The etymology for the term freelance began with Sir Walter Scott when, in his novel Ivanhoe, he used it to describe medieval mercenary warriors. Since that time, the term freelance has come to mean many things to many people but has continued to retain its connection with entrepreneurship.
With the ever expanding growth of the internet, there is a need for written content now more than ever. But even as the demand for freelance writers grows so do the rate of people entering into the field. And it’s no wonder. Opting for a career in freelance writing comes with some hard to beat benefits such as being your own boss, the freedom to set your own hours and pay scale, better tax cuts (depending on how you set up your business) and the psychological benefits of being able to do what you love.
Before you decide to hang out your shingle as a freelance writer, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
1. Do you have what it takes to succeed?
Being your own boss does not absolve you from the responsibility of producing income. In fact that responsibility is multiplied exponentially because you are now totally dependant on yourself to bring in the income you need to survive. This requires the discipline to sit down and get to work without anyone leaning over your shoulder to make sure you do.
Being a freelance writer also requires you to be persistent enough to open doors that only appear to be closed, to persevere when times are lean and mean and to have a skin thick enough so that rejections don’t hurt much.
2. Are you a rainmaker?
Many new freelancers think it’s enough to simply tell a few people that they are available for work and the offers will start rolling in. That’s not the case. You will spend as much time looking for projects as you will work on them. Fortunately the internet has made this a lot easier.
You must also have the fortitude to be able to reject work that does not advance your career or pay you enough. It will be tempting, when your stomach is growling and the house note is due, to take jobs that pays very little. The problem with this is that the time wasted on these projects could have been spent finding and obtaining better paying work.
3. Do you like roller coasters?
Sometimes it’s a feast and sometimes it’s a famine. One month you’ll be so overloaded with work that you have to subcontract it out to other writers and other months the only thing showing up in your email box are tumbleweeds. A career in freelance writing requires that you have good planning and money management skills so as to help you live well when times are good and wisely when times thin.
4. Can you handle the downside?
While we all dream of working for that perfect editor who gives us total creative freedom and pays on the generous end of the scale the reality is that you are dealing with people and businesses who want to get the best value for the lowest dollar. This is where skills in negotiation and diplomacy come in handy.
On top of that, you will run into editors who make you regret taking on their project because of their demanding perfectionist attitude. Again having a thick skin comes in handy here as well as knowing when to cut your losses.
5. Can you handle your money?
Despite your best efforts, sometimes you won’t get paid. There are a variety of reasons why this happens. Businesses fold, invoices get lost or you are just plain scammed. You will be responsible for tracking down the check writers of a company and making sure you are paid.
6. Can you handle the scams?
You are often the target of scams especially if you are new to the field. For some reason scammers like to prey on writers and quite possibly because there are so many myths still circulating about the industry. You need to stay on your toes and learn how to spot and steer clear of scams.
7. Can you commit to doing what it takes to stay competitive?
While a college degree is not necessary for entry into the freelance writing career, it can only help you if you have one. What really is needed is a commitment to continuous education through reading and networking with others in the field as well as being able to stay on top of industry trends.
If you have gone through the list and decide that freelance writing is not for you, then I’m sorry to see you go and wish you good luck with your other ventures. If reading the list only made you more determined to get in the industry and blow everyone away with your success then stay tuned for the next article in this series that will help get you started.
Just in case you missed any, here’s a list: