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4 Things to Know Before Becoming a Freelance Writer

Chris Christoff
Chris Christoff

Before ditching your job to become a freelance writer, here is what you should know.

As technology continues to advance, more people are abandoning their 9-to-5 office lives and converting to freelancing. It's a world of difference when you freelance, one that many picture as a relief from the everyday demands of regular jobs.

Freelance writers set their own hours, work with clients they choose and charge the amount they believe is fair. They dabble in all kinds of work, including email marketing, copywriting, editing and more. It's true that there are several benefits to stepping into freelance work, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come with its own trials and tribulations. 

With a recent study showing that 83% of freelancers plan to continue their writing careers for at least the next five years, the competition isn't getting any slimmer.  When you become a freelance writer, there's no longer a strictly set structure to your everyday routine. You're the only one responsible for creating it. When you become your own boss, you're in charge of making and keeping clients, ensuring that business flows smoothly, and making enough income to live off of. 

There's a lot to consider before diving into a career of freelance writing, including:

  • Setting firm expectations
  • Knowing that your income will rise and fall with the market
  • Accepting that it gets lonely at times
  • Sticking to one or two specialties

Here's more on what to expect before becoming a freelance writer.

1. Setting clear, firm expectations is a must.

When you become a freelance writer, you also become your own boss. You no longer have anyone to mitigate issues or take the blow when things get tough. You are the only one responsible for the work you put out and how clients receive it. They are the bread and butter of your business, as they provide you with tasks to complete and monetary compensation.

You don't want an avoidable predicament to take place because either party wasn't fully aware of the situation at hand. That's why it's important to set clear expectations from the very beginning. Don't skirt around difficult subjects, especially pay rates. If you expect a specific amount from your client for the work you're providing them, then stick to that amount unless you believe there's room for negotiation. 

Freelance writers who are pushovers are paid less for even the most high-quality work they do and aren't satisfied with their business because they're being shorted. Some clients take advantage of freelancers' fear of being dropped without warning for another, cheaper freelancer, as this is a common occurrence. Freelancers in other parts of the world where the cost of living is lower can get away with charging less, which makes it more difficult for freelancers with higher-cost living to get jobs with the pay they expect.

While it's a privilege to work remotely, it comes with its own set of very real obstacles that cause stress and frustration. It's important to set realistic expectations for your client about the details of the project, the pay you expect and the amount of time it will take you to complete. 

Draft a contract and study examples online that other freelancers use with their clients. You should always have a contract in writing with clients so that you're ensured proper compensation within the time limit. Whether you do this with a lawyer or not is up to you. If any issues arise, you can refer back to the contract to come to an agreement that works for both parties.

2. Your income will fluctuate.

When working in freelance, you aren't going to make the same amount of money every month. Whether you become a full-time blogger or write copy for other businesses, you'll face different challenges at first when it comes to your income. You'll have clients whose projects change, you'll take on new clients, and let go of old ones. It's essential to remember that your income will fluctuate so that you can prepare for times when it's low.

Set an amount aside for emergencies so you can rest easy knowing that, if you truly need it, the money is there for you to live off of. You should always prepare for the worst when you're your own boss, because things happen unexpectedly sometimes, and that's natural for freelance businesses. As long as you take care of yourself and continue to add to your savings, you'll be good during those challenging moments where you aren't making as much as before.

As long as you continue hunting for new opportunities, making network connections, and working towards expanding your business, eventually those clients will come your way. 

3. Understand that it gets lonely.

Spending a lot of time by yourself at home to complete work tasks sounds great at first, but once you actually live this reality, it dawns on you just how isolating it can be. Imagine sitting in silence while staring at your computer for five days, at least, a week. The thought of skipping out on co-workers' small talk seems enticing at first, but as human beings, we crave social connection throughout our days, no matter how minimal. Creating trusting and supportive relationships with others is what helped us survive as we evolved into social beings.

Studies show that loneliness has negative effects on our health. When people feel lonely, they release higher levels of the stress hormone called cortisol, which can lead to high blood pressure, anxiety and strokes.

Prepare for lonely times ahead. Break the monotony of your regular routine and get out of the house. Work at a coffee shop or library and enjoy others' company even if you aren't chatting with them. Sometimes just physically being around other people is enough to feel like you’re still a functioning part of society. 

It's important to put importance into your social life when you freelance because spending time with loved ones is essential to refuel and feel fulfilled. You won't enjoy your work if you feel neglected in other areas of life, so set aside time dedicated to hanging out with friends and family. 

4. Stick to one or two niches.

At first, it might sound like a good idea to be a jack of all trades kind of writer, but a generalized approach only works some of the time. If you need a social media marketing expert to further your reach on social, would you rather hire a lifestyle blogger or someone with social media experience?  

The same goes for freelance writing. If a professional is in search of a political blogger, they don't want to hire someone whose specialties are in marketing, food, and arts and crafts, because it isn't what they're skilled in. Business owners want expert writers who specialize in one or two fields and excel at them. This increases their chances of publishing high-quality, research-backed content that's popular with their target market and improves lead generation. It gives writers the opportunity to net higher-paying clients and build a portfolio they're proud of.

If you can't focus on just one, pick a few different niches that interest you and also have demand behind them. Business, technology and digital marketing are constantly expanding and in need of more educated, knowledgeable writers.

As freeing and pleasant as it sounds, becoming a freelance writer is about more than working whatever hours you want and avoiding small talk. It's a serious business where you make income, work with clients and create content based on their specific needs.

If not handled with care, you could face disaster down the line. It's essential to set clear expectations of what the job entails and stick to one or two main niches. Realize that this line of work gets lonely at times and the income won't always be as stable as what a nine-to-five provides.

Having a plan helps ensure you're prepared for whatever's to come so that your writing business reaches its goals.

Image Credit: Scott Riley/Shutterstock
Chris Christoff
Chris Christoff Member
Co-Founder of MonsterInsights, the leading WordPress plugin for Google Analytics.