Starting Out as a Freelance Writer May Not Be as Awesome as You Expect

Do you want to become a freelance writer because you’ve heard you can make really good money, and because you get to work from home or – hell – wherever the fuck you happen to be, and because you won’t have to answer to your asshole of a boss any more?

Yeah, same here. Those are all the reasons I wanted to become a freelance writer too. Also so I can stay in my pyjamas and not have to talk to anyone in the morning if I don’t want to. But that’s by the by.

Unfortunately, if you’re coming in blind and have no previous experience as a professional writer, things probably won’t be so peachy to begin with. Here’s why:

You Won’t Know What You’re Doing

Read all the books you like, darlin’. But until you actually get out there and try this, you’re still going to be an amateur and a wannabe. Because without experience, you won’t know how contracts work or how invoicing works or how to deliver the work, or any of that other important stuff you need to know if you’re going to be a successful freelance writer. You may understand it in theory, but that’s a whole different bag of nuts. Which brings me to my next point…

You Won’t Have the Confidence

You won’t know if you’re charging the right rates. You won’t know if you’re saying the right thing or doing your research properly. You’ll waver on your prices when asked (don’t do that). You won’t think you’re good enough. You’ll think it’s just a stupid dream. You won’t even have the balls to answer any job ads in the beginning. You’ll just stare at them forlornly thinking of what could be. You’ll get there, of course. You’ll get frustrated and make mistakes, but you’ll get there. You’ll learn how things work and what’s expected of you, and your confidence will grow. You’ll just have to wait a while is all.

You Won’t Have a Portfolio

And you definitely won’t have a portfolio of work you’ve been paid for (because if you did you wouldn’t be reading this article, amirite?). You may have to do some work for free in the beginning (which I’ll talk more on in a future post). You may have to take on some crappily paid jobs just to get the ball in the door. Or your foot rolling. Or something. ANYWAY, point is: having a portfolio of quality work published on the web (somewhere other than your own site, you doink) will really boost your credibility and your reputation.

You Won’t Have Any Testimonials

See also: if you haven’t done any work for anybody, you won’t have any testimonials. And social proof is one of the best ways of proving your worth. If somebody else says so, you must be good. And if several somebody elses say so, it must be true.

So if you want to become a freelance writer, understand this: you’ll have to work hard. You might not get paid all that much to begin with. You won’t have a reputation or any proof that you know what you’re doing, and hey, you may not actually know what you’re doing.

I’m not telling you this to scare you off or to make you think you can’t do it. Of course you can fucking do it. I am telling you this because I don’t want you to dive into this with high expectations of the fabulous lifestyle you’ll lead, raking in cash from all your wonderfully fulfilling freelance writing work. That just won’t happen to begin with.

Listen, one of my first ever clients paid me £5 per 500-word article. I took that job because I wanted the experience (and because I was SO fricking excited to get offered any money at all to write). And that was great. For a while. It taught me how things worked and it gave me the confidence I needed to go after better work. I picked up more clients and better pay as time went on, but without my first crappy-paying clients, I may never have got there. I may have remained too petrified to even start. I could still be working in a shitty bar job right now. But I’m not.