The freelance writer’s life – Work from the convenience of your home, set your own schedule, determine your own projects, travel whenever you want, lounge in your house wears. So, how is it hard to be a freelance writer?
Freelancing is hard. Being your own boss looks glamorous.
But, believe me when I say it comes with its uncertainties.
One of which is hustling for client after client to ensure you atleast get a monthly paycheck.
Let’s be real though, is there any form of serving clients while making a living off it that’s easy?
Therefore, is it hard to be a freelance writer?
Infact, read on to find out.
Let’s say you want to toe the line of content creation, say YouTuber (because many people think this is easy), you won’t want to imagine the time it takes to plan consistent, original and valuable content, get your lighting and lines right, edit videos and do the cycle again.
So, my dear as long as you want to remain relevant in your chosen path, the easy way out is no way.
If you have it at the back of your mind that nothing comes easy, then giving up quickly will not be an option you would dwell on.
Another thing to note is this, many scholars, and by scholars, I mean people who take online classes, courses and coaching; many of them do not implement.
Inaction will definitely produce no result.
And when this happens, they begin to badmouth the courses when in the real sense their inaction was the problem.
Now, when you meet and listen to such people, you get discouraged. You feel like you are about treading on dangerous grounds.
But I say, if someone is doing it and succeeding, then you can. Unless you do not want to.
However, before you join the bandwagon of new freelance writers, I want to share with you 10 ways that freelance writing could prove difficult for you and how you can manoeuvre these difficulties.
With this information, if you’re thinking of becoming a freelance writer, you’d be going in with your eyes wide open.
Why is it so hard to be a freelance writer
Well, the simple answer is business is hard.
Freelance writing is a business.
Being a freelance writer is owning a business.
Your own business.
Did you know this?
A lot of writers don’t know this or rather pretend not to know.
And, that’s why some consider, it hard to be a freelance writer.
When you are in business, you have to be committed. You also have to develop your skill and expertise just like other professionals do.
You need to keep investing in your skills and knowledge.
Put yourself out there in new ways by learning, testing and strategizing.
10 ways that it can be hard to be a freelance writer
1. Getting Jobs
Oh! the most well know of them all. Is there any writer or freelance writer that isn’t aware of this hurdle?
When we say that it can be hard to be a freelance writer, this is the number one difficulty any new writer will face – finding jobs.
With the global pandemic, even before the pandemic, there has always been competition in the freelance industry.
From statistics, about 36% of the United States workforce represent freelancers. Although freelancing in Africa is not as vibrant as the US but, it is steadily gaining ground.
Shall we talk about the escalating rate of unemployment in Nigeria and Africa as a whole?
Every day, new writers, freelance writers and freelancers emerge. The competition is stiff. Getting jobs require hard work.
Being a successful freelancer writer means being able to sell yourself.
And any newbie who wants to truly succeed should be ready to put in the required work.
Thanks to digital civilization, getting work has been made a lot easier. All a newbie needs to do is get into some freelancing websites, set up a profile and portfolio, and clients start to bid for your service.
Sounds easy right?
2. Staying productive
Having worked in the corporate world, I can testify that staying productive in a regular office clime is as easy as pie.
Before you get employed, your KPI has been established. Your job description is already laid out with a crisp office space.
As an employee, you are motivated with incentives, profit sharing, promotions, pay raise and so many more.
There’s an award for employee of the month, every other month.
Your work hours are non-negotiable.
You also get penalized for non-performance – may be a query, sanction letter, letter of displeasure, suspension or in extreme cases sack letter.
All this established standards, procedures and accountability systems helps keep you on your toes and ensure maximum productivity.
As freelancers, none of these policies or approaches is in place and that’s why it’s hard to be a freelance writer.
There’s no one to query you when you start off an assignment late.
If you decide not to work for a whole month, nobody cares. If you talk rudely to a client, there’s no repercussion, except that the particular client may not work with you.
Even when you miss a deadline, you do not receive any letter of displeasure.
This is where self-discipline and awareness comes to play and pay.
Your accountability system is yourself- hmmm.
Here, we talk about goal setting. Now, it’s not the big yearly goals, but the small hourly, daily and weekly goals.
For instance, your daily goal could be.
- Pitching to not less than 5 clients everyday.
- Blocking out 3 hours to research and write a blog article sounds like a brilliant hourly goal.
- Taking out one hour every day to create social media images and captions is a good time management techniques.
You can also incensitze yourself.
- After 3 hours of research and writing a complete article for my blog, I will watch one episode of my latest web series on youtube.
- If I accomplish all my tasks for the week, I’ll go see this sizzling romance blockbuster movie at the cinema on saturday.
With these simple small goals and associated incentives in place believe it when I say you will achieve your annual goal of making $13,000 or consistent content creation or increased visibility.
3. Stable income
So you dread a fluctuating income – well, welcome to the freelance life.
Fluctuating income lets you understand that it is hard to be a freelance writer or freelancer.
This variable income structure means on some months you have a great abundance and some others you are barely making it.
It means that there a few times in a year where you aren’t sure what the amount of your income will be or if there will be any.
This can mean a lot of different things for your financial life. Amongst these different things financial stability is what’s more important to us.
Your first step to this stable financial life is to know your numbers by accessing your financial life.
Get some questions out of the way; such as
Over the last 12 months;
- What was your highest pay?
- How much is your lowest pay?
- What is your average pay?
- How much is your monthly expenses?
- What are your monthly expenditures on want, need, entertainment, food, subscriptions, transport, light bill etc?
By knowing and understanding your numbers you start to see how you can manage to build stability in your financial life even with your rising and falling income.
Loneliness oh loneliness. I really do not want to imagine how people who lived before the phone, digital and social media era managed the feeling of loneliness. It must have been hard.
One thing that can make it hard to be a freelance writer is being lonely.
The terrain of freelance writing requires that you be alone most of the time as this job is usually remote.
Sitting across that table, or bed (like I usually do), laptop in front, fingers hitting the ever-enduring keyboard, about to dot the i’s and cross the t’s and you look over your shoulders wishing you could get a second opinion from a dear friend or colleagues- only to hear crickets.
That’s the writers’ life.
We work in isolation- most of the time.
Now, how can you handle it when you begin to feel like you are the only one in your world?
There are a few options to get the feeling of loneliness out the way:
- Thanks to digitalization, you can talk to someone miles away by just the push of some buttons. Calls, chats, texts, facetime, WhatsApp video and chat, there are a plethora of communication options out there. Use them, guys.
- Browse social media platforms, the likes of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat. Believe me when I say you will encounter one story that will make you laugh, chat in the comments with some strangers or just awaken your spirit.
- Watch a movie, series or vlog either on Netflix, Youtube, cable television or any other subscription tv that comes handy.
- Read a book and get drawn in. Do you know that reading an interesting book can teleport you from this world to another? That’s what interesting books do – virtual travel.
- Leave your home to work in a public space. Changing locations when you feel drained, unmotivated and lonely can boost your productivity levels. When you regularly go to work in a public space where you get to meet other people, be it a coffee shop, a fast-food restaurant or an office space near home, it gives you some sense of community. Even if you do not speak to anyone, mere hearing people’s voices and seeing people interact with each other takes away the loneliness that you feel.
5. Managing time
Time management is one struggle hindering many writers or freelance writers.
And, time lose manifests in so many ways one of which is procrastination.
Procrastination makes it hard to be a freelance writer.
Why do you procrastinate?
Well, here are some possible reasons;
- You are waiting for a perfect time to implement.
- You are waiting for the perfect tools of the trade.
- Another reason maybe that you do not believe in your abilities yet.
- You are overwhelmed by your to-do list.
- Your goals are abstract and not defined
- You fear criticism, failure or doing badly at the task
- Or you feel like you don’t have enough training and are secretly afraid of putting yourself out there?
- You have a low self-esteem and therefore a tendency to self-defeat.
- Also, you maybe avoiding the task
- Or you are too disorganized with their time and resources.
It could be one or more of these. Or maybe something else not listed above. Whatever it may be, the only way you can stop procrastination is to commit to the task.
How can you commit to the task?
- Seek accountability systems or partners
- Set well-defined and achievable goals.
- Promise yourself a reward.
- Get some training to boost your confidence level as a professional in the game.
These are just but a few ways you can ward off procrastination and effectively manage your time.
6. Finding balance
The good ol’ work-life balance that is promised freelancers is many times absent for newbies and some OGs too.
Difficulty in striking a work-life balance is peculiar to newbies because most OGs have figured out a streamlined process for their business. While some have made enough money to afford a team – unlike their fresh counterparts.
It can be hard to be a freelance writer when you can’t seem to strike a balance between your personal life and work career.
For one, there is no distinct location or time for business activities (writing and other related tasks) thereby forcing you to lose track of daily resumption and closing hours.
Also, working from home and using technology to connect with work, can cause you to feel like you’re always on the job.
This can cause work to easily slip into personal hours.
Another reason for that lack of balance is that, the more you work the more you earn, and who doesn’t want to earn more especially being a newbie.
Moreso, most freelance writers take on diverse and numerous roles in their business.
Write blogs, email, proposals, social media posts, edit, proofread, design images/graphics, maintain websites, shoot and edit videos, plan content, create lessons, manage and track payment schedule, scout for new jobs, manage existing projects and clients etc.
Freelancers do a whole lot and therefore finding that balance between personal life and work is sometimes far-fetched.
However, here’s how you can strike a more healthy work-life balance.
- Cut down on time-wasting activities and people.
- Unplug from work and disconnect whenever you can.
- Don’t over-schedule yourself
Creating a better work-life balance is a continuous process as your interests, family, personal and work life changes.
If it helps dress for work, set your hours and have a quiet dedicated workspace.
When you’re done working each day, unplug, detach and transition to personal life by changing your outfit or taking a walk or drive, or doing an activity with your kids or family. ( Note to self: I should start implementing this more often)
7. You are on your own
Supervisors, colleagues, teammates, bosses and all that jazz don’t belong to the freelance world. A freelancer is basically on his or her own.
No colleague to cover for you on sick days. No supervisor to oversee your project.
You do not get to collaborate with teammates because you have none.
Do you see why it can be hard to be a freelance writer?
You can however get this sense of working with people by joining small freelance writers groups in your locality.
They are scattered all over social media.
8. managing clients
Have you ran any business before? Did you manage clients while at it?
Pheww! Client management is one tasking part of running a successful business.
Your business can not grow if you cannot management your clients.
Client expectations, queries and grievances should be well managed if your business must thrive.
Freelance writing clients is not an exception.
Managing clients starts from your first communication. I always champion swift first response.
In doing this, you catch the client at the time when he is most likely to purchase your service.
After your first communication and before you finally land the job, manage his expectations.
Let him know what he will get, how many edits he is eligible to receive after the first draft, at what point can he request for a refund, how often will you be communicating with him during the project.
All these helps to avoid, irate clients as well as back and forth movement.
9. It’s varied
Being a freelance writer means working with varied clients, rather than a single employer.
It means research and writing on per task basis, rather than a routine task.
Because you are a freelance writer and your skill is writing, your clients and tasks can be much more varied than if you were, say, a freelance makeup artist.
For example, you specialized in writing ebooks, your first client of the day could ask you to write a book on technology and the next may be asking you to do a book on food recipes.
Even if you niched down (specialize in writing for a specific area), the variety of work is endless.
Living a freelance writer life is similar to being a great actor: you have to be able to learn different voices, different tone, different characters.
Because you are writing on various, diverse topics for several clients, the work is never-ending and keeps you on your toes every single time.
10. There’s no sure path to success
Have you listened to freelance writers tell the story of how they started and how they broke even?
It’s never the same.
Some people swear by freelance websites, others by guest blogging or cold emailing.
Some swear by portfolio on websites, others just send out PDF samples.
Other writers are self-taught, while many others swear by classes and courses to get a headstart.
Some professionals will tell you to start a website else no client will be coming your way or take you seriously.
Other writers have worked 3 years without a website and still earn six figures every other month.
There’s no rule to succeeding when it comes to freelance writing.
By the way, success as a freelance writer is a constant struggle.
You need work everyday.
You cannot live or depend on past glory.
And because there’s no sure path to success as a writer, you are free to explore your strategies.
You can incorporate your own ideas into what you learn from other writers.
One rule to success however is consistency.
I think that’s the only rule you should adhere strictly to.
In conclusion, nothing in life comes easy. There must be some form of dedication and commitment on your part.
If you are just starting out as a new freelance writer and are thinking of quitting and going full-time, Pause.
Still hold on to your source of income until you have gained some form of stability.
If you want to go full-time immediately to avoid distractions and maximize your commitment, then ensure you have stashed about 6-12 months of financial savings.
Let’s be real, success won’t come immediately.
It can be hard to be a freelance writer. Therefore, if freelance writing is hard for you, consider ways you could make it easier.
What’s the hardest part of being a writer/freelance writer for you? Leave a comment and let me know.
P.S. If you think a quick shot of training could ease your starting journey, check out the online course I have created — Get paid to write. I designed it specifically for persons brand new to freelance writing to eliminate the confusion associated with starting something new.