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To write about life, you first must live it 🌅

And how I manage my money as a freelance writer

Hey there,

Last Tuesday, I tried to do some writing and I Just. Couldn’t. Focus. I kept flitting between Google Docs, Slack, Instagram, and Gmail.

Usually, my tactic is to create a “Distraction Ticks” table on a sheet of paper. Every time I feel the urge to distract myself, I write down the time of the urge. This helps me stay self-aware and (somewhat) focused.

It did not go over well.

After nine agonizing minutes, I realized my attention span just wasn’t having a good day. Then I thought to myself, “Wait…does TikTok have something to do with this?”

An unwillingly loyal user since 2021, I can easily spend 1-2 hours a day on the platform. But recently, I’ve started to get worried about how TikTok is 1) impacting my ability to stay focused for long periods of time and 2) how much time it’s really costing me.

At first, I saw TikTok as a “brain massage.” It’s relaxing to be carried away by an algorithmic flow of content. But…a massage doesn’t slash your attention span.

Instead, I now see TikTok as a “brain cigarette.” It’s a “reward” you get for finishing a segment of your day (for me, that’s usually after the gym, finishing up client work, or eating dinner).

And just like a cigarette, it has detrimental effects. I can’t focus as well, I don’t spend as much time alone with my thoughts — which means it’s probably impacting my writing (and life in general).

So, my sister and I are quitting TikTok for a month this June. If it will actually help me write better, who knows. Instead, the goal is to transfer those 7 - 14 hours a week on TikTok to IRL. Because as Ernest Hemmingway once said, “In order to write about life, first you must live it.”

Claire’s Knee (1970) | dir. Éric Rohmerd

✍️ Quick Writing Tip

Russian novelist Anton Cheknov once said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Here’s a great example of “show, don’t tell” in action from Anthony Doerr:

By the way, I highly recommend Doerr’s book, All The Light We Cannot See. The words in this novel melt like butter; they’re effortless, glistening, poetic.

🥒 Content Diet

🧠 How I Got My Brain Back by Brie Wolfson — 2.5 years ago, a nasty case of depression slammed into Brief Wolfson. This is her story on how she escaped from depression’s tentacles — it’s packed with interesting insights, such as which activities were a “Cheat Code” to guarantee a good day.

💸 How I Earned $18K a Month as Freelance Content Marketer by Jennifer Gregory — It’s always useful to see how much other freelance writers earn slash how much they’re charging. Jennifer also has a blog that’s full of freelancing gems, such as this piece; “What To Do When You Lose An Anchor Client.”

📖 Misery by Stephen King — My first Stephen King novel did not disappoint. It’s about Paul Sheldon, a famous novelist, who gets into a car crash and ends up being kidnapped by a crazy nurse, Annie Wilkes. This story is the best of both worlds: horror and writing advice.

✍🏼 Freelancing Journey

This Week: How I Manage My Money as a Freelancer

As a freelance writer, you’re your own marketer, human resources, and of course…accountant. This means knowing what to do with your money after it hits your bank account.

I’ve been a freelance writer for 2.5 years and have tried lots of various ways to best manage my money (at one point I even signed up for a personal finance trainer).

So, here’s what I learned and the money practices I swear by:

1) Emergency Savings, Always.

Have a separate account for emergencies (the standard advice is it should have three months of living expenses).

“But Alice, I have retainer clients, and they always pay on time. Why would I need this?”

Unfortunately, no matter how much you’d like to believe you’re in control, you’re not. The “always on time” client suddenly stops paying on time. The “anchor” client suddenly vanishes. Anything can happen. Prepare for it.

2) Business Account.

Open a business account (I personally use Novo). This is smart for a plethora of reasons: 1) it’s an easy way to track your business expenses and 2) it won’t slap a surplus when you send an invoice.

3) Taxes Aside, Stat.

Now, on that business account, set up an automatic process where 30% of every invoice is directly funneled into a “Tax” reserve. This helps you save up for tax season and makes it sting way less when Satan (I mean the IRS) needs thousands of dollars from you.

P.S. — If Novo sounds interesting to you, you can sign up here. This link will give us both $40.

4) Plan, Plan, Plan

I’m a big fan of Marijana Kay’s project planner for freelancers. This helps me figure out what I should do with my money — save it because I earned less than the month before? Invest it because I earned more?

It’s also a great way to prevent burnout, but that’s a story for another time.

If this sort of money thing is interesting to you, let me know! I’m happy to write more about how I manage and spend my money as a digital nomad slash freelance writer.

That’s it for this week!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a beautiful week, wherever you are. If you enjoyed this newsletter, why not share it with a writer friend? 🙂 

Stay Creative,

Alice 💌

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