When I first announced to the world my decision to become a full-time freelancer, I began hearing several myths surrounding the industry. A recent inquiry from someone thinking of becoming a freelancer made me rehash some of them. Here are the most common myths I had heard and my experiences.
Myth: It is impossible to make a living as a freelancer.
My Experience: It is possible to make a living as a freelancer. I am proof. Yes, you will miss out on your 401(k), paid vacation, life insurance, etc., but you can earn a livable salary as a freelancer. For me it was helpful to identify my monthly financial goals and determine how many stories I would need to write to reach those goals. Making a living as a freelancer does require a lot of work and not just writing, which leads right into my next myth.
Myth: You get to sit and write all day.
My Experience: Being a freelancer means you are running a business based on writing. Obviously you write, but you also pitch stories, bid projects, do interviews, send invoices, follow up on invoices, track your expenses, file your taxes, and on and on and on. By the time you factor in all the other things you do, the actual writing part becomes a smaller and smaller piece of the pie.
Myth: You get to set your own hours.
My Experience: While you do have a certain amount of flexibility in your schedule, you still have to be available when your sources and your editors are available. I usually work 40-50 hours a week with about 20 of those being during normal business hours. The rest are during evenings and weekends. The plus side of that is that I get to spend more time with my son during the week. The downside is that is that I haven’t been to a movie in over a year.
Myth: You can work by the pool or from the beach! (This is usually said with a certain level of excitement–hence my exclamation point).
My Experience: Water, sand and computers don’t mix. I guess technically you could work from anywhere, but I find I like to have a landline and a printer handy. I also need it to be quiet so I can concentrate. That might not be the case for everyone out there, but when I’m knee deep into a complicated story, I like to write without distractions. Plus, I doubt my sources or my editors would enjoy hearing the sounds of kids frolicking in the water while we’re talking.
Myth: You are your own boss.
My Experience: You don’t have a direct supervisor, but now you have to answer to your clients. That means that you essentially are trading one boss for five or six (maybe even more if you are lucky). You have to remember stylistic differences publications have and recall the different things certain editors like. You also have to be responsive to an editor’s requests and make any revisions quickly. To a certain extent you also have to answer to your sources. You need to be flexible with their schedules and jump through any necessary hoops to get an interview. Once the interview is over, you still have some work to do. I try to send a note to my sources once a story is published with a quick thank you. Building the relationship pays off the next time you need to talk to someone.
What are some of the freelance myths you’ve heard? Or, what are your experiences with some of the myths I’ve listed above?