For a few months now, I’ve been talking about several topics that range from building a freelance writing business to writing motivation to writing employment. As someone was kind enough to point out, I haven’t devoted any efforts to address what freelancing is, why people are drawn to it, and how hard it can be.
A freelancer, as defined on Dictionary.com is “A person who sells services to employers without a long-term commitment to any of them.” For those of you who enjoy word etymology, according to Wikipedia, the term free lance came from “Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) in his well-known historical romance Ivanhoe to describe a “medieval mercenary warrior.”
Freelancers tend to work by a “project basis,” rather than on a long term or contractual employment period. Typically, freelancers work for themselves as independent contracts who receive 1099s for their efforts at the end of the calendar year. Some people freelance on a part-time basis; others full-time.
The appeal of being a freelancer? Well, sometimes it allows a writer, artist or other creative type to begin building a portfolio in their spare time while they maintain an unrelated day job. It can offer an opportunity for additional funds, the freedom to keep your own hours, and the ability to work from home.
While there is a huge attraction to the idea that you could go into business for yourself, there is also a downside. First, it’s hard work. You have to find your own leads, come up with a writer’s resume and writer’s portfolio, track your income and expenses, figure out how to manage your time, and promote yourself. The easiest way to explain what freelance writing is like, is to compare it to a full time job.
In a full time job, you have a steady flow of work, a regular paycheck, benefits, and the ability to work with other people. As a freelancer, you have none of that and often keep longer hours to build a reputation. No deposits at an exact date and time, no health insurance benefits, no company. While many people, websites, and movies romanticize a writer’s life–it can be that exact moment of bliss as they describe, but you have to write every day simply, because you aren’t writing for yourself.
So that’s it, in a nutshell, what freelancing is all about. Whether people are drawn to it for the ability to live a free lifestyle or not–many freelance writers take the good with the bad simply because, like me, they love to write.