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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 April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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