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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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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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