The Writing Life, Part 3: Why Freelance?

In The Writing Life, Part 2—Freelancing Without an Agency, I talked about some of the benefits to working without an agency. In this post, I’ll cover some of the reasons writers choose to freelance. This is the 3rd post in a 5-part series.

I was scared when I decided to take the leap from a full-time position as member of the editorial staff of a magazine to freelancing. But I was more scared not to.

That probably sounds odd, however, the thought of never experiencing the thrill of working for myself, of living my life only working for others, terrified me more than the uncertainty that goes with not having a steady paycheck. I think a lot of writers who choose to freelance feel this way.

When I was growing up, most of the adults I knew—family, neighbors—owned their own businesses. I had difficulty understanding what my classmates’ fathers did for a living because they went to work at some destination called an office or a factory or a construction site and they had a boss who seemed to run their lives.

I grew up working for my aunt, uncle, and father in their businesses and I think because they loved having their own businesses, I enjoyed working with them.They had each taught me how perform various tasks, then they had left me to my own devices to accomplish them. As a result of the autonomy I had experienced working in these family businesses, I was under the somewhat misguided impression that regular jobs would be similar. They weren’t.

At sixteen, I got my first ‘real’ job. I felt like a captive because I ‘had’ to be at work at a specific time each day and the manager’s each had their own preferences about how we were to work. That feeling of being captive continued after I graduated college and entered the workforce.

Even when I got my dream job working on the editorial staff of a magazine, I felt a bit like a captive. I loved my job and the people I worked with were terrific. Still, I felt constrained by the requirements of being in an office for a specific length of time each day. I felt like I was missing out on my life.


Freedom, Focus, and Finances

Writers are free spirits. Their creativity often drives them and it’s difficult to be creative in an impersonal office environment. Not only that. There are also the distractions of having other people around, conversations going on around you, expense reports to file, and other minutiae that I seemed distracting. I often found myself watching the clock when I worked in captive positions. Whereas, when I work in my own home office, I’m more focused and rarely look at the clock, which lets me accomplish more.

A lot of writers prefer the freedom that comes with freelancing. Choosing what time you begin your workday, what you write, and for whom, provides you with a sense of control over your day and your work. So the decision to freelance was for me, the solution to many of the things I struggled with as an employee.

There are tradeoffs as well. Work and income may ebb and flow. You must market yourself to get work. Sometimes you may have to work on-site at a client’s office, which means commuting and possibly working long hours.

However, in my mind, freelancing has always offered me the perfect mix of focused work time and flexibility. Sure, sometimes I may need to be on site to work with a client. However, there are a lot of other times when I can work from home in the comfort of my own office. And those are the times that more than make up for when I need to be on site.

In The Writing Life, Part 4—Finding Clients, I cover finding clients through cold calls, warm calls, and serendipity.

This is Part 3 in this 5-part series about The Writing Life. To read this series from the beginning, click here. I would love to hear your thoughts about life as a freelancer. What in this series is helping you? What else do you want to know about freelancing? Please leave a comment by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page.


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