husband and I have broken down our budget into three main categories. My husband, (the talented financial whiz who devised our budget) even color-coded these tiers.

Tier 1: Needs

Tier 2: Wants 

Tier 3: Wishes 

Under the needs category, list all your essentials. These are the bills that you must pay to survive. Most of them cost you nearly the same amount every month. They might include mortgage payments/rent, utilities, groceries/supplies, transportation, and communications. (The most variable item here is groceries, since you can choose steak or Ramen each night, but the fact is that you have to eat something, so it goes in this “tier one” category.)

The second tier includes items that you don’t need to survive…but life is better with them in it. Here is where we list items like AAA membership fees, life insurance premiums and haircuts. The biggest variable in this tier is “Mad Money.” No, it’s not angry. Some call it “fun money.” Others call it their entertainment budget. It’s the amount you allow yourself to spend on apple turnovers from Arby’s and overpriced popcorn at AMC. Since this amount is pretty much entirely up to you, you can easily make this line-item realistic for your income.

The final tier includes all your dreams that you dare to dream. It’s basically a breakdown of things you want to save for in the future. Once you’ve allocated dollars to fulfill all the items in tiers one and two, you put the leftovers here. This includes long-term savings for retirement as well as short-term savings for the grill you want to buy this summer. Our categories cover things like retirement, vacation, cars (for repairs and eventual replacement), house (decorations and remodeling), gifts (a benevolence fund for b-days and opportunities for generosity), and Christmas.

Important Note: If you are in debt (other than your mortgage), you probably shouldn’t have a tier 3 yet. Anything left over after your essentials should get thrown at your debt. We used the debt snowball method to get rid of our car payments and student loan debt. (I don’t recommend taking on either of those debts to begin with, by the way.)

2. Stick to Your Budget

This may seem obvious, but many don’t do it. Devise a system that will help you stick to the spending amounts you’ve indicated on your budget.

Some find cash envelope systems helpful. (Once you spend all the cash from your “grocery” envelope for the month, you’re done buying groceries!) We don’t like to carry cash, so we use an app (shocker, I know – coming from the anti-tech gal). We record each trip to the store in the grocery category, every restaurant meal in the Mad Money category, and so on. We use parts of the Every Dollar app, but I’m sure there are others. Pen and paper work, too.

The goal of your system is to remain aware of how much you are spending and know when you reach the limit. When you do, STOP spending. If there’s nothing left in the Mad Money category, don’t go bowling or order a latte. You’re done with these things until next month. Got it?

3. Review and Renew Your Budget

At the end of every month, sit down with your budget and repeat the process. Write down your actual spending next to the amount you planned to spend in each category. Hopefully the numbers match. (If you did really well, your actual spending will be less than the budgeted number!)

If necessary, make changes for the next month’s budget. Add new line items (such as new “wishes”) or remove old ones (such as debt you paid off – yeah!) Maybe you need to change the rent line-item because your landlord wants more money (sad), or change the insurance line-item because your premium went down (happy).

Again, when you complete tiers one and two, if there is anything left over, decide where you want to put it.

Remember, this “leftover” is what makes your budget variable. By working through tiers one and two, you’ve stabilized your budget to create a fairly steady or predictable system from a somewhat unpredictable income. As your pay changes each month, you’ll have more or less to put into the third tier. Allocate portions of this leftover amount to various categories in tier three until you have zero dollars left. (If it was a slow month in the writing biz, this part of the budgeting won’t take very long!)


Is all that as clear as mud? Perhaps a visual will help. Here’s the budget form we use each month. (Minus all our personal stuff, since you don’t really need to know how much we fork over to AT&T and Xfinity.) Your specific categories will obviously vary from ours, but this will give you a general idea of where to start.

The figures in parentheses are the same each month. They represent what you expect to spend in that category (tiers one and two), or what you hope to save for that category (tier 3).

Tip #1: For your utilities, use an average amount based on bills from the past year.

Tip #2: For bills you pay once each year, include 1/12 of the amount in each monthly budget. These fraction amounts will stay in your checking account until the bill is due, then the funds will be there to pay the full amount.

Tip #3: If you’re having trouble covering tier one, it’s time to go back to puttin’ on the blitz to start earning more money. You may also need to make adjustments in the categories which you can control – like Mad Money.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or simply want to vent to a fellow freelancer about your budgeting frustrations, feel free to comment below or get in touch.

Need more help getting organized as the workflow picks up? Watch for the next post:


A Rat Toy for Valentine’s Day?

I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day. No, my husband did not surprise me with a rat toy this morning. In honor of this day of love, I wanted to share a thought that’s been tumbling around in my heart a lot lately. It has, in fact, been changing my heart since I first heard it this past fall from Barb Wilson.

The thought is this: I’m living in a hamster ball.

Not a hamster wheel, a hamster ball. If you pictured the wheel first, I can understand. I often get confused and think it’s a wheel that I’m in, but it’s actually the fully-encompassing sphere.

The difference is so immense it’s nearly indescribable.

On the wheel, I’d run and run and never get anywhere. I’d grind away the days in joyless scrambling. I’d also be exposed to anything that comes along (like my cat, Rusty).

So, it’s a good thing I’m in the ball instead. Inside this enclosure, I am completely surrounded. I can’t escape it, and nothing outside of it can harm me. I may take a spill down the stairs or get pushed around by a feline. In either case, I may get jostled around a bit, but, in the end, I’m ok.

I can roll for miles and miles, free to roam wherever I please, and, wherever I go, I’m still inside this ball. A glance in any direction reveals its surrounding presence. It’s inescapable.

But that’s ok. I don’t want to escape it. The sphere that holds me safely inside is a picture of God’s love.

His love surrounds me, carries me, and protects me. Everywhere I look, it’s there. Everywhere I go, it’s there. No matter what I do, it’s there.

I pray you know God and can enjoy your own hamster ball. There’s truly nothing else like being wrapped in his indestructible, unending, unconditional love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39


You set up shop. You had fun puttin’ on the blitz. You landed some freelance writing gigs. You even managed to get a respectable rate. Now…how do you put that money in your pocket?

You may have heard horror stories about freelance jobs. “I did all this work for a client and never got paid!” “It took me three months to get my paycheck.” “I never know when the money will come in from a job.”

I have good news and bad news.

The bad news: The stories are true. I have experienced each of these scenarios, as well as other frustrating situations, when I’ve attempted to get paid for writing work.

The good news: These stories are not the norm. They happen, but not all the time.

More good news: You can take steps to reduce the likelihood of these scenarios and simplify the process of getting paid.

Keep in mind, every freelancer has their preferred methods. We’re creative types, right? So, the odds that everyone will conform to the same pattern are roughly the same as the odds that my book sales will beat Stephen King’s.

Still, I think a few guidelines are helpful. It’s good to at least know what you’re getting into and have some basic ideas to follow. Here’s a few tips, based on my experiences with getting P.A.I.D.

P. Payment methods

Freelancing isn’t your typical 9-5 job, and it doesn’t pay the way an office job does, either. You don’t have a neat salary that is broken into 26 paychecks a year that arrive in your bank account every two weeks. That’s way too simple. Where’s the fun in that?

Getting paid for your freelancing writing requires a little more work. But, once you have a system in place, it’s not too bad. The first step is to decide what payment methods you are willing to accept. Then, set up the necessary accounts.

Common methods of payment include:

  • Check (mailed to your home address) – Yes, people still write checks. Some clients or regular employers may cut you a check. If they are a larger entity, such as a marketing firm, they probably have a service that sends these out for them. It’s also possible to receive an old-fashioned, hand-written check with your name on the “Pay To” line.
    • The pros: A paper check avoids any potential online fees. Transfers and deposits through various internet sources often stick you with flat fees or percentage fees that reduce your net pay. Those make me sad.
    • The cons: You have to add “bank deposit” to your list of errands. Don’t worry – it doesn’t take long. More importantly, if you’re working with a brand-new client, you have to trust that their check will clear. I’ve personally never received a bad check. If it’s issued by a company (as opposed to an individual), it’s especially unlikely you’ll have an issue. The other con – you have to wait for accounting to cut you a check and send it through snail mail.
  • PayPal – You can create a personal PayPal account, a business account, or both. This account allows you to receive payments online, which you can then transfer to your bank account or keep in your PayPayl account to use for other online transactions.
    • The pros: This is easy to set up and simple for clients to use. Most people are familiar with PayPal, but a client does not have to have an account to pay you. They simply need the email address you use for your account, and they can send your payment quickly and efficiently. It arrives immediately, so there’s no delay in getting paid. Yes!
    • The cons: It’s not free. It doesn’t cost anything to set up an account, but you have to give PayPal their cut of every transaction. Currently, PayPal charges 2.9% + $0.30 per payment. If you have international clients (since you can work from anywhere), that rate goes up to 4.4%. You may be able to make arrangements with each client for their account to cover the fee, or you can simply keep this reduction in mind as you set your rate.
  • Direct Deposit – There are a host of services that perform direct deposits. You can set up your own, or an employer may ask you to enroll in the one they use. This typically involves creating a login and setting up an account with their service.
    • The pros: Once you set up the account, it’s easy to get paid. You shouldn’t have to pay any fees, and the money will go right into your account (without a run to the bank).
    • The cons: You have to give out personal information about your bank account. I’ve never experienced any problems with this. But, it’s good to do a little research to vet any system you are asked to use. Ensure it’s legit, then only provide info under secure settings (don’t email your bank account info to the client).
  • Google Wallet – This app is similar to PayPal. You provide your email or phone number, and anyone can send you money (whether or not they have  the app.) If you have a Google account and debit card, this is easy to set up.
    • The pros: Similar to PayPal. You can get money quickly and simply. The big plus: it’s free.
    • The cons: Google Wallet only works for domestic clients. Anyone outside the country has to find another way to pay you. Additionally, you can use it if you are set up as a sole proprietorship, but not if you have incorporated your business.
  • Wire transfer – This involves transferring money to your bank account, but it is a different process than direct deposit. This is a service banks offer, and there’s almost always a fee.
    • The pros: It’s fast and direct, like other online transactions.
    • The cons: I don’t recommend accepting this form of payment. The bank fees are usually steep, and you will probably have to provide your bank account info directly to the client, rather than through a secure online deposit service.

A. Accounting

As you set up your payment methods and begin to collect payments, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1099s – As an independent contractor, you will receive a 1099 from employers (instead of a W2) for tax purposes. This form shows how much you earned from that client during the calendar year.

Records – Keep in mind, you must track all of your income. Not every job will result in a 1099 (and the ones you receive might not be accurate). For your own budgeting, as well as tax purposes, keep detailed records of what you earn, what you receive, and what expenses you incur.

Software – QuickBooks is a popular option for small businesses, but there are plenty of others. These systems typically allow you to invoice, track payments, prepare totals for tax time, etc. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret: You don’t have to use any of those. For many people, it might be worth the cost and effort. Personally, I like to keep things as low tech, simplified, and cheap as possible. I track all my income on spreadsheets in Excel. I use these to record my income goals, set my budget and prepare tax totals.

What’s the best method for you? That depends on your personality and budget. You’ll have to find what works best for your needs. I simply want to give you the heads up that you’ll need an organized system to stay on top of payments.

I. Invoicing

A major part of your payment system is invoicing. Again, I like to follow the trusted “keep-it-simple” mantra. When I was first starting out, I searched for an invoice template in Microsoft Word (there’s a slew of them). I chose one I liked, personalized it with my logo and info, and have been using it ever since. I tweak it to match each job and client, but it’s basically the same Word doc you see here.

As I mentioned above, you can use other bookkeeping software and online programs to create invoices for you. Choose the level of technology you prefer.

No matter what system you choose, it’s essential to stay organized and consistent. When you start working with someone, establish how and when you will invoice them for the work, how they will pay you, and when they will make payments. I have some clients whom I invoice at the completion of every project. Others, I invoice twice each month. Still others receive invoices on the 30th of every month. Some pay via PayPal. Others send me a check. I have a list of whom I need to invoice and when, and I put this information on my calendar as part of my regular to-do list.

Sound too complicated? You can decide to only accept one form of payment and send out all your invoices on the same day every month. It’s your company. Just keep in mind that working with a variety of clients will probably require some flexibility.

Also, if you’re concerned about delayed payments, include a stipulation for this. Make it clear when payments are due, and add a fee for late payments. Even if it’s just $5, it can motivate people to expedite payment.

D. Determination

My last bit of advice on getting paid is simply to persevere. You’re running your own business, so you have to have some grit. It takes effort and determination. Establish organized systems and stick to them. Adjust them as necessary as your business grows. Follow up (politely) if payments are not received by the due date. Have patience but be assertive.

Push through frustrating situations. Keep writing and invoicing. Accept now that you will occasionally encounter payment problems in the future. It goes with the territory.

If (when) you hit snags, don’t get defeated. I once had to wait three months to get paid for an article. I’ve dealt with disorganized accounting departments who are consistently slow and have sent the wrong payment amount. I’ve been hit with unexpected fees for online transactions.

You live and learn.

Ultimately, it’s all God’s anyway. The money. The time. The talent. I’ll do my part in stewarding it responsibly. If things don’t go according to plan (my plan), I can trust He’s in control and is working it all together for my good.

Once you’ve determined to press on in faith, you’ll be ready to face the next challenge. As the payments start rolling in, you’ll quickly realize that the grand total is not the same every month. With delayed payments and the ebb and flow of work availability, you must be prepared to live on a fluctuating budget. This is the next step.



In honor of Groundhog Day, I decided to re-post a previous blog entry. If you’re familiar with the Bill Murray classic, you’ll realize how clever that is.

I’m not as stir-crazy today as I was when I posted this four years ago, but I can feel myself creeping in that direction…and we still have six more weeks of winter – no matter what the groundhog says.

So, I thought this would be a good reminder to myself, and I hope it blesses you, too.



Groundhog Day2

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The cause of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again.

This winter has put me in the shoes of Phil Connors. Bill Murray’s performance in this role makes Groundhog Day a classic in my book. I love the movie. I like living it less.

I feel like I’ve been stuck inside doing the same routine for about five months now, and that does not go well with my personality. Although I am very much a planner and like to be organized, I start to go a bit crazy if things don’t switch up every so often…in a controlled way.

From wearing practically the same seven outfits every week because nothing else is warm enough, to doing the same exercise routine too many mornings in a row because it gets me to work at the same time each day, to driving through yet another snow storm (even on the first day of spring!), to rehashing the same problems around me that have been going on for years…it’s gotten old.

As I mentioned in my previous post: If my joy is based in the weather, I’m looking to the wrong Son.

But, God has also revealed to me that part of the winter blues is simply boredom. So, in addition to prayer to stay focused on Christ and find joy there, I have made little changes, and plan to make more. I’m doing things to alter my surroundings, shake things up, and shift my focus from the winter routine. It’s surprising the difference small things can make.


  • I did a different workout one morning – and a different one the next.
  • I ate dinner at the dining table in my basement for a change of scenery.
  • I checked my email while sitting in the basement, rather than my usual spot upstairs.
  • I had pizza for dinner on a weeknight, even though that’s usually a weekend treat.
  • I changed my commute by taking a different route to work. (and it turned out to be faster!)
  • I started reading a new book.
  • I made a list of Spring Spruce-Ups for my house I want to complete in the upcoming weeks.
  • I wore a shirt that had been tucked away in my closet for a while.
  • I am going on a two-night romantic get-away with my sweet husband.
  • I switched my morning Bible reading from the middle of the Old Testament to Psalms.
  • I wore a crazy green hat to work for St. Patrick’s Day.
  • I went through my books and cleared off two entire shelves by selling and gifting books I no longer want or need.
  • I went through my closet and donated any winter shirts I still hadn’t worn this season.
  • I met a friend at Dunkin Donuts on a Thursday night – a time usually reserved for household chores.
  • I plan to shift the focus of my prayers to include more thanksgiving.
  • I blogged about feeling like Phil in Groundhog Day.

I also plan, with God’s help, to change my attitude. If you think about it, when did Phil’s fate change? When he accepted it and tried to make the best of his situation. When he got the focus off himself and began loving and serving others. My hope is to do the same.

Now it’s your turn.

Better weather should be arriving soon. Maybe tomorrow even. But, maybe we can make today tomorrow.

grondhog day5

My challenge to you is to share your seasonal secrets here.

Have you done anything to fight the Polar Vortex in its attempt to suck the joy out of life? Is there something you would recommend to shake off any melancholy mood that Jack Frost tries to bring with him?

What’s your Punxsutawney Prozac? Respond, repost, and revive another reader’s spirit.


If you serve value meals, you can count on earning at least minimum wage. When my husband was a teacher, his union helped negotiate contracts that determined his salary and raises. My brother-in-law runs his own moving business, and there are moving company regulations in place that determine what he can and can’t charge his customers.

Isn’t that nice? So many industries offer fairly clear guidelines about the wages for workers in that field. Amounts may vary by state or region, but there’s at least a standard by which employers and employees can decide what is fair.

Guess what? Freelance writing isn’t one of those industries. Sorry.

At least, that’s been my experience. To me, freelance writing seems much more…free. This comes with pros and cons. On the positive side, you can charge what you want. On the negative side, no one has to agree to your rate. Everyone’s free to say no. They can move on and find someone cheaper. Ouch.

Of course, when you first start out, you might be that cheaper person they turn to. As I mentioned in the last step, the price on your writer’s soul might be pretty low as you break into the field.

But, you have to set some standards, right? There’s no official minimum wage, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Working for nearly nothing gets you…nearly nowhere. It also brings the entire profession down with you. If people believe they can get quality writers for bargain basement rates, they’ll never be willing to pay better wages.

Still, you can’t simply charge your dream rate and expect people to line up at your website the moment it goes live. So, where do you start?

I’ve done a lot of online searching for “typical freelance writing rates” over the years and have discovered the answers are all over the map. I finally decided everyone else is just like me – still trying to figure this out.

I did find some good, specific pricing resources, such as the pay-rate chart in the Writer’s Market, which is updated every year. If you search for rates, you’ll also discover the Editorial Freelancer’s Association, which offers a rate guide, and you’ll find tools like the freelance hourly rate calculator that can help you do some quick math to help determine your rates.

Since there are hundreds of sites out there that rehash the same info, I’d just like to offer you 5 tips as you set your rates. Based on my experience, I suggest you…

1. Charge per word or per project, not per hour.

Yes, I do break this rule from time to time. Typically, though, you’ll severely limit yourself if you charge by the hour. You’re better off if you set a rate per word or quote a flat rate for a project. Why? There are only so many hours in the day. If you charge per hour, you can only make 24 times your rate each day (and that’s if you don’t sleep, eat or play with your cat). If you charge by the word or per project, you will earn more as you get faster. This pay scale also provides clients with more precise pricing. There’s no stress about the amount of time you spend on the piece and what that translates to on the client’s bill. Everyone knows up front what the final total will be.

2. Give yourself raises.

This one has been incredibly difficult for me. We don’t want to scare anyone off with rate hikes, right? But, the truth is, costs of living increase each year. You gain experience each year. If you provide quality writing and good service, it’s acceptable (and even expected) that your rates will increase over the years. Be reasonable about your increases and notify clients properly, and it’s likely they will remain loyal to the trusted, talented writer they know they can count on to deliver quality work. January 1 is a good time to adjust your rates. Send notices in December that your new rates will go into effect as of the first of the year. Here’s a sample letter:

Dear (client name),


Please accept this email as notification of a slight rate adjustment, effective January 1. The adjustment is a result of general cost-of-living increases over the past year. As of January 1, 2018, my per-word rate will be $0.XX.

I value you as a client and plan to continue serving you with (services you offer). If you have any questions or concerns about this increase, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Thank you for the continued opportunities with (business name).

3. Don’t get stuck in a rut.

If you’ve “settled” for low rates to get started, don’t stay there! I know, searching for new writing jobs is about as much fun as…well…looking for a job, but so is feeding at the bottom forever. Get your feet wet, then look for fresh waters. Find other opportunities that pay a little bit better, then scale back on the lower paying ones. Slowly devote more time to better paying jobs, and work your way into a profitable writing career. (Yes, that’s easier to type about than to do, but I promise it’s possible!)

4. Be flexibly firm.

Set your rates, then stick to them. If you’re like me, it’s easy to waffle on your wages if you’re feeling desperate or unsure. “I really want this job, so I better low-ball my rate to get it!” If you do this every time, what was the point of setting your rates? Then again, you may be willing to work for less if it’s something you really enjoy or it offers great experience and opportunity for advancement. This is why I recommend a “flexibly firm” stance. Know what you charge. Be confident and firm in that number. Be ready to quote it when asked. Also be ready to consider slight adjustments if necessary.

5. Watch out for S.E.T.

Chris Potter/Flickr

When I first started working for Nenn Pen, Ink (myself), I encountered something I wasn’t expecting. I discovered new taxes! I learned that I now have to pay self-employment tax. Here’s the scoop: When you work for someone else, you and your employer split the required contributions to Medicare and Social Security. When you are your employer…guess what? You get to pay both halves. Lucky you! This portion of your taxes just went from around seven percent to around 15 percent. I suggest keeping this higher tax percentage in mind as you set your rates. Make sure there’s enough left over to live on. Remember, after all the federal taxes, you’ll only get to keep about 75% of what you charge a client, and you’ll have to pay state taxes on top of that.

Did I realize I’d have to pay more taxes when I started working for myself? No.

Do I enjoy paying self-employment tax for the privilege of working for myself? No.

Do I think it’s worth the extra seven or eight percent in taxes to work for myself? Heck yes.


This series will continue with the next logical step – reaping the fruits of your rates.

Up next: So you wanna be a writer…Step 6: Get Paid



Price to be a writer

As you’re puttin’ on the blitz, you’re initially looking for anything and everything that will give you writing experience.

Well, almost.

One day, as I clicked away at my laptop to create a blog post for a small-business website, I had to ask myself, “Have I sold my soul by writing for a chiropractor?”

Those who know me well have heard my soap-box beratement of this profession. I realize there are probably chiropractors who are trustworthy and effective. I’m just a bit (lot) skeptical about “see me three times a week for the rest of your life (and pay me lots of money forever) and you’ll feel…a little better.” Still, I’m sure some of you chiropractors out there have helped many people.

But…it was chiropractic care for pets!

Yep, that’s a thing.

And it’s a thing I can now say I’ve written about. The truth is, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much if that chiropractic care I was writing about was for humans. But, seriously, I’m telling people to take their dog to get its back cracked?

I say all this to let you know I began to wonder about my freelancing commitments when they began to involve writing on subjects I was far from excited about (and even a little doubtful about.) Something seemed broken – and it wasn’t Spot’s spine.

Was this what I wanted to do for a living? Could I afford to say no if I didn’t like the topic?

It turns out, the answer to that first question was yes, so the answer to the second one was no. I wanted to be a freelance writer. I still do. In my experience, that means writing about some less-than-exciting stuff now so you can write more of what you want later.

Perhaps you’ll find a different route. Maybe you’ll figure out how to get paid a livable wage by devoting 100% of your time to writing about Christian living, board games, party planning, travel, and the outdoors (wait a sec, that’s my dream list.)

My point is – whatever your ideal topics are –  you will probably have to work your way there. Don’t get discouraged if this is the case. If you have a specialty, by all means, pursue it. But, if you’re simply looking to break into freelance writing, then it doesn’t hurt to explore your options. Write for a variety of media and cover a wide range of topics.

This could also help you find a niche if you don’t have one. Maybe you’ll discover you absolutely love to write about home remodeling, and you’ll become the go-to source for contractors looking for blog content. Maybe you’ll accept a small job drafting a marketing piece for a country club, discover you enjoy writing about golf, and become the next big sports writer. The possibilities are endless.

Be willing to dip your toe into many ponds before finding a place deep enough to dive.

Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who enjoys covering a variety of topics, but I still think it’s good advice.

But what about…

Of course, don’t write anything that goes against your moral beliefs. I feel very strongly about alcohol use, so I have turned down assignments to write web content for liquor stores. On the other hand, I’m not crazy about guns or hunting for sport, but I haven’t had a problem writing content for pawn shops that sell guns, or creating text for a taxidermist’s website.

You have to decide where to draw the line. I’m simply trying to warn you not to make that line an inch from your feet. Don’t get too picky or you won’t have any jobs to pick. Get some experience. Accept the fact that you have to start somewhere. Your initial freelance work may be low-paying and somewhat boring. But, those assignments are not your end game.

Keep working at it. Your goal should be to gain experience, build your portfolio and improve your writing. This will eventually allow you to be more selective in your project choices.

Greater experience will also allow you to earn better rates – which leads to our next topic. It’s one of the toughest questions I’ve had to answer as a freelance writer: How much should I charge?!?

Up next: So you wanna be a writer…Step 5: Set Your Rates (And Watch Out for S.E.T.)

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