This June will mark two years since I became a full-time freelance writer. I’ve learned a lot about working from home, finding writing jobs, my own writing style and the underworld of link-building online copy. It has been an interesting journey and I can honestly say that I am a wiser, stronger, more confident writer as a result.
When I talk to friends and strangers about this career path, I hear a few repetitive things that make me chuckle. I suppose there are misconceptions about every job but these are the ones I hear most often associated with freelance writers:
1. It is glamorous. I have a dear friend from college that has told me on occasion that I am just like Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City fame. As sweet and flattering as this is (and our cooking skills are certainly comparable), I don’t think C.B. would be caught dead wearing the shoes I can afford. Carrie wrote about life living in Manhattan, shopping trips for designer clothes with her friends and well, her sex life. I write about the butterfly gardens at a local elementary school, the ways my friends and I bond over baby wearing and I generally try to keep the details of my bedroom private (though I’m sure my husband would love if I started calling him Mr. Big… but that’s another blog post). I wouldn’t say it is an unglamorous or demeaning career path, but it’s not all jet-setting to Paris and accepting phone calls from Pippa Middleton (call me!) either.
|Live from my living room, making buckets of cash||in my PJs|
2. We make a lot of money. Oh boy, do I wish this was true. Many people that are starting out as a freelance writers are surprised to discover that the going rate for most jobs is anywhere from .02 – .03 cents per word. That makes a 500-word article around $10 – $15. If you are assigned 10 of these and spend a half hour on each (including researching the topic and emailing it back to the client), you’re looking at $100 – $150 for five hours of work. Not too bad. MOST people simply cannot work this fast at first, however. It takes time to stop second-guessing every single sentence and there are days when you just aren’t feeling it.
My calculations do not include the time it takes to actually find work, bid on it and negotiate back and forth with clients via email (and invoice them when you are complete). In theory, a job as a freelancer has unlimited earning potential but you would have to work around the clock, or find a lucky strike high-paying client, to hit that six-figure salary number. I’ve been blessed enough to find a combination of clients that include some bigger spenders, but don’t quit your day job to become a freelance writer (unless you can afford it).
3. We spend all day with our kids. Technically, I do spend most of every day with at least two of my four kids. I say technically because just because I am physically here does not mean I participate in daylong tea parties and coloring marathons. In order to finish my work and earn the money that my family needs, there are simply some times that my kids need to play independently. Of course a nine-month-old baby demands immediate attention but even she crawls around from toy to toy if I need to send an outside-of-naptime email from the couch nearby.
Breakfast and dinnertime are no-work zones for me, and I try my best to take a break when the older two get home from school to play outside with everyone or walk to the park or library with all four. That usually means that I’m sitting at my desk working after bedtime, though, often until I am too tired to type another word. And forget T.G.I.F. Weekends are for catching up on the work that I fell behind on during the hectic school week.
|Carrie Bradshaw, fabulous? Pffft. This is me on a Tuesday.|
4. We work in pajamas. Okay. So this one is true. It’s a perk, alright? Some jobs give you a corporate credit card or a smartphone. Freelancers get to wear sweatpants and bathrobes while they paint beautiful word pictures, or contrived link-loaded Web content, or adjective-ridden skincare product descriptions. If you want the joy that comes with an unstable paycheck, know-it-all clients that can’t figure out why you can’t read their minds, and the constant battle of writer’s block when it comes to enterprising informative articles on concrete polishing — then you too can earn the right to wear fuzzy slippers while you bang out your next Pulitzer-winning “contact us” page for a shipping company.
5. Anyone can be a freelancer. In theory, this is true. Anyone CAN be a freelance writer. Just like anyone can be an astronaut, or a teacher, or the next President of the United States. I’m sorry, but it is offensive when I’m describing my latest writing project (after you ask) and you say “I should start doing that.” Like tomorrow morning you are just going to log in to your laptop, have a paying project waiting and possess the know-how to complete it efficiently, accurately and to the latest AP style or SEO specifications.
It is not as difficult to become a freelance writer as say… an astronaut, teacher or Commander-in-Chief, but there IS a learning curve. If you are serious about starting down this career path, I would love to help you with some shortcuts (and there aren’t many) to earning a living. But please do me the honor of asking for my help; do not assume any yahoo with a Gmail account is automatically a “writer.”
Phew. Sorry if I got a little carried away with that last point. Guess I needed to get that off my chest.
If you are a freelance writer, to which of these can you relate? If not, what misconceptions drive you crazy about your career path?
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