Freelance Writing May Not Be For You — Here’s How to Know
Freelance writing pros and cons that will help you decide whether it’s the right career path for you
Thinking about starting up as a freelance writer?
A new Upwork study showed that 36% of the U.S workforce were freelancing full-time during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020— up 8% from 2019.
It’s little surprise why. More people are realizing that self-employment comes with a lot of perks, like the freedom to work when and where you want. But with that freedom also comes downsides like inconsistent income.
If you’re considering freelancing, consider these pros and cons before making the leap to freelance writing.
Freelance Writing Pros and Cons
PRO: Work where and when you want.
Freelancers have the freedom to work wherever they want — or at least, wherever there’s Wi-fi. With everybody working from home, however, this doesn’t seem all that special. (But hey, freelancers don’t have to clear it with their boss if they want to work on a laptop from an oceanside hut in Mexico!)
Some people aren’t morning people. Fortunately, as a freelancer, you don’t have to be. If you’re most productive in the afternoon, work in the afternoon. Freelancers aren’t bound by the rigid clock in at 9, clock out at 5 schedule
PRO: Control your income potential.
You can boost your income a lot faster as a freelancer than you can as an employee. Most employees qualify for a raise only once a year. However, it’s not guaranteed or the raise may be minor — say, 3%.
Freelancers don’t have to wait to speak with their manager to discuss a raise. They can boost their income potential within the next week. For most, this looks like taking on more projects or increasing your freelance writing rates.
PRO: Learning new things keeps it interesting.
When freelance writing, there’s always something new to learn. I work within the small business and FinTech space and I’m always learning something with each article I write. Working with different clients also lets you explore new writing techniques and brand voices.
And if you feel like things are getting monotonous, try writing within another freelance writing niche. If you’re in the healthcare field, pivot to the personal finance sector. There’s always new terrain to explore.
CON: Inconsistent income can be anxiety-wracking.
In the freelance world, we call this the “feast and famine cycle.” In May, you may be waist-deep in freelance writing jobs, but in July, *crickets*. I can relate.
At the beginning of pandemic lockdowns, I lost a $1,000+/month client — this put a huge dent in my projected income.
As a freelancer, financial responsibility is critical. To stave off famines, it’s a good idea to squirrel away a percentage of your income for savings (and taxes).
CON: You miss your benefits.
At my last job, I had free health insurance and a 401(k) account. Freelancers don’t get paid vacations either. Self-employment doesn’t come with the perks of many regular jobs. That’s on you.
CON: Sometimes, it gets lonely.
Say goodbye to chats with coworkers by the water cooler. Bid farewell to break room lunches with Mike from HR.
Freelancing is often a lone wolf venture, and quarantine made things worse. (No more working at your local coffee shop, either.) I’m as hardcore introverted as they get, but sometimes I find myself missing small talk with my cubicle mate.
You have total responsibility (Pro or con? It depends).
Total responsibility can either work for you or against you. Let me explain.
If you’re a self-starter who sticks to deadlines, total responsibility may feel like a breath of fresh air. You’re free to operate your freelance business as you want because you have the discipline and vision.
If you procrastinate and need a supervisor or manager to keep you accountable, however, freelancing can be a challenge — especially when you’re building your freelance writing portfolio.
Freelancers wear many hats — they’re responsible for writing, marketing, accounting and more. If you’re more comfortable being told what to do, staying an employee may be a better fit.
Freelance Writing FAQs
What’s better: freelancer or salary?
Working as a freelancer or employee depends on the individual. As a freelancer, there is greater potential to increase your income more quickly. However, coping with inconsistent income can be challenging.
As an employee, you’re typically stuck with the same salary unless you get a raise (usually annually) or promotion. However, employees enjoy stable income — they know they will get a paycheck in the next week or two.
Is it good to work as a freelancer?
Freelancers enjoy many benefits such as working where and when they want, quickly boosting their income potential and learning new and interesting things within their industry. Also, there are usually no formal requirements, such as a college degree, to get started.
However, remember to weigh these advantages against inconsistent income, the loss of employer benefits and potential loneliness.
Is Freelance Writing For You?
There’s a tendency to glamorize the self-employed/freelancing/digital nomad lifestyle. While freelancing certainly has its appeal, the drawbacks can be significant — namely, inconsistent income.
Understanding the pros and cons of freelance writing can help you decide if it’s a good fit for you. To succeed, you have to be a motivated self-starter. Because freelancing is more than sharpening your craft — it’s also building skills for growing a business.
And that’s a lot of work.
But if you feel like you’re the right fit, then freelancing can be a deeply rewarding business venture that often gives back based on the work you put in.
Dan is a freelance writer specializing in small business and personal finance. He works with FinTech and B2B companies and has written extensively about small business, from startup guides to payment processor reviews. Hire him to write for YOU at danmarticio.com.