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The Many Hats of a Freelance Writer

freelance writingBy Tami Parrington

When you decide to embark on the wondrous world of freelance writing, you probably think about all of the touted glories of working from home.

  • Make your own hours.
  • Sleep late.
  • The easy stroll from bedroom to office.
  • Working in your PJs.
  • No one to answer to, but yourself.
  • No overhead expenses.
  • Keep all the money you make for yourself.

I’m not here to dispute those benefits of working as a freelance writer, although a few of them are somewhat disputable. It really is an easy stroll to the office from the bedroom, and it’s true you can sleep late, and make your own hours. However, many of those wonderful considerations are the very reasons so many freelancer writers fail. They go back to their old worlds mumbling about lack of opportunities, pipe dreams, and how those who say they are doing it must be either lying, or deluding themselves. There’s no work out there.


There’s Plenty of Freelance Writing Work

There’s plenty of work out there. In fact, Elance, a major freelancing work area recently stated accurately on their blog that in the near future freelancing won’t be called working from home, it will just be called working. Where once freelancers were the jagged fringes of the working society, outsourcing, and hiring freelancers to do many of the tasks once done solely in-house is becoming mainstream. And yet, many freelance writers who join the ranks of the work from home workforce find themselves scurrying back to a 9 to 5 job within a year. Why? They forgot their hat.

Hat? What Hat?

Well, the thing is, there are more than one hats that a freelancer must wear in order to make their chosen career a true path to success. These hats represent the many jobs of the freelancer. You see, when you work in an office, or a store, or at any other outside job for someone else, you have many people working alongside you, above you, and maybe even under you in order to accomplish a seemingly single goal. While you all likely have your own immediate goals, the company itself hinges on the success of all involved in completing their designated tasks.

When you work for yourself, from home, you’re all alone. That’s a liberating thing… at first. After a few weeks, maybe months it begins to feel a lot less liberating, and a little more daunting if you haven’t prepared for it. You have to be the boss, the clerk, the accountant, the salesperson, the customer service person, and the public relations department. You are everything all wrapped up into one individual, and without each job getting done, pieces start to fall apart.

That’s right, it’s not all about the writing. Most of us wish it was. That’s a nice dream world. The ability to hole up behind our computers and just write. Unless you are attempting to be a novelist, or even a non-fiction writer, that dream is not a reality. In fact, even those writers need to have some skill in other departments, or pay an arm and a leg to have someone else do it for them.

As a freelance writer, I may spend 90% of my days working on my weight loss niche blog that focuses on Nutrisystem discounts and Medifast coupons, but the rest of the time I have to balance my accounts, promote my site, talk with clients who want me to write for them, issue invoices for work provided, and most of all, be that boss who stands over my shoulder and says WORK!

That is perhaps the most important job of all for a freelance writer. Beyond the skill, beyond the talent, there has to be the drive, and a driver… a slave driver. Someone who cracks the whip, because it is far too easy to get distracted when you work at home. Television shows are always more fun, a friend dropping by for coffee more interesting, that bed looking more inviting, or just running errands all day long, and then finding yourself at the end of the day with nothing accomplished. Freelance writing is about writing, but it is more than that: it is a business.

I wish all of you the best of success in your new endeavor, and want you to find your path to this exciting and enriching career. I want you to enter it with your eyes wide open, however, so you won’t fall prey to disillusion. Create your own hours, but be sure you actually make hours to work. Push yourself to work, even when the jobs aren’t fun. Pay attention to the other non-writing aspects of your career, and make sure you focus on the big picture, not just the parts you like.

If you write, and craft interesting articles or stories, you are a writer, but until you can treat your talent as an aspect of a larger job, and freelancing as a business, you can’t succeed as a freelancer.

Tami Parrington writes about marketing, advertising, freelancing writing and publishing. Tami works for Weight Loss Triumph, a  blog that reviews diet and weight loss programs and offers  coupon discounts for Nutrisystem meals</a>  and the  latest online coupons for Medifast.

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Lauri

    All true. I am janitor, CEO, and all positions in between!

    • Anne

      I love checking business owner when asked.

  • We sure do have to wear many hats, including that of marketing expert. Every freelancer is a brand, and as such, must market their brand. A fellow freelancer once told me that and lately I keep reminding myself.
    Gina-Marie Cheeseman recently posted..Cocoa Prices Rise- Fair Trade Sales IncreaseMy Profile

  • Great post, Tami. I’m willing to bet that being unfamiliar with many of these hats plays a significant role in some freelancers not succeeding.

    Just a couple of weeks ago I listened to a webinar by Karen Thackston during which she commented on how important it is for writers to spend time learning. Mostly she was talking about learning and strengthening copywriting skills (which is what the webinar was about) but I think that sentiment can also be applied to learning about the different hats (networking, marketing, new trends, etc.).

    • Anne

      Hmmm, Alicia, this comment re learning is a great seed for a post! Thanks –

  • Tami, Think this applies to any freelancer, not just writers. It’s true about all the different hats we wear, the other jobs we have to do beyond our core skills, projects. I am enjoying a lot of the networking, the blogging and making connections; these things teach me valuable skills and new technologies, develop self confidence, improve my writing and ability to do my job so it’s worth it for me and my business. FWIW.
    Davina K. Brewer recently posted..Learning from the Worst of the Worst Lessons in DumbnessMy Profile

  • Excellent post. So many times I’ve lamented that, “I wish I could just WRITE.” But all those other less pleasant things — the promoting, networking, and more — are what allow us to make even just smidgens of money, allow us to continue with the part we love best: the writing. Thank you for so accurately portraying the universal plight of the freelancer.
    Lisa @ Grandma’s Briefs recently posted..A rockin grandma on the grillMy Profile

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