Writers have been around for ages, but today’s freelance variety, of which I am a proud member, are a different lot entirely. We make our living slaving away over keyboards with pets, kids and spouses in the same room or at least in the same living space. In other words, we work and live in the same environment and kick butt being awesome and composing thousands of words daily. That isn’t to say the career is without its drawbacks, though. In fact, there are a few things I wish I had known when getting into the game years ago that I would like to share with you, my fellow sojourner.
It’s Not as Glamorous as You Think It Is: Be Prepared
If you ask 100 people what it means to be a writer, you will likely get 100 answers … at least. You will likely have some who picture Ernest Hemingway toiling over great works of literature such as “A Farewell to Arms” or “The Old Man and the Sea.” This Pulitzer Prize-winning author is what many think of when contemplating “author” or “writer” as a career path. However, in the real world of technological advancement, I would venture to say that a large amount of writing takes place via a laptop instead of a typewriter, parchment and ink, or some other form. Furthermore, I would venture that the topics many of us “writers” find ourselves slaving over are ones that are less shall we say world-altering than those in the Hemingway works mentioned. Often, my money is made reviewing products for companies, doing an overview of laws for legal clients or relaying voting information for elected officials. In other words, it can get dull. Thank goodness for those awesome clients who allow me to express my personal and creative passions on the page and still pay me for it! Unfortunately, they are not the majority. Most writing is for practical purposes.
Not Having a Steady, Regular Income
“Relearning how to budget. When you have a normal job, you budget your bills according to your paychecks. When you freelance, you have to figure out your bills plus food and essentials and earn that amount every month.” Stacey C
The quote above is from one of my fellow writers here at Writer Access and brings up another very important element of the freelancing game. This was one that I had to learn the hard way, unfortunately. The game of content creation ebbs and flows. You will have some months in which you make much more than you thought possible and others that make you wonder what happened to all your regular clients. It is truly a feast-or-famine career. As such, you have to be good at budgeting. If you aren’t, understand that this has to change if you want to make it as a freelancer. This article by EveryDollar explains how to budget, even when you have a variable income. It is a good resource. In general, you need to know how much you need to bring in each month and then work to get to that point. When you make more, save the excess. When you make less, dip into the savings. It’s common sense, but not easy. It takes discipline! Oh, and there’s also the fun time at tax season when you realize you have to pay taxes on all the income you received throughout the year. Word to the wise: Get an accountant and make quarterly payments — it will make your life so much easier.
Not Being Prepared for Those Who Just “Don’t Get It”
The job of a freelance writer is one that not everyone will understand. I have noticed in my own life that my older relatives and friends are the ones who have particular difficulty. That is usually because they don’t use computers, access websites or know what in the world I mean when I say “ghostwriting” or “copywriting.” Suffice it to say, they don’t get it. They probably never will. Know that these people exist, and our work isn’t tangible to them. I still to this day, some eight years or more into the freelance writing business, have certain relatives who ask me if I am still doing that writing thing, as if it’s a little hobby.
Not Understanding the Pull of Distraction
“It’s so easy to get distracted doing other things, and when I first started, I didn’t treat it enough like a real business. It took me a while to learn a good balance.” Michelle S
The above quote is from another one of our talented writers here at Writer Access. Michelle makes a valid point. When working from home, you will get distracted. I didn’t realize how much this would happen when getting into freelance writing. I swear, I am always in the mood to clean or do laundry when I have a deadline to meet, and with the washing machine just steps away, distractions are pretty tempting. Therefore, I had to learn to set guidelines around my work just as if I was going into an “office.” This is my job and my career, and I need to treat it as such.
Hopefully, the information listed above will help you navigate the awesome world of freelance writing. All in all, this is an amazing career. I love the flexibility it provides, and I couldn’t ask for a better way to make a living. Just look out for the pitfalls noted above, and you will be fine. Reach out if you need advice — I am always happy to help. Happy writing!
Brandie P‘s career as a freelance writer spans several years and encompasses an abundance of niche specialties. Before beginning her writing career, she was an office manager and worked in the medical field. Her experience in these two fields have come in handy when writing topics pertaining to these fields.