What Being a Freelance Writer is Really Like

Here’s a fair warning: this is not a pretty post at all but it’s real and it’s raw and it’s all I’ve got.

Here goes:

I never thought in a MILLION years that I would call myself a “freelance writer.” Even just saying these words feel strange to me.

And in case you haven’t heard the story yet–I started freelance writing last year when I was thinking of ways to make money on the road and when I had trouble finding work.

But it wasn’t easy and it still isn’t.

In the beginning, I had to spend A LOT of time learning about how freelance writing works. Then I had to learn how to market myself, how to build a portfolio, how to write dozens of samples, which I ended up not using, and getting rejected.

It was honestly one of the most difficult and soul-shredding things I’ve ever done. I barely left my room and friends wondered where I went.

But that’s not even the hardest part.

The hardest part about freelance writing is that it brings out all your insecurities and self-doubts. You NEVER feel like your work is good enough and you’re constantly tormented by thoughts of how things can be better.

And then there are those days when you have absolutely no motivation to keep going but you do, somehow.

The Cost of “Working” for Yourself

Yes, being able to work for yourself and wake up late is pretty cool but also consider these things before you decide to go on this path:

1. You’ll Worry About Money All the Time

Unless you’ve got a huge lump of gold sitting in your bank account or you’re hired right away with a yearly contract, you’re going to have to worry about money ALL. THE. TIME.

In the beginning, I used to check my bank accounts obsessively until I was nauseous. But eventually, I learned part of the job of being a freelancer was to accept that money will ebb and flow, like the river, as long as you keep working.

It’s just a fact that you have to get used to and accept.

2. You Have to Make Every Single Decision By Yourself

You know how most people complain about having bosses? Well, believe it or not, when you’re a freelancer, you actually start to miss having one. That’s because as a freelancer, YOU have to make every decision by yourself and it’s… exhausting.

You have to come up with your own rates, contracts, article ideas, deadlines, and all the boring stuff that you never had to worry about when you had a boss. But the good thing is you’ll also become really good at making decisions and compartmentalizing your thoughts. However, by the end of it, you’ll also be so mentally and emotionally drained that you won’t have anything else for anyone else… which brings me to the next point.

3. Your Social Life Changes Drastically

There is a good side and a bad side to this.

The bad side: because you invest so much time and energy into your work, you won’t have much left to see your friends. At first, it kind of sucks and you feel bad but at some point, you start to realize your priorities have changed and you can’t force yourself to keep going to events to please others anymore. So you learn to stop feeling guilty and draw boundaries.

The good side: you naturally weed out friends whose schedules and interests aren’t the same as yours anymore and become much closer to those who are. The quantity of your friendship will decrease but the quality will increase.

 4. Your Mind Never Stops

At the beginning of my freelance writing journey, my mind was always racing. Ideas would float in and out of my head day and night. And often, they would keep me up all night which led to horrible insomnia.

To cope with this, I started meditating regularly to learn to control my obsessive thoughts. It’s great to have so many wonderful ideas but you also have to know when to stop otherwise, you won’t be fully present in your everyday life.

5. Nervous Breakdowns

In addition to everything I just mentioned, I was also dealing with many personal issues on the side. At one point, it got so bad that I would wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble breathing. This was when I decided I needed help.

For the first time in my life, I started to see a therapist. And I’m not ashamed to admit this because it probably saved me from a hoard of other issues and I would encourage anybody who feels overwhelmed with work or life to get one.

6. My Diet Sucked

“Forgetting to eat” was something that was once inconceivable to me. I use to wake up looking forward to breakfast every day. But once I became a freelance writer, there were many times where I would simply FORGET to eat.

I would wake up, rush over to my laptop, start typing, and before I knew it, 5 or 7 hours would pass. It was horrible and as a result, I lost 10lbs within months.

And, did I mention that my wrists hurt from typing so much?

The Silver Lining

So now you’re probably wondering why the heck would anyone want to continue doing this?

Well, even though I just made becoming a freelancer sound like a horrible idea, there are many redeeming factors.

Like the first time you get paid for an article you wrote. Even though it will probably be barely anything, that feeling that you just made money from writing is indescribable. It’ll feel like MAGIC because you literally produced money out of your own words.

Or the first time you get an article published and you see it shared by hundreds of people. That feeling will leave you grinning for days.

Or when someone sends you a personal email telling you what you wrote touched them. All of these feelings are priceless.

But above all, becoming a freelance writer teaches you how to become your own boss and take charge of your own life. And when you go to bed at night, there is no greater feeling in the world than knowing you’re doing something that you love, something that unfortunately many people will never do.

That’s why I still do it.

freelance writer

Are you a freelancer as well? What has your experience been like?

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