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What’s It Like to Be a Freelancer? Here’s a Look

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I'm a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

Hi, I'm Stacy


Fifty-three million. That’s the number of freelancers in the U.S.—more than one in three workers—according to a study by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk. Of that number, over 21 million are considered independent contractors, working on a project-to-project basis with no employer. Professional writers—often called content marketers—fit into all categories of freelancing, from full time freelance ghostwriters to those moonlighting as web content writers to supplement their income.

While the type of freelance work varies, one thing’s certain: Freelancers around the world are leading lives very different from their suit-clad 9-to-5 counterparts. Whether they work from home or in a shared coworking space, head into their current client’s office daily or take conference calls from the coffee shop, freelancers often have changing workplaces, varied schedules and salaries that fluctuate by the month.

The number of freelance workers is growing, with an estimated 6 percent increase by 2020. If you have considered taking your professional writing skills to the freelance market, here are five things you should know about the unpredictable freelance life.

1. Schedule is key for freelancers.

Yes, it might seem that freelance workers squeeze in articles or consulting work between Netflix, but for the large portion of the self-employed population, that just isn’t true. Freelancer Nicole Dieker starts every day by planning it out; as she explains, “I pull out my master ‘Getting Things Done’ list and my enormous spreadsheet that tracks deadlines, word counts, and the pay for each job.” Another freelancer, Miranda Miller, says, “I use colour-coded Google calendars to organize my day by individual client, then by task.” For the professional writer without a set schedule, making a schedule is a must.

2. Freelance work is unpredictable, and yet that doesn’t dissuade this growing workforce.

The two biggest challenges freelancers identify is a lack of stable income and difficulty finding work, according to Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk. Yet the Internet is making things easier: More than 31 percent of freelancers say they can find a gig online within 24 hours. Being a freelancer is a delicate juggling act that leaves the self-employed extremely grateful for returning, well-paying clients.

3. Freelancers are never off the hook.

Sick? Too bad. As a freelancer, you would likely be working anyway. Paid vacation? Personal days? Ha! Freelancers know that time off comes with a price, but it’s a price most are willing to pay. As one individual explains, “I choose to be in freelance because I’m able to work my own hours, determine my own salary, and be creative in my work.”

 4. A freelance writer can make a good salary.

It’s true that writing is often undervalued in today’s content-rich world. Yet, with diligence and smart business practices, freelance writers can make above-average salaries. According to the Editorial Freelancers Association, average rates for freelance writers range from $40 to $100 per hour, depending on the type of writing project, such as ghostwriting, grant writing, public relations writing or medical writing.

5. The freelancer’s workplace is where creativity meets DIY business ownership.

Most freelancers don’t have the luxury of an administrative assistant. Office supplies? They buy them. Office cleaning? It’s that or working alongside dust bunnies and full trash bins. Accounting? They do that, too…or at least try to. A freelancer is a true jack-of-all-trades, balancing creativity with the practicality of running a small business.

The freelance life isn’t for everyone, but it is for the one in three Americans who have moved away from the traditional workspace and into a life and schedule that is truly their own. As the number of freelancers grows, one thing’s for sure: work as we know it will change for millions of Americans. Will your professional writing work life change with it?

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