A few days ago, four freelance writers I admire—Megan Pacella, Liz Riggs, Jennifer Bradley and Christina Vinson—shared why someone shouldn't be a freelance writer. Their answers were as varied as they were honest. But for better or worse, all five of us are freelance writers. So why—or rather—when should you be a freelance writer?
Here's what they said:
You should be a freelancer when your day job takes a backseat to how much you love running your own business.
MEGAN: For almost four years, I worked as a full-time content strategist and a part-time blogger, freelance writer, and freelance editor. After a few years of building up a client base and hand-picking which projects sounded awesome, which sounded boring, and which paid too much to pass, I realized that I absolutely love working for myself. When you wake up every day and start making the mental rounds of companies and magazines you want to write for, and then you work up pitch ideas while you're in the shower, you should be a freelancer. Because, while there are hard days (really hard, terrible days where you don't want to get out of bed), most of the time nobody is going to have to motivate you.
You should be a freelance writer when you can’t stop writing and you have a financial cushion.
LIZ: If everything you do, see, and think about lands you in front of your computer for a think piece or a blog or an email or a pitch, then maybe you’re onto something. But, keep your full time or part time gig until you’ve got a steady stream of assignments. I was freelancing (like, seriously FREElancing) for over a year while working full time, and I after four months of full-time freelancing and zero-time salary, I am already looking for part time gigs to supplement my income —my checking account has seen a serious dip in the past few months. Plus, the social aspect of an actual job (full or part time) can do loads for your pitch ideas, social life, and morale while living the lonely life of a writer.
You should be a freelance writer when you'd be willing to do anything to make it work.
JENNIFER: I don't mean "anything" as in anything unethical. I'm talking, "I'd work at Starbucks, work at retail (which was my least favorite of all my college jobs), be a dog walker, etc..." I remember having a conversation with my husband when I'd decided to embark on this crazy freelancing adventure and he was concerned about the possible instability of a writer's income. I said, "Honestly, I'd clean toilets on the side, if it meant that I could do this for a living." If you're that committed to making it work, then go for it. [Thankfully it's never come to that – ew!] The truth is, most freelancers who are making a good income have a lot of different things in their "mix" – it's not just the exciting assignments that pay the bills. I have a couple of less exciting corporate clients, ghostwriting gigs and copywriting assignments that are well paying and consistent, and those give me the freedom to take on the "fun" gigs that feed my creativity.
You should be a freelance writer when you hate dress pants.
CHRISTINA: Let me explain. Dress pants, to me, symbolize the environment that comes with a corporate office job. I worked in that setting for six years, mostly in higher education. I bought dress pants from Banana Republic, commuted to work, packed my lunch, engaged in office small talk, and "lived for the weekend." In short, I was a "typical" worker -- and yet, I felt there could be so much more to life. The creative side of my brain felt completely trapped and I really felt that my life didn't begin until after 5pm. Sound familiar? So, I became completely determined to do whatever it would take to break into a freelance writing career. I met with other freelance writers (like Claire) on the weekends and on my lunch break. When I got home at 5pm, I began working on anything that would help me take the plunge into freelance writing, including blogging, networking with anyone who would listen, and picking up tiny writing projects. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at once. Eventually, I gained enough traction to go out on my own, into the world of freelance writing, and it's been a wild ride ever since. Today, my dress pants are untouched, in the back of my closet.
So there you have it folks. Four different perspectives on why you should and why you shouldn't be a freelance writer. I will echo these ladies and say that I haven't exactly found a way to make a feasible living off of being a freelance writer alone. All along the way, I have had part-time jobs, coaching gigs, editing stints, and one-off jobs that, and one insanely supportive husband. To know more about my journey into the wild wonderful world of words—read the "big announcement" I made a year and a half ago, or click here to see all of my writing about writing. Ugh. How meta.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this series. Would you want to see more about freelance writing here? Or would you rather get back to posts about poo?