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The 3 Truths of Being a Freelance Writer

Freelance writer Melissa Campeau explores and unpacks the 3 truths of being a freelance writer: the good, the bad, and the awesome.

by Melissa Campeau

Every freelancer will have their own spin on what’s great—and not so great—about setting up shop in a home office (or at the dining room table) and writing for a living:

  • Some love being able to pick and choose the projects they work on.
  • Others like having flex hours.
  • Working (mainly) solo is a plus for some and a (fixable) challenge for others.

And then there’s the proximity to your own kitchen, which definitely has its upsides and downsides. You have to be disciplined, organized, and create boundaries in order to get the most out of your work day.

Here are 3 plain freelancing truths that successful freelancers live by.

1. Showers are good.

Successful freelancers give their days some structure. They get up, get dressed and just generally make like they’re going to work. Because they are going to work.

Freelancers run small businesses—usually singlehandedly. They spend their days finding new clients, managing relationships with the ones they have, creating and delivering content, marketing their work and often handling the bookkeeping, too. Of course, part of the joy of freelancing is being able to hit that mid-morning Soul Cycle class or volunteer for the odd afternoon at your kids’ school. But, to find wiggle room in a schedule, you’ve got to have a schedule.

By all means, go to a matinee screening of Rogue One. But also map out your day, send a zillion emails, make your calls before the end of the “business day,” and do what it takes to work as regularly as possible. To sum up: shower, get dressed, get ‘er done.

2. You can take vacation whenever you want / You’re never really on vacation

As mentioned in Truth #1, you can escape when you want, which is awesome. A road trip to Boston? Yes! A week in Cancun? Sí!

No one is counting your vacation days or throwing shade if you stay home with your fluey child (yes, again. Have you had kids??) Bonus: Waiting for the mattress delivery people to come in a six-hour window? No prob. I’ll be here!

On the other hand, you also see, more commonly than not, freelancers who work from the beach, who lug their laptops along on camping trips, and who still compulsively check their email until the moment they fall asleep at night.

As a freelancer, you’re in control of how, where and when you work, but let’s be real: you’re pretty much always working.

Freelancers have “Work FOMO” to the extreme, always thinking they’ll miss out on a plum assignment, a networking opportunity or a chance to keep a client happy.

It’s a tradeoff, but if you can work from a café in Paris or while sitting on a dock in Muskoka, it starts to feel like a pretty winning compromise.



3. Successful freelancers are anything but lazy

Few things are as empowering or satisfying when you’re a freelancer as firing (or simply turning down assignments from) your most annoying client. But you can only do that if you’re constantly networking and pitching to develop new—and better—prospects.

In the early days, weeks, months and even years, freelancers are all about the hustle. Having to be able to afford groceries is pretty motivating, after all.

But then, as you turn in good work and clients come back for more and you’re even eating steak from time to time, it may be tempting to coast.

Clients now come to you with offers of work (no more pitching!) and your calendar is choc-a-block with assignments. It can feel like you’ve made it.

But magazines fold. Editors get downsized. Freelance rates sometimes go down, rather than up. That hard-earned stable of clients can start to dwindle, along with your earnings.

Freelancers who keep up a little of the hustle even in the good times, who develop ties to new clients offering better-paying (or just better) work, will find they’ve got more options, more interesting work, and maybe a little more in their bank accounts, too.

No one who works at anything she cares about treats it like a 9-5, and freelancers are the best example of this.

Writing across topics, for all kinds of audiences, navigating research and contacts and good writing all while networking and pushing up against your own comfort zone to ensure the work keeps coming isn’t a job; it’s a lifestyle.

Taking the good (refrigerator proximity, flexible schedule, room for growth and advancement) with the challenging (refrigerator proximity, flexible schedule, continual need for growth and advancement) isn’t for those who want a job they can punch out of at 5 p.m., but the reward is a job you’re way more likely to love, and what’s best is you can love it on your own terms.

Melissa will be serving as the One Lit Place Writer-in-Residence from June 7, 2017 – June 14, 2017. Members of the Writers Lounge may ask any questions they like, get feedback on their work, and find out the ins and outs of what it means to be a freelancer.

Not a member of the Writers Lounge yet? Join now FREE and take part in exclusive member conversation, networking and work sharing with writers from all over the world, and much more. 

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