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Now don’t take me the wrong way here, I love my freelance writing life. But I’ve seen more than one marketing blog that seriously overstates the benefits of freelancing (probably for the purposes of recruiting students/trainees into their freelance learning store).
Sure freelancing is fabulous, but I want to set the record straight about a few things — because a freelance writing career isn’t for everyone.
And here’s the first thing.
Sorry but you can’t.
Ever seen a stock shot of a gorgeous girl or guy lying on the beach with their laptop? Yeh, me too. Such a crock. You cannot work on the beach.
How do I know? Because I lived in a tent and travelled around the coastline of Australia for 2.5 years working as a freelancer. I owned 7 bikinis and wore them for most of my writing work — and I can say with authority — you cannot work on the beach.
Sand gets in your laptop. Sweat and sunscreen drip down between the keys. The glare of the sun makes the screen un-seeable.
When you start to scorch and want to swim, you waste hours and energy hiding your laptop from backpackers (and anyone else you look at with suspicion) because you worry they’re going to make off with your writing equipment while you’re under the waves.
Post-swim salt water drains under the space bar. The WIFI signal is flimsy. Working from a wet, sandy, sticky towel with no lower-back support becomes irritating — then when you move to the shade of a palm tree — mosquitos, ants, and other things that sting, steal your writing time.
But why would you want to work on the beach anyway? BECAUSE …
Sorry but it is not.
Freelancing is a job, and like any job if you want to make money you have to work. Yes work. Sure the fancy brochures will tell you if you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life. Such a crock. I totally love blogging but I’m working right now.
In order to pay for margarita holidays on the beach — oh and school fees, rent, and car payments — you have to be disciplined and work. Disciplined enough to finish that blog post, finish that white paper, finish that professional bio, finish those 350 product descriptions.
Because you only get paid when the writing is done, and the job is finished.
PS: there is no such thing as a working holiday. You either work — or you are on holiday. As soon as you start working, it stops being a holiday.
Oh, and something else I forgot to tell you (please don’t shoot the messenger) …
Sorry, but you can’t drink margaritas and write.
Even Dylan Thomas the literary master and poet who drank himself to death by the age of 39 (confirmed by his wife) never combined drinking and writing. He always sat down to write dry and sober.
Mr Thomas knew as well as you do right now, that the minute you sip from that red wine glass or neck the Corona bottle, your writing skills (and stamina) will begin to shrink — and continue to do so with each and every sip.
By the end of the bottle you’ll never want to write again (or tragically if you do) you’ll never be asked to write another product description by your faithful client.
Which inevitably leads me to the next sad fact about freelancing …
And on those days sorry, you won’t make a single cent, peso, or pound.
Your back aches, the menses have submerged you, you’re exhausted from an overnight Netflix binge, your head is thumping from all those margaritas I told you not to drink. No matter how much you love writing, there will be times when it all just seems way too hard.
You’re depressed. You’re sad. You’re scared. You’re broke. You’re not a writer. You’re an imposter. You’re …
There will be 1 million (and 1) reasons every single day never to leave the safety of your bed. And some days it will take every piece of energy you have — to fling your body out from under that Doona.
And when you do there will be nobody there to lament to. Because …
Sorry, but it is.
Freelance writing is a solo sport. If you want to write anything worth reading you can’t be simultaneously watching YouTube, WhatsApp-ing your BFF, having brunch with friends, updating your iPhone, helping your adopted son with his homework, chatting to your partner, or even making freshly brewed coffee.
What’s more, if you don’t manage your time properly you’ll find yourself always working and never playing (which kind-of makes it more lonely).
And even worse — because this is 100% true for every freelance writer (at least in the beginning anyway) …
Sorry, but they do.
It’s the whole reason you became a professional writer in the first place, so you could write. But your beloved novel. Poems. Short stories. The picture book you promised your adopted son. The screen play. They will all end up at the bottom on the creative pile as you write page, after page, after page, of the stuff that pays.
And then instead of writing cool copy that inspires, delights, uplifts, and excites you end up …
Sorry, but you will.
One of the greatest things about freelancing is our ability to choose who we are going to work for — and when. But unless you have a solid cash flow and time management strategy, you’ll find yourself taking on writing jobs for difficult clients. Simply because they pay.
You’ll write boring copy about stuff that doesn’t even remotely interest you (think bitcoins, plumbing artefacts, light switches and dental plaque). And you’ll never have enough time for the creative stuff that really inspires you.
The stuff you know will pay — one day. If you just had time to write it.
It’s enough to send you straight to back to bed (via the red wine shop). Really, why would you want to be freelance writer anyway?
Well, most of it anyway.
If you persevere past the backaches, headaches, menses, and depression. Then schedule time to WhatsApp your BFF (and stop watching YouTube videos), you’ll get more blogs written and start making enough money to help your adopted son with his homework (instead of working every night and weekend).
With discipline and perseverance your bank account will increase and allow fabulous beach holidays — where you leave your computer at home (or at least in the hotel) and drink margaritas under tropical suns.
You’ll start to feel inspired again.
You’ll put up your prices so your plumbing artefact clients can no longer afford you — or if they can — the exorbitant fees you are now charging will make light switches and dental plaque so much more interesting.
And in time you’ll pull out the beloved novel. The Poems. Short stories. The picture book you promised your adopted son. The screen play. They’ll all find their way out from the bottom of the crushing pile. And you’ll write.
And write your way through 10am brunch the next day with friends.
You’ll celebrate every time you throw the bed covers off and stride to your desk (instead of making a grimy 2 hour commute) — knowing that freelancing did that for you.
Just don’t expect it all on the first day.
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Good advice! “Lonely” is right; for writing product or service texts, rather than so-called ‘creative writing’, there are advantages to getting up, getting to an office on time and be surrounded by colleagues for the occasional chat.