Does it feel like everyone wants to be a writer right now or is it just me? It seems everywhere I turn there are hopeful freelancers endlessly pitching and dreamy writers penning the book they have always had inside them. There is an old saying ‘everyone has a book in them‘ but I’m not sure if it is true. Absolutely everyone has a story to tell, there is not doubt, but there is a huge difference between a story to tell and actually getting it down on paper.
The same goes for freelancing. In theory it sounds like a wonderful job. Sitting at a cafe typing away on your latest story, interviewing wonderfully interesting and knowledgeable people and seeing your by-line in your favourite magazine or your latest article on the web. But as glorious as that all sounds, I can tell you in practice, it’s not all lattes and accolades.
Now I’m not trying to turn any promising or hopeful freelancers off…okay maybe I am! Really, there are too many of us! Too many fantastic writers vying for a limited amount of space. Many magazines these days have in-house writers to cover their content each week/month or they have their regular go-to freelancers whom they trust and can rely on. Breaking into the industry is like trying to unlock hidden treasure with a million look-alike keys swamped around you.
Here are my five top reasons why you SHOULDN’T pursue a career as a freelance writer.
Writing isn’t as easy as putting a few words together. First of all you have to have a brilliant idea, then you need a fantastic hook that is enticing, interesting and current, then you need to make sure than no-one else has tackled this brilliant idea of yours in a similar fashion. Most likely they have, so it’s back to the drawing board you go.
The actual writing part is not easy! Sure you may think that you can easily string a few words together but it isn’t as simple as a tenth grade essay. You need to write not only in a succinct fashion, seamlessly weaving together your expert quotes, case studies and narrative, but you also need to write in the tone of your publication. Then of course there is a small matter of grammar and spelling.
Once you have the idea and have selected the publication that is the best fit for your idea, next comes possibly the worst part of freelancing. This is where you have to sell your idea to an overworked editor who is inundated by pitches every single day and whose life is ruled by pressure and deadlines. If the thought of that doesn’t turn you off then the waiting to get a response should. Granted some editors are fantastic and reply quickly but these are certainly in the minority, particularly if you are a new freelancer. After biting your nails for a few weeks down to the quick you will eventually have to follow up your pitch which means emailing and waiting yet again or even worse… picking up the phone.
To say you need a tough skin in this business is an understatement. You need a hide as thick as an African elephant who has been in the sun for fifty pitched. Rejection itself also takes many forms. There are the encouraging emails with a ‘thank you, great idea, but not just for us. Keep pitching.’ feel. Then there are the tactful ‘We currently have a full commitment of freelancers and in-house writers, but will keep you in mind should we be looking to expand.’ rejections. Right through to the harsh ‘Thanks for your pitch but it’s a no.’ Full stop. The End. Then of course there is the worst response of all: silence. (See pitching)
5. The sea is full
And finally, we freelancers, new and old are all swimming against the tide struggling to keep our heads and hopes up. We are fighting against the rise of web writers and bloggers and against anyone offering free content, first person stories. I hate to be blunt, but there is NO MORE ROOM!
So there you have it, if you are thinking of dipping your toe into the freelance waters I would strongly advise you to take a cold shower and snap out of it!
Of course this post is entirely tongue in cheek, I am absolutely enjoying my freelancing (rejections and all) and if you can put up with the negatives seeing your name ‘in lights’ is totally worth it.
Are you a hopeful freelancer? Have I left something off the list?
Or have you ever considered writing as a career path?