The Good, The Bad, and The Freelancer

What’s on the iPod: Crazy Love by Poco

Yesterday was one of those days where I sat down with a list of things I wanted to accomplish only to have everyone else’s crap get in the way. I’m not talking client work — no, client work I will always, always make room for. I’m talking about the requests from this one and that one to do this, check that, move this, handle that, talk to this one, meet with that one…. all unpaid, all a giant, wheel-spinning mess of a day.

I did get some client work done, and since it’s an obligation I want to meet, that makes me happy. The rest made me tense, and it interfered with my exercise routine, so I was even more tense until I took to the meditation mat. Thank goodness for some way of balancing myself. Today will be different. I guarantee it, for today I won’t be answering the phone or email unless it’s client-related. Well, the occasional friend email, but no special requests from people who haven’t hired me. It’s how I protect my sanity and my business schedule.

Even with all the interruptions, I wasn’t anywhere near wanting to chuck it all and head to an office or, dare I say, a cubicle. No, as long as that word still makes me shudder, I’ll stick with freelancing. There are just too many perks to give up this gig. There are negatives, and if you’re new to freelance writing, you’ll figure those out faster than the perks, but if you stick with it, you’ll see it all.

Here are some of the truths that I found out along the way:

The Good: You get to work when you want, where you want.
The Bad: You still have to put in a lot of hours, like even regular-job hours until you’re earning enough to get to those glorious four-day weeks.

The Good: You are your own boss.
The Bad: You are your own boss. See, if you’re not motivated or disciplined enough, freelancing can go from lots of plans to lots of daytime television faster than you can say Doctor Phil. Maybe you need someone breathing down your neck in order to remain motivated?

The Good: You set your own rates and earn what you want.
The Bad: You’ll pretty much accept anything at first, which means your road to earning what you want is going to grow longer with each lousy job you stick with. Better to set the bar high and stick with it.

The Good: You choose your clients.
The Bad: Sometimes even with the best intentions, you choose poorly. Knowing how to break up with a client tactfully is an art you should learn at the outset.

The Good: You get to write!
The Bad: You also get to market, do bookkeeping, handle delinquent invoices, and generally run a small business. Oh, and you’re not going to realize it’s a business for a few years as you’re probably still busy being thrilled to be calling yourself a freelance writer.

The Good: You’re alone, so no office politics to deal with.
The Bad: Yeah, you’re alone. You have no one to talk to. Pretty soon you’re having conversations with yourself, your plants, or your neighbor’s cat (don’t judge me).

The Good: You have the potential to earn a lot of money.
The Bad: You have to find work for yourself every day or you’re going to be sitting idle, not earning a thing. And those checks? They don’t come in when you need them, like right before a vacation, birthday, or holiday. Nooo, you’re going to see them right after you’ve used your credit card to cover someone’s gift or your tickets out of town.

The Good: You get to create, for a client or for yourself, from your own vision, not that of a team.
The Bad: When the client’s team is called on the carpet for not delivering the boss’s vision, you’re a handy little scapegoat.

What truths did you discover about freelancing?
Which ones were easiest to overcome? Harder?

About the author




  • Devon Ellington December 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    The whole late-paying or client flake out is getting worse, I find, because so many writers are working for crap rates. I had three clients sign contracts, then disappear before the deposit and the work because someone else underbid me and they went with that individual instead, without the courtesy of telling me. There was just — no deposit and no work, and when I asked where it was, I either got zero response or "I found someone cheaper." Yeah, I can go after them for breach of contract, but that takes TIME; meanwhile, I have to scramble to make up the difference.

    And I'm getting absolutely outrageous requests from "potential" clients who have no intention of being actual clients – they just want to see how much they can get for free. Answer: nothing.

    The free sample thing is getting to me — I'm not a bakery; I don't give free samples. Look at my portfolio pieces and make your decision from there.

  • Lori December 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Time to haul out the payment-up-front clause! I've stopped playing with tire kickers. You can tell by how they approach you, too. I just give them the price up-front and let them disappear. Saves my time and energy for the ones who don't mind paying for a job well done.

  • Helene Poulakou December 6, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Well, if we count in all the writing, marketing, blog-keeping, etc tasks, we end up working way more than regular job hours. But it's still more enjoyable than 9-5.

  • Lori December 6, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Amen to that, Helene!

  • Georganna Hancock M.S. December 6, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    You haz a cat to talk with? Iz so jealous!

  • Lori December 6, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    LOL! He's not mine, but he thinks he is. 🙂

  • Paula December 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    While you talk to your neighbor's cat, I'm having lengthy conversations with three dogs. (Yes, the guest dogs arrived yesterday for their pre-Christmas vacation. We've already had to have the "No potty in the house" conversation again. But it usually takes a couple days for them to acclimate to the house rules.)

    It's Friday and feels like a Monday. Why? I spent Monday unpacking and re-organizing things after a 5-day family retreat in the North Woods. Tuesday I spent prepping for Wednesday's work-trip to Chicago. Thursday morning was spent dog-proofing parts of the house before they arrived with my sister around 1:30. I have a lot of catching up to do – but need my weekend to put up the tree, village and other Christmas decorations because next week I'll add two more articles to the three I'm already working on.

    It's good to be busy – as long as the time isn't all spent feeding, pottying and cleaning up after dogs, LOL.

  • Lori December 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    You have work trips? How neat! I have had a few more than usual this year, which is good to mix things up a bit. I enjoy getting out, though I usually spend my time wondering what I'm missing. 😉

  • Anne Wayman December 6, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    I don't think I could write without a cat to supervise things!

    Recognize everything in your list!

  • Paula December 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    My work trips are rare. Last one was probably 2003. This time my editor asked me to visit/tour Harpo Studios, watch some tapings and interview some top execs. Really great experience.

  • Damaria Senne December 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

    The Good: You set your own rates and earn what you want.
    The Bad: You have to chase down deadbeat clients who always have some lame excuse why they didn't pay you on time.

    As for cats, Mma says talking to the family cat is normal. She'll start worrying when the cat answers me.

  • Lori December 12, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Damaria, amen. Don't we get sick of the excuses? We could (all of us) write a book of excuses — they're usually repeated in deadbeat circles. 🙂

    LOL! I love your Mma. 🙂

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