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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.
What’s the best part about being a freelancer? Working from home in your favorite socks? Choosing the projects you take on? Taking breaks when you want?
A while ago, I talked a bit about what it’s like being a freelance writer.
Now I want to focus on the main benefits—the reasons why you may want to choose to freelance over working for a publication, marketing agency, and so on.
1. You can work from home
Arguably the biggest reason for becoming a freelance writer is the comfort of working from home. Goodbye, daily commute to work! Goodbye, driving/waiting for the bus/walking in the rain!
You can work in bed if you want—nobody will mind.
Freelancing is great if you’d rather not leave home all that often or live in a neighborhood/town that requires a long commute to a good job.
Of course, there are disadvantages to working from home, but I’ll talk about those in a future post.
2. You can move around
Freelancing won’t tie you to a place.
If you plan to travel or would like to live as a nomad or expat, freelancing offers you the kind of flexibility you simply can’t have with most other jobs.
In essence, you can work anywhere you can take your laptop with you. Okay, maybe this is a bit of an overstatement.
You also need a few other things…
- an internet connection
- a good mouse/trackpad
- a power outlet within charging range
- tolerable noise levels
- the ability to focus on work in a novel surrounding
3. You can pick your clients
Nobody will force you to work with a client you don’t like.
If problems arise, you can end your contract or collaboration before the situation becomes stressful or unpleasant.
You can choose to invest time into relations with clients you get along with.
As we all know, in a corporate setting you have little to no control over the clients that come in.
4. You have a strong sense that you’re working for yourself
Being a freelancer is essentially a solo business.
Your efforts go toward improving your reputation and establishing connections with clients.
It’s rewarding to know that all the effort you invest in your work goes into your business, not someone else’s (whose long-term goals could be very different from your own).
Of course, being a one-person business comes with its own set of challenges. But let’s leave that to another post.
5. You can take a break whenever you want
There’s a flow to the work you take as a freelancer—you have to keep taking on work to stay busy.
Still, there’s nothing that can stop you to take a break when you feel you have to. I don’t necessarily mean a holiday in the usual sense of the world.
If something unexpected comes up—a trip, a date, an event, or just the blues—you can usually call it a day unless you’re maxed out on work.
If you need long weekends for travel or some other specific arrangement, you can work more in advance. With most jobs, that’s simply not possible. With most jobs, you have to be there every day and grind on.
6. You can choose the projects you take on
As a freelancer, you will naturally gravitate toward projects that appeal to you.
Money will always be a consideration, but if you dislike writing on financial topics or car insurance, nobody will force you to.
Choosing what mental content occupies your mind is important, and as a freelancer, you have some control over that.
7. You can set your own working hours
Maybe you don’t like waking early or working in the morning. Maybe you’re a night owl.
As a freelancer, your schedule is not set in stone—most types of projects won’t require you to be there during specific hours.
Choosing working hours that suit you can help you write better and enjoy the creative process more.
8. You are challenged to constantly improve
You have to keep your writing sharp to make a positive impression on the people you work with and keep getting more work.
This keeps you motivated—you strive to make your writing the best you can.
Writers are not like athletes. Training is not enough to make us better. We have to deal with variables and influences beyond our conscious minds.
Still, having deadlines and tackling different projects can be challenging in a positive way.
9. You reduce expenses
Working from home means you don’t have to travel to work every day. You’ll save money on gas/public transportation fees/bicycle maintenance.
It also means you can save money on food, drinks, and other expenses—we all know that eating at home is cheaper and, usually, healthier.
Another side effect of working from home is that you will most likely start spending less money on clothes.
10. You become a better marketer
Knowing how to “sell” yourself is important. In many professions, it’s just as important as the skills you have, if not more.
As a freelancer, you have to do quite a bit of marketing—you have to be persuasive when you apply to jobs and talk projects with clients.
Communication is important and it’s often what makes the difference between winning or losing a nice project.
The perks of being a freelancer boil down to working on your own terms. You have more control over your time and the sort of work you do.
You don’t have full control—that’s only an illusion. You still have to make compromises if you want to get steady work.
But if work is for you more than an exchange of time in return for money, becoming a freelance writer can make a positive difference in your life. It’s a simple and honest way to embrace a pleasant lifestyle that leaves you time for your passions.
Having said that, the benefits of being a freelance writer are balanced by an equal number of disadvantages—I’ll talk about those soon.
Until then, take care!