Welcome to the second installment our new series, Meet the Freelance Writer!
Here, you’ll meet a diverse range of individuals who have carved out a place in the world of full-time freelance writing. You’ll learn all manner of insights about the life of a freelance writer, such as how to start out, what a “typical day” day looks like, and all those other niggling questions we know you have. If you’re curious about freelance writing as a career, or are looking for some advice on how to improve your freelancing business, this is the series for you.
Today, we’ll meet freelance writer Carrie Smith Nicholson.
1. Hi Carrie! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your freelance writing?
Hey there, I’m Carrie Smith Nicholson! I’m a financial writer who specializes in finances, accounting, organization and business systems for freelancers.
I started my career as a junior accountant and then worked my way up to being a Certified Bookkeeper for oil & gas companies in Dallas, TX.
Three years ago I quit my full-time accounting job to be a full-time freelance writer and started my blog, CarefulCents.com
2. Can you run us through what your “typical” day looks like for a freelancer?
It’s been a total of five years since I started freelancing as part of my day job’s side hustle, so my “typical” day has changed a lot since then. I even have an entire blog post dedicated to how my day has changed over the past few years. Currently, at the beginning of each morning I wake up around 8 or 8:30am and cook breakfast for myself.
Then I work for a couple of hours, answering emails and interacting on social media, until I’m ready for a coffee break around 10:30 or 11am. Next, it’s time for freelance writing work for clients. I usually push out 1-2 long-form writing assignments for clients every day.
After this, I break for lunch and may tackle another project, or prep for freelance coaching calls or podcast interviews. The evenings are spent going on a hike or bike ride with my chef husband, then we cook dinner together and unwind with our favorite show.
3. On your website, Careful Cents, you shared that within two years you had cleared your $14,000 debt and quit your full time accounting job to go into full time freelancing. Can you let our readers know a bit more about this transition?
Back when I was in debt and had just gone through a tough divorce, I was struggling a lot financially. In order to regain control of my life, I committed to paying off all my consumer debt as quickly as possibly.
After I completed that goal, I re-evaluated my career path and knew that I wanted to become a freelance writer. So I worked with a business coach and turned in my notice at my day job. Five months later I had saved up just over $7,000 and was recently engaged to my then-fiance. I quit my job and made the leap into full-time freelance on May 1, 2013.
4. When you first started freelancing full time, how did it differ from your expectations?
Those first few weeks after I quit my job were heaven. I slept in, worked anytime I wanted and took time off during the day to go grocery shopping. But after the novelty of working for myself wore off, I actually got really stressed out with all the work I had to do.
The list was never-ending and it didn’t seem like I was making any progress. The idea of freelancing full time is always very dreamy but the reality is much more stressful. You’re responsible for paying the bills and securing client work far in advance. Plus, you don’t have the option of taking a vacation or sick days, without getting behind on work — or the bills. So it was a big wake-up call for sure.
5. You have helped thousands of people quit their jobs and launch into a freelance writing career. What advice would you give anyone who is looking to do the same?
Save as much money as you can while you still have a day job. I wish I would have saved more money while I still had a steady paycheck. No experience can prepare you for how difficult it will become to pay all your bills, put money in savings and stash away money for retirement.
If I could go back, I’d sacrifice just a bit more time to have a better financial cushion before making the leap. It will be worth it! It’s an investment into your future, and it will help make freelance/business decisions so much less risky.
6. How do you differentiate yourself from other writers who also focus on the subject of finance?
I have a unique approach to finance since I usually come at with a personal story. I’m very transparent with my own freelance finances so other people can see how I’ve done it and either learn from my mistakes, or learn from my successes. I also like to focus on the financial organization part of money so it’s helpful, less overwhelming and ultimately less stressful for freelancers
7. In what ways has your background helped you manage your own finances as both a business owner and freelancer?
In some ways having a background in finance has helped a ton, specifically with the bookkeeping, recordkeeping and accounting portions of my freelance business. But on the flip side, it’s been a crutch too, since I came into this venture with preconceived ideas of what running a business should/would look like, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way.
Still, I can prepare my own taxes and even double check that my CPA is processing the reports and transactions correctly. This has been very helpful as I’ve discovered missed tax deductions and errors in the bookkeeping in the past. Plus, I can save myself a bit of money by doing my own bookkeeping every month!
8. Many of our readers have blogs. Can you share some blogging tips for people looking to hone their skills and gain more readership?
Make blogging a consistent practice in your business. Put it into your daily routine, whether that’s coming up with new ideas, working on the content calendar, or writing the actual content. Set aside just 10-15 minutes a day for your own blog posts.
A blog is one of the best assets a freelancer can have so it’s important to enforce a habit of creating blog content consistently every month. It’s not the sexiest piece of advice, but it works.
9. What has been your most memorable freelance assignment?
I applied to work as a part-time editor for the YEC (Young Entrepreneur’s Council) and quickly realized, after about two weeks, that I was NOT cut out to be a copy editor. I was a writer through and through and didn’t have the passion for editing like my managing editor did. It was actually one of the only freelance gigs I was ever fired from. But it helped me learn to stick to what I’m good at and what I enjoy, instead of trying to branch out into areas that just weren’t my jam.
10. What’s your strategy for overcoming writer’s block?
Thankfully, in the five years of having my blog and being a freelance writer I’ve only experienced writer’s block twice. The way I overcome this is by capturing blog post ideas as they come to me.
This can be inspired by my personal life at the moment, research I come across or even something I experience while out running errands. Get your writing ideas down on paper, in your phone, or use a task management system app. That’s what I do and I never have a shortage of ideas or things I’m excited to write about.
11. Have you used our site FreelanceWriting.com before?
Actually, no. But it’s an awesome freelance resource that I’ll be using in the future — and sharing it with my audience of 20,000+ freelancers!
12. Finally, what advice would you give to someone trying to break into freelance writing?
Use your past career or job experience to make a lateral transition into freelance writing. That’s what I did as a small business accountant and didn’t have to start from ground zero as a financial writer. I wasn’t practiced at writing, but I sure knew a heck of a lot about finances, accounting, bookkeeping and organization.
So this experience helped me craft a good resume and portfolio for potential clients, versus starting from scratch. Lean on your past experience and use it to make a lateral move into freelance writing. It will save you months and even years of trying to break into a lucrative niche.
— Freelance Writing (@FLW_Home) September 29, 2016
Addicted to our new series? Catch up on the rest of the Meet the Freelance Writer interviews.
Want to be interviewed on Freelance Writing? If you’re a full-time freelance writer who is interested in being one of our featured freelancers, please email a short bio of your freelance writing experiences and a link to your webpage to editor [at] freelancewriting [dot] com