I have been following an interesting discussion on another forum where someone asked whether there was job security in freelance writing. First of all, the words job security and freelance writing really shouldn’t be put together in the same sentence. When you are providing services on a freelance basis, you are not working a job. You are a business owner who has clients.
Can you earn a stable income through your freelance writing business efforts? Yes, you can, and if you are looking for a secure income, you are probably better off making it happen for yourself than by working for an employer.
If you are working for a company, you have a single source of income. If the company is going through a rough patch or someone determines that you don’t fit in, you may well find yourself being told that your services are no longer required. It doesn’t necessarily matter that you have been doing your job well; if the company is looking to cut costs, you may be let go anyway.
A freelance writer ideally has multiple sources of income. It’s not the best idea to have only one client or structure your business so that one client is responsible for providing you with a large percentage of your income. That way, you won’t take as big of a financial hit if that client doesn’t have steady work for you or you choose not to work with him or her anymore.
One of the best things about working on a freelance basis is that you have control over what assignments to take. There will be times when you take on work that wouldn’t necessarily be your first choice but that can generate income to pay bills or buy groceries, and there is nothing wrong with that. Haven’t you ever watched a movie and wondered why an actor decided to take on that particular role? (My suspicion is that sometimes projects get floated around to people who just need to make some money, but I could be mistaken.)
There is no security in working for an employer, no matter how long you have worked there. The days when someone started his or her working life with one company and stayed there until retirement are gone. If you are looking for security, the place to start is with the image you see in the mirror. Start building the type of business you want that can help you reach the goals you have set for yourself.
P.S. Why are you still reading this? Get out there and work on your business! 😉
Debra Stang says
I had just started writing to earn money in 2001, and I remember my income really tanked after 9/11. A large part of that, though, was my fault. I was spending a lot of time writing for content mills and not nearly enough looking for clients in other areas. Now I try to diversify my writing projects so I don’t get caught flat-footed if one industry takes a hit.
What a great post. Unfortunately, it distracted me from my work while I ruminated on self reliance and paid a visit to Ralph Waldo Emerson. You summed up a lot of what he said in “Self Reliance” when you wrote this:
“If you are looking for security, the place to start is with the image you see in the mirror.” Great stuff!
Now it’s time to get back to work!!
This is one of the best pieces I’ve read on freelancing and really puts our career in a positive light. I’m posting it on my wall so I can refer to it when people ask me “so you really make money doing that?” and other negative remarks. Thank you for making me feel great about what I do today!
This is the second time I’ve read a comment that mentions negative remarks about freelance writing as a career. On my end of the world (Australasia), most people envy me for not being stuck in a 9-5 job. Revel in your independence!
Gayla Baer-Taylor says
I’ve been working from home since 2000 – writing content since 2002 and blogging since 2004. There was a time when I was making low 6-figures, then I made the mistake of letting my own work fall to the wayside while going to work for someone else full-time, somehow thinking my sites would continue to earn on their own. Lesson learned the hard way.
What happened is the company downsized and eventually sold, leaving several writers out in the cold and my previous efforts were old, outdated and basically worthless.
Since that time, I’ve been doing part-time gigs here and there while trying to rebuild my own efforts in a world that is much more saturated then when I originally began.
In hindsight, it’s never a good idea to give up on your own efforts to work for one who controls the bulk of your income or job security. For me, doing individual contract jobs, working part-time and focusing on my own efforts is more the job security that works for me.
@ Debra: Diversifying is a great strategy for avoiding the feast or famine cycles that so many freelancers experience.
@Rob: Thank you for the kind words. I’ve heard many negative comments about freelancing, ranging from something along the lines of why don’t I get to “real” job to a comment about it being nice that I have a “little hobby.” I just ignore them now.
@Pam: Thank you! I’m so pleased that you think that the post is worth putting on your wall. 😀
@ Gayla: Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’m sure you took the full-time job because it was the right choice for you at the time. Circumstances have changed and you have decided to go back to something else, and you can take what you have learned from the experience and use it as a springboard to even greater success. 😀
Kimberlee Morrison says
Being on retainer is a good way to ensure a steady flow of income and manage cash flow. Retainers help freelancers manage their cash and workflow, and let a client know what he can expect from the freelancer. This tends to work best with corporate clients, but some publications (pretty rare these days) will also give freelancers a monthly contract for a baseline of content to be provided. Not exactly the same as a retainer, but its better than having no contract at all.
As someone who started at rock bottom, I agree with you. It took awhile, but I finally have a couple of clients who send me a modest advance (and I mean modest) each month. It makes me feel a whole lot more secure. You have to prove yourself first, though. Asking for it out of the blue would probably have negative consequences.