The Perks and Horrors of Being a Freelance Writer

Updated on April 28, 2020
Jana Louise Smit profile image

Jana started her first novel at age 12 (it's in a box somewhere), published another and is writing a second. She loves sharing writing tips.

Should you make the switch to freelance? Read on to find out!
Should you make the switch to freelance? Read on to find out! | Source

The Dangerous Fantasy

When the idea of freelancing first hits, most people experience it as a fantasy. They might imagine a stress-free existence and easy earnings. The reality is different. There are no perpetual stress-free weeks. The earnings are definitely not easy. The worst mistake new freelancers make is that they fall for the fantasy and dismiss reality. It's a recipe for failure.

You can thrive as a freelancer. Success comes with hard work, a thick skin, financial acumen and sidestepping the pitfalls of the business.

The Perks

  • You no longer work in a job you hate.
  • When you're sick, you can take the day off without needing to crawl to a doctor to prove to your boss that you're ill.
  • Flexible hours allow the pursuit of other dreams and goals.
  • More time with your family.
  • Income potential is technically limitless; no glass ceiling will appear based on your gender, race or beliefs.
  • You no longer need to commute or drive to work.
  • You have the right to say, "I have my own business".
  • You'll grow as a writer.
  • Discover other income opportunities in the field, such as editing and proofreading.
  • This is something you can do forever—nobody will force you to retire when you hit 65.

Full time writers experience terrible stress when they fail to find work that pays well. It's better to rely on another income until your freelance business grows.
Full time writers experience terrible stress when they fail to find work that pays well. It's better to rely on another income until your freelance business grows. | Source

The Horrors

The monsters get their own paragraphs because they need more discussion. Some are not so bad, but others really need your awareness before you embark on this worthwhile journey.

1. Don't Join the Club Overnight

Freelancing offers the power to make your own finances and life better. That's a legitimate hope, but it mustn't be the anchor that drags you under because you jumped into the ocean without a boat. That's what freelancing is; a massive ocean with plenty of fish to catch, but there are also storms and predators.

Acclimatize slowly. Read articles about freelancing, set up your home office, take one gig to start with—but don't leave your day job. Freelancing cannot pay the mortgage, car payments, and the kids' education. Not yet. It's best to ease into this difficult profession. The alternative is to risk disillusionment and to give up.

2. The Place Is Overcrowded

This might come as a surprise, given that you might be the only person you know who wants to write for a living. However, log on to the web and you'll realize, with dismay, that you're in a stampede of writers galloping towards the same jobs. Thousands compete at content mills and hundreds submit pitches to popular magazine sites every day. The crowd of writers and the competition between them can be bewildering for a new freelancer. This stiff competition is the main reason you won't earn major money at first.

The solution is to search for sites offering a fair chance based on the quality of your work. Avoid content mills. They give dismal chances to new freelancers without resumes and the pay is often rotten. The best places focus on one topic, such as parenting, lifestyle, technology or travel. They are open to unsolicited pitches and most offer good pay. Once you find a site you'd like to write for and you meet their submission requirements, prepare a quality pitch or article and submit.

3. It Requires Discipline

When everyone else trudges to work on a Monday, freelancers can binge-watch YouTube. There's nothing wrong with that—if your work is done. Discipline can be a hard gift to master, but it's a gift. This ability will ensure that you turn your work in before their deadlines, create quality work your editors will love and make your finances look buff.

Nobody's life is perfectly disciplined but if you're serious about becoming a full-time freelancer, then show up. In the beginning, it needn't be grand gestures. Write a little every day. Search for a few jobs every day. Read articles about freelancing every day. Just take another step each day.

4. Payment Can Be a Problem

Freelance writers love their craft. However, nobody can stick a fork into a verb and eat it. We need an income. The good news is that overall, payment happens as it should. The company or client has a set pay date and promptly deposits your earnings. They make it worth your while. In other words, you don't feel underpaid for your efforts.

Unfortunately, in this business, writers submit their work first and then get paid. This gives chancers the opportunity to withhold payment or disappear. This spawned the "third person" involvement mills that bring writers and clients together and act as a go-between. However, most of these companies take a huge cut from the writer's earnings. You'll also get a slew of clients on such sites who'd want mountains of work for peanuts. One example is the "authors" who pay other people to write their novels for as low as $50.

Writers draw on the past to create great stories, but make sure that you also put funds away for your future.
Writers draw on the past to create great stories, but make sure that you also put funds away for your future. | Source

5. There's No Pension

As we get older, we want to slow down and enjoy life more. We don't want financial worries when we're seventy years old and dealing with physical ailments. Freelance writing cannot provide that net, because it doesn't come with a fat retirement fund. Freelancers must plan wisely for their golden years but as life gets more expensive, saving or investing is often difficult.

The good news is that freelancing can earn more with hard work. Just keep in mind that if this is your sole income, you must commit to creating your own pension. You cannot afford not to. In a few decades, life will be even more expensive. You need a sound financial plan and medical cover to ensure a comfortable life. A helpful tip is to invest in royalties. Some sites, in the fields of copy content and photography, give lifetime royalties per view or sales. It's worth having a look at those.

Give It a Try

If freelancing is really what you want to do, then go for it. Don't let the bad things put you off. If dreams were easy, everybody would realize their goals in a single day. Start slowly, one job, two jobs, get a permanent client, work hard and strive to write sterling pieces; then financial and creative freedom can offer you the life that you want.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jana Louise Smit


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