From a distance, freelance writing sounds dreamy because of the freedoms that are associated with the gig life, like creating your own schedule and working wherever you please.
But, freelancing isn’t all fat paychecks and notable bylines. Along the journey of self-employment, plenty of dilemmas presents themselves — from an unbearable workload to having your story stolen. But, with the right attitude and some good old-fashioned chutzpah, you can navigate the little hang-ups that the freelance life brings your way.
1. You’ll have to say “yes” to everything for a while
When you first set out to freelance, you’ll have to stomach crummy pay, cantankerous editors, and take on all assignments that come your way. Let’s be honest, in the beginning, you can’t afford to be picky.
Once you get enough clips under your belt and reach freelance rockstar status, you can be fussy and turn down gigs. When you finally get to say “no” to those vile editors and poor-paying gigs, it is liberating, but you have to be patient and keep your eye on the prize before you enter the “no” territory.
2. Your social life will take the backseat
Because you’re saying “yes” to all assignments that come your way, you will have an unbearable workload that will keep you shackled to your desk. While friends are at the bar enjoying happy hour, you’ll be stuck at home grappling with your FOMO and deadlines.
If you can unearth yourself from the confines of your writing cave to join society, that one beer could be the inspirational elixir you needed to power through your work. In college, my journalism professor always advised me to “grab a beer” when I was struggling with a story.
3. Existential crises are a regular occurrence
As assignments ebb and flow, emotional ups and downs coincide. The high you feel when you’re assigned to write a story for your favorite publication can be followed by a depressing dry spell. Experiencing these mercurial feelings can lead to self-doubt and existential crises, but don’t let it gnaw at your confidence and work ethic.
Use your downtime wisely, and instead of pouting, brainstorm some killer pitches.
Learn to embrace the lull.
4. Your story ideas will be “stolen”
If you pitched a story to an editor and then see it in their publication written by someone else, your gut reaction may be to fire off a nasty-gram and call a lawyer.
Stop and take a breath.
Even though it’s a ruthless move on the editor’s behalf, you have to accept that:
- An editor can assign a very similar story to another writer
- Your idea wasn’t original, and someone else could’ve pitched the same story
It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and freelance writing can be cutthroat.
When pitching editors, be sure your story ideas are fully fleshed out. Off the bat, you need to prove to an editor that you are the expert who was born to write the story.
5. Success takes longer than you think
Success in the freelance world is determined by financial stability and consistent gigs. A ubiquitous byline and a flush wallet doesn’t happen overnight but is a slow slog that can take years to build up to.
Start your freelance career while you have a full-time or part-time job to ensure that you have a stable financial foundation. As you get more work and gain confidence, consider leaving your 9-to-5 to embrace the freelance life.