Author's Note: The following article is tongue-in-cheek! I've seen it linked at other websites with some of these characteristics, but without noting that it's supposed to be slightly ironic and funny.
The Freelancer's Fatal Four
You know your characteristics, strengths and weaknesses better than anybody, right? Well, there are four fatal flaws that anyone who wants to excel at a freelance writing career needs to have: how do you measure up?
#1 Mental Hyperactivity (Best When Coupled With Distractibility)
Any good freelance writer needs to crave constant stimulation. Since your day will consist of heavy thinking, multiple problems to solve, numerous incoming triggers like phone calls and emails, and a constant shift between clients, projects, and modes of writing, your brain should absolutely feed off excitement. It should be happy to run off in three different directions an hour, taking you, and your sanity, along with it. How else are you going to get through a day that requires some lofty-sounding technical obfuscation at 9, a five-person Skype session at ten, and 600 words on Jane Austen at 11?
Ok, the truth is: some writers are indeed happy with the changing scenes and different thinking environments that writing provides. However, if you lack the discipline to buckle down when needed, you won't be able to pay your bills.
#2 Inability To Arrive Anywhere On Time (Related to a Severe Allergy to Anything Before 11 a.m.)
Since your job commute means rolling off your bed and shuffling to your laptop or home office, freelance writing should be reserved only for those of us who have this very real and very disabling weakness: the inability to ever EVER be on time.
Since you can answer client emails with your phone in your bed, and you can fudge deadlines due to international time zones and so on, the ability to be on time is useless to you, writer.
In addition, I can attest, since I'm typing this article at 9:44 p.m. on a Thursday night, that mornings are wasted, and all the best work gets done in the evenings, anyway.
Ok, the truth is: freelance writing is actually a wonderful fit for night owls. In addition, I've found my life is a lot less stressful since I don't have to be in a certain spot every single weekday at a specific time. But, again, your clients' needs trump your circadian cycles, and you'll have to be able to bend a little if you want to be successful.
#3 Yearning For a Hell of a Rush Now and Then
This relates to your need for constant stimulation (see #1), but is actually a more concentrated feeling.
Great freelancers love the rush of things like beating the clock, pounding out the perfect political rant, and competing for plum clients in a breakneck bidding war.
This successful freelancer is probably the kind of person that misses the craziness of your youth (which you likely spent being disaffected and crashing grunge concerts in 1993, or dancing in abandoned warehouses to pounding rave music in 1996, or both, like me). But, life has aged you (not me), and so your idea of a rush now tends to the much more pedestrian variety.
Ok, the truth is: like any job, freelancing has its flurry of crazy moments. But there are also a lot of down times spent in coffee houses with chai tea and the retired set at 11:15 a.m. If you can't stomach that, you might want to look into stunt doubling.
#4 Shut-In Tendencies, Bordering on Complete Social Dysfunction
When your client wants to meet you at the local Chamber of Commerce meeting, you suddenly develop unmentionable illnesses and beg off. You've probably not ventured outside your house in the last 48 hours. When Skype sessions or phone calls are on your plate, you spend half the morning hoping for flash thunderstorms and loss of electricity.
Since about 90% of your work life is just you and your laptop (or, in my case, me, a laptop, two guinea pigs, three cats, two dogs and the mail man), you tend toward self-induced seclusion. All your business is done online, and, with Facebook, your social life is wrapped up, too! You're darned lucky you've found the perfect career, not like all those suckers who have to do horrid things like go outside and have conversations!
Ok, the truth is: I can go days without speaking to anyone outside of my immediate family, but most clients will eventually want to make sure that it's not Skynet on the other side of that monitor. Social skills are business skills, so don't let them atrophy too much!
Disclaimer: although I enjoyed grunge music and raves when I was young, I didn't inhale. I am also still young. I am also at the computer (generally) before 11 a.m., so feel free to email me with your "funny" freelance jokes.