Should you quit your day job to become a freelance writer? The number of freelancers around the globe is steadily increasing, but there are some things you need to know before you choose this path.
In my last post, I talked about the perks of being a freelancer. I also promised that I would cover the cons in a separate post.
There are plenty of advantages to being a freelancer over having a day job, but this lifestyle is not for everyone.
So, read on before you decide to become a freelance writer.
1. You have to manage uncertainty
When you’re a freelancer, your workflow can ebb and flow. You may get a lot of exciting projects all at once but then you may have to “take a break” for a while because there’s not much for you to work on.
You can plan for this to some extent, but there are factors beyond your control. Clients may vanish from one day to the next for reasons that have nothing to do with work. I don’t meant this happens often because from my experience it doesn’t.
But I want to illustrate probably the biggest challenge of being a freelancer, namely, living with uncertainty. You need to be confident in your abilities and believe in what you’re doing to do this.
2. You have to keep looking for projects
Most of the time, you can’t wait to complete your current project before bidding for new ones.
If you become complacent about finding work, there will (many) days when you won’t have anything to work on.
In other words, you have to be proactive about your work. You have to see opportunities well ahead of time.
The dynamic aspect of the job doesn’t suit everyone.
3. You can end up with a hectic schedule
Many people want to become freelancers to be able to choose their work hours, to sleep late, to work when they have the most energy and so on.
But for that, you have to structure your day and plan your work ahead.
Having worked with other freelancers over the years, I’ve witnessed how freelancing can keep people tied to their computers for hours on end, deprive them of sleep, and even affect their health.
Clients in different time zones, tight deadlines, and bad time management can quickly mix up your work life and your personal life in an unhealthy way, especially if you work from home.
4. You don’t get benefits
You have to decide whether you want to pay for health insurance or not and make the necessary arrangements.
In some countries getting health insurance as a freelancer is more difficult (and more costly) than in others.
And forget about bonuses.
5. There’s a lot of competition
Freelancing is popular in developing countries, which often means that there’s a lot of cheap labor out there.
Depending on what type of writing you want to focus on and where you live, you may have a hard time competing with low-rate freelancers.
You may have to lower your rates to compete, at least until your portfolio grows.
6. It can get lonely
Working on your own from home may sound like a dream—no commute to work, no obnoxious coworkers, no boss breathing down your neck.
But fast forward a few years, and you may find that you’re missing the interaction with others.
Even when you deal with a lot of clients, it’s mostly impersonal. You won’t be a part of a team unless you hire an assistant or grow your freelancing into a business.
7. You have to deal with all sorts of clients
Personally, I have not come across bad clients—the sort that won’t pay or that will treat you rudely—maybe with just one or two exceptions.
Most people getting things done online are clever, nice, and thoughtful.
However, some clients drop off the radar and you have to keep reminding them about things—whether it’s about leaving you a rating or sending you the work they promised to send.
Others can be confusing because they don’t know what they want.
8. You have to be your own boss
You need to teach yourself discipline and patience if you aren’t already disciplined and patient. You can’t afford to be lax in your work for too long at a time or you won’t make much progress.
As a freelance writer, you can’t hide behind a group and justify poor performance or laxity through the behavior of others.
9. You have to be your own marketer
In my previous post, I listed this as a perk. Well, for some people it can also be a con.
If you don’t like pitching yourself constantly, you may have a hard time being a freelancer.
Because getting projects is not just a question of the skills, qualifications, or certifications you have.
All these are important, same as your previous work experience. But how skillfully you sell yourself is equally important.
10. You probably won’t be getting rich
Freelancing is great if you value time more than money. If you don’t have big expenses and want to focus most of your energy, or at least a good part of it, on personal projects or passions.
It gives you the flexibility to say no when you need to say it. And for some people, that makes it all worth it.
Freelancing can also help you earn some extra money on top of your day job.
But honestly, if it’s just a question of money, there are better ways to make it in our times than being a freelance writer.
The Bottom Line
Being a freelance writer isn’t just a job—it’s a lifestyle. If you want to live like a freelance writer, then the cons won’t stop you from writing remotely for a living. As a high school dropout from Romania who taught himself English, I think I’m good proof of that.
However, if money and time are both extremely important for you, I recommend you consider this path carefully. Becoming a successful freelancer and building a portfolio takes time—there are ups and downs you can avoid by choosing other jobs.
In the end, if you need the freedom to choose what you write and say no when you need to say no, the cons are all manageable.
3 thoughts on “The Cons of Being a Freelance Writer”
Great article! I’ve been a full-time freelancer for more than 10 years. I used to work 40-hour weeks, but after going full-time freelance, 70-hour weeks became the norm. Of course it’s far more comfortable to work from home (and no more daily commute) but I’ve known many people who gave it a try, and they simply couldn’t handle the lifestyle. Social life? What’s a social life?
Can I ask where you live? I believe the freelancer experience can be quite different depending on how expensive life is where you are based.
I’m in Denver / Shanghai… both are fairly expensive cities, but we have no kids and no car which lowers our cost of living substantially. We also rarely go out unless it’s business-related. That’s probably why this lifestyle doesn’t suit everyone’s taste!