3 Reasons Why I Am a Little Wary of Freelance Writing as a Career Choice

I am an Internet Marketing expert by profession and a part-time freelance writer (though I limit myself to writing sales copy or blog posts for reputable blogs only).

Even though I write just for the fun of it, when I compare the income and break it into hourly rates I find myself earning a little bit more as compared to what I’d get from an average SEO campaign for a small business (note that I am talking about hourly rates and not the overall earnings).

Now, writing is far from being a walk in the park, but it is a little simpler and less of a fuss than an SEO campaign that includes many different tasks like Keyword Research, Competitor’s Analysis, Link Building, Planning, and monitoring the search engine rankings for hundreds of keywords such as “123 company name discount” or “4companyname coupon.”

Still, if you ask me, I’m a little wary of choosing writing as my primary job. Here’s why …


Reason #1: Difficult to Organize My Time

When I say, writing is less of a fuss that was meant to be a plus point. However, this plus point can actually turn into a minus if you are doing it full time.

Take, for example, my primary job, i.e. SEO. I plan and supervise the SEO work from my office where I’ve got a small team working for me. And even though I sit for long hours every once in a while, I can’t keep working all the time even if I want to, which is not the case with writing since I don’t need anything but a notepad to write a rough draft of sales copy or an article. Give me a pen and a paper and I will come up with a write-up that’s good to go after some editing and proofreading (I hope it doesn’t sound like I am trying to boast).

Coming to the downside, being a workaholic (and also, who doesn’t like to make some extra bucks), I know I’d be writing all the time, day in and day out, besides this convenience of being able to write at any time and from anywhere can actually make you get into a procrastination mode. The easiness often results in two different types of pitfalls, either the freelance writer gets too relaxed and keeps postponing work until the cut-off date arrives, or they accept more projects than they can handle and have to deal with the overload. That’s precisely the reason why, amongst many different types of freelancers, I find the freelance writers to be the most disorganized work-from-home guys (I am talking about the freelancers I personally know; the general reality might be different).

Reason #2: Too Stressful

Writing is essentially a mental labor, and there’s no physical activity involved. However, full-time writers suffer both from physical stress as well as the mental tiredness. What appears a very simple task of going through some articles on the web, taking notes, and then using that information to come up with an article can give you worse kinds of strain. It would have been understandable if it was limited to mental exhaustion; however, excessive writing affects you from head to toe. True that there are guidelines that you can follow to avoid such problems, but how many writers can think of taking a ten minute break when writing an article, or do those stretching exercises while trying to think of a catchy title?

After some time you get eye strain that extends to your head, your shoulders and neck follows suit, and then the entire back–thanks to your weird postures and even weirder working hours. You find yourself thinking of new titles at odd times, and lamenting to yourself on your low productivity at the end of each day. And this stress can grow manifold when the dreaded writer’s block occurs.

Reason #3: Competing with the “Rewriters”

A big majority of freelance writers are actually rewriters. I often joke about “passing the Copyscape test” as the litmus test of originality. Some writers might find it a little harsh, but completely rewriting an article from top to bottom is not inspiration, but plagiarism. It’s not that I never get inspiration from the web when writing, but man, do I hate the idea of rephrasing someone else’s work and calling it my own. However, the majority of freelance writers (especially those offering their services for peanuts) consider it their birthright to go out and rewrite existing material.

So the primary reason I don’t jump into this field is because I don’t want to compete with the rewriters, especially when the majority of clients are not able to understand the difference.

Conclusion

This post wasn’t meant to be a complaint. The truth is that I wouldn’t opt for freelance writing as a career even if these issues were non-existent, mainly because I feel more comfortable with internet marketing.

But if you are a writer (and you most likely are a freelance writer if you are reading this post on Freelance Folder), I’d like to know if my reservations are real. And if they are, exactly how do you cope with them?

Image by Alexandre Dulaunoy

Comments

  1. says

    I can’t speak for all freelance writers, but here’s how I handle all of the above:

    Time Management: Every morning, I draw up a list of the things I wish to accomplish that day. I then organize my day into blocks of time, in which I will work on each item. That way, there’s time for writing, for research, for interviews, for brainstorming, for marketing… even for lunch. When I land an assignment or new project, I throw the deadline into my Google Calendar, and set an email alert for the absolute latest time I want to start working on it. I use to work all the damn time, but these practices have helped me to be more efficient so that I’ve finally achieved a very good level of balance.

    Stress: I don’t find the writing life to be all that mentally taxing but, as for the physical, I’ve taken up yoga. It stretches me out where I need to be stretched out, and also helps to quiet my mind.

    Rewriters: The best clients can see the value in those who create original, informed clients. I don’t consider rewriters to be real competition.

    Hope this helps!

  2. says

    I agree with you fully, Mishel.

    I’m one of those “thrown into freelancing because of the economy” and with everything that’s happening, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll be doing this well into next year (which was also when I thought I’d finally find a job). I of course read up on everything I could about freelancing and it was only suddenly that I realized that this year is my actual first year freelancing, as last year I had the cushions of a full time job.

    I’ve read how other freelancers love the freedom and wouldn’t ever go back to a real job, but I also suspect that these people also had a huge cushion of money underneath them and don’t worry about bills the way I have. That’s the major hurdle that I’ve had and you’re right – stressing about money does the opposite for me; instead of making me productive, it puts me in a depressive and UNproductive state.

    The reality to me is that, unless I manage to make enough in order to shell out the monthly fee for a co-working group, I would MUCH rather be in an actual, full time, sit in a cubicle letting my brain rot for eight hours doing something a monkey could do if it meant that I got a steady paycheck and health insurance with it.

  3. says

    Interesting take on freelance writing as a career. I like Steph’s response above and agree with everything she says. I must add my 2 cents to her response about the rewriters. The clients with something real to offer their customers, the business community in general, and the public at large know the difference between original work, produced by an efficient and conscientious professional and something regurgitated by a crafty and clever remanufacturing artist. They may swim for a while with the real pros, but will eventually lose momentum and sink like a rock. It’s harsh, but that’s life. Like Steph, I don’t consider them competition. My clients expect exemplary work from me — a product they can’t get from a rewriter — that’s why they don’t blink an eye when they hear my rate.

    I struggle with time management from time to time, but I have longer and longer stretches of time where I get it right. The times I struggle, it’s for a great reason — my children need me. It may be because they want to sing me a song they made up or are pining for me to make brownies with them — whatever it is — the time lost and the scrambling to catch up is well worth it.

    Stress — the only time I’m stressed is when I allow the world to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do — when I listen to outsiders who work in offices plant seeds of doubt in my plan. Writing itself gives me joy and relaxes me more than any of the high-stress positions I held in the corporate world. I am truly blessed to write for a living — truly blessed to own my own company and call myself a freelance writer.

    Love to all my freelance brothers and sisters.

    Samantha

  4. says

    I think this is kind of a shallow look into freelance writing. I mean, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the career. I hope no one makes a career decision based on these 3 points.

    1) Since you would write 24/7, that means freelance writers are disorganized? I’m not seeing your “ergo” here at all. Every career needs organization for success. If you’re not organized, you’ll not succeed at much of anything, SEO management included

    2) A million office jobs require computer work 5-10 hours per day. Ergonomics issues are not a freelance writing thing. I solver ergonomics by writing at my desk, coffee table, couch, kitchen table and standing up. I also run about 10 miles per week; my body is strong and can take repetitive stresses.

    3) I charge between $30 and $80 per hour- rewriters are nowhere near my level, and my clients can sniff out a rewriter from a mile away.

    It’s completely cool that you prefer your job to my job. I wish everyone was so blessed in that way. And I get that your post is kind of a thinking aloud/comparison thing. But I hope my comment here grabs some newbie freelance writers and pushes them to explore the job more fully.

    Gina- this made me burst out laughing: “I’ve read how other freelancers love the freedom and wouldn’t ever go back to a real job, but I also suspect that these people also had a huge cushion of money underneath them and don’t worry about bills the way I have”

    Not.Even.Close.

    My bills often get in a tight know. I did Monkey jobs for a long time- government office, low level, sit on my arse all day monkey jobs. And you know what- if I had a monkey job that let me stay home with my kids all summer and work 9-2 every day, and take any day I wanted off with little or no notice, and work one month a year from the mountains of Mexico, well, I would TAKE that monkey job too! But one doesn’t exist, so I created one. And no, it’s not a monkey job, it engages my brain and challenges me everyday, but I think the pay off/trade off is worth it.

  5. says

    I don’t know anything about freelancing writing. But I think if you manage your time and projects well, like any other niche, you’ll be fine.

    Anyone wanting to get into it should just research and get their feet wet. Don’t be scared of the bad things that can happen, those risks are always there. Instead take a stab so you don’t regret what you never did. ;)

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