Freelance Writers: How to Build a Steady Income Stream

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As nurses, we understand the importance of financial stability and the desire for a fulfilling career. Freelance health writing offers the perfect opportunity to combine our passion for healthcare with the flexibility and financial potential of a freelance business. The key to achieving financial freedom as a writer lies in cultivating a steady income stream. Let’s talk about exactly how to do that.  

First, a story 

Have you ever heard the story of the professor who used the metaphor of a jar filled with rocks, pebbles, and sand to illustrate the idea that – with careful planning – you can accommodate many more things in your life than you perhaps thought you could? 

Now, the story likely is apocryphal – it probably never really happened – but it’s a powerful story for a technique freelance writers can use to create income stability. So let us retell the story… 

A professor set a large jar on their desk. They filled the jar with several large stones. Then they asked the class, “Is the jar full?” The students all said yes. 

Next, the professor produced a bag of pebbles, poured them into the jar, and they settled into the open spaces between the large rocks. Again, the professor asked the class, “Is the jar full?” The students replied, yes. 

Then the professor pulled out a bag of sand. They carefully poured the sand into the jar, perhaps shaking the jar a bit as they worked, to settle the sand into all the small spaces between the big rocks and the pebbles. Again, they asked if the jar was full. The students said yes. 

Finally, the professor took a water bottle and slowly poured water into the jar. The water filled all the tiny spaces between the grains of sand. When the water was level with the rim of the jar, the professor announced, “NOW the jar is truly full.” 

So, what does this have to do with creating a steady income stream as a nurse writer? 

The jar represents your revenue 

Well, for our purposes, the jar represents our revenue. And the manner in which we fill the jar with clients illustrates how we can keep our revenue jar filled up at all times. 

We need to start by placing large rocks – our anchor clients – into the jar. These clients provide assignments every month – assignments we can count on because we likely have a contract with them to provide a set number of deliverables each month.  

But we can’t – and don’t want to – try to fill our jar with only big rocks. It might sound like a fine idea to cram four or six large rocks in there and feel that your revenue jar is completely full. But that’s not true, as we know from the metaphor. And the reason we don’t want to do that, anyway, is because what happens if we have to REMOVE one of the large rocks from our jar? If we start with four large rocks in our jar, and we have to remove one of them, then we’ve lost 25% of our monthly revenue. Ouch! That’s painful. 

Distribute your risk with pebble and sand clients 

So, instead, we want to place a few large rocks in our jar and then add some pebbles to it. The pebbles represent clients who routinely assign you projects, but perhaps not on a monthly basis. Maybe you have a client that needs you every-other month. Or they’re receptive to your queries whenever you send them, but you don’t send one every month. 

Pebble clients are vital to filling your jar with revenue because they’re reliable and provide steady-ish work that you can “work in around” your large rock clients. 

Lastly, you also need sand clients. These may be clients you only work with a few times a year, or only when you manage to land a query, or something like that. You can think of sand clients as the ultimate “fill-in” clients because you can’t necessarily count on steady work from them, but you know you have a good chance of working with them on occasion or when the timing is just right. 

Don’t make this mistake 

The key to making this metaphor work for your business is remembering to put the large rocks into your jar FIRST. Many freelancers make the mistake of spending a lot of time – all their time, really – chasing sand clients instead of seeking out and cultivating large rock clients. Those freelancers often burn out because the pace required to constantly chase one-off clients is unsustainable. 

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “OK, this is awesome, but where do I find these large rock clients?” 

Where are the large rock clients, though? 

Here’s the secret: Almost any large healthcare corporation or marketing agency can be a large rock client. These companies have ongoing content needs, so if you seek them out you have a good chance of developing this into a long-term client relationship. 

We mention this because MANY novice freelancers say they’re afraid to approach major corporations or marketing agencies. They think they need lots of high-faulting clips or lots of experience to get on with a major company as a freelance writer. 

That is not always the case. 

In fact, at RN2writer, we advise every new freelancer to START by going after major corporations in your niche. Working with a major brand or agency holds tons of benefits for you as a novice freelancer. Major companies use freelancers all the time, so they know what to do with us. They’re pretty much plug-and-play when it comes to freelancers: they just plug us in where they need us and start feeding us assignments. 

On the other hand, smaller companies may not work with freelancers much, if at all. They may not understand how to work with a writer. They may need things far beyond the scope of writing, such as content strategy, content calendars, SEO research, and all kinds of other things you don’t yet know how to provide, as a novice writer. 

That can lead to a poor experience for everyone involved. 

Remember: put the large rocks into your jar first 

So, we want to inspire you to start prospecting for large rock clients – the major corporations and marketing agencies that can lend heft to your revenue jar. Once you’ve put a few big rocks in there, then you can start prospecting for some pebble clients. And once you have the big rocks and pebbles in place, then you will have the steady revenue stream going that enables you to continually prospect for sand clients. 

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About RN2writer

We offer training in the best remote, work-from-home nursing job - freelance health writing. If you’re looking for the perfect side hustle for nurses or a full-time nurse business, you can rely on RN2writer to deliver educational courses, coaching, and community for nurses of all degrees, licensures, and backgrounds across the U.S., Canada, and beyond. We welcome all nurses: RN, LPN, NP, APRN, CRNA, FNP, CNM, etc. We also serve other healthcare clinicians and professionals: CNA, MD, PA, LCSW, PharmD, radiology tech, CEO, CNO, CMO, and anyone else with a background in healthcare. Welcome!
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