Freelance writing is a profession that can be as harsh and unforgiving as it is alluring. Even the title, freelance writing, is deceiving. It sounds like a carefree form of creative expression. If there is one thing that almost every new freelance writer learns rather quickly… it is that freelance writing is anything but carefree. In fact, it is not all that creative.
There are three truths that the freelance writer comes face to face with shortly after taking on too many responsibilities from which he or she can back down, and still sleep at night.
- Freelance writing is anything but romantic.
- No one is impressed with the title for more than a minute or two.
- A writer will not be getting rich from their freelancing endeavors.
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1. Freelance Is Not Creative
At first, freelance writing sounds easy to the new writer who has never actually worked as a writer and whose only claim to the title of writer is that they, well, write. They believe it to be akin to creative writing.
In comparison; however, freelance writing and creative writing have very little in common. The creative writer may sit at a computer for hours or even days at a time and never fact check a single piece of information. The freelance writer spends more time verifying the veracity of what they write than they do in actual writing.
Checking and Rechecking Facts
Nearly every word that falls from the freelance writer’s mind must be fact checked and every bit of information has to be 100% correct, lest the writer be taken for a fool. There are sources to check and then list within the body of the writing.
Before the freelancer can list the sources from which they obtain their information, they must check the source to make sure it is correct and then they must check that source as well. This is why many writers quote the same sources of information often – once they find one that they know they can trust.
2. Freelancers Must Know Style
The creative writer has the freedom of creative license. They can choose a style, mix styles, or change styles midstream whereas the freelance writer has to find his or her voice and then stick with it. Until they do, they are confined to the style dictated to them by the content about which they write.
The freelancer has to know AP, Chicago, APA, and other styles at least well enough to duplicate them legibly in an article, press release, or post.
3. Freelancers Must Know All
Many new freelancers believe they will choose a type of writing, such as content writer, content marketing, or just write eBooks. If it were that easy, brother, I would not be writing this post. As a freelance content writer working online, you will learn real fast that the only way you will make any money is to learn to do it all.
If you cannot write articles, posts, eBooks, ecommerce content, SEO and/or CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) press releases, copy, and creative writing, you may as well learn to hang drywall because you will not be in high demand as a writer.
The Post Panda Freelancer
The freelance writer that cannot turn in a search engine optimized article or blog is a freelance writer that will spend a lot of time looking for work. In today’s post-Panda online atmosphere, the content writer has to know and understand the concepts of SEO and sometimes, CRO and must be able to apply them on demand.
4. Fear The Insane Client
Every assignment and client that you work for will be different. Most of the time, the clients are reasonable enough people; however, there are clients that believe in their hearts that they know everything there is to know about freelance writing. These clients will drive a writer insane with rewrite requests and requests that are absolutely impossible.
The first time you have a client ask for one original article of 300 words based on two sets of keyword phrases and 30 spins of the same article, you will understand what is meant by an outrageous request.
The Clock is Ticking
These clients will give you twenty of these with a 24-hour deadline not caring that one set will take six hours to complete. Other clients will run the freelance writer ragged with work and then assign an impossible task simply to avoid firing the writer.
In the hopes of making you quit on your own volition, they ask for work within an appointed deadline that could not be reached by a team of writers and then claim breach of contract to avoid paying for it even though you turn in three quarters of the content asked for.
Read Also: How To Better Handle Writing Deadlines
5. Fear The Dry Spells
There are occasions of non-stop work where the freelance writer will have clients crawling out of the woodwork. Then the writer will suddenly experience a two or three week period of time where no clients can be found. The smart freelancer will save for these occasions of no work.
The worst however, are the clients that disappear the day before payday taking your work and your pay with them. While this does not happen often, it does happen.
6. Fear The Editor from Hell
Finally, the freelance writer that is new to the game is sure to come across clients who have their own editors. If you cannot take constructive criticism or follow rewrite instructions without complaining, then you should not enter the freelance writing arena. To be fair, most editors know their stuff and will actually make you look far better than you actually are.
There are those, however, that have no clue of what a good article or blog post looks like. They make outrageous demands or make changes to your submissions before they post them that can make you look foolish if you allow them to do so.
Warning: one word from the editor and the client will drop you like a hot rock regardless of whether you are right or wrong so tread lightly around crazy editors. Be grateful when you get good ones.
You Have Been Warned
The world of freelance writing may look and even sound like a peach of a job. You may hear some liars tell you that they make money hands over fists and always enjoy the craft. There are even entire freelance hiring blogs and websites that are dedicated to luring you in to join their ranks as a "professional freelance writer."
Writer, beware because there is no such thing as an easy freelance writing career. It can be as hard and as cruel as any other profession and very often… more so.
If you love to write and still feel that you can fare well as a freelance writer, more power to you. You have, at the very least, been warned of what to expect. There are times when it can be very rewarding. If you are extremely lucky, you may have more of those times than the others. I certainly would not count on luck. Tread lightly and watch your assignment boards closely and you may just make it in freelance writing.