The Realities of a Freelance Writing Career

Leaving the comforts of a regular job for a freelance writing career means adjusting to a much different world. You will no longer be able to count on regular paychecks and company subsidized benefits. You won’t get paid sick days or overtime. You are on your own.

Your life and your career start to meld

As a freelance writer, there is no moment when you are suddenly at work or off work, especially if you work out of your home. There is nobody to tell you when you are done working for the day, and if you sleep in and miss a couple of hours in the morning, there is no one standing over you telling you to get to work or to keep working into the evening to make up for it. This leads to a perpetual feeling that you really should be doing something other than what you are actually doing, whether you are working or relaxing.

Your are responsible for your own goals

In a job you may have been able to blame your boss or the company for your lack of career advancement or your low pay. As a freelance writer, your career is entirely your responsibility. You make the decisions and you live with the consequences. Instead of negotiating with one boss, you have to negotiate with multiple clients and each one may have their quirks or issues. Some may even be hoping to rip you off. That is the reality of the business. It isn’t as safe as a regular paycheck and it isn’t for people who are afraid to make decisions.

You create your own network

As a freelance writer, you don’t get to meet coworkers in the lunch room or gossip over cubicle walls. If you want allies and friends, you have to forge the connections and keep them active. It can be lonely sitting in a home office all day with only the cat for company. A feeling of isolation is common. Social tools such as Facebook and Twitter can help you feel connected, but there is no replacement for face-to-face contact.

Life becomes deductible

As a writer, you have to manage your own taxes. That means paying the government out of your own account once a quarter to cover both income tax and social security (in the USA). It also means that anything in your life that legitimately helps you write becomes a deductible expense. Some of the typical deductible expenses are books, classes, Internet access, phone, office supplies, business cards, and computer equipment. Depending on what you write about though, other things become deductible. Someone who writes about exercise might deduct their shoes and gym membership. Someone who writes about travel might deduct their vacation expenses. This is why it is important to track all of your expenses and make sure you can justify any deduction you take. It may be smart to consult a tax accountant.

Your income relies on your output

If you get nothing done all day at a regular job, you still get a paycheck. Some people manage to survive in corporate America for years without accomplishing anything. As a freelance writer you don’t have that luxury. If you don’t do the work to land new clients and produce new writing, you don’t make money. Everyone has an off day once in a while, but if your off days start to stack up it can seriously endanger your financial stability. This is especially hard for freelance writers because people respect your time less than they do if you work a regular job. The friend or relative who would never call you at work won’t hesitate to call you at home. If you give in to these distractions, you have no one to blame but yourself. You are your boss.

Think about these realities before you jump into a freelance writing career. Full-time freelance writing is not for everyone.

2 thoughts on “The Realities of a Freelance Writing Career

  1. Good points for potential freelancers to consider, John. The life isn’t always rosy. Your post about life and work blending together is important. I work more as a freelancer and because I’m home it’s easier for it to become life over a job that I would leave at the end of each day.

    1. Thanks Deb,

      It’s true that there is no clear delineation for me either. I really enjoy the lifestyle, but it can be difficult to decide when it is a good idea to say no to a relaxing day that is just dying to take you by the hand. I feel guilty when I work to much and I feel guilty when I play too much.

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