A lot of people fantasize about freelancing. It’s pretty easy to see why: no office, no boss breathing down your neck and, best of all, no annoying co-workers to deal with. In short, a Utopian place of perpetual happiness where you pick and choose the work you do and then run off to the gym or to the coffee shop right in the middle of the day.
Okay, some of that fantasy is actually true. It is great to get away from a stuffy office and all the politics that come with it. And yes, you can certainly work your schedule to do accommodate going to the gym any time you like. And, if you are good enough to build relationships with good editors (more on that later), you can probably work on some pretty interesting stuff while earning enough money to actually support yourself. Perhaps not with luxuries like health insurance and a retirement plan, of course, but enough to not have to live in an old refrigerator box behind the grocery store. Which reminds me – a freelancer’s best friend is always a spouse with a great job with benefits. Much more on that in the future.
But freelancing is no cakewalk. Just like any other entrepreneurial endeavor it is damned hard work, particularly in the beginning. And writing skills are just a fraction of what you need to be successful. Getting plum assignments from decent publications and editors you really want to work with – or from other professional clients if you are more of a writer than a journalist – requires a tremendous amount of initiative and professionalism, a reporter’s instincts and drive…and a healthy does of good luck along the way.
Even then, however, things don’t always work out like you planned. Stories go south or editors get wacky on you. The publication folds before you get paid. Your computer bites the dust in mid-sentence. Whatever – it happens.
So why do it? Easy – because I love what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else. For all the headaches, this job is fun. It is relevant. It’s not for everybody, but it is for me. So, with that in mind, I am going to use this space to share some insights, tips and a few anecdotes about making a living with a keyboard. I don’t claim to have all the answers (far from it), just some perspectives from one guy’s freelance life. I hope you get something out of it.