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13 Best (and Worst) Things About Becoming A Freelance Writer.

13 Best (and Worst) Things About Becoming A Freelance Writer.

According to a new survey, 54 million Americans – or 34% of the workforce – are engaged in freelance work. Almost 8% of those are freelance writers – and that’s around 4,320,000 people.

It’s clearly an increasingly popular market, and with good reason, but it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. If you’re thinking of becoming a freelance writer, make sure you go into it with your eyes wide open.

Let’s start with the good.

1. You’re Your Own Boss.

If you want to take a holiday, take a holiday. If you want to sleep in until 11, sleep in until 11.  If you want to hit the gym at 3 to avoid the post-office rush? Yup, that too.

One of the best things about being a freelance writer is that you answer to no one except yourself; you own your decisions.

Obviously you still have responsibilities and those responsibilities dictate your priorities but the point is, they’re your priorities (and your consequences). Not the company’s. Not your manager’s. Your good is the greater good.

2. You Can Work Wherever You Want.

All you need to be a freelance writer is yourself, your laptop and an Internet connection.

There’s no specialist equipment and, although some freelance writers do spend time with clients in-person, it’s not a job requirement.

With tools like Skype empowering worldwide inter-connectivity, there are few situations where a face-to-face meeting is more cost-time efficient than an e-meeting anyway, so it’s not a big loss if you never meet clients offline.

All of which means this: you can work from wherever you want, whenever you want. Maybe that means that little café you love with the hand-roasted beans, or maybe it means joining the hubud in Bali.

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Forget ‘the world is your oyster’ – the world is your office.

3. It’s Varied.

Being a freelance writer means having a portfolio of clients, rather than a single employer.

Because your skill is writing, rather than something strictly industry-specific, those clients can be much more varied that if you were, say, a freelance plumber.

Even if you specialize in writing for a specific area, the variety of work is endless. Being a great writer is similar to being a great actor: you have to be able to master different voices, different styles, different personalities

Work never seems mundane, because you’re constantly applying your skills in a different way.

4. It’s Secure.

One of the traditional arguments against freelancing is that you sacrifice job security. This is quite a fallacy.

When you first strike out as a freelance writer, things probably are less secure than having a full-time job, but once you’ve built up a client portfolio you’ve got a properly diversified income stream.

Your financial security is no longer dependent on one client but on many; this spreads and therefore minimizes your risk. In an insecure economy, it’s more important than ever not to put all your eggs in one basket.

 5. You Can Be Agile.

Markets change constantly. New opportunities spring up; new niches; new areas where you could make a mark. Being a freelance writer gives you the fluidity and agility to take advantage of new opportunities with minimal risk.

The e-learning market is a great example. Growing rapidly, it’s an area that’s attractive to a lot of freelance writers right now – but it’s still a relatively new industry and the bubble could yet burst. Freelance writers can easily dip a toe in the water with new markets like this – a new project here; a new client there – without needing to dive in and hope they swim.

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6. It’s A Constant Learning Curve.

As a freelance writer, your clients are paying you to stay ahead of the curve on their behalf. At least a third of your time isn’t spent writing at all, but reading, listening, watching and absorbing as much as possible, in order that you can write with authority.

For people who love to keep learning, being a freelance writer absolutely ticks that box.

7. It’s Fulfilling.

For most freelance writers, this is the most overwhelming positive: you get to do what you love.

It goes almost without saying that you have to love writing (and take a word of advice – if you don’t, don’t try and be a freelance writer. It’s bloody difficult if you’re not passionate about it), but it goes deeper than that.

Precisely because it’s such a flexible career, and because you’re your own boss, you can choose the sort of life you want to build for yourself. You can work for top-dollar with huge advertising companies, or throw yourself into that creative not-for-profit that you admire, or neither, or both.

It’s not about building an attractive resume, or showing career progression, or avoiding career gaps – it’s about choosing what you work on and when in the combination you find most fulfilling.

Being a freelance writer is not all sunshine and flowers, though. This job is very far from easy and, if you want to do it, you should know what you’re getting into. Here are the massive downsides to being a freelance writer:

8. You Have To Fight Your Own Corner.

Harsh truth time: there are a lot of aspiring freelance writers out there, and a lot of them aren’t much good at all.

Freelance writing sometimes seems to be a default career choice for those who want to freelance, but lack the writing-specific skills, knowledge or willingness that should back that up.

Finding work is competitive, and finding high-paying work more so. There’s no shortage of writers looking to undercut you, selling on price because that’s all they have to sell on.

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Being a freelancer writer means being able to sell yourself. It means having a really solid value proposition, and being able to pitch confidently to clients. It means knowing your worth, and being willing to negotiate constantly – because no one’s going to hand you anything on a plate.

9. You Can’t Be Rudderless.

There’s no simple path to success; no ten steps you can follow to automatically ‘make it’ as a freelance writer. The scale and diversity of the market are amazing, but it also means that you have a really strong sense of purpose or you’ll struggle to navigate in any meaningful way.

Clear goals and a clear mission to realize them are essential: without them, you could end up on a plateau, working endless hours and earning just enough to get by.

10. There’s No Life Raft.

Most of us have days where we just need to take things easy.

Maybe you’re ill, maybe you’re run down, maybe your head just isn’t in the game – whatever. Even if you’ve never pulled a sickie, I’m sure there have been days where you’ve been in the office more in body than in spirit, and that’s OK – if you’re employed.

One of the best things about being a freelance writer is the amount of effort you put in directly correlates to how much you earn – but it can feel like one of the worst things sometimes too. If you don’t draft, you don’t get paid – full stop.

That makes those off-days a lot harder to swallow.

11. It’s Hard To Find Balance.

The correlative to the above is that it’s worryingly easy to work yourself into the ground and burn out.

That freelancers have to be self-motivated has been said so many times as to be stale, but that doesn’t just refer to getting up and putting in the hours. It’s just as, if not more, difficult to know when to stop working and take time for yourself.

At the same time though you’ll never not have responsibilities again, if you want to be successful. You can aspire to work/life integration, for sure, but you can never truly switch off, never really leave work behind, because there’s no one else to take the reins.

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Finding ways to be compassionate and present in all the elements of your life becomes more of a challenge for freelancers.

12. There Are A Lot Of Odds And Ends.

If you become a freelance writer, you’re lucky if 75% of your time is billable. Writing might be what pays the bills, but you’re running a business now.

That means tax, business development, sales, marketing and so on.

The time you spend responding to emails will suddenly crystallize once you realize you’re earning zero dollars an hour while you do it.

13. It Can Be Lonely.

I don’t just mean lonely in the sense of literally being alone.

I mean it in the deeper sense, that you lack a shared purpose. Even if you hang out in co-working spaces or work on-site with clients, you’re running a business of one.

If you freelance, you can find yourself yearning after the shared sense of achievement, the camaraderie, you get when working in a team.

The thing about being a writer is this: it’s a vocation more than anything else.

If you’re thinking of becoming a freelance writer and you’re focusing on the reasons you want to freelance rather than the reasons you want to write, it’s probably not the career for you.

A good test is this. If you won $100 million on the lottery tomorrow, what would you do?

After the travelling and the cocktails and the new car; once the celebrations died down? If the answer isn’t write then don’t become a writer. Find a way to carve out a career doing whatever your answer was instead.

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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