*note: this article has been translated into Spanish. Thanks Phillipe!
Being a freelance writer is a lot like being a stay-at-home mom. People on the outside have this image of a leisured existence, while the reality of the situation is that freelance writers (and stay-at-home moms) are often busier than many “working” folks. God forbid you choose to be a stay-at-home mom who is also a freelance writer.
It’s this misconception of the freelance life that spurs my best friend to call me twice a week at 2 in the afternoon and ask, “whatcha doin?” He never once called me at 2 in the afternoon when I was a Network Administrator and asked, “whatcha doin?”
It’s this misconception of the freelance life that causes people to say, “What, couldn’t you get a real job?” when you tell them you’re a freelance writer. If they’re a bit nicer, they might say “freelance what?” or “Really? What books have you written?”
It might also be this misconception that has some of you considering the freelance life for the first time. Before you get any further, though, there are some things you should know.
1. Freelancing Isn’t For The Lazy.
Most successful freelancers I know don’t sleep until noon. In fact, the most successful freelancers I know are up before 6 AM, every day, including weekends. As a freelance writer, there are never enough hours in the day to do what you need to do. Why do you think Navarro’s 30 Hours a Day program is so wildly successful?
It’s not because Dave is such a good writer (although he is). It’s because his peers, other freelancers, don’t have enough time to do what needs to be done.
I put an average of 50 hours a week in on my freelance writing. That’s less than what I put in a year ago, and I make more now, too. As your freelance career builds, you do get to work a little less, but it will almost never be less than you would in another job.
2. Freelancing Is Damn Hard Work.
Yeah, OK. Fine. Freelancing takes time. But it’s easy work, right? I mean, you just write about whatever you want all day. How cool is that?
That’d be insanely cool if it were true. Just before I sat down to write this article I penned a piece on the difference between “HD-Capable” and “HD-Ready“. Now, while I love watching HD, I really couldn’t care less about how the tech works. But I had to learn it and then write a considerable volume about it, too. Right now I don’t care if I ever freacking watch TV in HD again.
Some of the work is enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. Some of that 50 hours a week is spent on my own blog where I don’t make a dime (yet).
A bunch of that time is spent marketing – finding clients, bidding on gigs, schmoozing (and screwing around on Twitter). Some of that’s fun, and some is horribly tedious.
Fortunately, because I’ve built up a decent client base over time, I don’t have to spend as much time marketing as I did just a couple of years ago, but I still have to do it. Add to that all of the busy work, invoicing, bookkeeping and the occasional blog read, and I probably only write around 25 to 30 of those 50 hours. On a good week, half or so of that is in a content area I enjoy or wanted to write about.
3. Freelancers Work For More Jerks Than Anyone Else.
Wait, What? I thought freelancers got to be their own bosses! How does that work?
It’s easy. It works like this:
- Client provides project specs.
- Freelancer completes and submits project.
- Client changes specs.
- Freelancer revises and resubmits project.
- Client drops the order altogether, posts both sets of submissions anyways.
- Freelancer finds new client.
Maybe #5 becomes “client doesn’t pay the invoice for 6 months” or “client offers half the original bid amount“, but you get the idea. Freelancers are in small business, which means that when you agree to do a job you run the risk that the client will prove to be a jackass before it’s all said and done.
4. Freelancing Is A Thankless Profession.
Some of the highest-paying and most interesting gigs, at least when you’re first starting out, are going to be ghostwriting gigs. They’re also the gigs that you can’t even put in your portfolio. Imagine this conversation:
“So, Mr. Younce, I see here you’ve written more than 5,000 pages of web content. Very impressive. Can you show me some of that work?”
“Eh, well, no. See, I ghostwrote those articles.”
“Ah, OK. So, can you give me contact information on your client, then?”
“Well, no… he was killed in a fiery wreck. Very sad thing. Left 2 kids and a wife behind.”
“Mm Hm. So, you can’t actually prove you wrote anything?”
“Well, I guess not, no.”
“Thanks for your time, Mr. Younce. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
It’s not just ghostwriting, though. Yeah, Chris Garrett and Darren Rowse can publish a book, which will do extremely well in terms of sales. But neither of them would command the audience that Stephen King or even R.A. Salvatore commands at a book signing.
So, Why Do It?
What makes it worth the prospect of working your sweet patootie off every day working for a jerk in a thankless profession? What is it, when you’ve written your 20,000th word on HD-compatible vs. HD-ready, gives you a reason to write word #20,001?
Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you why. I’ll tell you the other 4 violent truths about freelancing, and how knowing them and acting on them can take your freelance career into the stratosphere. :)
About the author: Bob Younce is a full-time Internet writer and writing mentor living in Linwood, Michigan. He is dedicated to helping Internet writers to achieve their dreams. Visit Bob at The Writing Journey or follow him on Twitter.