Spend Money to Make Money

I’m not a big fan of spending much money to get a business off the ground, at least when it comes to freelance writing. There really aren’t that many expenses that are actually necessary before you’ve been up and running for a while. Just the same, there are a few cases in which it is necessary to spend money in order to make money. In a way, these are less expenses and more investments — they’ll make a major difference in how fast you can start getting clients and bringing in the money that will pay your other expenses.

A Website

Every writer needs a website these days. It’s not even necessarily a question of marketing — it’s a way to show off your writing skills, make it easy for potential clients to reach you and even to make your availability known. Even better, you can get your own website set up with WordPress pretty much immediately, even if you don’t have any technical know-how. Including a year’s hosting, you can get a website set up for between $50 and $100.

I know more than a few writers who take the free website route. It’s an option — but in my opinion, it’s the option of last resort. Having myname.blogspot.com tells a prospective client that I can’t even earn enough from my writing to purchase a domain name. It’s less than professional, and considering that we’re not talking about a major capital investment to start a new business, I think it’s worth the time and money to get a website of your own going.

Business Cards

Even though I get most of my business online these days, I think having a business card is absolutely necessary. That little piece of card stock is all it takes to convince a prospective client that you’re serious. If you use one of the many online printers, you can pick up 100 cards for $10 — and 100 is usually enough to tide you over until you land at least one project.

A Computer of Your Own

I’m a bit on the fence with this one, honestly — but if you can manage it, picking up even an older machine that will be only yours is worth it. If you’ve got anyone else in the house who needs to use the computer while you’re working, it can turn into a major headache quickly. The main requirements for such a computer is that it has a keyboard you can comfortably work with, the ability to handle your needs for online research and your word processing software of choice.

Expenses You Don’t Need

I don’t recommend subscribing to bid sites, buying books or anything like that — at least at first. I don’t have any use for bid sites, personally. I’ve never gotten a job through one, although I know a couple of people who have.

Buying books can wait, although reading them doesn’t have to. I routinely request books on writing through my local library. They have thousands of them and I can check them out for weeks at a time. There are a few books I’ve picked up my own copies of after I’ve gotten them from the library, but I don’t need most of them for reference after I’ve read them.

There are plenty of other potential expenses out there, and some of them can make a major difference in your writing career. But even the most useful of resources can probably wait until you’ve got at least a few dollars coming in.


  1. @jenhalloran   •  

    Great post, Thursday. Absolutely agree that a Web site is a must-have and glad to see others still advocate using biz cards, too.

    When I linked to your post on Twitter, @leximaven added: “I’d say branding is vital, too. You have to establish WHO you are and WHAT you do really well as a freelance writer.” I agree with her — and in addition to highlighting these points on the Web site and cards, another “spend money to make money” tactic might be having a simple logo created for your brand. Agree?

  2. @jenhalloran   •  

    Apologies for overusing the word “agree” in previous comment. 🙂

  3. thursday   •     Author

    @Jen, I know plenty of writers who have used logos to brand themselves, as well as plenty who haven’t. Personally, I think having a logo comes in handy but I wouldn’t consider it an absolute necessity.

    That said, if you’re already putting together a website and a business card, it’s practical to do a logo at the same time. If a writer wants to hand those projects off to a designer, it’s possible to negotiate a discount for doing all three projects at once.

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  5. Sam   •  

    I’ve gotta say, this is great advice! And I think it’s almost equally as applicable to design and illustration. I HATE bid sites. I signed up for one once and it was the biggest waste of $200 bucks ever. Thanks for the great tips!

  6. thursday   •     Author

    @Sam, Bid sites tend to rub me the wrong way. There’s just something about paying for the privilege of applying for jobs that you may or may not get that doesn’t sit particularly well with me. It only gets worse when you realize how little some people are willing to work for.

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