Why You Should Not Become a Freelance Writer
Type “freelance writing” into your Google search bar, and you’ll be assaulted with thousands of articles detailing the joys of freelancing. Titles like, How to make a full-time income as a freelance writer, and, 5 Reasons You’ll Love Freelancing make this job seem a lot more glamorous than it often is.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to love about freelance writing, namely the freedom it represents. You can work from home, have flexible hours, and there’s no boss breathing down the back of your neck.
But, there’s also a lot to dislike about freelance writing. Mommy bloggers and self-help gurus looking to sell their e-books will tell you that anybody can be a freelance writer. Which, technically, is true, but not everyone can be a successful freelance writer.
Freelance writing is still just a job, and it's not a one size fits all. Not everyone is capable of thriving as a freelance writer, just like not everyone would be happy as a nurse, welder or lawyer. I, for instance, would be a terrible surgeon— I can’t stand the pressure of holding someone’s life in my hands, and I tend to have a weak stomach.
The issue is that anybody looking to start freelance writing is only ever given the positives, so they’re later blindsided by the negatives that accompany this job. Some of them, falsely believing that anybody could be happy as a freelance writer, will be unprepared for the moment they realize they hate it.
I’m not trying to discourage anyone, but I also want to discuss the reality of freelance writing, rather than only the best case scenario. There are plenty of reasons why you should become a freelance writer, but there are also plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t.
You aren’t just a writer, you’re also a manager, customer service rep, salesman and accountant
In many ways, becoming a freelance writer is a lot like owning your own business. Not only do you have to create quality content, but you also have to find clients to pay for that content. Unless you happen to be a big-name writer, nobody is going to seek you out.
You’re also in charge of communicating with clients and working out any issues that might arise. There will be difficult clients — who just can’t seem to figure out what they want — and maybe even clients who try to con you. Unlike other jobs, you won’t be able to hand these people off to HR or ask your boss for guidance. You are the boss.
Even when you do manage to snag great assignments, you still have to fill the role of a manager. In a regular workplace, a supervisor helps motivate you to finish your work as well as call you out when you’re doing something wrong. However, when you’re a freelance writer, you’re solely responsible for any work you produce. Nobody is managing you or keeping you on track but yourself.
For some people, the freedom to work for yourself is the reason why they get into freelance work. But it’s important to realize that not everyone likes being their own boss. Some people are more efficient when they only have to worry about completing their assignments rather than the stress brought on by managing money and clients.
It is crucial for you to realize what category you fall into. You might not know yet, and maybe dipping your toe into the world of freelance will help you find out. But, if you’re the kind of person who withers under the pressure of self-management, you shouldn’t force yourself into freelance writing. That’s not the only way you can succeed as a writer.
Freelance writing can be very isolating
Everyone wants to work from home. I log onto Instagram, and I’m spammed with enticing ads that tell me how I can make “$5,000 a month from the comfort of my bedroom”.
I get it. Nobody likes having to wake up at eight in the morning and put on something professional before they head into the office. It’s a lot more tempting to do your work in your own space, or while sipping coffee at Starbucks.
That being said, many people underestimate the amount of social stimulation a workplace environment can provide. Even if you do have to get up early and deal with traffic, you still get to spend your day around people. You can goof off with co-workers, and speak face-to-face with your boss.
Working from home might not be a big deal for someone who’s extremely social and often interacting with friends, but for introverts who spend a lot of time alone anyway, it can feel isolating.
Some people can conquer this loneliness by being more social in their private life — such as going out with friends more, joining a class, or meeting people online — but other people still need to spend their day in a real workplace to feel socially connected.
The income is uncertain
Working for a company comes with security. In addition to benefits like insurance and vacation days, you also get the promise of a steady paycheck.
The same cannot be said for freelance writing. You’ll go through dry spells, where your assignments are scarce and you’re barely scraping by, but you’ll also experience times when you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to do.
Some freelancers deal with uncertainty by saving their money. When they have an inflow of income, they’ll stash part of it away for those times when they’re short on cash. Still, the anxiety of not knowing how much you might make next month can be crippling. For all of its freedom, freelancing cannot promise security. This is the same reason why so many people hesitate to do this job full-time. It’s often better to work for a steady paycheck and do freelance writing part-time.
There is a silver lining
Freelance writing isn’t all endless freedom and wads of cash — it’s also a time-consuming business, sometimes lonely, and full of uncertainty.
This might all sound bleak, but I’m not trying to discourage you from chasing your dream. The good news is that if you truly do want to become a freelance writer, the problems I listed above all have solutions. You can improve your self-management style, be more social and save your money. It won’t be easy, but anything worth having never is.