Not everyone starts their writing career with freelancing gigs. But many do. I sort of did (I technically started with an internship — it was basically the same thing, but unpaid). Freelancing teaches you a lot about writing, but it also shows you how to deal with difficult people, battle your fear of rejection, and keep writing on the days you don’t feel like it.
This isn’t a complete list of everything you can learn — that would be a very long blog post. Here are some of the highlights.
You figure out how to fight for what you want
No matter where you look for work — regardless of your niche — freelance writing is competitive. Especially in the very beginning of your career. You learn very quickly how to differentiate yourself from the rest, convince clients you’re worth hiring, and prove you’re worth keeping around. You eventually gain expertise that earns you the right to demand certain things — which can give you a major advantage later on in your writing life.
You learn to do everything — until you no longer have to
As a freelancer, you are your own accountant. Your own PR representative. You don’t just pitch, research, and write. You snap and edit your own photos, you create your own infographics — you’re social media savvy because you have to be. There is no one to do these things for you. And on top of everything else, you have to learn to constantly adapt to change, stand out from those who use the exact same winning strategies you do, and do what has to be done to Make Writing Success Happen.
You (almost) conquer your fear of criticism and rejection
Working as a freelancer is not always nice — and that can be a good thing. I’ve had people give me generic instructions and then yell at me for doing something wrong. I’ve had people treat me terribly — then offer me more work. Someone even went on a four-paragraph rant about how disappointed in my work they were. I’ve been rejected by more prospective clients than I can count. Does it suck? Sure. But it makes the good people, and the good experiences, so much sweeter.
You learn to write kicking and screaming
Have you ever had one of those days you just don’t want to write anything? I have one of those days about once a week. It’s not that I don’t love what I do — I just do a lot of things, and you get tired by Thursday night. If I just didn’t do my work when I didn’t feel like it, I wouldn’t be working with the people I’m so blessed to work with now. There are days I have to drag myself through every paragraph until what needs to get done gets done. It happens. But the more you do it, the more you realize you’re a lot stronger, driven, and capable than you think you are.
Freelance writing is no easy task, and it’s certainly not for everyone. But it’s a really beneficial place to start when you don’t have much prior professional writing experience. Here’s what you need to know before you start freelancing, and a few things I learned my first year as a freelancer. Not sure how to make money as a freelance writer? The Write Life has an excellent quick guide for beginners. And if you want to know if freelancing is the right path for you — stay tuned, because that post is coming soon.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.