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Freelance Writing The Pros and Cons
I have been a freelance writer now for about eighteen months. I’m not sure what my expectations were when I started out in this profession but my expectations didn’t even approach reality as I now know it.
Often in the past eighteen months I have run across friends who I have not seen in quite some time and invariably the conversation comes around to what we are both doing nowadays. They will look at me and ask me if I’m still teaching; I tell them no and then they ask me what I’m doing now.
“I’m a freelance writer,” I say, to which they respond, “What the hell is that?” I laugh and tell them that I write for money and they always ask if I can make a living doing that. Well, yes, you can in fact make a living as a freelance writer, but it isn’t easy by a long shot.
For those of you crazy enough to give it a go, this article is for you. Maybe you have been having troubles at your job and you are just fed up with your boss and co-workers. You would like to tell them to take that job and shove it but you are terrified of not having that job. You always wanted to be a writer but seriously, that’s the mother of all risks, right? Still, the thought of working at home definitely has you feeling warm and fuzzy. What to do?
A DEFINITION OF A FREELANCE WRITER
I always have to explain to my friends what a freelance writer does. It seems that the concept of writing for pay is a foreign one to most of the people I run across. The other problem is distinguishing between a freelance writer and just a writer. Perhaps a definition will help.
According to our old friend Webster, a freelance writer is: a person who works as a writer selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc. rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer. I guess that is different from just being a writer. I mean, I was a writer in the 10th grade but who in the world would have paid me for the crap I was writing then? We are all writers, right? When we scribble something on the restroom wall at the YMCA we are a writer. Too bad we can’t get paid for some of the great lines we have written at the truck stops across America. Hey, there’s a book idea, a collection of bathroom wall writings in the United States. Call it what? THE TRUCK STOP POETS…..VERSE DROPPINGS…..SQUAT AND LEAVE IT: POETRY FOR THE AVERAGE GUY….REST ROOM RUMINATIONS?
I seem to have digressed! Being a freelance writer means I sell my skills to whoever wants to buy them. I write SEO content for companies; I write webpage content and I do resumes. I do articles for whoever is willing to give me money, kind of like a hired gun in the old West or a mercenary soldier in the new West. I have written for salvage yards, oil well equipment manufacturers, doll clothing retailers, real estate brokers and restaurants. I can take your fried chicken and make it sound like the best damn chicken this side of grandma’s kitchen and I can take your website and praise you to the internet gods. When I get done even your Aunt Alice, who has never liked you since you were a bawling baby, will want you over for dinner.
Sounds pretty glamorous, right? Just wait a second! Before you tell your boss what he can do with his electric pencil-sharpener, allow me to tell you a few of the pros and cons of being a freelance writer. First the good news and then we’ll move on to the down side of this career.
THE PROS OF THIS WRITING GIG
First and foremost, you have no boss! How many times in your adult life have you daydreamed of having no one at work telling you what to do or how to do it? As a freelance writer your daydreams will come true. The only boss you will have is yourself and hey, that’s a pretty nice boss to have, right?
There are no set hours as a freelancer. You can come and go as you please. Do you feel like sleeping in on a particular morning after a hard night partying downtown? Go ahead, get a couple extra hours of shut-eye! You won’t get fired, your pay won’t be docked and you can wake up fresh and relaxed, ready to tackle your workload when you are mentally and physically ready to do so.
Think about this one: you can pick and choose who your customers are going to be. If you don’t like someone’s attitude then feel free to tell them so and then move on to the next customer. What a great feel of freedom.
Another nice benefit is that you can name your price and only work for that price. You know what your work is worth; you know what your time is worth. You are the CEO of your company and as such you can set your worth on the open market.
Do you want time with your family? Are you tired of missing the kids’ school events and soccer matches? As a freelance you have freedom to schedule yourself as you see fit. A dream come true for sure!
And before I finish with this quick list of benefits let us not forget the tax benefits to owning your own freelance writing benefits. A certain amount of your home and utilities can be written off as expenses if you set up an office for your business. How cool is that?
HOLD YOUR HORSE; THERE IS A DOWNSIDE TO THIS JOB
The first bad news I have is that you are, indeed, the boss! This is not a job for those who are not self-motivated. This writer writes between 8-10 hours per day, every day! I head off to my writing studio and I go through a daily ritual of looking for new jobs, applying for new jobs, satisfying existing customers and if time allows writing for my own pleasure.
Yes, you are the boss; you are also the marketing manager, the bookkeeper and the lowly peon at the bottom of the seniority ladder. In fact, you are at the top of that ladder and the bottom of that ladder, all at the same time. Cute trick!
This can be a stressful job, especially if you need the income badly. Jobs do not fall in your lap by accident. There are few referral gigs that are tossed your way by others. You have to home in on jobs like a heat-seeking missile and when you fail to get a job you have to suck it up, repair your crushed ego and do it all over again. The competition is fierce with several million other freelancers out there chasing the same dream that you are chasing. If you are not willing to do the work then you might be better off flipping burgers for the local McDonalds.
Yes, you have freedom, but let me tell you, you had better establish some strict boundaries with family and friends. I have had the hardest time convincing others that when I work at home I am actually working at home. I am not free to drop everything and go out for coffee nor am I free to chat on the phone for hours in the middle of the day. Freelance writing is every bit as much of a job as being a lawyer, a doctor, a professional chef or a school teacher. The only difference is that you are home when you work. Wrap your brain around that fact and never forget it. If you don’t work you don’t get paid. Period!
What else? Well, you can kiss your medical benefits goodbye. You can also kiss off the extras you once thought you couldn’t live without. Starting out in this business your income is going to be sparse at best for six months to a year. You have to get yourself established in the industry and that takes time. It makes no difference that your wife or husband thinks you are a great writer. There are quite a few “great writers” out there and those doing the hiring have a whole bunch of writers to pick from.
It took this writer six months to reach the $500 per month income level. Now, after eighteen months, I pick and choose between jobs and I actually turn down job offers, but the first six months were scary and troublesome. This is not a job for the weak of heart or spirit.
HAVE I SCARED YOU OFF YET?
Do you want me to get to the bottom line? Okay, here it is! I love freelance writing. I love the fact that I have no boss to piss me off! I love the fact that I am in charge of my own success or failure. I love the fact that each and every day I have the chance to follow my passion. I love the fact that I don’t have to drive to work and suck up to anyone in an office.
I am doing what I want to do and what I love to do. How many can say that? I am building my own business one brick at a time and I am seeing success. I am working in tandem with the love of my life in a supportive atmosphere.
Of course there are times of self-doubt and tough times economically, but that is true in any business venture. I have never shied away from a challenge and I’ve never failed because of fear. I am having the time of my life and that, my friends, is a benefit that has no monetary value.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
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Have you considered becoming a freelance writer?
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