So You Want to Write for a Living? The Risk and Reward of Becoming a Full-Time Freelance Writer
Stunt performers swinging from a trapeze or walking a high-wire get to see the world from a unique perspective and enjoy a feeling that others only dream of.
Of course, there is gravity to consider as well.
This is why a safety net is crucial for almost any high-risk act. Some performers, however, are skilled enough (and brave enough) to forgo this measure. With any type of big payoff comes risk. And vice versa. This is true for people who are looking to write for a living, too.
If you crave the freedom and flexibility of the freelance lifestyle, you aren’t alone. Many people dream of breaking away from the hourly grind to be their own boss and show the world their writing talents.
So, what holds them back? In many cases, the freelance lifestyle can seem like a big gamble. Not only do you have to be good at writing, but you have to find writing jobs and manage your life on income that may fluctuate or change.
Maybe you’ve been paid for some work in the past or even work as a freelancer part-time. But what do you need to know if you’re considering making freelance writing your sole source of income? Is it worth it? More importantly, how risky is it to ditch “traditional” work to write for a living on your own time?
Why Most People Never Write for a Living
Punching a time-clock isn’t the most prestigious act out there. Even if you’re doing something you really enjoy, you probably dislike the idea of having a big portion of your life scheduled and dictated in a manner that’s largely beyond your control.
Even if you work an hourly job where you have managerial authority and/or good management above you, the thought of working for someone else indefinitely can be mind-numbing for many people. But mind-numbing as it may be, the reason so many stick it out is because this type of job offers security.
With a freelance writing career, you’re expected to find your own work and ensure you have enough tasks to keep you busy. This can seem like a tall order, especially when you’re used to showing up and having your assignments, projects, and tasks given out to you by a boss.
Is it risky? To a point, yes. Freelance writing jobs have their own pay structure, timeline, and requirements. While you may not get the level of certainty you’d get from showing up every day and being guaranteed to make a certain amount of money, there are plenty of perks as well.
Why the Freelance Lifestyle is Appealing
If you’ve thought about making the plunge to write for a living, you probably have given tons of consideration to the risks and uncertainties. But the freelance lifestyle is not all bad — if it was, I wouldn’t be writing this right now.
In fact, once you’re able to get steady work, you’ll find that the freelance lifestyle can provide you with a better quality of life. You can enjoy increased freedom, happiness, and mobility (both geographically and career-wise).
For those who do focus on the positives and want to know how they can write for a living, the question then becomes how to go full-time. The bad news is that getting good enough at writing to do it full-time takes a lot of work. The good news is that you can do it part-time for however long you need to build up your skills.
Making the Transition to Full-Time Freelancing
If you’re just starting out in your freelance writing career and have already begun to make some money with it, you may be asking yourself: how do full-time writers find consistent work? The answer is simple — it’s the law!
The law of supply and demand, that is.
Full-time writers know how to generate value with their work. Whether the client is wanting a news article that covers recent events with clarity or a product description that makes new inventory seem inviting to customers, great writers are wizards with their words. Even if you’re writing part-time, you can improve steadily as you do.
If you haven’t exactly found a unique voice in the industry (meaning you’re taking any writing jobs you can get for the time being) it’s never a bad idea to focus on fundamentals. If you’re looking to transition from part-time to full-time with your writing, make sure your grammar, formatting, and flow are top-notch. A mistake here or some filler there won’t destroy your chances, but you should make sure you have the basics down.
If you’re looking to work for yourself, make sure you have a portfolio, and that you build good connections with people in the industry who are looking for writers. Networking and self-management are skills you’ll build slowly over time. No one starts as an expert, but if you want to write for a living, it helps to get these things planned out early on.
Can Writing Be Its Own Safety Net?
People who have never worked as freelancers may see it as risky business. The 9-5 grind has garnered a lot of criticism, but it is the more stable of the two options — or is it?
Just because a traditional job guarantees you a certain amount of work in a given period doesn’t mean it’s a sure-thing in terms of longevity. Downsizing, managerial changes, or just plain bad luck can cause even the most long-tenured hourly employee to receive their walking papers. This can leave you feeling a bit aimless, and apprehensive about getting into the same situation again.
Anyone who has spent any degree of time in the corporate world knows that some promises aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Becoming your own boss can actually provide you with more job-security in the long term.
Once you’ve learned to write the type of copy people need, you’ll find your skills are in higher demand. Your previous work and connections can provide a constant backup plan for you, meaning you’ll always have some type of safety net in place while you work.
The more freedom you have over your work life and financial situation, the better off you’ll be. Freelancers can work full-time by going through a single client, completing various part-time commitments, or a combination of the two.
While many people think the chance to write for a living is only reserved for a lucky few, more people are seeing the benefits of going all in on freelancing.
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