The “Write” Stuff: Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Freelancer?
Making a living as a freelance writer is not for the faint of heart. It can drain your brain, bust your buns and put a serious kink in your social life. Do you think you’re a good writer? Have you been tossing around the idea of starting a freelance business? Before you sign that ghostwriting contract, take this little self-assessment quiz and find out if you’ve got what it takes!
- Are you a self starter? Employers often ask this question when interviewing potential new hires, put freelance writing takes the concept to a whole new level. When you are your own boss, there are no office hours, time cards or outside quota systems to keep you motivated. You have to nag yourself to get up on time and you have to set your own working hours. You must also resist all those tantalizing time wasters out there, like Facebook updates, cable reruns and that bathtub grout that’s just screaming to be scrubbed.
- Are you flexible? As a freelancer, you’ll face days when the workload seems to stretch to the horizon and dozens of unmet deadlines hang over your head like the Sword of Damocles. On those days, you’ll have to lay all other obligations and plans aside and hit that keyboard with real commitment. Other days, your work pool may suddenly dry up. Then, you won’t have the luxury of spending the time worrying about the work drought, or checking and rechecking your shrinking PayPal balance. You’ll need to take advantage of the unexpected free time to get your laundry done, walk your dog, or reconnect with friends who haven’t heard from you in so long they’ve begun to suspect you’ve joined the Foreign Legion.
- Are you tenacious? Every paid freelance writing gig represents hours of unpaid behind-the-scenes effort. Long before you get to savor the satisfaction of a juicy financial payoff, you’ll have to pitch article ideas, send out query letters and reach out to potential new clients. You may even have a website or an online profile to maintain. And don’t forget about the inevitable revision requests. It takes a pitbull-like personality to stick to each writing assignment long enough to see it pay off.
- Are you a loner … at least some of the time? Writing is a lonely business; perhaps now more than ever because the Internet allows so many of us to work from home. Unless you’re lucky enough to have access to the emerging phenomenon The New York Times calls a shared workspace, most days you’ll be alone with your computer: no boss, no colleagues, no donut vender. Whether you have an office or not, much of your contact with clients and editors will be by phone or through email. Answer this question honestly. Some people thrive in isolation; others do not.
There you have it: four simple questions. How did you do? If you answered “yes” four times, you’ve got the “write” stuff. Buy a laptop and start writing! Three times? It might work out; give it shot. Did you answer in the affirmative two times or less? You may want to pull up Craigslist and start looking for a different job.
Kate C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.