The Perils and Pitfalls of Life as a Freelancer

I rise at a leisurely 9am and descend the stairs, full of promise for the day ahead. I take time to enjoy a freshly brewed coffee and a couple of warm-from-the-oven croissants, then I head out for a stroll around the local park. Roy, the loveable Border Collie, bounds at my heel as we wave at cheery strangers. The sun is shining and there’s a spring in my step, after all I’m doing the job I always wanted to do…. I’m a freelance writer.

Ok, let me take off my rose-tinted specs for a second. Some of the above is true. I am a freelance writer and I am doing the job I’ve always wanted to do. As for the rest? I could get up at 9am but my day would then end horrifically late. My coffee is hot, strong but usually instant, and I have been known to devour the kid’s cereal slops in lieu of a wholesome brekkie. As for Roy, well, he is sort of loveable, but he never bounds at my heel. Instead, he drags me through the rain, wind, and mud, pausing only to sniff, pee, and poop in the long grass (which makes poo collection very challenging).

I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that although freelancing does provide me with a sense of freedom and a chance to set my own agenda, it isn’t always a walk in the park (with Roy or without).

My day can be busy and hectic. I have deadlines to meet and word counts to hit. There’s no such thing as the 9-5 for me. This does have plus points, but also pitfalls—no overtime payments for one…my whole pay cheque is based upon my own productivity. If I don’t do the work, I don’t get paid. 

There’s also the motivation factor. If I’m not in the mood to get on with my work, I don’t have anyone to spur me on. “Surely that’s great—you’re your own boss!” I hear you cry. No-one to give me a stern look if I’m talking loudly on my mobile phone (when I should be busying myself with updating my website). No-one standing at my shoulder pointedly asking me for a piece of work (that I haven’t even started yet).

No-one to glower in my direction as I slink back in from lunch ten minutes late (carrying a pungent curry that I haven’t had time to eat yet—I was too busy shopping for shoes).

But there’s also no-one to tell me I’m doing a great job, no-one to help me when I hit a wall. No-one to share words of wisdom or to give me a friendly and encouraging smile. Sometimes I just want someone to pat me on the back! This lack of encouragement contributes to bouts of imposter syndrome. Freelance writer, me? Who am I kidding? I’ve been known to submit a piece and then torture myself by imagining the client will hate it, leave poor feedback then feed me to a pack of rabid wolves (okay, that last part is a bit extreme).

Thankfully, my current clients are a lovely bunch. An internationally eclectic mix spread across the globe. However, I have met a few “characters”, along the way, such as:

  • The frugal one
    Wants to pay 50p for a 1000-word article, and then asks for several edits, even though the brief has been met.
  • The demanding one
    Pays a good rate, but moves the goal posts—as the writer, it’s apparently my job to not only come up with excellent content but to also read their mind.
  • The ghost one
    Doesn’t reply to messages, doesn’t leave feedback (even if they like your work) or even worse, disappears without paying your fee.

That said, all-in-all I’ve been lucky, and my clients are very pleasant. Although most of my communication is carried out via messages, and I do miss chatting with people “in real life.” Some days the only voice I hear is that of the postie as he hands me a parcel (I’ve thought about inviting him in for a cuppa once or twice). I miss office politics, office banter, and office gossip.

My husband works for a gigantic and well-known firm. At first, I thought I might be able to satisfy my thirst for mindless workplace goings on through him. But no, he is only interested in doing his job well—what a waste of time. I want to know who Stacie from accounts is having a fling with and why Jack, the new HR boss, is sporting a nasty looking black eye.

Instead, I shall sit myself down and focus on spending time with my faithful friend, my laptop. I say faithful, but we did have a falling out earlier in the week when he decided to run a series of painfully slow updates. Despite my pleading, he simply would not stop. What an arse. I would have liked to bemoan this with a colleague but instead, I told Roy about it. My four-legged pal didn’t offer much in the way of sympathy. Instead, he barked at me until I agreed he could drag me around the park again. Where are those damn poo bags?

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