Just about once a week I get a mid-career job changer, laid off worker, new graduate or miserable cube dweller that asks about freelance writing as a career. I don't mind answering the question individually, as I then have knowledge of specialized skills, past employment and education level. But, in general, here are some things to consider when making the leap:
- Income: This is the first thing I mention, as I have no desire to be responsible for the demise of a family! Yes, there is money to be had in freelance writing . Yes, you could probably eventually support a modest household on it, if you pursue it full time (35-60 hours per week, minimum), and if you possess the skill/talent of writing. But there is a build up that takes place. As a personal example, it took me about a year to equal my full time cube work.
- Insurance: Freelance insurance is expensive. Very expensive. Of course, if you have a spouse or other source of coverage, good. But if you're to be the sole wage earner and insurance carrier, then I'm throwing up some big red flags. Think twice, check out the insurance rates and coverage , and plan, plan, plan.
- Time: Time management has been many a freelance writer's downfall, and I have a theory as to why. We're writers, and, given that, we like to read. So if you place us in front of a glowing silver box that feeds us all the reading we could ever hope for, about anything our little hearts desire, we tend to get distracted. Ok, maybe that's just me. But, it takes some serious hours to build a client base that is going to feed your kids and pay your heat. At the beginning of my freelance career, I easily logged 80 hours per week begging for jobs (umm... I mean, writing cover letters and resumes). My opinion is that a steady flow of hours is a requirement for establishment, and that you should not expect to work 9-5 for quite a while.
- Market: Here is some good news. Although print magazines and other companies are taking a hit, the market is fairly stable right now. The freelance jobs have not slowed down. Many in the field attribute this to the fact that it is cheaper to hire freelancers than employees.
Bottom line: Freelance writing is a viable career, but only with much forethought and planning.