Easing Toward Freelance Writing Retirement (My Plan & Other Options)

Easing Toward Freelance Writing Retirement - FreelanceWritingPros.com

In this year’s post at All Freelance Writing about my 2023 freelance writing resolutions, I mentioned that I’ll spend this year continuing to ease towards a freelance “retirement” of sorts.

What does that mean exactly? How long might it take? And why might a freelancer look to move away from client work?

What is Freelance Writing Retirement?

For me at least, a “retirement” from freelance writing doesn’t mean I’ll stop working or writing, or even full-time. It means I’ll take on less client work (and eventually none) while I focus on other projects and other areas of my business.

In other words, I’ll still:

  • Publish a variety of websites
  • Publish e-books and books
  • Take on other client work, though less often (PR consulting, social media strategy, etc.)

And I’ll take on semi-new things such as:

  • Running one or more online courses
  • Focusing more heavily on research
  • Bringing other long-time creative passions, like creating music and artwork, into my broader business (which I wanted to do last year and didn’t find much time for)
  • Pursuing other forms of creative writing more regularly, such as poetry and scriptwriting (while I’m particularly interested in audio plays, I haven’t written a screenplay since 2008 and I’d love to give that another go)

For you or other freelance writers, a retirement from freelance writing could mean something very different. For example:

  • You might retire in a more traditional sense and decide to end your career to pursue other things in life.
  • You might similarly choose to focus on other forms of writing and related income streams without continuing client work.
  • Or you could even move into an entirely different line of work or opt to go back to a more traditional full-time or part-time employee role.

Why I’m Moving Toward Freelance Writing Retirement

I realized years ago that a certain passion for my work was fading. In short, I didn’t enjoy working for others as much as I used to. (This is why I began this process in 2022.)

That’s not to say there was anything wrong with freelancing. I’ll be an strong proponent of freelance writing well into the future.

But freelancing was always just one part of my broader business. And the more I freelance, the less time I have for bigger, longer-term projects.

What I’m Missing Out On

There’s not enough time to get back to shelved manuscripts. There’s not enough time to focus on my larger sites or build more of the smaller, more passive income ones that I enjoy.

I have at least a half-dozen manuscripts waiting on revisions and edits before they can get out into the world. There’s a big new site I’ve been wanting to launch for a few years now.

And while I don’t talk about this much publicly, I’ve spent the last 4-5 years doing casual, yet deep, research around professional interest areas.

It’s not just to satisfy my curiosity. It’s because I have serious concerns about the way some of the tools and strategies I’ve long specialized in with my PR background are being used today. And I consider it a responsibility to play a part in rectifying those problems in the longer-term.

This includes wanting to go back to school in the process of doing more formal research and related publication. That’s partly been on hold due to financial catastrophes in the last few years. But time could be running out for that, so it’s something I need to start making more time for… now.

Yet I keep falling back into more client work, and these things stay shelved.

Continuing the Freelance Writing Retirement Process

Last year I started to change that. I let go of some of my longest-term clients. Others agreed to increased rates when I raised my hourly target for freelance writing and consulting projects.

But it still feels like too much. I still take on more than I intend to.

So a goal for this year is cutting those billable client hours back to 10 hours per week. I’m hoping to hit that goal by the 6-month mark and adjust targets from there.

Will I fully retire from freelancing by the end of this year?

No.

I’m taking a slower, intentional approach to this for a few reasons:

  • I’m in the process of rebuilding the new pillars of the web publishing side of my business. Until I have my new “Big 3” fully up-and-running, smoothly at that, and hitting their own new earnings targets, freelancing helps support that process.
  • I run sites for freelance writers. I consider it important for people advising new writers to be active in the current market. Too many charlatans freelance only long enough to sucker newer writers into paying them for advice they aren’t qualified to give. I have so much to say about this, but it’s beyond the scope of this post so that’s a topic for another day.
  • This year, I’m transitioning my freelance business site a bit to be more product-oriented. And that will simply take time to financially make sense.

If you’re curious about what else I’m working on this year, you can see my full professional 2023 resolutions over at Kiss My Biz.

So when might I retire from freelance writing?

My hope is it will happen in the next 2-3 years. One of my “45 by 45 goals” or something like that.

But even then, I’ll still occasionally freelance. For example:

  • I’ll continue doing some PR and marketing consulting (on a very limited basis to keep myself fresh).
  • I’ll continue freelance research design, evaluation, and reporting (which has become a more important part of my services over the past couple of years).
  • There might even be times I’ll take one-off freelance writing assignments where it makes sense in my own PR efforts for the causes and research I’ll spend my time promoting. Or I’d consider one-off contributions if “dream” market opportunities came along.

Freelance writing just won’t be something I do on the regular anymore. There won’t be anymore monthly blogging retainers or regular press release writing gigs for marketing firms and other middlemen clients.

At that point, I’ll be a web publisher first, an author and indie publisher second, and focused on continued learning, independent research, and passion projects beyond that.

Easing Towards Your Own Freelance Writing Retirement

Have you reached a point in your freelance writing career where you’re contemplating retirement of some kind? Have you toyed with the idea, perhaps wanting to lighten your workload, but you’re not ready to give it all up just yet?

You have options!

First, remember that a retirement from freelance writing work for clients doesn’t mean you have to give up all work, income, or writing.

Figure out what you really want.

  • More time to work on a book or passion project?
  • More freedom and less worrying about other people’s deadlines?
  • A completely different career?

Think about the financial impacts.

  • Do you have enough in retirement savings to quit completely? (You know properly-set freelance rates should cover things like retirement savings, right?)
  • Or do you need to line up other income sources before scaling back client projects?
  • Would you be happier with fewer clients and charging higher freelance writing rates, and how might current clients adapt if you go that route (or will you lose them)? (For more on rates, check out Lori Widmer’s recent post on where your freelance writing rates should be.)

Quick tip: I find I rarely lose clients when raising rates. Just a few months ago my oldest client, who I thought I’d have to drop this year while scaling back, agreed to pay nearly double what they were to hit my new hourly targets. The trick is giving them reasonable notice to budget for it, understanding the value you bring, and putting yourself in a position where no single client can make or break your business just in case you are better off replacing one.

Start Small

  • Limit your billable hours a little at a time.
  • Say “no” more often.
  • Trim your workload slowly, one client at a time.

As you slowly scale back towards whatever sort of retirement you envision, you might find a new comfort zone. Or you might realize you’re ready for a bigger change.

How about you? Have you thought about retiring in some sense from freelance writing? Have you already? Why, and how did you go about it (or how are you approaching it now)?

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Jenn Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous publications, a few including Freelance Writing Pro's sister site All Freelance Writing, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has over 20 years' experience as a professional writer and editor, 20 years' experience in marketing and PR, 18 years' professional blogging and digital publishing / web development experience, and around 16 years' experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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