So, you want to be a freelance writer. Cool.
I remember when I dreamed of spending my days being creative, sipping wine, working whenever I wanted — and having people offer to pay me for it.
Then I got serious and started a business.
Although I still get to flex my creative muscles, the process isn’t as magical and artistic as most people envision.
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13 Common Misconceptions About Freelance Writing
- You can write whenever you want. Wrong. I write on deadline, often on evenings and weekends, to keep clients happy and money flowing into my bank account.
- You get to pick your writing topics. Sometimes. I submit proposals to my clients, but they also assign me topics to investigate and research.
- You get famous the first time you publish something. Ha! I’ll let you know when I stop laughing!
- You can pioneer a writing style or voice. Sure you can develop a unique voice, as long as you’re adhering to your client’s style guide and preferred writing manual, such as AP or Chicago.
- You can work on a piece for months and polish it until it shines. If you work in the book or magazine world, yes. But if you write online articles, blogs and webpage content, you have hours to hone your piece.
- You can take the day off when you have writer’s block because you don’t have a boss. Sure you can take extra days off, if you don’t want groceries next week or a roof over your head. Writing is work.
- You really don’t have a job. Actually, being a full-time freelancer is harder than any of my past staff positions. I have to tackle the writing assignments and be an accountant, marketer, errand runner, editor, publicist, social media manager and motivational speaker (to talk myself into getting it all done!).
- You write for the local newspaper. Sometimes. But freelance work spans every possible place you see written words: magazines, newsletters, websites, direct mail pieces, billboards, wedding invitations, social media posts.
- You get to stay home all day. True! Except I leave when I need to do an interview, buy supplies for a project I’m writing about, do research at the library or get out of the house so I can actually concentrate while the neighbors mow their lawns.
- You’re praying for a job. Not at all. I’m too busy as it is with my full-time business. Thanks, but I don’t care about that job ad you found offering a minimum-wage copy editor position.
- You’re broke. Well, yes, it does start out that way. But if you freelance full-time, you should have a steady income rolling into the bank account. How much you want to make is up to you. The more effort you put into your business, the more returns (both financially and emotionally) you’ll get back.
- You can live in sweatpants daily. Sometimes. I don’t dress up unless I’m doing an interview, a video conference call or working away from home. I wear my gym clothes most of the day when I’m tucked behind the keyboard.
- You don’t have to pay taxes. Wrong! Freelancers pay self-employment tax, which is more than what an employer takes out of your paycheck for taxes. Your employer splits this burden with you. As a freelancer, I pay the entire amount due.
Do you freelance? Tell me in the comments below the funniest or most frustrating misconceptions you’ve heard from people when you tell them what you do.
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Note: This post was last updated on November 22, 2022.