Most writers, even successful novelists, have jobs. They are teachers, lawyers, doctors, dentists, advertising executives, auto mechanics and grocery store clerks. Some are technical writers, copywriters, editors and proofreaders. It is certainly possible to freelance full-time, but many writers collect paychecks along with their invoices. This is especially true in the worlds of poetry and fiction, where payments are often small and spaced far between.
How do you want to spend your energy?
There is only so much time in the day, and that means you have to be careful about the jobs you take. You don’t want a job that is going to make it impossible for you to write outside of work. That is why some people take jobs far from the writing field. Some jobs only require presence and a little attention. Working as a security guard, for example, allows you to spend most of your time standing around watching people. For some writers, this is a great opportunity to observe, and get paid to do it. It isn’t difficult work, and it won’t leave you intellectually drained at the end of the day.
Working as a technical writer or as an editor gives you a chance to improve your writing skills as you earn a paycheck (and a bigger paycheck than a security guard). The downside is that you may use up all of your intellectual energy reading documents and attending meetings. A construction job is an example of a third option, one that works your body more than your mind, and gets you out into the daylight instead of stranding you in an office building. It is up to you to decide what works best for you, but if at the end of the day you don’t feel like writing, that’s a clue that you made the wrong choice.
Part-time work is yet another option. You draw a somewhat smaller paycheck, but you get back more of your time. Working two days a week at a store in the mall probably won’t pay all of your bills, but it may be enough to get you by in the weeks between freelance payments. It will also remind you of why you want to work hard as a freelancer, so that you don’t have to hold a job like that anymore.
Another option beyond part-time work is temporary work. You work full-time or even overtime hours for several months, banking your paychecks so that you can then have money in reserve to support your time freelancing for the next few months. The benefit of this, beyond the money, is the additional motivation to do well. You won’t have to get a regular job again until you run out of money. That gives you extra incentive to work hard and get paid as a freelance writer so that you don’t have to go back to a regular job. The danger is that you won’t know when to quit. Months can quickly turn into years, especially if you don’t save your money well.
The important thing to remember is that you do have choices as a freelance writer. When the freelance market gets slow, a job will provide you with another source of income and security. Just remember that your primary goal is to make a living from your freelance writing.