What’s on the iPod: Better Together by Jack Johnson
We started the week with no air conditioning and temperatures that went over 90 degrees (F). Luckily, what we’d thought was cause for a new central air unit turned out to be just a disconnected wire. How it became disconnected is anyone’s guess, but it was under $100 to fix. That’s my favorite kind of problem.
So I spent Tuesday in relative comfort. To be honest, Monday wasn’t bad. I focused on work, kept my movements to a minimum, and the AC repair man had it all fixed before 3 pm, when things are usually hottest. Through it all, I worked. That’s because this is a job.
Despite a common misconception of what freelance writing careers are like, it’s work. It’s not hanging out in coffee shops with other writers discussing one’s latest Great American Novel. It’s not writing one book and thinking the work is done. It’s not deciding one day to become a freelance writer and then finding oneself inundated by offers and accolades.
If you didn’t get it the first time, I’ll say it again: running a freelance writing business is work, and plenty of it.
So it pains me to see articles, forum comments, and online chatter that pronounces some segment (or in some cases, all of freelance writing) dead or dying. It’s not only misleading to beginning freelancers; it’s utter bullshit.
Yes, there are cases in which freelancers don’t make it. It’s sad when it happens, but as I learned in a business course once, you don’t fail: you make a good business decision. If that decision is to hang it up, there should be plenty of thought and analysis that precedes the decision. It should be the same when you go into the freelance business, but we creatives tend to lead with our emotions. That’s fine. What isn’t fine is when we fail to back it up with hard work and learning.
There are ways to tell now if you’ll fail as a freelance writer. It’s in what you say and how you treat your business. Here are some of the habits I’ve observed among the barely-making-it and the scraping-by crowd:
I hate marketing. Welcome to the club. We all hate it when we first realize that people who hire us or buy our books don’t know we’re there. We have to tell them and convince them we know what we’re doing. That’s called marketing. There are plenty of ways to go about marketing in ways that are actually pleasant, so this excuse is lame.
I’d rather write books than market. And when you do, guess what? You still have to market. You have to find a publisher/publishing option, have a platform, grow your audience, and in a lot of cases, stump your book on book tours.
I just want to write. Then buy a journal. Honestly, you cannot do this job on just writing alone. You are starting a freelance writing business, and as such, you have to learn how to run that business. Writing is a large part of it, but so is invoicing, marketing, networking, accounting, etc.
I want to create it and let the income carry me into retirement. Good luck. That happens to .0001 percent of the writing population. The rest of us create a successful existence by continuing with and improving on our business practices.
Freelancing is dead. I used to get really upset when I saw this pronouncement; now I laugh and think “one more person who isn’t willing to put the work into it.” Freelancing is not dead, nor is it on life support. Freelance writing is a lucrative, satisfying career that offers constant challenges and allows you to define your own path, your own destiny.
I can’t make a decent living at it. Then raise your rates and learn how other freelancers do it. Follow the example of those successful freelancers who are actually freelancing, and who are working in areas that interest you. Build a process into your workweek that includes time every day to market (doesn’t have to consume your day, but rather take just a little time to connect/reconnect with clients), write for clients, and write for yourself. Oh, and stop working for free. You never get anywhere with that business model.
The work just isn’t there. That’s because you’re expecting the work to come to you, aren’t you? Passively cruising job boards or waiting for former clients to call means you’re going to sit without work. Instead, you should be searching, proactively, for clients you’d like to work with. It’s easy– do some research on those companies, locate the person who’s most likely to hire you, and send them an introductory letter that shows them how you can rock their world with your writing.
Clients are crazy and demanding. Then stop looking in the basement. Go upstairs and connect proactively with clients who value you and who won’t mind paying a better price for your skills.
Writers, how do you know the writer you’ve encountered is going to fail?