Freelancing: One Massive Day Off?

I was heading out of the office last night, and mumbling about how late it had gotten and how much work I still have haunting me, when a well meaning and wonderful person said, "Well, at least you have the day off tomorrow and can take a nap." Because you see, I wasn't going to venture into the factory of soul sucking today. Now, this person knows that I am starting up a freelance writing business and realizes when I am not at the office, I am likely pounding away on the keyboard at home. Yet, somehow this meant that Thursday was going to be a 'day off.' Now, this is far from a criticism or jab at this particular person, because in the past year, I've had several people insinuate that the days out of the office are not days of actual work. They say things like, "Oh, I wish I was a writer," or "It must be nice to be at home" or "You have ketchup all over your shirt." Well, being a freelance writer isn't all about ketchup stained shirts, trust me.

Lets look at today's apparent 'day off.' I've got two assignments about subjects I know nothing about, and thus need to extensively research the topics, then have the articles written and polished by the end of the day. I've got three other articles that don't need to be finished today, but my life would be much better if they are. I've got two other much bigger articles that need to have an outline written and the research gathered by the end of today. I've got a special secret assignment that I'm still negotiating on and part of that discussion needs to be today. Then, I've got lots of other work that is due next week, but they probably should at least get an ounce of attention today as well. This may be the busiest day off ever.

I am honestly not saying all this to get a pat on the back and a cookie in my mouth. I realize this is the career that I've been working towards for the last year. I also realize that not having to put on a suit or worrying about an awful commute is a pretty sweet deal. It is also nice having a job where the boss is actually you and you don't have to make it a 9 to 5 day if you don't want to. There are far worse jobs than being a freelance writer. I'd even admit that it is pretty close to a dream job, unless of course you get panic attacks when you think about the word 'writing.'

Of course, it isn't hard labour like construction or a factory job, and for the most part, it pretty dang comfortable (I really like my chair and easy access to the coffee machine at all hours). It doesn't mean I don't have to work hard. Well, I guess I don't have to, if I decide I am okay with being evicted from my house and having my wife hate me forever. I am not actually okay with those things. I want to have a steady stream of clients and make a pretty decent living. In order to do those things, then most days I've got to work at least 8 hours and churn out a great deal of copy. So yeah, I am my own boss and I can work my own hours, but that usually still means 8 plus on certain days and working really hard at producing the best I can.

Again, I am not complaining. I really love the act of writing. Yes, there is certain jobs that can be tedious or dull, but it sure beats answering phone calls from self entitled ass hats or having to lift really heavy stones in the hot sun for 8 hours. For the most part, I really love my writing assignments, and I especially love the variety you get from different clients. It's a good job. But it is definitely still work.

There seems to be this belief among those that actually have to drive away from home to their jobs that stay at home work isn't that real. I think, that is especially true if they see freelance work that is mostly done at the computer such as writing. This is even more true if the person knows someone who sets hours different than the usual 9 to 5. There seems to be this vision of the freelance writer popping out about 30 minutes of copy and then sipping cappuccinos and scarfing down croissants with his other freelance pals for the rest of the day. They believe this freelancer should be available for free babysitting and the neighbourhood hyena patrol, because the freelancer has nothing but oodles of free time. After all, what they do isn't that hard and deep down the person believes freelancing is another word for 'unemployed.'

I can't speak for any other freelancers, but I don't consider myself unemployed. I do work really hard. It is a lot of work to be able to not only create high quality content that causes the client to want to do return business with you, but also doing it quick enough so that you have enough work to make a decent wage (especially when you're first starting out and don't have any type of name that commands strong rates). On top of all that, it can be pretty stressful because you don't have the steady income like a 'regular' job. You only get paid for what you produce. This means, you actually spend far less time at the coffee shop than the stereotypical vision of a writer. Unless of course, you like the idea of eating nothing but ramen noodles and staying warm beside a burning trash can. It's a lot of work to make a real wage at writing.

I need to say that it is also the best damn job I've ever had. I hope this ends up being my career for the rest of my life. I am not a freelance writer with hopes of eventually getting hired on with a magazine or newspaper. I actually want to remain a freelance writer. I have already turned down two offers this year for steady salaried work with benefits. I want to be my own boss and grow my own freelance writing business. I like having a variety of different work from ghost writing to ad copy to marketing consulting to editorials to columns (hopefully, eventually fiction and books). I have dreams and hope to expand what I write about. I believe that freelance writing is the best route to realize those dreams and land those projects that I hope for. Of course, this all means that I need to be really proactive at managing my time and money, I need to start acquiring some skills that weren't as necessary when I had a boss and a secure job. I am confident that I can grow and improve in those things, and that this business is going to continue to grow.

All this to say, today is not a day off. But it is still a very good day.


  1. Anonymous4:30 pm

    Congratulations Chris! It sounds like you're well on your way to making writing your career. I know that you live to write - it won't be long before you are writing to live.



  2. Thank you, I really appreciate the kind words. These next few months will definitely be the time I figure out if this job will be paying my mortgage or buying me a cardboard box.


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