The Perils of Freelance Writing

Freelance writing is the coolest job in the world. Some people seem to think that. Sometimes, I believe that wholeheartedly myself. There are days, however, when I am made aware of just how perilous freelance writing can be. I would even go as far as to say that this perilous state applies to other types of freelance jobs as well.

perils of freelance writing
Writer gone mad or happy writer?

These past two months have been both the best and worst of my freelance writing career. I only say worst because I have realized – and come face to face – with those pitfalls associated with freelance writing. Allow me to share them with you. Maybe you will be able to relate. Maybe you’ll learn something.

The perils of freelance writing…

You put in more hours than when you had a 9-to-5 job.

The reason it’s called a 9-to-5 job is that you have set hours. In most cases, people who work under this setup go to work, clock in, do their thing, clock out, and forget about work.

As a freelance writer working from wherever – mostly my bed; so wrong, I know – I can say without the slightest hesitation that I work more than I did when I had a day job. Sure, I clocked in more than 8 hours a day back then, but these days, 8 hours of work is a luxury.

It is so easy to say, “I’ll be working from x o’clock to y o’clock only.” It is easier to fall into the trap of waking up, opening your laptop even before your eyes have adjusted to the sunlight in the room, and diving into work immediately – to stop only late into the night.

The trick: Use Google Calendar or something like it. Schedule your day and stick to your schedule. It’s not foolproof but it helps.

You lose track of the hours…

…and the days…and the weeks…

Of the perils of freelance writing in this list, this one can be good or bad. I like losing track of time because that generally means I am having fun. However, just because you’re having fun working your butt off does not mean it’s all good.

You tend to get lost inside your head and forget how to interact with people “normally”. I am not sure if it happens to everyone, but this tends to go hand in hand with losing track of time. I have to admit that I usually like my own company more than crowds (more than 4, myself included)…
perils of freelance writing
If you are perpetually in a daze, not knowing that it’s time to eat or time to sleep or time to take the weekend off, then you have fallen into this trap of letting work consume you. This is not unique to freelance writers, of course, but it is so much easier to shut out the rest of the world (and the concept of hours, days, and weeks) when you’re working from home.

The trick: Google Calendar! It really does help, but what will help you more is to get out of your shell – even just a little bit. Trust me on this. I have this strong tendency to clam up and shut everything/everyone out when I just want to work. There are weeks when no one will ever see me – maybe months. Push yourself and schedule at least one meetup with a friend. Go for coffee. Eat lunch or dinner. Go for drinks. Watch a movie. Shop. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s not work. Once a week.

People expect you to be available whenever you’re needed/wanted.

Now this is tricky. I just pushed for going out there and being with people occasionally, even if you don’t feel like it, didn’t I?

I can’t ignore this particular peril of freelance writing, though, because as easy as it is to get buried in work and forget the outside world, it is also easy to be at the receiving end of endless requests and expectations. For some people in your circle, you might be seen as the person who can be pulled out of whatever you’re doing whenever. After all, you’re a freelancer. You control your own hours. You’re your own boss.

While those things are true to a certain extent, we all know very well that we work for someone – clients, editors, etc. – and just because you’re sitting idly for a few minutes, it does not mean you’re not working! Writers think while smoking, staring into space, sitting on a bench, blah blah blah.

But there’s no going around it. There will always be someone who has the wrong notion.

The trick: Learn to say no, and don’t feel bad about it. It helps if you explain the reality of your circumstances if it’s a really close friend or a family member, of course. Maybe over that cup of coffee that you should schedule once a week or so?

You forget to write for yourself.

Check the date of the entry before this. December 2012. I have nothing more to say in this matter.

The trick: I have been told – and my gut agrees – that I should schedule writing on my own blog. Mark it down on Google Calendar. I should do it. I know I should.

What perils of freelance writing have you met face-to-face?

There are so many more of you out there who’ve packed in years of experience, more than I have. What perils have you faced? What have you done to overcome them?

Images via porcherie and flipsimmons

2 Replies to “The Perils of Freelance Writing”

  1. Really interesting article, very honest and frank. I’m considering entering into freelance writing myself when I graduate from University. I freelanced during my finance career and the toughest thing I found was that people just assume you are free all day, any day. Really hard when you are still trying to build up a client base.

    Looking forward to reading more from you.

    1. Thank you. Your comment reminded me that I have been neglecting this blog for far too long. I am hoping I can get it back up to speed.

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