Freelance writing: The myths vs. reality
Wear pajamas every day. Be your own boss. Work whenever and however you want. Work on projects that interest you.
You’ve probably heard some or all of these ‘benefits’ of freelance writing. There’s a certain allure to them so it’s unsurprising that the number of freelance writers is on the rise.
But freelance writing isn’t for everyone.
Some people make it seem so easy, but the truth is that freelance writing, just like most types of freelancing, is not always the easiest career path. So before you consider creating content in exchange for money, let’s separate four common myths from reality.
Myth #1: Anyone can be a freelance writer
Many people think they can write, but not all those people can do it well. This is because freelance writing goes beyond writing ability. It’s a package deal that comes with a writing side and a business side. You need to be able to handle both.
At the rudimentary level, you need to know how to put words together and put points across. Nevertheless, you also need a lot of other things – from professionalism, reliability and good communication to good research skills, excellent planning and providing value. You need to go beyond putting words on a screen.
You’ll also need resilience. Building a successful career takes time so you’ll need the stamina to keep going even when you would rather do anything else than hunt for jobs or deal with difficult clients.
Myth #2: I can earn lots of money while working from anywhere
Although it’s possible to make decent money as a freelance writer, it’s not easy. Freelance writing has low barriers to entry, so most times you’ll be competing with hundreds of thousands of others, even millions.
One of the best ways to earn a decent income is by commanding higher rates. However, you can only command these rates if you build your reputation by providing good service, marketing your skills, building a strong portfolio, expanding your network and attracting referrals. Put simply, making good money is possible, but you’ll need to offer expertise, experience, unique insights, or a blend of all three.
Do keep in mind that as a freelance writer you need to have a financial buffer. Just like in full-time employment where your job can be terminated, freelance jobs may be rolling in, then they all just stop and you go through a period of famine. Most freelance writers, successful ones included, have gone through this at some point in their careers. So when things are good make sure to set up a buffer that will help you sail through the periods when work is hard to come by.
Myth #3: My work and experience will speak for themself
Build something good and they will come to you.
Well, yes. But most freelancers want to skirt the building part.
Your previous work will help you secure work, but as with other businesses, building your authority and reputation takes time and effort. Before your work and experience can speak for you, you need to be able to market yourself. Some good ways to establish connections and attract clients include pitching for work, undertaking inbound marketing, building a strong LinkedIn profile, and asking for referrals from existing clients.
You’ll also need to develop a knack for following up on leads and being relentless. Sometimes things happen and people get busy, if you don’t remind people that you’re there, you may fall through the cracks.
Myth #4: I need to buy a freelance writing course to learn the ins and outs of building a successful career
A lot of people get sucked into writing courses at the start of their writing careers. Tales of how easy freelance writing is and promises of making your first $1,000 fast or having clients flock to you in 7 days all sound amazing, but be wary of them.
Some courses will improve your writing and career, no questions there. Nonetheless, too many freelance writing courses are only good for two things – providing little to no value and lining the pockets of their creators. If you do decide to buy a course, do your research first. Don’t fall for marketing ploys or lofty promises of high earnings. This may be cliché, but if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
There are lots of good yet free resources available including free content creation courses and social media groups that will guide you through everything you need to succeed. The problem is that some people are too lazy to do their own research; they want someone to give them all the solutions.
The reality, however, is that each freelance writing career is unique and even though you will learn a lot from others, some of your best lessons will come from personal experiences. If you can’t take the time to do your research, freelance writing is probably not for you anyway. After all, good research skills are part of being a good writer.
Getting into the world of freelance writing
Freelance writing is like any business. It’s often complex and requires effort, self-analysis and skill refinement. Don’t expect any great results with minimal effort. There is something that could help you make some considerable progress though – niching down.
Building your authority and reputation in a particular niche or a couple of niches is a great way to attract clients who value your work. You can still make money as a generalist, but in most cases, this will often require lots of experience and connections. On the other hand, if you specialize, you have a higher chance of landing more lucrative gigs without necessarily having many years in the industry.
The logic is simple. Generalist jobs tend to attract a lot of freelancers, some of whom can actually do the job well. A large number of freelancers often vastly outstrips demand and drives rates down. In the end, it’s harder to demand higher rates because most clients end up choosing the cheaper writers who can get the work done. This is especially true since content writing is one of the most popular and fastest-growing freelance careers.
When you focus on a specific niche or skillset, you’re able to narrow down the competition, stand out from the crowd, and charge your worth. There are various ways to niche down, for example, by industry or by content type. Find what works for you, put in the work, and forge a successful freelance writing career.
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