How to Maintain a Successful Freelance Career in the Unpredictable Web Writing Industry
Freelance web content writers are living in something of a Golden Age at present. Indeed, the fact that search engine algorithms are currently optimised to respond favourably to unique, keyword-friendly content means there is plenty of work around for versatile wordsmiths who are able to produce consistently engaging SEO-friendly blogs and articles.
However, it is fair to say that freelance web writing – like most other forms of self-employed work – is a very fluid industry to work in. To be sure, the fact that clients are in no-way obliged (contractually or otherwise) to stay loyal to the freelancers they use means self-employed commercial writers have no way of knowing what the demand for their services will be tomorrow, next week or next month. Even writers who earn their income creating blogs and articles for established content curation companies are not immune to the highly unpredictable nature of this industry as freelancers are typically the first to feel the effects of even the most subtle changes in supply and demand.
Simply put, freelance writing can be a very precarious industry to make a living from. Despite this though, there are a some simple things which freelancers can do to mitigate the effects of unpredictable workflow issues, before and after they become serious concerns. From personal experience (I have been a freelance writer for more than five years), I have learned that there are two strategies which are perhaps more important to be aware of than most in this respect: spreading the load and making contingency plans.
Spreading the Load
When you find a project or ongoing contract which provides you with plenty of steady and/or lucrative work, it is tempting to focus all of your attention on it and ignore other work opportunities which appear less appealing. The danger of this is that, whilst concentrating on a decent income source is likely to yield immediate results, it encourages you to put all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak. I did exactly this when I first became a freelancer, investing all of my time and effort with a client who provided me with lots of assignments whenever I asked for them. However, when the work coming in from that client dried up very suddenly, I quickly realised I had nothing left to fall back on as I hadn't made the effort to cultivate other sources of income. The lesson I learnt was a very important one – spread the load; that way you can always go directly to another job and keep money coming in while you search for another chief source of income.
Making contingency plans
Even if you are sensible and proactive enough to ensure you always have several different sources of income, you need to adopt the mindset that 'the perfect storm' is forever loitering on the horizon. In essence, this means that there is always the possibility that your many different assignments, projects and/or contracts will all come to an end around about the same time, thereby leaving you without a single dependable form of income to rely on at all. Whilst this may sound unlikely, it can and does happen (it happened to me quite recently and I wouldn't wish it on anyone). The best way to deal with this stressful situation is to set up contingency plans that will help you to deal with your perfect storm as soon as it hits.
This basically involves having a non-commercial source of income to fall back on and/or being able to apply for financial assistance until you get back on your feet. While personal savings are of course the best solution, it seems to be the case that no-one under the age of fifty stows money away for a rainy day any more. Having a decent overdraft which doesn't charge you for using it can be a great stop-gap option, as can a 0% on purchases for 12+ months credit card (ideal for buying groceries and petrol). Some self-employed people (in the UK) can get financial assistance from the Government in the form of Job Seekers Allowance and/or Working Tax Credits, depending on their circumstances, so it is worth looking into these options to see what you're entitled to. As well as enabling you to respond quickly to any perfect storm that crops up, having decent contingency plans in place will stop you from going down avenues that are likely to do nothing but waste your precious time.
To many, the unpredictable nature of freelance web writing is a large part of its appeal. Without doubt, that feeling of 'living on the edge' a little, walking an occupational tightrope if you will, provides a buzz which normal salaried jobs just cannot match.
Let's be honest though, maintaining a successful career is what its all about in the end and having a safety net of some kind will certainly help you to achieve that end. After all, every freelancer is liable to fall in this unpredictable industry at some time or another...