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What Can You Expect From Freelance Writing?

writer's expectationsThe family story is I started talking about becoming going for a writing career in the sixth grade. I don’t remember that, although I do know I occasionally wrote for the 6th grade newspaper.

What I do remember is going to a different bookstore each month to buy both Writer’s Market, the magazine, and The WriterI would pour through each, drawn even then to non-fiction. I made lists of magazines and ideas and never did much but dream.

Each year I’d show up at one bookstore or another to buy Writer’s Market – the big annual that’s full of information about how to write, how to query, what publishers of both books and magazines are looking for. Again, I’d make lists, underline things and generally dream about becoming a freelance writer.

It’s hard to know now exactly what I thought earning my living as a writer would be like. I’m sure I had some notions of coffee with stars, or more likely given my inclinations, politicians, my name if not in lights at least on some interesting mastheads.

In a way it has been like that, and continues to be.

Although my first queries let to rejection those pre-printed slips of paper somehow gave me permission to continue writing and submitting.

All sorts of interesting things happened. When I discovered computers would check my creative spelling, I bought one and ended up doing tech writing.

From that I moved to editing a metaphysical magazine, which led to ghostwriting… etc. etc. etc.

Has it been glamorous? Occasionally. That first magazine won a Maggie Award and I got to swank it up a bit when, with other staff, got to go to Los Angeles and accept it in a big award ceremony.

One author paid my way to Hawaii on the theory we’d write there. We didn’t, but  I had a ton of fun and the book did get written.

There have been down times too – when I didn’t get a contract or ran out of money or was told I wasn’t working hard enough – you know, the stuff of life.

As I look back on these 30+ years I think freelance writing has brought me pretty much what I’ve expected. A decent income, some interesting people – lots of interesting people actually, and the freedom to pretty much live life on my own terms.

Can you expect the same?

I think so, as long as you’re willing to do the footwork and put up with the ups and downs.

It’s been both my experience and observation that we get in life pretty much what we expect – oh not in the details, but in general. I’m pretty optimistic. I like people. I expect things to go well and they usually do, especially when I’m willing to look on the bright side?

What do you expect from freelance writing? What’s been your experience?


Let Anne coach you to the writing career you want.

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by roland

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Thanks Anne for this. I’m actually trying to break through into online article writing at the moment and you’ve given me some good motivation (and insight) to keep trying. Have you any experience with people basically saying they would rather pay less for less quality work? Idea’s on how to market oneself to overcome that?
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    • Mark, I’ll answer this in a post, probably Thursday.

  • freelance writing is more like a business than just an ordinary job. You have to know how to really write then practice and find a good client to make money out of your materials. This is a business that needs 24/7 attention for the first few months…

    • well said, Maria.

    • Once you dive into the world of freelance writing, you’ll begin to have a good grip on your strengths and weaknesses, and be able to target the jobs that best showcase your abilities Even in the first year of struggling, I never contemplated “going back” to corporate life.Congrats on your first regular client.

  • Chloe Louise

    Once you dive into the world of freelance writing, you’ll begin to have a good grip on your strengths and weaknesses, and be able to target the jobs that best showcase your abilities. Once you figure out what you’re good at, and begin to parlay that talent into project after project, you will then truly be a “free lance.”
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  • Amandah is so right and I know you have said it here many times, Anne. It’s the business side many freelancers are unprepared for.

    I was hurled into my freelancing dream when I all but had a total meltdown in my corporate life. Like you, Anne, I am a glass half-full type of person. My struggles the first year were mainly self-induced recovery time from a high level of stress for a very long time. My goals were simple in the beginning – to do better than the year before. And I did just that. That boosted my confidence.

    Even in the first year of struggling, I never contemplated “going back” to corporate life. I enjoy what I do-I enjoy the freedom even more – and I am glad I made the leap (even if I was pushed a bit). 😉
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    • Cathy, I’d say we’re twins but I never did a whole lot of the high-powered corporate stuff. I’m a really good worker and not so good as an employee.

  • I expect freelance writing to support me financially but sometimes you have to have a day job to supplement your income. This is fine as long as you like what you’re doing. And, you never know who you’ll meet or the stories you’ll uncover. 🙂

    Here’s my experience with freelance writing…

    If you don’t know who your ideal client is or how to market to them, you could be waiting a long time before a freelance writing career supports you full-time. I’ve discovered it takes time to find your ‘ideal client.’ If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have found a freelance writing mentor or coach to walk me through the process of setting up a freelance writing business. It is a business. I would have appreciated working with a ‘seasoned’ freelance writer who could have helped me avoided some of the obstacles I’ve had. Oh well! I can write about it and help ‘newbies’ maneuver the freelance writer’s obstacle course. 🙂

    • Amandah, what you say makes sense… particularly about a mentor. You probably could now become a coach too.

  • Hi Anne,

    Still early days for me really. Lost some gigs, got a regular client and somehow have become primarily a travel and tourism writer at the moment (didn’t expect that but enjoy it). I’m expecting a tough time getting to earn a regular living wage but if I can do it, it’s kind of a dream. I like that I can work hardest when I’m at my best (even if it’s at 1 a.m. sometimes); I like that I’m creating writing that my customers like (and that other bloggers are liking); and, I like that I can do 99% of my job without having to travel into town (hated the daily commute).


    • Mike, I’ve stumbled into niches like that… it’s part of the fun I think. Congrats on your first regular client.

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