Freelance writing… it’s a dream job, isn’t it?
You bounce out of bed in the morning full of enthusiasm for the day ahead because you are working for yourself and not ‘for the man’.
You laze around in your PJs, inwardly smiling because you don’t have to commute ten miles or sit next to Doris-with-the-annoying-laugh in the office.
Freelance writing has a lot going for it, but it takes hard work to get your freelance business off the ground.
Here are 10 reasons why being a freelance writer makes you want to scream – and what you can do about it.
As the song says, ‘everyday I’m hustling’ and as a freelance writer you often spend just as many hours looking for work as you do actually working.
All this hustling amounts to a large portion of your time doing work-related activities that are unpaid, bringing your overall hourly rate right down. To get over a financial slump, you might even need get part time work in addition to your freelance writing job.
So how do freelance writers combat this? The answer is that it takes time to build your client list to a point where you have regular work. This is one of the reasons why many freelance businesses fail. It takes grit and determination to build a freelance writing business from scratch, and it can be difficult to sustain if finances are tight.
2. You Forget the Outside World Exists
How many hours have you been hunched over your laptop, freelancer?
Have you actually spoken to another person today?
When you work as a freelance writer, you often spend a lot of time at home on your own. While there are benefits to this, it can also drive you insane. You know it’s time to get out more when you start talking to the walls, or serenading your coffee cup. (I do this!)
Keep your sanity by taking a daily break outside of your work environment. Combat loneliness and isolation by making time to meet a friend, or simply going for a walk at lunchtime in a place where there are other people you can interact with. You will feel better for it, and your productivity levels will improve.
3. Dealing with Difficult Clients
It has happened to all freelancers since the dawn of time itself. Dealing with awkward, difficult and downright rude people. You have to put on your best soothing voice and deal with ego maniacs who expect you to be a mind reader, or who make unreasonable demands of your time and skills.
Sometimes, even when you have done an amazing freelance writing job for someone, they will try to pick it apart as a way of getting out of paying for your services. It is basically a virtual mugging.
Dealing with non-payers can undermine your confidence as a freelance writer. You begin to think, ‘what if they’re right?’ or ‘maybe I’m just not cut out for this.’ Well here’s a news flash. If the majority of clients are happy with your work, you are doing a good job.
In order to deal with non-payers, arrange to be paid in instalments or ask for half of the money before you start work. Never take on work that is worth a large amount of money without having that safety net in place.
4. Cash Flow
Freelance writing often means you are snowed under with work one month and facing famine the next. When you have a mortgage, bills to pay and mouths to feed, worrying about your next pay-check can be one of the most stressful things about being a freelancer.
When you are struggling to find your next job, more hustling is required.
A great way to drum up some extra work is to contact old clients that you haven’t been in touch with for a while. This can jog people’s memories and get you a new gig, or they might be able to put you in touch with someone they know who needs a job doing.
Managing your finances as a freelancer can be tricky, but when work is going well it is important to add to your savings account. Aim to create a buffer amount that would see you through six months of no work at all, then you should be able to handle the cash flow issues that all freelancers have to face.
5. Productivity Issues
Most freelancers work from home, and this takes mahoosive self-discipline. Can you really focus your attention on your client’s accountancy website when you notice that it’s really sunny in your garden? Or if you are working on something incredibly boring, your household chores look like a better option.
So, while keeping your focus on the work tasks at hand is essential, it is not an easy thing to do. If you are struggling to keep your focus as a writer, there are some techniques that work to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Try playing some quiet, relaxing music or white noise while you work. This can make a huge difference to those doing creative jobs.
The Pomodoro technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, is another effective method of concentrating on a task. This is where you make a consistent effort for a specific amount of time, such as twenty or thirty minutes.
This allows the brain to know that there is a rewarding break ahead, giving renewed motivation and energy for the task.
6. Imposter Syndrome
One thing that effects many freelancers is the sensation that they are not really the expert at their work that they claim to be.
One reason for this is because being employed by someone else acts as a kind of social proof that you are up to the job.
When you are freelancing and tell people what you do for a living, most of them look at you as if you’ve said you harvest fairy tears and sell them in jars as an all-powerful elixir.
The point is, for most people who are traditionally employed, freelancing work is in the realm of the mystical. When you see doubt in the eyes of people you are talking to about your work, it can knock your confidence and create self-doubt.
Imposter syndrome is a well-documented phenomenon that was brought into the fore by psychologist Pauline Rose Clance, but thankfully there are ways to get back self-belief as a freelance writer.
To get over imposter syndrome, list all the positive experiences and successes you have had in your work. Think of some of the best feedback you have ever received.
When freelance writing for a living, accept that you are continually growing and learning, and that many people in all professions have felt the same way at some point. This should help quell nagging feelings of imposter syndrome that partner many freelancers.
You stayed up until two in the morning to meet a deadline and never seem to be able to catch up on your sleep.
You are worried about not getting enough work in, or having too much of it to feasibly cope with, and you generally start to dislike what you do.
You think you might be getting a cold or virus, and those afternoon tension headaches just won’t go away. Often, you just don’t want to get out of bed in the mornings.
This, my friend, is classic burnout. The zombie-like state where you wonder ‘what the heck am I doing with my life? It would be much easier just to get a normal job.’
Looking after your physical and mental health as a freelancer is essential for your well-being and your business. When you are feeling the effects of burnout, take action.
While the nature of freelance writing means you grab hold of every job opportunity, don’t be afraid to slow the train now and then.
Even if you have to schedule it in your diary, make some time for yourself each day where you can switch off. Even better, make sure you take a few days off when you can.
Having interests outside of your freelance business is also important. Take up an old hobby that you used to enjoy, learn a new language or join a book group. Having ‘me time’ is a key way to recovering from burnout, and prevent it from happening again.
8. Your Diet and Exercise Plan
We all know the importance of a healthy diet, but when you are a freelancer writer in the middle of creative flow, a healthy meal can often be sacrificed.
Without scheduled lunch breaks like you get when you are employed, working for yourself means that your diet and eating times can be erratic. You might also find yourself reaching for those quick fix, convenience foods.
Similarly, exercise can be the last thing on a freelancer’s mind when they have been feeling the pressure. In fact, hiding under the duvet might look like a better option.
However, getting regular exercise and eating well is essential to health and well-being, and all freelancers should take it seriously.
If you don’t have time to cook a fresh meal, try to batch cook meals when you do have the time. That way, nutritious meals and snacks can simply be grabbed from the fridge or freezer and heated when needed. Or, if you are a parent who cooks for the family each evening, cook more than is needed so you can have the leftovers for lunch the next day. This saves you time, and you feel better with a healthy snack to hand.
When you lack exercise, your body and mind start to feel sluggish. Over time, it can affect your immune system, making you susceptible to colds and other illnesses. Just 20-30 minutes of exercise each day is enough to clear away the cobwebs and keep you feeling fit and energized.
You don’t have to go for a full body workout, just something that elevated your heart rate and gets your blood pumping is enough. Try a brisk walk, a few laps pf your local swimming pool, or get on your bike and explore the streets where you live.
9. You get Stuck Doing Boring Tasks
So you absolutely love creative writing. That is why you became a freelance writer, so you can use your creative skills to weave some magic with words. Good for you! But, how do you feel when you spend half your time doing those other jobs that go along with running a business?
You need to wear many different hats of you want to grow your freelance business. You have to be an administrator, the marketing expert, and an accountant all rolled into one. That is on top of what you are actually getting paid to do.
If you struggle with some aspects of running a freelance writing business, you could consider outsourcing work to others, such as hiring a virtual assistant.
10. No Paid Time-Off
One of the perks of being traditionally employed is that if you are sick, you can have time off that is paid. You also get a number of days paid leave each year.
When you are a freelancer writer, there is no paid time off. That means if you are ill, you either have to soldier on through or your business grinds to a stop. If you want to go on holiday, you need to plan way in advance to make sure your finances don’t take too much of a dip.
With no paid time off, freelancers can often feel stressed about what would happen if they became too ill to work. While there is no magic wand for this problem, having a nest egg or emergency fund is key to peace of mind for freelancers.
There are lots of things that suck about freelancing. However, there are also many good points too. Successful freelancing is all about finding the right balance between growing a business, and living well. Get it right, and it can be a great career.