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Truths and Myths about Being a Full-time Freelance Writer

I didn't know if what people were saying about becoming a full time freelance writer was true or not. Now I do and I want to share it with you so you know what to expect - beyond all the hype.
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Everyone out there on the internet is trying to sell you their lifestyle as the magic bullet that will solve all your problems and make you happy. To be 100% honest, freelancing full-time is not magically going to make your life better.

I still maintain that there is no single lifestyle that’s inherently and objectively better than any other. They all have pros and cons and the key is finding the lifestyle in which the pros make the cons worth it to you at any given moment (it might change for you over time).

So here’s my version of the truths and myths of being a full-time freelance writer so you can know the real deal and what to expect if you choose to pursue this lifestyle. Do note this is just my experience and I’m sure there are people who freelance full-time and have had a completely different experience (obviously).

Running your own business is empowering and fulfilling

TRUTH

I’ve never learned as much as I have while working for myself. I’ve never felt as fulfilled as I have while working for myself. This is the reason why you want to quit your 9-to-5, right? You’re bored, it’s unfulfilling, you feel like a pawn in someone else’s game. Freelancing will give you that sense of empowerment and purpose and stimulation that you’re looking for. That is a truth.

Freelancing full-time means you’re location independent and can travel the world

IT’S COMPLICATED

You can indeed work from wherever you want. But is working while traveling an actual ideal lifestyle??? I can’t fully address this issue because I have yet to truly do the digital nomad thing. I can say, the prospect of traveling while needing to attend to my client work doesn’t sound great to me.

Digital nomad with laptop by ocean
“Digital nomad work life” LOL. Sure you go take your laptop to work on a rock in the ocean, I’ll be right here.

First of all, you can’t compromise the need for WIFI. And it has to be GOOD WIFI, it can’t just be okay. And you’re gonna be glued to your laptop just as you would if you were working from your home country. The view outside the window is just different.

Then for me at least, I get stressed when I think about trying to find a quiet workspace abroad. I would be completely unproductive staying in hostels and going to cafes to work or something like that. And I would be distracted by all the fun the real backpackers are having and want to join in with them instead of work!

You also will have to somehow be able to Skype with clients and this means you have to really think about time zones. If you want to go live in Asia, you may have many an early morning and late night work call to attend to. I guess this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it isn’t great. Stuff like this is what makes achieving work-life balance so hard as a freelancer.

Paying attention to timezones for client calls as a freelancer
My hypothetical time zone timetable. The green represents the times I would likely have to be awake/available for client calls if I lived in Bangkok. The red line is when I currently have a weekly client call scheduled.

Lastly, even though I have location independence, I’m stuck in Atlanta currently because I have health issues that need treatment. I haven’t been able to take advantage of my location independence because I’m limited in this way. If you’re someone with similar problems and you don’t feel comfortable seeking serious types of treatment in other countries like me, then there’s no point in being a freelancer for the location independence. You’re better off with a full-time job and health benefits.

Freelancing full-time means you can work from home

TRUTH

This is a more “proximal” version of location independence. Yes, freelancing means you can work from home, or any other workspace you prefer to a regular office.

If spending more time with your children at home is a priority and that’s why you want to freelance, I would say that’s definitely worth it. Freelancing is a good fit for your goals.

Sitting outside working as freelance writer
Freelancing does give you location independence to work from home. With your cat. Even if he’s not particularly happy about it.

If you have a disability that prevents you from working in a traditional office and you need to work from home, again, I would say freelancing is a good fit for your goals.

But if it’s about traveling and living abroad, it’s just more complicated than saying “Yes freelancing gives you location independence” — at what cost?

Freelancing full-time means you can take as much time off as you want

MYTH

It’s fairly easy to take time off in the sense of “oh I have a doctor’s appointment at that time so I’ll take a few hours off for that”. But as far as taking time for a vacation? Like one when you don’t work? Not easy at all.

When you freelance, you don’t have paid time off, not even for a measly 10 days a year. When you take off those few hours to go to that doctor’s appointment, that often just means you’ll end up working in the evening or on the weekend to make up for the lost time. I can assure you from every freelancer I’ve spoken with, taking time off when you work for yourself is a major CHALLENGE – not a benefit – of the job.

I still feel like this by the end of the week:

TGIF🌹💀

A post shared by Michelle Vogel (@mishvo) on

That said, it’s not impossible to take vacations. I took time off recently and traveled sans laptop to visit friends. It just takes a lot of mindful effort and planning.

You can be a full-time freelancer writer and make double what you were making in your 9-to-5

TRUTH BUT IT’S REALLY REALLY HARD

This depends on what you were making in your 9-to-5, and what you charge as a freelancer. I’ll tell you, it’s hard to make good money as a freelance writer. I don’t care what anyone is saying, whatever promises you’re reading online about making money as a freelance writer. It’s certainly possible, it’s just hard, hard, hard.

I’ve tasted some financial goals (like my $5k freelance income month) but haven’t found a way to get the same financial or job stability I’ve had in 9-to-5 jobs.

Truth is lack of financial stability as a freelancer
Accurate. (Source)

Also, taxes when you’re self-employed are INSANE. You pay double what you were paying in your 9-to-5 and you don’t have the luxury of not having to see the money in the first place. You get it in your pockets and then you have to give it up. Painful.

If you can reach a place of financial stability and true comfort through freelancing full-time, I think it makes a lot of the disadvantages of the job worth it. But if you can’t – and I haven’t gotten there yet – you will start wanting to quit. You can only go so long without a real vacation, struggling with shitty health insurance, not making enough money to relax, and being isolated and lonely before you say fuck it I want my 9-to-5 back. I’m not kidding. People give up on this run-my-own-business thing more often than they succeed at it. You just don’t read about that stuff online.

That said, there really is no limit to how much money you can make. You don’t have to wait for someone to give you a raise – you just have to raise your rates and find clients willing to pay more. It’s possible, but like I said, it’s hard.


Are you a freelance writer? What hearsay have you found is true or not?

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2 comments

  1. Taseer Ahmad says:

    That’s so true Mishvo! Although I’m not into it full time, yet I have to beckon clients to hire me, all the time. Apart from those $15k-a-month freelance writers, there are hundreds of others–including me–whose daily work hours exceed beyond the limit. Seriously. Prospecting for clients, reeling them in, and meeting deadlines require you helluva time.
    Sometimes, you would abhor that commute to the park to finish off that last bit of the project. I have found my home the best place to write. So, you have me on this location-independent kind of thing, too!

    • mishvo says:

      Hi Taseer, yeah being self-employed takes a huge toll on your time and brain energy because it’s not just doing the work – it’s finding the work and negotiating and meeting on the phone… It’s a lot! And I think you’re right that for every 5-figure a month copywriter out there, there are zillions of others scraping by or dropping out of the game because it’s such a struggle.

      I also prefer to work from home versus going to a cafe or something. Although I’ve found my local library is actually a great space for working. They have free fast wifi and it’s nice and quiet. Only thing is you can’t snack in there ha.

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