Monday, March 11, 2013

Tips for Going Freelance: What I’ve Learned as a Freelance Writer

March marks two years since I made the exhilarating leap to 100 percent freelance employment. The change has been scary, but also immensely rewarding. I’ve been reflecting a bit on what I’ve learned over my time as a freelance writer, and what I wish I knew before I made this move.

The work cycle of a freelance writer is truly feast or famine. It seems like most of the time I’m either overwhelmed with too much work, or I have nothing at all. I’ve tried to appreciate both for what they offer – the brief elimination of financial worry in the case of too much work, and a chance to catch up on nagging to-dos and enjoy a little down time when work is slow. I’ve read numerous articles that advise freelance writers to market their services when they are busy rather than when they need work to ensure a more steady flow. This is something I need to work on.

Know when to say goodbye to a client. In my early freelance experience, I took almost every job I was offered. This included projects that did not really align with the direction I wanted to take my career and others with laughable pay rates. Taking whatever I could get was essential to getting established, but there came a time when I realized these projects were holding me back from getting to where I want to go. It took a huge leap of faith to leave these projects behind, hoping I could apply the time they freed up to finding more fulfilling work. Somehow, it’s worked out for me.

No one is going to protect your personal time but you. I’ve tried to be upfront with all my clients regarding my personal situation – My young son goes to school a few days a week. I work during that time and then in the evening after he’s asleep. Sometimes, if necessary, I will wake up before 6 a.m. to get in an hour of work. But I get requests for “urgent” work every day (including weekends) and at all hours. At first, I would drop everything to bow to these demands. But I am learning that this just puts me on a hamster wheel of constant last-minute work. Strict “office hours” don’t work for me, but I try to check email a few set times a day and once in the evening. I took email off my smartphone entirely to avoid temptation. If I have proper notice, I can absolutely get childcare help and make time for more work, but I had to stop the madness of constant “urgency.” I’ve also asked clients not to text me. This helps me keep my work and personal lives separate.

Becoming a freelance writer is the best decision I’ve made for both my personal life and my career. I’m excited to see what kinds of lessons I’ll learn over the coming years. 

Any other freelancers have hard-learned lessons to share? I'd love to hear in a comment. 

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