Zanny Merullo Steffgen
Freelance Writing May Be Right For You If...
Freelance writing isn’t the right career path for everyone. After eight years of taking on freelance writing gigs, I finally decided to dedicate myself full-time to freelancing last spring. In this article, I use what I’ve learned to help you figure out whether or not this lifestyle is right for you!
You Actually Would Like Working From Home
Working from home sounds like a dream come true… until it isn’t. If you set up an office in your living room, you suddenly blur the lines between your home and work life. You can no longer shut yourself in your apartment and escape all thoughts of work, and you might find it hard to keep yourself from checking emails or working on tasks when your computer is lying right there.
Plus, if you share your home with anyone, you have to factor in some level of distraction throughout your workday. When I’m working in my studio apartment and my husband is home, he sometimes starts telling me a story from his restaurant shift while I’m typing up a blog for a client, or sings a song that’s stuck in his head while I’m editing some content, or the sounds from his computer games wake me from my deep state of concentration.
Remote freelance writing means spending a lot more time at home. I always liked how my restaurant job got me out of the house for a while and in the company of coworkers and customers. Now, I have to make a concerted effort to get out and about some days. If there isn’t even a small part of you that’s a homebody, you may not like freelance writing.
Now, this isn’t to say that all freelance writers work from home. Some pack up their computer and head for the library, or a local coffee shop, or a coworking space. Some even rent an office to get their work done. But especially if you’re just starting out, chances are you’ll be working from your couch, or bed, or desk for quite some time.
You’re Highly Self-Motivated
Talented procrastinators may struggle to keep up with a freelance workload. In most traditional careers, you have a boss, coworkers, and a fixed schedule to keep you motivated and make sure you get your work done on time. As a freelance writer, it’s up to you to seek out work and get it done. If you’re not highly self-motivated to look for gigs, apply to gigs, and meet your deadlines, you’re in big trouble.
In freelance writing, it’s also important to grow as a writer. If you keep completing the same tasks for the same clients week after week, you may never be able to make a living from writing. Instead, you have to be constantly on the alert for new opportunities and ways to improve. You have to practice and also dedicate many of your non-working hours to furthering your career. If this doesn’t sound like something you could do, you may be better off writing for an agency or company.
You’re On Top of Your Schedule
Again, with freelance writing there’s hardly ever a set schedule. You may have weekly meetings with clients, but you also have to juggle a bunch of different deadlines and kinds of projects and fit all of that work in with the other things on your plate. For example, I have to schedule my work meetings and chunks of time to get projects done in between doctors' appointments, yoga classes, and time with my husband. This involves a lot of scheduling on my part and a heavy reliance on my daybook planner.
You have to be able to remember that you scheduled an interview or meeting with a client on a day when you maybe had nothing else planned, and you need to be able to figure out how long different kinds of projects take you in order to charge and plan accordingly. If you tell a client you can have a draft to them in three days, you need to make sure you can complete that draft in the time allotted. Flakiness won’t get you very far in the world of freelance writing!
You’re Ok With Uncertainty
If you’re someone who is comfortable with the fact that you may not know when your next payment is coming through, then freelancing may be right for you. The reality is that freelance success is largely up to you, but there are also factors outside of your control. It could be that you have an abundance of work one week and then no assignments the next by no fault of your own. You need to be comfortable with uncertainty and have a plan to make it through the slow times and save during the busy times.
Uncertainty shows up in the freelance writing life in other forms, too. There’s the uncertainty that comes with pitching editors (when you never know until you receive that acceptance email whether or not you’ll get the job), the uncertainty of when a piece will be published (and when you’ll get paid for it), and the uncertainty of whether or not a job with a new client will work out. If you can go with the flow and stay positive and motivated through the ups and downs, you’ll have a real shot at making a freelance writing career work.
You Have Writing Experience
Of course, the more writing experience and published pieces to your name you have, the better your chances are at a successful freelance writing career. If you’ve already been published in the past, or you’ve taken on a few writing projects here and there, you already have the experience you need to give it a go full-time.
This doesn’t mean that those without writing experience won’t be able to make it work. You have to start from somewhere! You just may find it easier when you’re familiar with taking on writing assignments.
You Have an Online Presence
Having an online presence may mean a list of published articles under your name, a big social media following or “influencer” status. Maybe you have a website that showcases your portfolio already, or you’ve been interviewed for an article or YouTube video. Anything you can show prospective clients will help establish trust so you can set up your next gig.
You Have a Business Mindset
Maybe you studied business in college or had the chance to work at a start-up in the past. Those experiences, or any basic understanding of how to run a business, will come in handy as you try to build your freelancing career. This may mean knowing how to network efficiently, how to advertise your skills, or the steps you’ll need to take to build an online presence.
You Really Want to Be a Freelance Writer
So maybe none of the statements above fit you — that’s ok! As long as you are sure that you really want to be a freelance writer, you should be able to find a way to make it work. If you’re ready to dedicate time, effort, and learning experiences to this career path, it just may be right for you.
Any questions? Leave a comment or reach out and I’m happy to discuss this further.