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I believe I speak for a majority of writers when I say that freelancing is not the bed of roses it’s set out to be. I can only assume that those not in the majority are either just starting out or have some of the best working conditions there are. Do not mistake me for a pessimist just yet, though. I am of the opinion that only two types of people get into freelancing as pertains to writing. These are rebels (or the aptly labeled free-thinkers) and those who choose to settle for what is readily available. The two ‘ideologies’ eventually come together in a metaphorical rose thicket, wild roses to be exact. Why roses you ask? Because the symbolism, though considered “played out” or overused, is the most relevant one there is. It’s characteristic of a rose to be appealing to any eye; dark red petals reminiscent of the very substance that runs through our veins. The knee-jerk reaction is always to pick it, smell it, a euphoria that’s abruptly brought to an end by its prickly thorns.
Of Hard Truths and Fairytales
The allure of these ‘petals’ is existent all over the internet. Aggressive marketing ads telling fairy tales of young individuals living lavishly are enough to reel any undecided mind in. The accompanying photos leave nothing to the imagination, and all that is seen is a fellow human being who has worked down the freelance path to wealth and riches, all on his/ her own terms. To the rebels, the thought of being their boss and answering to no one does more than tickle their fancy, and to those who compromise, it is a simple, workable way out. Anyone who is a keen student of life would question the circumstances. “But what about the thorns?” Indeed, what about them? They do not compromise; they do not recognize any hierarchy or lack thereof. Anyone can, and will, get pricked.
I know, I know. I hope you are still holding off on the pessimist tag. I am a freelance writer. Views and opinions are free and open to all, and I am just penning mine. Nothing is that easy, simple or straightforward, and freelance is not the exception to the rule. I feel some responsibility to share my thoughts and experiences and hopefully provoke thought in someone, especially those considering coming into the fold. Do I have your attention?
Passion is everything. You have to love what you do. You have got to fall in love with the process. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning out almost as fast as you came into freelancing. Establishing whether or not you are passionate about anything should come first, in everything. The next thing is to choose a niche. A specific path you consider yourself competent in and can produce quality content. Then comes choosing a platform. The internet has left freelancers spoilt for choice. I went with Fiverr as my platform of choice. Reasons for this choice range from a fantastic, well-rounded community of buyers and sellers, to a barrage of features that help sellers package their work in the best way possible to appeal to targeted clients. Done? Welcome to my world, welcome to freelancing.
There are well known positive aspects of freelance writing, the ‘petals’ so to speak. At the helm of that list is the flexibility in working hours. On one side of this double-edged sword, freelance allows some of the best working hours in any industry. The flexibility allows scheduling other engagements into my day. Be it a 9 to 5, voluntary work, babysitting; you name it. Freelance allows you to maintain other income streams.
As mentioned, Fiverr allows proper packaging tailored to a target client base. With such a setup, your freelance escapades are bound to receive a steady stream of orders from a variety of clients. Customer satisfaction for one order quickly translates into repeat customers and new orders because of the good reputation slowly being established.
Of course, it cannot be understated that freelancing is, in every sense of the word, a job. It is a source of income. The platform provides a working-learning environment with every order leaving you a little more knowledgeable than you were prior. The exposure to different works and topics may lead to creating other platforms for yourself to venture into other creative spaces, say, becoming a successful blogger.
I believe the double-edged sword mentioned earlier is still in the environs of your mind. Here is the other side. The flexibility in working hours quickly morphs into irregular working hours. No good thing is preceded by the word irregular. Orders may be made at 3 a.m. for instance and maybe have a deliverable time in the same vicinity. Freelance quickly becomes a slippery slope. Should you not respond to (Accept or Turn Down) orders early enough, your reputation suffers. Should you turn down the order, you potentially lose a client. Should you miss the deadline, you lose a client and possibly receive no payment, even with very reasonable explanations. This quickly turns into sleepless nights in an attempt to appease everyone but yourself. Either way, you suffer. Personal priorities must, therefore, be stuck to in freelance.
With a growing client base comes an uptake in the number of orders and requests received, modifications to be made and misunderstandings to be settled. From there it does not take long before the feeling of being overwhelmed gets you into a chokehold you cannot get out of. Soon you are in no position to complete one order, leave alone several. Remember, inner peace and mental health are key. Again, priorities.
From too many orders to order droughts. Yes, there are periods of time where not a single order comes in. For a freelancer having that as his/her daily grind, it is enough to make you rethink a 9 to 5. The worst part, however, is either a difficult or an unsatisfied client, or a combination of both. This is hell for a freelancer. Pray you do not ever do business with such.
So which are you? If you’re the rebel, you must have realized by now that instead of one boss, you have multiple in freelancing, each with a deadline for you. If you choose compromise, that will be the last time you have any room to do so. As rewarding as it is, freelancing is not for the faint of heart. Are you still willing to pick the rose?
I await your answer,