I have a gripe.
Almost every week another friend or relative comes out of the woodwork to ask me for help in getting started as a freelance writer. Most of them have never aspired to write, or even enjoy it, but they’re out of work or want to work at home. They see freelance writing as a way to avoid the rat race, and, even, to not have to do much work at all.
To be honest, these calls and emails kind of tick me off. I wouldn’t call my plumber and say, “Hey, I fixed a toilet once. Can you help me find a job as a plumber?”
Yes, freelance writing jobs are plentiful in 2010 and there are more writers than ever but that doesn’t mean everyone who ever typed up a business correspondence or wrote in a diary is cut out to be a freelance writer.This isn’t an easy “work at home” job. It’s a job that takes skill and dedication. Lazy people need not apply.
It’s not a matter of writing
Of course you have to be able to write well to be a freelance writer, but it’s so much more than that. Freelance writers must have:
- A solid work ethic: If you don’t have drive, you won’t make it as a freelance writer. This may look like a fun flexible lifestyle, but the writers who do the best schedule their time wisely. Sure, you can start work any time you like. You can take lots of vacation days and long lunches, but you also have to make sure the work gets done. Freelancers have to be responsible with their flexibility.
- The ability to work independently: No one is going to stand over you with a list of daily duties. You’re not going to sit in a cube near a bunch of supervisors to keep you in check. It’s up to you to see every project through to completion. Freelancers don’t have backup staff or co-workers in which to delegate our work. We file our own paperwork and do our own typing. Well, most of us, anyway.
- Good customer service skills: How are your people skills? Can you pick up a phone to touch base with a client? Will you know enough to follow up after a project is over? What if there’s a crisis or your client is unhappy? It’s important to know how to handle negativity and diffuse situations. Your clients’ happiness is the key to your success.
- The ability to sell: There are various ways clients screen their freelancers. Some use an application, others use a phone interview. There are still others who do everything via email. It doesn’t matter what method you use to communicate with your clients, if you don’t have the ability to sell yourself, your services and your products (your writing) you won’t get the gig.
- Good business sense: Being a freelance writer is owning a small business. What do you think it takes to run a small business? It takes the ability to bring in clients, analyze numbers, and profit from your work. There’s a lot more to this than writing.
- The ability to meet deadlines: Many brand new freelance writers begin with good intentions but find themselves overwhelmed as it gets closer to deadline day and they haven’t even started their projects. Clients don’t want a rushed project. They schedule projects with you in advance so you don’t rush the gig. It’s not fair to give them a quick piece of work when they put their faith in you to put your all into a project.
- Focus: Are you able to sit at your desk for hours? It’s not easy to work at home with so many distraction. The kids are calling or the phone is ringing, there’s always a reason to get up from your work. It’s hard to get into a rhythm when you have to jump up and down every five minutes. Everyone says they can work at home, it’s a rude awakening to find out how hard it actually is. Freelance writers have to have the ability to block out distractions and work without stopping.
- Hustle: There may be more freelance writing work now than ever, but there’s also more freelance writers. Finding suitable work is a constant hustle. It takes a while before you have repeat clients and word of mouth recommendations. Until then, it’s a feast or famine lifestyle and you have to stay on top of the job boards and give a better pitch than the other writers clamoring for the same opportunities.
Yeah, this work at home lifestyle is nice. We have the flexibility to work whenever we want and take on only the projects that interest us. Make no mistake, it’s hard work. Writing is only a small part of what we do. If you think this is an easy lifestyle, think again. Freelance writing takes hard work, dedication and a good work ethic.
What are your thoughts? Can anyone do this? Can everyone be a freelance writer?