If you’re like me, you had no idea what freelance writing even was. When I started out, I had heard the term before, but there was no context. Early in my career, I was trying to catch up on all the lingo. B2B, B2C, SEO, Freelancer? What the heck did all that mumbo-jumbo mean?
Little did I know I was already a freelancer. That seemed to keep happening to me early on. I was trained and implementing SEO principles before I had a term to describe what it was. I wrote blogs before I knew they were called blogs. If you find yourself doing things a bit backwards, too, no worries. I’m here to help.
So let’s shed some light on what a freelancer is and what makes them different from in-house writers.
What Does the Term Freelance Mean?
A freelance writer is an independent contractor, or a self-employed person who writes. They’re hired by publications, companies, or individuals to write on a short-term or long-term basis. They can work on their own, or they can support an in-house team of writers and editors. Freelance writers can write anything in-house writers can.
In-house writers are writers who are employed full-time at one company. They’re probably what you think of when traditional employment comes to mind. They have sick time, time off, healthcare, and other benefits. In-house writers can work full-time or part-time.
In-house writers are considered employees, while freelancers aren’t. Freelancers are self-employed. This means they’re usually free agents. They can pick their own clients, workflow, and rates.
In-house writers are usually given projects to work on for specific clients. They don’t usually get to pass on projects as freely as a freelancer would. There is some negotiation in the salary, but they don’t simply say their set rate like a freelancer does.
What can Freelancers Expect?
Freelancers usually work remotely, but sometimes they can be hybrid or in-person. This is pretty rare, though. Freelancers usually have more flexibility than in-house writers. Because they pick their own clients, freelancing is more like a “choose your own adventure”.
So, if a freelancer meets a potential client, but just doesn’t feel like their personalities or work ethics are similar, they can pass. A freelancer doesn’t have to work with anyone they don’t want to. This means that some freelancers will look very different from other freelancers.
Sometimes, it’s hard to make generalizations across such a broad industry. Keep that in mind while we go over the pros and cons in the next section. Not everything will be true for every freelancer you meet.
What are some pros to freelancing?
Being a freelancer means total freedom. If you don’t like a rate, project, or work environment, you can say no. And you don’t need a reason. You can simply say “no thank you”. There is no expectation of working with someone like there is when you’re a full-time employee.
Most freelancers can also work remotely and set their own hours. If you work better at night and want to catch your child’s dance recital in the early afternoon, you can. You don’t have to worry about counting your days off, or getting permission.
Same with sick days. If you’re sick, you don’t need a doctor’s note. You don’t need to email someone by a certain time to let them know you’re not coming. Even better: you won’t have to find coverage.
You’re a business owner. So, you can make decisions for yourself and your future. This means you can give yourself a raise whenever you want. You can switch fields. Being a business owner is like playing chess. You can make a move and then watch the cascading effect to see if it pays off. Some people find that to be incredibly rewarding.
As a freelancer, you may not have to go to meetings. Some freelancers go to the occasional meeting, but many have lighter meeting loads. Freelancing cuts a lot of the “fluff” that in-house writers have to deal with.
If you’re not a people person, no worries, you probably won’t have many colleagues. You could have coworkers, but it’s not the same thing as going into work every single day with the same people for years. You can choose to create close relationships with certain editors or other writers, but you don’t have to.
You can choose to switch deliverables or niches whenever you want. You aren’t tied to one publication or company. If you have been writing for women’s health, but you’re bored, you can move on when your contract is up. It’s not like you’re quitting your job, you’re just switching over to another client. It’s much easier to move around, gain experience, and get different contacts to people in the field.
If you’re remote, you can work from anywhere. You don’t have to be in a certain area. Additionally, your clients don’t have to be local. I have clients in Germany and Singapore. Your geographical location doesn’t matter as much as a freelancer.
What are Some Cons to Freelancing?
Freelancing isn’t all sunshine daydreams. There are some notable cons. You need to be a strong decision maker to be a freelancer. You’ll be responsible for saying “yes” or “no” to different clients, deliverables, and rates. If you’re frequently paralyzed with indecision, you’ll need to get over that. The good news is, it’s something you can work on. The longer you’re a freelancer, the more confident you’ll become at decision-making.
You need to be on top of your taxes. Keep track of all your payments, receipts, and potential write-offs. Then, just get an accountant. Don’t try to do this yourself. It’s not a huge hindrance, but it’s a responsibility that you didn't have as an employee.
You have to wear many different hats as a freelancer. You’re not just writing when you own your business. You’re also doing the marketing and media campaigns. You’re the accountant tracking your incoming and outgoing cash flow. You need to be okay with having multiple tasks going throughout the year. It’s not overwhelming, but it is something to be aware of.
If you’re not working, you’re not getting paid. Sure, you can take as much time off as you want. But it’s not paid. If you don’t have clients, you’re not being paid. If you’re not actively writing, you’re not being paid. You can definitely add a financial buffer into your deliverables to count for this time. It’s just something that you need to consider. If you’re coming from a job where you could just show up and get paid, it will be different. You’ll have to come up with rates that will reflect that down time and administrative time. You’ll have to find your own benefits if you’re from the United States. You can either join your spouse’s, or you can find your own. In the United States, you can find the healthcare market in your state and get health insurance that way. There are also resources just for freelancers who are seeking health insurance.
A freelancer is an independent contractor that works for themselves. They set their own rates, hours, work environment, and workload. They find their own clients, and make all the decisions in their business. This can be exciting, but a bit scary if you’re starting out. The potential for growth is enormous.
If you’re looking for total freedom, freelancing is for you. If you’re looking for a more traditional role, there are in-house writing jobs that may better suit your needs. Either way, there is something for everyone when it comes to writing.
Ready to see what this freelance writing is about? Check out my course to learn more.