Freelance writing sounds glamorous, particularly if you’re sitting in a cube somewhere wishing you had time to write. From there it’s easy to overlook some of the very real issues that freelancing bring.
Understanding what you’re facing before you leave your job and doing some planning can make the difference between success and failure.
The top four issues freelance writers deal with are:
- Working to your own schedule. When you leave the workforce to freelance you’ll find yourself writing to your own schedule. There’s no official office hours like there were at your job, and while there’s a lot of freedom in that, . When I started I really wanted to just roll over and sleep late, which I allowed myself to do for about a week. I had my first ghostwriting job and I knew I had to get it done. My solution was to make an appointment with myself to get breakfast in a nearby restaurant every week day morning at 9. I wrote there over pancakes and eggs for a couple of months before I could trust myself to get up and go straight to my home office.
- Working alone. Several of my writing friends tell me this is a huge issue for them. They find themselves feeling lonely and that loneliness tends to stifle both their creativity and their willingness to continue to work – at least in a home office. Laptops and coffee shops have solved the problem for some. One other is still struggling trying to find the right balance. Some of us, of course, are more comfortable being alone than others. I’m one of those. Knowing yourself is key here and if being by yourself is a problem, figure out in advance your strategy.
- Handling the business issues as well as writing. When you’re freelancing you’re in business for yourself. That means everything from benefits to taxes to marketing. You can do these yourself or hire them done, or some combination. For example, I track my own income and expenses but hire a tax professional because trying to sort out IRS instructions makes me crazy. One way or another you’ll need to get all this handled, not all at once, but pretty quickly. Plan for it and you’ll have an easier time of it.
- The uncertain income. The nature of freelancing is uncertain income. Even if you’re lucky to land one or two big clients who pay you most of your income, at some point down the road at least one of them is likely to quit working with you. It usually has nothing to do with the quality of your work and the chances are you’ll never know the real reason. It happens to us all. That’s why successful freelancers keep marketing themselves and develop residual income and work toward hefty savings accounts.
Any one of these issues is enough to force some writers back to regular jobs. Most of these potential problems can be somewhat addressed before you make the leap. Another truth, however is, you’ll never know for sure until you try. Do your best planning and don’t burn bridges and you may find you are perfect for real freelancing.
On the other hand, if it turns out working at home isn’t for you there’s no shame in that either.
What’s your biggest freelance issue?
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