It's strange. Whenever I tell people that I make a living as a freelance writer I get similar reactions. Most people envy the freedom, the versatility and the flexibility that comes with what I do. I get that; things on my side must look pretty rosy when you're crammed on the underground heading to your 9 to 5. But don't assume that life as a freelancer is all lie-ins, city breaks and working from the sofa. Here are five unknowns that you might want to consider before you take the leap and become a freelance writer yourself...
One benefit of working as a freelancer is that I can apply for jobs with clients from all around the world. Yes, this means I get the fantastic experience of working with people on projects from the US to Australia and Iceland, but it also means that I often have to be available at unsociable hours for meetings with clients in different time-zones. I have been known to say yes to conference calls at 2 in the morning. Luckily, I've always been a bit of a night owl and do most of my work in the evenings - but this might not be for everyone! On top of this, while there is certainly plenty of flexibility in my timetable, you'll often find me putting in hours over the weekend. Juggling clients and projects means I need to be available whenever there is work to be done.
This one is pretty obvious. Just as my hours tend to fluctuate on a weekly basis, so does my income. Luckily I have a number of stable, consistent clients, so I can financially plan to an extent, but consistency is not the same thing as permanence. Just last week one of my 'consistent' clients halved my hours until further notice. It's best to see uncertainty as an opportunity. If I lose a client or a project ends, I spend that time marketing myself and hunting down new projects. Things change very quickly.
I have plenty of friends who spend their days in an office. One of the most common things I hear is that while their work may be pretty dull, the social side of things helps make the day go faster. Whether this is going out with colleagues for drinks or chatting across the room, this is a side to professional life that you rarely get as a freelance writer. Personally I quite enjoy my own company so working alone isn't a problem. But it's definitely not for everyone. I guess the upside is that the flexibility freelancing allows means you can make more time to see your pals outside of work.
Proving Yourself Every Day
If, like me, you're always on the hunt for new, interesting projects to get involved with, you'll find yourself having to convince others of your qualities on a daily basis. Whether it's proving yourself to a new client during an interview or writing that first article on a new project, you're only as good as the last impression you left behind. Because of this consistent quality has become the hallmark that I strive for. This is tough, especially when you feel that you're not being paid enough for a task, or if it doesn't interest you in the slightest.
Getting started as a freelance writer is pretty tough. To be honest, I still feel as if I have fluked my way into it. I guess it's something of the catch 22 situation faced by all newcomers when trying to make their way in an industry. To begin with I had no experience, and relied on charming cover letters and my personal blog to convince clients of my quality as a writer. Now I'm fortunate enough to have a strong portfolio and plenty of experience to draw on. But if you asked me how I managed it, I wouldn't be able to offer a step-by-step guide.
But on the bright side...
I'm lucky enough to learn new things every day, and mostly only work on projects which interest me. This means that as a freelance writer my services and abilities are constantly evolving as I improve. On top of that I get to, within reason, dictate my own schedule. I'm writing this at 01:24 am - with no worries about it affecting my work day tomorrow. Dream.
This may have seemed like one big moan - sorry - but it absolutely wasn't meant to be. I just wanted to provide some perspective for those looking to step into freelancing or, more importantly, those who think the grass is so much greener on my side!