It all looks so promising on paper: Doing what you love, in your pajamas, on the couch with the Kardashians on mute for company. For successful freelance writers, that might certainly be the setup, or they might only be able to do it while hot desking from a more professional space. There’s no right or wrong way to be a freelance writer, but you do need to have a certain set of skills and the right personality in order to succeed. Otherwise, it might be more like a hobby or second job and not enough to keep you financially fit.
First, determine what your skills are because there are many types of writers from those who provide content for marketing purposes to those who prepare RFPs for non-profits. Being a strong writer doesn’t cut it because you also need a niche like key technical skills or a background in working with NGOs. Once you have it narrowed down, understand that in order to stay competitive you have to keep up to date with industry trends. Writing is in no way a passive career.
Hints that freelancing is for you
Freelance writers who are successful (as in making six-figure incomes) are often Type A personalities, morning people and can’t stand procrastination. They’re skilled at multi-tasking, but even more so at prioritizing tasks so that their work is high quality and not scattered. Of course they’re great writers, but they also write quickly and don’t get caught up in thinking their work is their baby. They have very thick skins in order to withstand rejection and tough editors, and can’t take their writing personally.
Some freelance writers have editors on hand because writers and editors are often mutually exclusive. These are two very different types of skills and trying to do too much can lead to poor work quality. The best freelance writers are constantly on the hunt for new gigs, projects and clients even if they have a full plate because they never know when something might end. They engage in marketing campaigns to build recognition and authority, and keep the clients rolling in. It takes ruthlessness and constant research.
Maybe freelancing isn’t the way to go…
Some people simply need more structure and security, and that’s okay. However, recognizing whether or not you’re a good match for freelancing early on is the best way to avoid time wasted and a lot of frustration. Be brutally honest with yourself and admit if maybe you need a boss breathing down your neck (and not just an editor sending emails) to really get the best work out of you. Freelancing requires an incredible ability to manage your time, including knowing when to leave work and focus on family, friends or other obligations.
If you think freelancing sounds like a dream come true and you have the skills to make it work, all you have to do is take the leap. Save up a few months worth of living expenses and focus 100 percent on freelancing. In the beginning, it’s even tougher than starting a new traditional job, but it can pay off handsomely.