I live in Kansas City, MO. Our big theme park is called Worlds of Fun. The city and suburbs are buzzing about a new ride the park bought – Steel Hawk. Not because everyone is clamoring to ride it, however. Apparently the park bought the ride really cheap from another theme park because of its issues and multiple deaths associated with it. Some daredevils are willing to risk life and limb to ride it and prove how brave they are. Most are upset the park chose to buy a ride that is unpredictable and unsafe.
That is what being a freelance writer is like. You are willing to risk everything to get the benefits of freelance writing and only truly understand the danger once you are on the ride. The rest of the world doesn’t get why you would ever want to jump on that ride without any security.
I became a freelance writer for a number of reasons. I majored in English with the hopes of having more open career options and to learn the craft of writing as a skill. Employers didn’t see it that way and finding a job in my field where I live proved to be impossible. I wanted to write for a living in some capacity, but at the time no one was hiring writer straight out of college with no field work experience. So, after many different career changes, useless further education, and times of complete poverty, I started to get into freelance writing. It took a year to find a modicum of full-time success and even then work is still an insane roller coaster.
Choosing to become a freelance writer is not easy. You start off spending hours joining job search websites, building profiles, creating websites, working on blogs, pulling together some semblance of a portfolio, and more. After you have started getting jobs (ever so slowly while the bills pile around you), life as a freelance writer only gets harder and crazier.
Striving for Security
It is very difficult to find clients that stick with you, no matter how great your writing is or how much they love your work. Many of my past clients have posted they need blogs every week only to slowly reduce that number to zero in favor of cheaper writers or different business goals. The only clients I have kept long term are not even related to article or blog writing. I work as a Content Manager, Social Media Manager, and Marketing Strategist for my long term clients and rarely get the opportunity to write anymore. Finding clients that will guarantee payment is extraordinarily difficult, which I outline in my next point.
Working with Unpredictable and Unclear Clients
I cannot even tell you how many clients I have gained in the past that fell in love with me and said they wanted more more more of my time. Inevitably, I get excited about their projects and their enthusiasm, put prospects on the back burner, and commit all of my time to them only to be disappointed. I have reserved my time to receive much less work than promised and also have clocked many hours only to never receive payment. This is one of the terrors of being a freelance writer and sadly all too common.
Unclear clients are another huge peril in this career choice. I recently lost a huge client who taught me so much and I really loved working with due to communication barriers. I would give my available times to work only to not receive work or receive panicked messages hours before I was available about why I wasn’t around. I was thrown into an extremely complicated process with zero training and then constantly drawn into angry conference calls about things I did wrong according to the company’s policies. I was also given 4-8 hour tasks without ever being given a due date, only to be messaged angrily an hour after receiving the assignment why it was not complete yet and how I could never accomplish a due date.
The point – even when some opportunities seem spectacular, a huge growth opportunity, and a blessing for your finances, most opportunities are not what they seem. I am trying to come up with a better screening process, but have yet to find something that works. In this field, however, it is impossible to be both cautious and an entrepreneur.
Battling the Worst Timing
It seems no matter what, I can never get my timing right. And I don’t mean I can’t organize and get all my work done, that part is easy. I mean there are weeks where I have a packed due date list and then I have people headhunting me and reaching out for my services. I often say, “I don’t have time,” and don’t spend as much time with these prospective clients so I gain their business. Then, a week or two later, my clients hold their work or are done with my services and suddenly I have no income and no prospective clients. This causes me to go back to square one and the deadly cycle repeats itself.
This job is not for the faint of heart or those who need financial security. There are so many hurdles and danger to this career choice. But what keeps us freelance writers going is passion for the job. We miss out on having coworkers, grabbing drinks after work, dressing up cute everyday (for my female writers!), financial security, healthcare, a great retirement plan, and even more. But we get to do something we love every single day and that is what is important.