The truth about freelance writing

Working at the beach

I read an article about a guy who got a “dream gig” as a writer for a guidebook. He imagined writing for a guidebook would be a way to travel and get paid for it. His dream gig turned out to be a nightmare. He got to travel, but he spent all his time working and didn’t have the opportunity to relax and enjoy himself. I didn’t save the link to the article, but it inspired me to write the truth about freelance writing.

The Truth About Freelance Writing

First of all, I admire the writer’s conscientiousness. When I first came to Sihanoukville, a guy who hadn’t been here much longer than I bragged about being interviewed by a writer for a popular guidebook. The guy hadn’t been here much longer than I and spent all his time trying to make his business work. I’m sure the information he gave the writer was inaccurate. At least the guy whose dream job turned out to be a nightmare tried to get accurate information.

I’ve written for a travel publication before. I was assigned Sihanoukville and all I had to do was go to different places and write reviews about them. I quit when they asked me to travel to another area and pay for my own accommodation and food. Their argument was that I’d get more than enough pieces to pay for the trip. They didn’t pay very well and I didn’t want to get paid less by having to pay for my own accommodation and food.

When travel writing has worked out for me, it has only been because I visited a place and wrote about it afterwards. On one occasion, I was paid enough to cover my airfare to Bali.

Personally, I’ve found travel writing to be the hardest way to make money as a freelance writer. I like to do thorough research and know from experience you can only do that if you go someplace and experience it firsthand. You also have to look beyond the usual travel hot spots and find more unusual things to write about.

There is an abundance of information about other subjects online. It still requires research because some articles are slanted on way and others another way. I recently got an assignment about the difficulty of finding affordable property in Australia for Gen Xers and Gen Yers. Some articles said they were “spoiled,” but the statistics said otherwise. The Australian property market has gotten far more expensive than wages have kept up with. I used the statistics rather than the opinions of writers to come to my conclusion.

Freelance writing is work like any other work. Fortunately, I enjoy it. I enjoy learning new things and I enjoy writing and editing articles. Many of my articles get published without further editing, but sometimes I miss the point and have to rewrite or edit an article. If I want to get more assignments, I do the editing without complaining. My hourly wage may be less, but editors appreciate writers who are willing to do what it takes to get an article right.

Freelance Writing is NOT Always Smooth Sailing

I’m very fortunate to get regular assignments from one source and periodic assignments from other sources. However, even my freelance writing career isn’t always easy. Some weeks I get fewer articles than I’d like. Some weeks I’m flat out. It depends on how many assignments I get.

There are no perks to freelance writing. I can’t get paid for sick days and I don’t get health or any other kind of insurance. I never know how many assignments I’ll get. When I don’t get enough, I feel bereft. I like writing and feel like I’m missing out when I don’t have assignments. Granted, I take advantage of slow periods by doing things I enjoy, like swimming, but if too many days go by, I worry about how I’m going to pay my bills.

If I didn’t live in Cambodia, I don’t think freelance writing could offer me enough income to live comfortably. In fact, I know it couldn’t. I don’t need to earn a fortune here. I can afford to go out for coffee and dinner even on my income. When I lived in Australia, I worked full time and did freelance writing on the side. I had a fair amount of luck, but never made enough to consider it as a career.

There’s just one more thing I want to mention. Even when I don’t have assignments, I check my email several times every day. That’s because I want my editors to feel like I’m here for them. I was asked just today to revise a couple of articles. If I hadn’t checked my email, I might have put it off.

I love my work, but it is work. Don’t fall for the hype that freelance writing is your ticket to an easy life. If you enjoy writing, it might be perfect for you, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it gives you unlimited freedom. If you do, you won’t succeed and you may end up stuck without money in a distant country. Trust me, you don’t want that to happen.

That’s the truth about freelance writing from my perspective. Others may see it differently. Just don’t believe the hype you read on “how to make a living as a freelance writer” websites. They’re just trying to sell you something.

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