Looking in from the outside, freelance writing seems like an amazing job—and, don’t get me wrong, it can be amazing—but I’ll be the first person to tell you freelancing isn’t for everyone.
There are a number of challenges to freelance careers, and you’ll want to consider the whole picture when deciding if striking out on your own is the best choice for you. The following are five questions I want you to ask yourself—and be brutally honest.
1. Are You a Good Writer? Like, Really Good?
For whatever reason, many people have an inflated view of their writing abilities. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but just because your 10th grade teacher told you that your essay was great doesn’t mean you have what it takes to be a professional writer. (Yes, someone actually said that to me.) Think of it this way: Just because you were a star soccer player in high school doesn’t mean you can just walk onto a professional team.
To be able to write at a professional level, you need to be able to do more than string sentences together. You need to have an above-average understanding of grammar, syntax, sourcing, article organization, pitching, and interviewing. These skills are what will set you apart from other aspiring writers and further your career.
2. Do You Have a Financial Cushion?
You’ll want to have a financial fall-back plan when starting your freelance career. No matter what those click-bait YouTube videos say, you won’t make $5,000 a week when you first start out. Chances are you won’t even make $5,000 a month. I know I didn’t.
Because freelance careers often get off to a slow start, it’s important to have a financial cushion—it could be a spouse who can support you for a few months, a hefty emergency fund, or even just really low expenses. This allows you to focus on finding quality jobs that will further your career, instead of being forced to take low-paying gigs with no longevity.
Personally, I was able to get by at the beginning of my career by moving in with my parents, and it also helped that I didn’t have student loans or debt. From the day I started full-time freelancing, it took about six months before I was making enough to cover my normal expenses (ie. rent). Without the aid of my parents, it would have been an extremely stressful (and potentially unsuccessful) transition.
3. Will You Be OK Working Alone?
Thanks to my introverted nature, I love being alone. As such, working from home is a good fit for me. However, if you thrive in a lively work environment, freelancing might leave you feeling isolated.
When you’re a freelancer, you have no coworkers and no office—it’s just you and your computer, all day every day. Sure, you can join a coworking space or go to a cafe, but it’s not the same as having coworkers to collaborate with.
4. Can You Keep Yourself Motivated?
This is one question people often lie to themselves about, but self-motivation is key to being a successful freelancer. You don’t have a manager or a set schedule, so it’s 100% up to you to keep yourself on track and avoid procrastination. This requires strong time management skills and an iron-clad will.
Plus, there are tons of distractions—TV, games, pets, chores—when you’re working from home. You need to be able to resist these temptations and get your work done on time without any guidance or supervision. Be honest with yourself: Did you wait until the night before to start college essays? If yes, you may want to reevaluate your decision to freelance.
5. Do You Have an Unwavering Support System?
I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to my parents, boyfriend, or friends for pep talks, brainstorming, and advice over the course of my freelance career. Even though you may be working alone, you can’t do it alone.
Even though you may be working alone, you can’t do it alone.
You’re going to need a support system to cheer you on and pick you up when you’re feeling down. Otherwise, I’m willing to bet you’ll quickly become burnt out and disenchanted with your new career.
Carefully consider these questions as you decide whether freelancing is the right career for you. It’s important to know what you’re getting into, as it’s not always butterflies and rainbows!