I quit my job a year ago to pursue full time freelance writing from home. It has been HARD AND SCARY since I am the main money earner in our family (and the sole earner at times). Working outside the home became too much of a challenge after adopting a child with special needs. My boss freaked out every time I needed to take time off for my daughter. I needed the freedom and flexibility only self employment can provide. I was skeptical that real opportunities to make money from home existed, but I started digging around determined to find something.
The more I read about freelance writing, the more convinced I became that this was the route for me to take, I have always enjoyed writing and been told I had a knack for it. Learning I could earn a living doing my favorite hobby seemed like a dream come true. I applied for some of the content writing websites and got to work.
It turns out the saying, “If something sounds too good to be true it probably is” is accurate! Writing from home has given me the flexibility and freedom that I was looking for, but there have been many huge tradeoffs.
Here are some realities of freelance writing I wish I understood before making the leap:
The pay is horrible.
The first thing you need to know is that most content writing literally pays pennies (often just a single penny – or even less) a word. Making ends meet this way is HARD! You have to write a LOT at a penny a word to make a living.
It is exhausting work.
I write whatever assignments are available at the websites I’ve been accepted at. Some days that means I write about portable toilets or hearing aids all day long. It is mind-numbing work. Writing about toilets for hours on end does not fulfill me. It makes me grouchy, tired and popping Excedrin to ease my headache.
There is no stability.
I write for several different websites. In the year that I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen many of these sites come and go. You can earn a couple of hundred dollars at a site one week and then it close down the next, without warning. Some weeks offer large batches of assignments, but then there other stretches of slim pickings. I miss access to health insurance and paid time off. There is no paid sick, vacation or holiday time. If I’m not writing, I’m not making money. Also, if the client rejects my work, I’m out of luck and without payment for the time I spent on it.
It is lonely!
The social highlight of my work is having lunch at school with my 5th grade daughter and her classmates each Monday. I call my cats my coworkers just to make myself feel better about being alone all day. There is no one to bounce ideas off or gossip with on a coffee break. It’s just me and my computer for eight (or ten or twelve) hours a day.
The work isn’t yours.
With most content writing, the client or website take ownership of your work once they accept it and make payment. So I’m slaving away each day on work that won’t even have my name on it and that I can’t use to market my skills to get better paying assignments. This isn’t usually a big deal, since I don’t need a portfolio filled with pieces like “How to Dye Your Cat”, but once in a while I’ll luck out in grabbing an assignment on a piece I love, such as parenting or education. When you write about something you’re passionate about and are proud of the work, it’s hard knowing that you won’t get credit for it.
Do I regret the decision?
Over the last year of working at this full time, I’ve started to built up my skills and move up the levels at some of the websites, so I’m making a bit more money and getting slightly more interested assignments. I also started submitting my own articles to regional parenting magazines and have had several published. I’ve tapped into a networks and resources for writers online and am constantly investigating new opportunities. I am confident that this will continue to get easier with time, experience and lots of hard work.
So, no, I don’t regret making the move to freelance writing at all. It was exactly what I needed to do for my daughter. I do wish I had gone into it with a better understanding of how hard it is to write for a living and what a difficult transition I was in for.