I’m willing to bet most of you think that being a freelance writer is an easy gig. After all, I’m really my own boss, right? I’m doing what I’m good at in life; I work my own hours and set my own schedule; I don’t even have to get dressed in the morning to start working so forget the suit and tie, right? Right?!
Technically, yes, all of that is correct. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and let me just say, so much of it isn’t gumdrops and rainbows. Being a freelance writer is deceptively hard. Some writers quit their “real” jobs to freelance, thinking it’s going to be an awesomely lucrative and flexible way to make money. It’s not.
First, freelance writers seem to be the only people who actually think freelance writing is a real job. If you’re a freelancer, I’ll wager that your family and friends questioned your decision to start freelancing, and perhaps have even told you on more than one occasion to “get a real job”. Other freelancers totally understand what you’re going through, but don’t count on that perspective from the rest of the world.
Also, even people who hire freelancers don’t seem to think those writers are real people doing real work. A lot of people who claim to be “hiring freelancers” are essentially looking for free or dirt-cheap writing, and they have this infuriating tendency to act indignant when a writer dares to ask for a pay rate that’s close to fair compensation for their time and effort.
As a freelancer, it’s up to you to constantly be searching for work and your next source of much-needed income. There is no guarantee of work. And when you do find paying work, chances are it’s not going to be “fun” writing. You will not be composing whimsical fantasy tales or steamy romance pulp novels for pay. Most likely, you’ll be writing instruction manuals for a series of low-quality foreign inkjet printers, or something equally mind-numbing.
And if you want to legally be your own business, there’s even more work involved in that whole situation. Another freelance writer I’m friends with online, he lives in Sydney and he’s working pretty much all the time to keep it all together. He went ahead and started his own business to make his freelance stuff more official, and he says there’s all this extra stuff he didn’t expect, like getting business valuations done, and filing taxes as a small business instead of as a freelancer, and so on.
I mean, even as a pretty experienced freelance writer myself, it’s not exactly easy. I’m constantly writing for any number of Chautauqua local businesses, from ads to press releases to new website content. But I’m also taking other one-off writing jobs from all over the world, and there’s never any consistency like you’d get at your average 9-to-5.
And I don’t really get “days off” – my hours are literally any time I can get to my computer and crunch out some words to make a deadline – and I often find myself working ten, twelve, God knows how many hours a day. Yes, it’s all from the “comfort” of my own home, but it’s not like I have a ton of free leisure time!
Anyways, now that those thoughts are off my chest, I have to say I’m still glad most days to be making money doing something I’m pretty darn good at. Julia is always supportive of my work, especially when it’s something that pays decent, although she makes pretty good money herself. No, it’s not the easiest career. But again, it really could be worse, so I’ll count my blessings where I’ve got ’em.