The Expectations and Realities of Freelance Writing

Carla Tensuan

Carla Tensuan

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

With the rise of remote work, more and more people are becoming freelance writers. But what does life as a freelancer entail? What are the hard realities of freelance writing?

There’s a common narrative that freelancing is easy and carefree. It’s the perfect job for someone who wants more control over their schedule, wants to work from home, and doesn’t want to answer to a boss. But there’s more to it than that: it’s not as simple as going on your terms. Freelancers often balance their time between managing their workload, handling their finances, and finding new clients.

As a freelance writer myself, I’ve learned about some of the best—and less than ideal—parts of being self-employed. Here are five things that you might have thought were true about freelancing but aren’t.

1. All you need to do is write.

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Although I am passionate about writing, I also need to devote time to other aspects of freelancing. What does this mean? For starters, I need to be very organized with my time. I have to set aside time to research topics, outline my draft, and edit and proofread my work. Not to mention managing my finances and making connections with new clients. I’m more than just a writer—I’m also a researcher, entrepreneur, and more.

2. You can write about whatever you want.

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There are no hard and fast rules, but that doesn’t mean you can write about anything. You need to know your clients and your audience and meet their needs to be successful. Anyone can write anything they want, but it doesn’t mean anyone will read it. You can, but it’s not always a good idea. If you’re going to make good money as a freelancer, read up on in-demand niches and topics, so you’re sure to have a steady stream of clients.

3. You are your boss, and you don’t answer to anyone.

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The most popular misconception about freelancing is that the only person you answer to is you. This could not be further from the truth. Working for yourself has a lot of benefits, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. When you’re freelancing, you’re responsible for yourself and your clients. You’re responsible for your reputation and how you choose to do business. The key is to stay positive and work hard.

4. Set up your profile, and the clients will come.

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Many people start freelancing and immediately think it’s about setting up their LinkedIn or Upwork profiles. It’s not that simple. There are many freelancers, so you have to be more proactive and diligent when you start. Engage with your network and build relationships and trust. Add samples to your writing portfolio and learn new skills to boost your resume. Create a solid online presence and work on your marketing strategy to find the right clients. Start thinking about long-term vision rather than short-term gains.

5. You don’t need to interact with other people.

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Freelancing is often believed to be a great way for introverts to make money. But one of the realities of freelance writing is that you’ll need to interact with clients and your network to make your business successful. It might seem daunting to get out of your comfort zone. Still, if you’re a freelance writer, there are many benefits to investing time into building relationships. Working with fellow freelancers will increase your understanding of the industry and provide a valuable opportunity to learn from others.

6. Work-life balance is a given.

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Being a freelancer offers a lot of perks. There’s the ability to work from home, spend more time with family, and the chance to work as much or as little as you want. If you’re not careful, it can lead to some major downsides. The common problem for freelancers is juggling several projects and competing deadlines all at once. You have to separate your work time from your personal, just like any other professional. And when you find a schedule that works for you, stick to it.

7. Freelancing is easy.

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Don’t get me wrong—the freelancing life is terrific. For the most part, you can set your hours and your boundaries. Freelance work is flexible enough that you can take on more than one project at a time. But freelancing is not as carefree as it seems. Writers give 110% every single day to make their clients happy. Freelancers need to work hard every day, be at the top of their game, and sustain a high level of productivity. That’s one of the hard realities of freelance writing.

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About the author

Carla Tensuan is a freelance writer, editor, and communications specialist. She specializes in crafting creative copy, blog content, and press releases. She enjoys listening to podcasts, reading books, and practicing yoga in her free time. She lives with her husband in Manila, Philippines.