For many, freelance writing seems like a dream career. A lot of people consider it or jump into it thinking it’s a life full of flexibility and freedom. Many romanticize the idea of freelance writing and also have misconceptions about it.
I have freelanced for more than 10 years and know 100+ freelance writers, so I wanted to clear up some common misconceptions. Here are some freelance writing truths to help you decide if it’s right for you:
You have all the free time you want.
Fiction. To be a successful freelance writer, you actually have little to no free time. Your salary depends on how much you do, so it’s easy to work 60 hours a week. Because you are not a traditional salary employee, there’s a constant pressure to produce as much work as possible. Our free time depends on our workload. Some weeks we have it, other weeks we don’t.
You make a lot of money.
Depends. At first, you won’t make much because you have to build a client base. Once you have a client base, you have to adjust how much work you take and who you work for. Some companies pay $1K for a feature; some pay $200. If you’re new to the industry, you’ll probably land the $200 clients. So, if you want to make $30K a year, you have to take 150 features at $200. That’s roughly 13 features a month.
You set your own schedule.
Fact. Freelance writers can usually set their own schedule, but keep this in mind: we work a lot. Sure, we can take two hours to go to lunch or run errands, but we pay for it later. Many of us don’t work 8-5. Some of us have full-time jobs during those hours. Our days range from 8 hours to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, depending on workload and deadlines.
You meet new people.
Fact. Whether it’s through email, phone or in person, you make a lot of good connections. I’ve worked with people all over the country and most have been wonderful. I’ve been invited to events, lunch, offered free accommodations, and more. You also learn about new industries, people, and cultures. Fun tip: If you’re writing for a Southern client, it helps to have a Southern accent so you understand each other.
Fiction. Some people think because we work from home and “set our schedule” we have it easy. I challenge those people to take an assignment. When you work from home, you never get a break. You have to balance work and home life 24/7. Also, try writing fours hours a day, every day, for one week (28 hours worth). Speaking from experience, there’s only so much writing a person can do before they get stuck. That amount depends on the writer.
You write about different topics.
Fact. Once you have a client base, you will probably write about different topics. In one week, you could write about news, arts and culture, health care, and politics. The variation keeps things interesting, and it helps you master the art of changing gears. You also learn to tailor your writing skills based on client guidelines and needs.
You have to pay your own taxes.
Fact. Most employers who hire freelancers do not take out taxes. That means you receive all of your income, so you have to take it out yourself. You must be financially responsible and save all year. A good base to save is 25-30 percent of your income. For example, if you make $30K a year, you need to pull out $7K to $9K. Depending on your situation, you can deduct some expenses, but it’s best to pull out a higher amount and budget wisely.
Is it worth it?
Depends. I love taking freelance projects. Most of my freelance friends love their jobs. We’re not confined to a cubical all day. We don’t have a traditional office environment with the politics and bs. Freelancers can work from anywhere. We don’t deal with traffic much and control our workload. To be a successful freelance writer takes discipline and hard work. It’s a career like all others. If you love what you do, then it’s worth it.