Thursday, March 29, 2007

 

So You're Thinking About Becoming a Freelance Writer

Copyright 2007 by Donovan Baldwin

You would think that writing is writing. You would think that just because you are doing it in freelance mode rather than under contract to a publication or advertising firm, for example, that it's the same thing. You would think, huh?

Well, like many things in life, when you step away from the beaten path and eschew the warmth and comfort of schedule, office, guidelines and are forced to do all that that implies for yourself, things change.

Anyone who is good at their job and decides to go out on their own...start their own business...very rapidly learns a bitter truth. Along with all the obligations to the boss, the kowtowing and dog and pony shows, the J.O.B. did provide some things that it can be hard to get along without.

Take that scheduling thing a couple of paragraphs ago. For many people striking out on their own, including freelance writers, a first dash of cold water from the fountain of freedom is the realization that they are not as good at scheduling their own time as their boss or office was.

Oh, it's great not to hear the clock go off in the morning, but at some point, if you want to be successful, you have got to get out of bed and go to work. The boss expected you there by a certain time and kept you there a certain time for a reason. Requiring a certain amount of time out of your life insured that a certain amount of work got done. With no boss to stand over you or glare at you as you come in late, it can be easy to cut the routine and suddenly find that your output has dropped off.

For a freelance writer, low output can mean low wages.

In the routine of the office, you knew that certain jobs had to be done in certain cycles and to certain rhythms. Many times, those rhythms and cycles were there when you came to work at that company. You may have modified them somewhat, but there is a chance you did not create them. As a self-employed individual, i.e. freelance writer, you are going to have to discover and create the cycles, rhythms, and schedules which will help you be successful.

At your job, you had to develop and grow. Maybe they provided training for you, maybe they didn't, but at some point you probably realized that if you wanted to advance, or at least keep your job, you would have to figure out how to work the new machinery, fill out the new form, or placate the new boss. A freelancer has to stay abreast of what's going on as well, only now, there is no one standing by to make sure you get the message.

Additionally, your job provided incentive for you to keep working even if things weren't going well. As long as you came in and did your work, you got your paycheck. For many, that, and the chance of losing a job, translates into a certain incentive to be creative. Often, when writers go freelance, they find that without any guidance and expectations from outside, their creativity dries up. Then, it is up to them to force themselves to produce.

Bosses also set expectations, and you knew as an employee what those expectations were. Many people who decide to freelance feel that they will now be able to call the tune. However, often what they want to write is not what others want to read, and they find that the boss had certain expectations because he or she knew what the market was demanding. Many a freelance writer, and others who take the self-employed route, find themselves doing many of the same things they did, but for less money and with no benefits.

The list can go on. There are a myriad of things that anyone leaving the work force and striking out on their own will realize need to be done. They will also realize that usually somebody else did them when they had a job. Now that they are self-employed, again, i.e. freelance, they are responsible for it all...from bookkeeping to sanitation. It is their responsibility not only to be a good employee but a good employer as well.

Going freelance in any profession can be daunting, and sometimes the rewards are not monetary. Many self-employed people make less than they did at their last job, but would never go back now that they have made the break. After all, where else can you quit work to watch the game or play with your kids, take a couple of days off because you feel like it, and do your work with a beer on the desk?

Donovan Baldwin is a Texas writer and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, health and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as health, fitness, yoga, writing, the environment, happiness, self improvement, and weight loss.

You can find a collection of articles on health, fitness, diet, and weight loss and related subjects at http://nodiet4me.com/articledirectory/ .


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