I have over 5 years of experience as a freelance professional writer. Throughout the years I have written anything you can imagine: blog articles, journalistic articles, product reviews, SEO targeted articles and even essays and dissertation papers. And I have collaborated with several writing services, online platforms and personal development portals. Being a freelance writer is like a huge rollercoaster ride. You will have good days and bad days. So goes life for everyone and any profession.
Regardless of what you choose to do with your skills, here is my story, and seven reasons why you should think through carefully about pursuing a career in the field of professional writing.
When you work from 9 to 5, you have a well-programmed schedule. Before and after that timeframe you are free to schedule your life accordingly. When you’re a professional writer, there’s no timeframe like that. You might think that making your own hours and working from home is a bonus. And yes, it can be. However, you may also find yourself working until midnight to finish a contract. Or turning down weekend plans with friends because you’ve got a big project to complete.
Professional writers do not necessarily have a fixed salary. It makes the process of budgeting and scheduling a mortgage or loan more complex. Learning the hard way how to budget accordingly is tough. And at times you will have to work harder or longer for an amount of money you’ve made in 30 minutes before (such as coming up with a catchy tagline or slogan for a company).
When you work on our own as a writer it requires a honed level of self-organization skills. You need to be extremely well structured. From my experience, this is not everyone’s strong suit. People think working from home makes life easier. And although at times it does, it can also complicate organizing your brain. To be a successful and happy professional writer, you must stay organized and have excellent time management skills. If you can’t set limits or goals for yourself naturally, it’s not the best professional choice.
As a writer, nobody is providing you with 401K OR insurance benefits. You must seek these out and pay for them on your own. You also won’t have a boss giving you a holiday bonus, retirement fund or taking care of tax deductions. It’s not impossible to navigate the process, and to do it well. However, for a lot of people this can be a weakness. And its importance is essential to financial stability and professional legality.
I can say I have become quite of a loner after all these years. I don’t have colleagues sitting right next to me to joke around with. And I don’t have work buddies to go out for drinks. I also don’t have that friendly chatter with co-workers during lunch breaks. My ‘social’ interaction is limited to virtual messages with friends, and sending virtual coffees to friends over messenger applications. I do have friends in real life of course, but work related social interaction is zero. This means that to maintain a happy life balance, professional writers must facilitate their own social life - 100% of the time.
When working on your own, nobody helps you by telling you or directing you about what to do. You pick your own projects and you work with clients alone. If you undertake a project and then find it difficult to get paid, nobody will protect you against that. You will have to set up these contracts and protections by yourself. If you are having a dispute with a client, you will need to manage it on your own, because the ‘firm’ or the ‘boss’ does not exist. If you lack management, people and negotiation skills, writing for a living is not for you.
You will constantly search and negotiate new projects. To succeed as a professional writer you need that income at the end of the month. And self-motivation and persistence is key. It can be difficult to make your quota consistently, especially with all the competition. If you are unwilling to negotiate your payment expectations, chances are good someone else will gladly do the job for less money. And clients know that. You have to think and weigh your options with each and every possible client. It can be worth lowering your rate if the work is ongoing or consistent. And vice versa. You can agree on a stellar rate, and then have to fight tooth and nail to get your invoice paid. It can be overwhelming for some writers, but it’s something you better be ready to deal with daily.
It’s a good question. On one hand, writing is what my mind is trained to do. And on the other hand, I can’t possibly be an auto mechanic. I recognize that I am in love with humanities and social sciences, marketing and personal development. The professional writer life suits who I am and how I think.
I have definitely had my ups and downs in the business. However, in the moments when I feel I’m having the worst month, a huge project usually comes knocking on my door. Then I make three months’ worth of income in two weeks and remember why I can put up with the situation. I also look to branding projects for quick and easy money. Branding is where I excel, especially at the height of my creative process.
I love what I do and I will not change my career. Although I do recognize the struggles and complexities of the lifestyle, this is who I am, and it is unlikely that I will change. I will never give up on my passion to express myself through the written word.
You can support yourself with a writing career, but it won’t be very easy. You’ve got to have the passion, skill and dedication necessary. You must constantly improve yourself and your skills. And you need to be able to perform three jobs everyday: business owner, writer and financial manager. If you choose the path of writing, cheers to you! And good luck on finding your path to success.
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by Hugh MacLeod
Ever wonder what it really takes to make a living as a creative person in today's complicated world?
MacLeod presents some witty keys for creative success, including "ignore everybody. Why should you "ignore everybody"?
Because, he writes, nobody else can tell you whether your idea is worthwhile. People can give you advice, but at the end of the day, it's your decision. The more original an idea, the less helpful the advice is going to be.
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