Why it’s So F*ing Hard to Be a Freelance Writer

Carol Tice

Exhausted businessman with computer on head

With all the useful tips on how to become a freelance writer I’ve posted on this blog, you’d think I could sign off and be done. I just checked, and there are nearly 500 posts on here!

Yet, each week I hear from writers with new questions. Why?

It’s not easy becoming a freelance writer.

Writers are always asking me:

What is the one best, cheapest, low-cost, fastest way for me to market my writing and find great pay?

But there isn’t one single, simple answer to that.

What we’re trying to do isn’t easy — to find a place for ourselves in a rapidly evolving freelance marketplace.

The challenges of freelancing

Here are some of the common obstacles freelance writers encounter:

There is one advantage to the complex world of freelancing — if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

So that cuts the herd a bit for those of us who have the cunning, the tenacity, and the gumption to make freelance writing our living.

What do you think is the hardest thing about being a freelance writer? Add your reason to the comments.

 

82 Comments

  1. Kathleen Curry

    Thank you for this post!

    • Kathleen Curry

      Sorry I failed to list my challenges earlier: the marketing, locating better paying gigs, and standing out are my big three.

  2. Cassie

    This is a timely read for me. More than anything, it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who thinks it’s downright scary!

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, very far from it, Cassie. Check out the ‘overcoming fear’ topic thread link over in the bottom of the sidebar — got loads of posts on here with fear-busting tips!

    • Candace

      No, Cassie, you’re far from alone. I am freaking out about my work. I’ve been at it for 11 years and it’s still scary. I wrote a novel, got an agent, just wrote second book – yeah, still scary!

      (by the way, the main character in my first novel, “The Best Worst Year” is named Cassie 🙂 )

      Hang in there…

  3. Rachel Rueben

    The hardest thing for me is the lack of consistent paychecks. Also, constantly having to search and apply for gigs, it’s like going on a job interview every-single-day. I have a lot of friends who think I’m lucky I work from home, but they have no idea what my work day is really like.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Rachel —

      The trick is turning one-off assignments into ongoing work, so that you’re not having to constantly look for new clients. Right now, I’m writing several long-term, ongoing contracts and I start each month fully booked with all the freelance income I need. All the successful freelancers I know operate this way. In fact, I had one editor recently tell me she no longer takes one-off projects at ALL. It has to be something that is intended to roll into ongoing work or she won’t even get involved.

      If you’re thinking “my clients don’t have any ongoing work, their marketing/editorial budgets aren’t that big,” then it’s time to think about bigger clients. 😉

      • Katherine Swarts

        I agree. Uncertainty has always been the hardest part of freelancing for me, and I don’t need the added stress of having to start from square one with each new assignment.

  4. Sarah L. Webb

    All of it is tough! It may be because I’m just starting out, but it seems I checked off everything on your list.

    As you progress, you struggles change. Before I decided to write, it was the fear and self doubt. Now that I’ve made up my mind to go for it, it’s the lack of knowledge about basic things, like sending out the first query or deciding on a rate. But I imagine with some experience, that I’ll get more comfortable with those things. (Only to have to learn something new down the road).

    In any career, though, we have to keep growing, evolving, pushing ourselves.

    • Crystalee Beck (

      Great points, Sarah. I like the idea of thinking that being “broken down” will make you stronger.
      And Sarah, you have my cousin’s maiden name! (I was a born a Webb girl)

      • Sarah L. Webb

        Cool! Yay for the Webbs.

  5. Darnell Jackson

    Good one Carol,

    I would say dealing with rejection is the hardest AND easiest hurdle to clear for a free lancer.

    I compare this to getting your body in shape.

    To make muscles stronger you have to strain them regularly with pushups and situps, etc.
    To make your freelance career stronger you have to learn from client feedback and this starts with rejection.

    The good news is many of them will tell you something about why they didn’t choose you.
    Its all on you to improve and hit the next client MORE ready than you were before.

  6. Kristen

    For me, it’s the fear in between projects of finding that next client. And being assertive when negotiating rates and contracts.

    Also, your mention of needing to find a way to stand out from the crowd hits close to home.

    When I started freelancing I felt like I needed to be good at as many skills as possible to find work, and have slowly narrowed down my offerings as I’ve learned it’s better to focus on doing what you’re good at really well, rather than doing a long list of things moderately well. Picking and sticking with a professional identity best suited to your talents can be a challenge.

    • Carol Tice

      Agree — think ‘it’s hard to find your niche and stand out’ is a great add to the list!

  7. Jenny

    I agree with Rachel’s comment- the lack of consistent paychecks is hard for a planner like me. AND finding clients. I’ve had to get over the “but I just want to write” feeling, and realize that I will spend a good bit of my time looking for clients.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Jenny — Sounds like you got it. Dabblers and artistes who don’t look to their writing for an income just write. People running a writing business do a lot of marketing…at least at first.

  8. Princess Jones

    This is a great resource of links to information! Great stuff!

    Freelancing isn’t that hard. It’s not easy, though. But neither is running any sort of business. It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure!

  9. yolanda padilla

    Because ANYONE can call themselves a writer (& many who cannot write do so). This means there are no barriers to entry & plenty of competition. That’s why it’s important know how to stand apart from the masses.

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t know if I agree that there are NO barriers to entry, Yolanda. Bad writing is found out pretty quick, and you’d be surprised how many people truly cannot put a strong sentence together. But the bar is reasonably low…definitely another good add to the list of reasons it’s a challenge to freelance.

  10. Linda H

    For me the hardest thing about being a freelance writer was learning where I fit into the whole picture how to pull it all together to fit through that tiny keyhole that unlocks a freelance writing career. For years I wandered around knowing I was a writer, knowing I had the freelancer spirit and desire and was willing to face the challenges. But for years I had no idea how to make it all work together to create the lifestyle I envisioned and the pay I needed to survive.

    After stepping through that keyhole, it was understanding how to focus my writing talents toward one or two niche markets and learning how to work those markets to find gigs.

    Now it’s managing time to balance paying projects against research and marketing for bigger projects that pay higher fees to enable me a little down time to breath. Understanding that it’s okay to make mistakes, that editors will butcher your work, and the importance of writing a contract outlining your work to prevent a client from adding more to a project than originally agreed upon for the same fee it fabulous.

    This is a great reminder for any freelancer why we do what we do. It’s also a great list of why we are unique in what we do and not everyone will succeed, or even attempt it.

    Thanks for the post, Carol. It lists those challenges that I’ve finally worked through to find my way within the maze of a freelance writing lifestyle. I was thinking the other day that for the first time as a freelancer I have a clear vision of the direction I want to go, and for me that’s huge despite the obstacles.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Linda — I think one of the most common questions I get is, “How much of my time should I expect to spend marketing?”

      Agree that the writing/marketing balance is one of the biggest challenges — great addition to the list.

      • Katherine Swarts

        For me (and a lot of self-employed people in any field), balance is the biggest challenge, period. How often should I take a day off? How long should the work day be? How many breaks do I need? Which networking-event invitations do I accept? Which blog posts should I comment on? How to divide up the marketing mix? How to allot the time/financial budget? How narrow should my niche be, anyway?… I have to watch myself every second to keep from drowning in a false sense of obligation to do *everything*.

        • Linda H

          Katherine,

          You’re so right. I really have to watch myself from keeping distracted and stay focused on the work at hand. I recall one day repeatedly having to tell myself out loud to get back to the grind. I also stayed home to work until a certain time knowing once I left my day would be gone. It was the most productive day of my week. And trying to take time off without guilt knowing I have a ton of projects due is another thing.

          Thanks for sharing your insights. It’s good to know that I face the same struggles, which helps me ease my own stress and refocus to meet the goals.

    • Meredith Blevins

      Linda, how terrific that you have found your niche! Best of luck to you.

  11. Linda T

    Unless you’re already a social butterfly, it can be very isolating. You have to find regular ways to connect with live (not digital or telecom) people.

    • Carol Tice

      Totally agree. I recently spent several weeks working out of a coworking office space, and have to say I thought it was terrific for my productivity, after 6 years toiling alone in my little home office.

      • Kristen Hicks

        I’ve recently started getting more involved in local Meetups, which is great both for networking and for having a good reason to get out of the house and meet and socialize with people.

  12. Ralph H

    Carol, Your list is just the tip of the iceberg we all collide against. Iceberg, thy name is Resistance.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, feel free to add some more points, Ralph! Definitely intended the above as just a starter list to get us going. What makes it hardest for you? Resistance to what?

  13. Meredith Blevins

    This is a rough fact that some of us don’t want to come up against. Writing is hard work. It takes time to learn the skill and the craft. Voice is similar to having perfect pitch, or being tone-deaf, and all the places between. Voice is difficult to learn. Some of us are better at it than others.

    We all have stories to tell, that is an absolute. But we can’t all write them in a way that is compelling, brilliant, beautiful or poignant. So, write for yourself. If you do that, your chances of writing something moving increase. Don’t write a thriller because they sell. Write the book you would like to read. Listen to your characters’ voices. Follow those characters like a shadow. And only truly fuss and fuss with your first sentence and graph. It should be drop-dead fabulous.

    It’s hard to make a writing as a freelance writer if you’re not doing the work you should be doing. And it is okay to be scared.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for adding a point I surely should have included. Writing is a bear!

  14. Jennifer L

    Freelance writing as a career is so not for the faint of heart, is it?

    I feel like I have a fairly well established career now, but it took a few years. I also have the added benefit of having worked as a professional writer before striking out on my own. So I’d say that sometimes just having persistence can be the biggest challenge. You have to be dogged about pushing through the obstacles and finding ways to make it work. For example, the part about the spaces in between paychecks made me nervous. So I diversified and looked for other clients to add to my roster.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on, Jennifer. Every writer who says they’re worried about feast and famine isn’t doing enough marketing and doesn’t have enough client leads.

      I turn down work nearly every week, at this point, from prospects finding me through Google searches or my LinkedIn profile. If one of my existing clients went bust suddenly, I could just accept a few more of the nibbles I get. Writers think inbound marketing can’t work for them…but it does, if you invest just a bit of time in it.

      And it’s essential to have those leads coming in, so you can pick and choose the best assignments and keep your rates high.

  15. Amy Dunn Moscoso

    It is had and it takes time – I keep hearing “this should just take you a couple of hours” for a 25 page website. Or, I could write this myself but…

    I think that people don’t always value writing the way they value design, marketing, sales and I think it’s because “everyone” writes to some degree – which is not the same thing as professional writing. There is a lot of client education involved.

    Mistakes and being scared and what I’ve come to think of as time starvation are all things to deal with daily.

    • Meredith Blevins

      Amy, agree absolutely.
      I feel that people think because they can speak, they can write. So, you just take it a tiny step farther and you can write very well. So untrue.

      Recently, I looked at some writing a marketing person had produced to take to a trade show that was business to business. (I write content for this company.) The writing was mediocre. There were sometimes three or four colons inside a sentence, so the grammar was terrible, too.

      I asked the owner if it had gone to press. Yes, it had. “I think it’s fine,” she said. It wasn’t fine, but I said, “Okay, do you want the impression people have of your business to be fine or excellent?”

      Marketing people do not get that. A lot of times. They should, and so should business owners. Frustrating, yes.

  16. Erica

    Thank you, Carol, for this timely list. My biggest challenge is facing the uncertainty. I’m one of those who go through feast/famine cycles because I don’t do enough marketing (even though I think I do when I’m marketing, apparently I’m still not doing enough). I’m still nostalgic for the steady paycheck even though I hated putting all of my eggs into one client/basket.

    Some days I’m motivated and fired up and other days I’m just tired.

    • Carol Tice

      Really – nostalgic for the day job? I never am, even when I’m having to do without or put something on a credit card because I don’t have the cash flow. I can’t imagine for a second going back to having to be somewhere at 9 am every day…not with two special needs kids at home! The minute I started freelancing in ’05 it took me about a week to say, “How did I ever have a job?”

      Jobs are so incompatible with living a happy life, in my view.

      • Erica

        Not nostalgic for the day job, just for the steady paycheck. Big difference. Even with my current feast/famine cycles, I’d much rather be doing this than have someone else “own” my time. And, as we all know, day jobs are just as uncertain than freelancing if not more so.

        It was just really nice getting a paycheck every two weeks.

        Regular paycheck = happy face. Day job = crying, bawling, squalling emoticon.

  17. Travis

    So true! One thing I’d add: You say, “you have to face rejection.” Which is absolutely right, but the crazy thing is once you’ve been freelancing for a while, rejection letters can be a welcome response. At least the editor took the time to reply, which opens the door for further communication and more pitches. More common—and even worse in my opinion—is all those pitches and attempts to reach out that just go into a black hole, never to be answered or acknowledged.

  18. heather

    The hardest thing about being a freelance writer is sometimes just getting what is inside me on the paper.

    • Carol Tice

      No kidding! Sometimes I spend ridiculous hours writing a post for this blog, if it’s something really personal or tough that I want to say.

  19. J'aime Wells

    I’ve been struggling with picking a direction and sticking with it. When I first joined the Den, I learned about all the different kinds of writing you can do for pay, and I tried to go in all directions at once. This didn’t work out so well, needless to say! I’ve now narrowed my focus down a bit. I tell myself that even if some exciting-sounding writing opportunities are on the back burner for now, nothing says I can’t refocus later on, and start pitching them. I don’t have to do it all NOW.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on — as a tutor once said to me, “Kids don’t have to acquire all their lifelong interests by the age of 8.” We can do things one at a time…and you definitely can’t do it all in freelance writing! The market is just too huge and varied.

  20. Kay

    Working alone is great, but staying focused, structuring my time, and staying inspired and connected can be a real challenge. KW

  21. Willi Morris

    Moving from a print medium to online has been very hard. And who knew that you could be a good writer but suck at marketing yourself/sales copy? That has been very frustrating.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, you are not along there! I review a lot of writer websites, and it’s amazing what a hard time writers have writing that landing page, and writing an About page where they talk about themselves.

  22. Teresa

    The hardest thing for me is all the mind traps I get caught in! I want to pitch X client. Well I need to update my website first. And I need this clip from here. So I have to add that first. But my chances would be better if I did XYZ before I did ABC and then that means I have to do EFG and a little LMNOP before I can pitch. Then it’s two weeks later and I still haven’t done anything. I do this all the time! I need to just pitch and that’s it… So I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s so hard to have confidence when you’re just starting out. That’s the hardest part.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah — you need a dose of the Ready Fire Aim strategy!

      New writers get too attached to that ONE query that’s going to change everything. Once you start cranking out many queries, it’s easier to let go.

    • Dawn

      That is soooo how I feel sometimes. There is so much to do when you freelance. I have to put on my boss hat and force myself to just pick something to do and do it.

  23. Sandra

    I think patience is important too. Struggling with that right now. Once you’ve marketed yourself, put in your hours for the day or week, you need some patience because you just don’t know when or where the next opportunity will come from.

    Starting any type of business isn’t for babies and this post definitely shows why.

    • Carol Tice

      Now that’s true. I get emails from a lot of writers who want to know how they can “quickly” find some clients.

      I have to tell them this is usually going to take 3-9 months to ramp, depending on how aggressive you are. I came into it with 12 years as a staff writer, but it still took at least 3-4 months to get a stable of starter clients!

      I think a lot of people think freelancing is the magical answer to their unemployment…but it’s building a business. And that takes a lot of drive, and a decent amount of time, even if you’re aggressively marketing.

      • Elaine Radford

        You can’t play poker from hunger, and starting a business is a gamble. Any business. Not just the writing business. ANY business. I tell people they should not even consider it until they have enough savings to cover a year’s worth of living expenses plus their business expenses. Not that they listen. Everybody thinks they’re a writer.

        • Carol Tice

          Hi Elaine — I did a post about this recently where I dared to state that you need to invest money in a business to grow it…that angered a lot of people — https://makealivingwriting.com/2013/01/25/spend-money-freelance-writing-business/ who said, No, you can start your freelance business with zero dollars and it’ll all work out swell.

          But I’m with you — be realistic. It will take time to ramp. In the meanwhile, have a strategy for how you will keep a roof over your head.

  24. Crystal Spraggins

    I’m just starting out, and the worst part so far is the waiting to hear back from prospective clients. I have a couple of clients with small jobs, so I’m doing those and working on my blog while I teach myself the biz, but some days it’s really hard …

      • Crystal Spraggins

        Thanks, Carol, I did find that helpful. And it leads me to another question, if you wouldn’t mind. A client offered me a job, but then the contract came, and it had all kinds of unacceptable language in it. I asked the client if we couldn’t have a different type of contract. (It was a pdf file, or I probably would have just edited it.) This one was huge and complicated and didn’t even cover basic stuff like what I’d be doing and what I’d be paid–just a lot of language about noncompeting and waiving rights to this, that, and the other. It’s been a few days, and the client hasn’t responded. Based on your “write not wait” piece (and my gut), I’m inclined to just leave this alone, because it’s not a big contract, and the author has also lowered the price we’d talked about from the start. But, I’m really torn. What would you suggest? Again, many thanks for your time!

        • Carol Tice

          It’s off topic…but guess I’d consider an onerous contract that also doesn’t define the terms needed, followed by a big silence when you ask about it, from someone who’s cutting your price down, to be sort of a big waving field of red flags.

          And another thing that makes freelancing hard.

          Sort of up to you how bad you need the client, how hard you want to work here on getting a viable contract together and doing the gig.

          • Crystal Spraggins

            Lol. Yes, red flags are abounding here! And, agreed. Sort-of-client such as these make freelancing hard. I appreciation the confirmation!

      • Katherine Swarts

        Can’t help noticing there are only 8 comments on this older post, while today’s MALW posts are averaging 50+ comments each. So even with writers who’ve been doing it successfully for some time, there’s plenty of room for growth in many areas!

        • Carol Tice

          I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to write blog posts that get more engagement, Katherine! Thanks for noticin’…

  25. Stacy

    Omg…I just love your titles! Lol! You sure know how to grab your reader’s attention!

    As far as my biggest hurdle in freelance writing goes, it would definitely be the inconsistency of projects and pay. That is why I have been working diligently on writing more for myself, instead of providing everyone else great content 😉

    • Carol Tice

      Well, I’ve had one offended unsubscriber so far from this one, but everyone else seems good with it.

      I am kinda obsessed with headlines, if you don’t know. They’re hugely important to online writing! Wish more writers knew that. More on this at Why Writing Killer Headlines Will Change Your Life.

      The feedback in this comment thread is really helping me shape my next Freelance Writers Den bootcamp…think it is going to be on Getting (and Keeping) Great Freelance Clients 101… or something like that.

  26. Heidi Thorne

    Glad to see I have company on so many of the points!

    Support and understanding from family and friends can often be low, especially when they are used to “regular paycheck” jobs. But this doesn’t just apply to writing, it applies to anyone who is in business for himself (or herself). The need to build a support network for your freelancing is oh so necessary.

    As well, as my Sobcon friends Barry Moltz and Becky McCray suggest in their book Small Town Rules, you need to “Plan for Zero.” This strategy alone has made it possible for me to stay in business during economic challenges.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Heidi!

      It’s great advice…when all my editors got fired and publications were folding in 2009, thankfully I knew how to get out and market myself aggressively to find new clients. I also started building this blog — I think more and more writers are seeing that diversification and investment in your own products as a key survival strategy.

  27. Rob

    The biggest stumbling block for me has been learning to believe it really is possible to make a good living writing. I came out of the content mills and firmly believed $20/500 words was the best you could do unless you had direct inside connections. I wrote off claims to the contrary as advertising hype to sell “sure fire” writing courses. This blog was the first one I found that rang true to me, but it wasn’t until a former editor clued me in that I was asking for too little that I started to believe. My jaw dropped recently when a received a contract and saw that their rates started at $100/300+ words for blogs. Now I really am a believer.

    ps: Carol, thanks for the tactful email reply!

    • Carol Tice

      Hey no problem, Rob — I get that all the time.

      I think one of the biggest activities in the Den is writers discovering what real rates are, and it’s often a big shock if you come out of mills. You get a skewed view of what you deserve.

      And…blog post rates SHOULD start at $100 a post! That’s what I got on my first paid blogging gig. I think it really doesn’t pencil out to a viable hourly rate below there.

    • BobWarnick-Wordsmith

      Carol:
      I enjoyed the blog but fail to see the necessity of the kind of headline you used. I really see no need for profanity in a headline, even if you’re using code. I’m sure you don’t have a weak vocabulary. I recognize I’m old school, but I’m glad I still have a negative reaction to offensive language. You should too, especially as a Den Mother.

      • Katherine Swarts

        Reminds me of a couple of articles I’ve read advocating the thesis, “Find alternate ways to describe profanity and violence in your fiction stories; it’s not just a matter of ‘clean’ writing, it’s an escape from the cliche trap.” Of course, a ten-word title is different from a 500-word story scene, but it’d be interesting (though probably off-topic to do it here) to share ideas on expressing frustration without resorting to the same old tired words. I grew up in a household where even D-A-M-N would get your mouth scrubbed with soap; and now R-rated words have become as unnoticed and automatic as the word “the.”

        • Carol Tice

          Since I’ve used profanity in a headline maybe twice in 500 posts, guess it didn’t feel cliche-ish to me. Just trying to tap into the heartfelt agony of so many writers I know. And as was pointed out to me on Twitter, I could be saying “freaking”…

          And I’m just back from checking my stats, which showed me the f*ing post got about 50% more traffic than is typical for a Monday post around here. Hmm….

  28. Michael Hicks

    For me, the biggest obstacle was building a bridge
    and getting over myself.

    I’ve been writing the way I talk my entire life. Until last year,
    I wasn’t fully convinced that the writer’s life was a good fit for me.
    Sure, tons of OTHER people were making 6-figures. But they
    weren’t me.

    So finally I said, “To heck with it. Take the plunge.”

    Boy, am I ever glad I made that decision!

    Even if writing for a living eventually results in me
    falling flat on my face, I’d much rather fail on my terms
    than someone else’s. Conversely, this means I have the
    chance to succeed on my terms.

    Bottom line: I made up my mind that I’m worth the risk.
    After all, if I don’t believe that, who else is going to???…

    • Carol Tice

      Ha! I may have to steal that phrase, Michael — great one.

  29. Casey

    Great post. I’ve been freelancing and the biggest challenges for me continue to be the uncertainty between booking clients/projects and finding a way to comfortably transition from focusing on client work to more of my own projects. Balancing making money with doing work I’m passionate about is my ultimate goal, but sometimes it seems fears – about money, about failure, about where to begin – stifle some of the creativity in that department. But it’s also a great challenge to address and a good opportunity to set reachable, worthy goals for myself.

    • Carol Tice

      I had that balance to strike every day when I was ramping this blog. But I just kept finding myself writing the blog! I had this gut feeling people needed this information, and it would all pay off in the end. And it did. I think when you have an instinct like that for a writing project of your own, you’ve GOT to make time for it.

      Half the time I’d be thinking, ‘This is nuts…I should just pitch more magazine articles!’ But I definitely wanted the diversity of having my own products, and I’m glad I went for it.

  30. Neil

    Fear is still the biggest key to my success or failure. I have read all your writings and know the score. I have yet to find the big clients, but chock that up to not staying consistent with the self-marketing.

    Like Rob, I came out of the content mills and realized after finding your site that bigger fish were yet to fry. (Now I want some trout in lemon sauce). Obviously our biggest enemies in this venture is our brain trying to sell us down river with negativity.

    Thank you for a timely and slap in the face approach to freelance writing.

    Neil

  31. Stephanie Sides

    Without a doubt, the biggest challenge for me – certainly the one I’m facing right now – is how to balance the needs of competing clients, especially when many of them I know well. I find I tend to be driven most by meeting the next deadline. I figure that, when clients’ deadline approaches, they appreciate that focus. However, I find that this approach can cause me to make a slow start on some projects with longer-term deadlines.

    I’m not sure what to do about that other than work like a dog and, at age 58, I find I’m less willing to do that. I think I need to communicate better – ha! – with each client up front about where they “fit” in my queue. Then they can determine whether to hire me or not. I’d welcome others’ guidance on this.

    Also, Carol, it seems your blog focuses on corporate and magazine writing. I’ve been “making a living writing” on research proposals in an academic environment. (I mention this because some in your reader community might want to consider this as a career path.) Even with the tight public university purse-strings in CA, I find many faculty members still have pots of discretionary cash and are willing to spend it on grant-writing services to improve their chances of success, especially on writers that have a reputation on their campus or can demonstrate expertise in some disciplinary area (mine is science and engineering; note I took NO science, engineering, or math in college – it’s all been learned on previous jobs!). Except for two clients that have tugged at my heart strings, I charge top dollar. Amazingly, most potential clients don’t even bother to negotiate. That tells me my “top-dollar” rate is too low! I think I’m going to take Carol’s advice and raise my rates come the fall and try to determine where the bar is too high.

    Stephanie

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Stephanie — I certainly know plenty of grant writers, though I don’t know if I’ve met any with your exact specialty — sounds like a great niche!

      I am constantly talking up universities as potential freelance markets, though, from alumni magazines to internal communications to case studies. Lots of work in there! And of course John Soares of Productive Writers makes a great living writing textbook supplements.

      Putting a little homework in early on a project can really avoid that deadline crunch problem. I’m trying to get better at it, but right now I am going nuts doing two feature articles that I’m behind on. ;-( Linda Formichelli is the queen of starting early. Really prevents stress.

      And yeah, when you never get any pushback on pricing, that is definitely a sign to try a higher rate…

  32. Vincent Nguyen

    I wouldn’t call myself a freelance writer yet, but it is something I’m looking to do to supplement some income. I enjoy it and I think I do a fairly good job with it as well.

    Perhaps the hardest part is simply writing with the same passion when you’re doing it for others. For example, when I write guest posts I don’t feel that same personal connection with my words as I would if it were for my site. Of course, I still bleed into the writing, but it’s not quite as personal so I find it strange as I write for others.

    • Carol Tice

      You bring up a great point — it’s a challenge to get psyched up to nail it on your client assignments. Those of us who fall in love with that challenge, of making clients happy, tend to end up earning the best. 😉

  33. Catherine Lugo

    I constantly find myself wanting to have a regular job w/ a paycheck, and be a freelancer at the same time….I have to remind myself I can’t do both-I’m just not made that way.

    • Carol Tice

      Well some people do, but it’s tough to juggle both for any length of time. I used to freelance a little on top of my staff writing job. And I’m glad I did, as that gave me a couple clients to start with when I went full time freelance.

    • Katherine Swarts

      I’m in the same spot–and have just about concluded that I never had the entrepreneurial gift that goes with being a full-time freelancer, I was just in love with the idea of retaining complete control of my own schedule. Make that infatuated to the point I convinced myself the market would do all the adapting to my needs (real and presumed) without my ever having to do anything I didn’t feel like doing.

      Mind you, I’m not entirely a pipe dreamer–I do have three regular long-term freelance clients and am making several thousand dollars a year from article writing. Just not enough to be fully self-supporting–and I should have sat down and gotten the my-priorities/real-world balance in order long ago.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why and How to Build a Community of Support for Your Writing Career - [...] or, better yet, the bar. They’re both places to commiserate with other coworkers and/or complain how nothing ever goes…
  2. Why and How to Build a Community of Support for Your Writing on WritersBucketList.com - [...] or, better yet, the bar. They’re both places to commiserate with other coworkers and/or complain how nothing ever goes…

Related Posts

LinkedIn Round-Up

LinkedIn Round-Up

Successful freelancers use LinkedIn daily. After all, it's the only social media where it's socially acceptable to talk about work. In honor of our upcoming bootcamp, LinkedIn Profile Mastery, we wanted to give you a round-up of all our posts on the topic of LinkedIn....

9 Journalist Interview Tips from a Successful Freelance Writer

9 Journalist Interview Tips from a Successful Freelance Writer

Have you been struggling to interview sources for your freelance articles? Then these 9 interview tips are for you. These journalist interview tips will help boost your interviewing confidence and make you better prepared to take your freelance article to the next...