ABCs of Freelance Writing: M is for Myth

gnomeThis post is part of the ongoing ABCs of Freelance Writing series.

Freelance writers that pretend the business is impossible to break into are full of it. My guess is they’re probably just worried their clients will like you better. That, or they’re afraid they won’t be able to sell you a spot in their next tell-all webinar if they let on how, you know, possible it is to write for money.

Thankfully, most freelancers are supportive people who don’t mind sharing what they’ve learned along the way. Despite this openness, though, I still find that many wannabe freelancers believe things about the biz that just aren’t true. If you’re hesitant about breaking into the wonderful world of freelance, I hope this post is just the kick in the tail you need.

6 Common Freelance Writing Myths

You might as well believe in gnomes as believe these myths. Seriously.

    1. Real writers start out writing obituaries. Someone actually said to me, “But don’t I have to pay my dues writing obituaries first?” Um, no. I mean you certainly can if you feel that living out this Hollywood cliché suits you. But you don’t have to write for newspapers at all if you don’t want to.
    2. Freelancing equals free time. It’s not all coffee shops and laptops, particularly if you want to pay the bills with your writing. Also, sometimes you have to get showered and dressed to meet clients. However, you can still plan for the fun stuff without begging your soulless boss for time off. So, that’s cool.
    3. Freelance writers should never publish their rates. A few months ago I was chatting with a colleague who lamented wading through an endless stream of contact form submissions. “Half these people shrivel like the wicked witch in a bathtub when I give them my freelance rate anyway,” he said. “It’s really wasting my time wading through this stuff.” He balked a little over my suggesting he add a rate page on his site. There is some sense of “ZOMG! But my rates are sacred!” among freelancers, but publishing fees for standard projects before the client even contacts you is an effective way to separate the wheat from the chaff.
    4. Freelancers need a second degree in accounting. I’m not a numbers girl, but I do my own taxes with nothing more than an English degree and some user-friendly software. Keep track of your income and expenses as you go, and life will still be manageable at tax time. Plus, you can always hire a tax expert if you’re too terrified to go it alone.
    5. Freelance writers must have a niche. I’ve been at this part-time freelancing thing for years, and I still don’t have a niche. Now, I’m not saying that a niche wouldn’t help me some, particularly if I wanted to take this full-time. But you can keep your options wide open and still be a successful writer. Don’t sit on the sidelines because you don’t know what your specialty is yet.
    6. Freelancers have to be topic experts to land jobs. I want to tell you a little story. It’s a really short one: I don’t have kids, but I have written numerous articles on potty training. If you can research a topic, you’re in good shape. In fact, you’re more likely to write a better piece when you’re not mistaking what you know for common knowledge.

     
    So that’s it, six common freelance writing myths debunked. Have you heard any other freelancing stories that you suspect aren’t really true?
     


    Photo credit: kmoney56

About Emily Suess

Emily Suess is a technical marketing writer by day and a freelance copywriter by night. And, no, she's not related to Dr. Seuss.
  • http://tiaras-and-trucks.blogspot.com Angela

    I like the part about not mistaking what you know for common knowledge!

    • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

      It sounds so simple, but it can really be a challenge to make sure all the important bits get their place in an ariticle, page, or post.

  • http://www.scriptinghappiness.com Jeena Cho

    I like the idea of having the rates published. Not saying it has to be written in stone. It can be a range or have different packages. Most businesses that hire freelance writers are going to have a budget and it’s very time consuming to contact each writer just to get the rates. 

    I also totally agree about not needing an accounting degree (although few hours at a bookkeeping class will make life easier). Great post Emily!

    • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

      You make a very good point about publishing rates for the benefit of potential clients. I think most freelancers don’t publish rates because they want to be flexible. Heck, I don’t publish my rates at the moment either. Mostly because I’m still working out the best way to approach it. I want to make sure that I don’t scare away non-profits in particular. I like working within their budgets whenever time and bank accounts allow. :)

  • http://www.scriptinghappiness.com Jeena Cho

    I like the idea of having the rates published. Not saying it has to be written in stone. It can be a range or have different packages. Most businesses that hire freelance writers are going to have a budget and it’s very time consuming to contact each writer just to get the rates. 

    I also totally agree about not needing an accounting degree (although few hours at a bookkeeping class will make life easier). Great post Emily!

  • http://www.smilingtreewriting.com Dava Stewart

    Another common misconception is that there is a “right” way to freelance. There are about as many approaches to freelancing as there are fish in the sea. Ok, maybe not quite that many, but a bunch. You can write sales copy, magazine articles, for newspapers, do investigative reporting, newsletters, case studies, brochures, for a particular industry, fiction, or about a million other things. You can charge per word or per hour or per project or set up retainer fees. Just about any combination of those things can equal a successful freelancing career, as long as you keep at it, and work hard. Don’t like talking on the phone? Then build your business via email.

    Lots of people who teach classes teach the way they found success, and that’s great, it’s just important to remember that you can tailor things to your own preference. You don’t have to follow anyone else’s guidelines or methods. 

    • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

      Excellent points, Dava. I think I could do a months-long series (if I had it in me) on the different ways to earn money freelancing according to your own preferences. The possibilities are pretty much limitless, and I think that’s what makes being a freelancer such an appealing idea for lots of people. You can be creative with the words you write, but you can also be creative with what jobs you take.

  • http://www.dailytrader.com Wholesale Suppliers

    The second point is what fascinates me the most. I  find it really a burden to get up at 6 in the morning to reach the office right on time. Although i put my alarm on snooze many times but still the mind won’t go to rest completely as the thought of boss noticing every entry haunts me and ultimately I have to get up early in the morning. Freelancing would surely evade this issue.

  • http://twitter.com/SaidKristin What She Said

    Thank you for this article. I would love nothing more than to turn my writing into a freelance career and I’m willing to work my butt off to get there, but I don’t even know where to begin. There is definitely a general sense of impossibility when it comes to freelancing as a career. I especially love your last point which, I have to say, is the main thing holding me back. 

    Well, that and lack of time since I currently have a FT job that, you know, actually pays the bills. ;) 

    • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

      Don’t let a full-time job hold you back if you really want to freelance! I work my 40-hr week and manage to be my own boss the rest of the time. It can work!

  • http://www.thebeautyofknowledge.com/ Mellisa James

    freelance job is a good idea
    freelance writting is really a nice idea and
    every article is great i liked all and the tips which you have given me for the
    freelance writing for this i am rilli thankful to you may be from freelance job
    a good income can be generated.
    thank you very much emily suess for sharing this article.

  • Sandy P

    A little late to the game on this one – just found your blog – but THANK YOU for this post! The first paragraph was the one that really hit home for me.

    I very much appreciate hearing from an active freelancer (who isn’t trying to sell me her latest “I’ll tell you all my secrets to six-figure…”) that freelancing can be done successfully.

    I don’t know that I want to be a FT freelancer (okay when the day-gig is boring me to tears, I admit, I dream a bit), but I definitely want to get started with the moonlighting bit and light a slow-burn under my confidence level. Who knows? maybe I have a FT freelance in my future?

    • http://blog.emilysuess.com Emily Suess

      I’m glad you found it helpful, Sandy. I’ve found that moonlighting is AWESOME, and I wish you the best with your biz. Let me know if you ever have any questions or just want to shoot the breeze.

  • http://www.jahanzaib.info Jahanzaib Khalid

    I think! every writer should explore set of niche where he/she feels comfortable during writing. You can assume anyone to write perfect on almost every single niche some of freelance contractors don’t consider this point and expects so much from freelance writer to deliver in multiple niche