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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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:
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.
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?
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!
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.
Agreed, actual traveling while trying to work on your own business full time does not sound like fun. But the freedom to relocate to work at home in a more affordable location is attractive to me living in silicon valley where rents are prohibitive. As for health insurance, a lot of jobs do not give much in the way of benefits or paid vacations or sick days anymore so in that way I would not be missing anything I am not already missing.
Hey Zoe! Yeah I think reducing the cost of living by moving somewhere else is a great thing – especially if you live in a place as expensive as Silicon Valley! This is true more and more about full time employee benefits in the States. It makes me so angry and sad for our country that people don’t have access to basic things like healthcare.
Now that I’m actually traveling, I would say trying the digital nomad thing is worth it. There are downsides of course like I anticipated when I wrote this post but yeah the freedom to be anywhere in the world and explore different places and cultures is just amazing.
So many gals here.feels like I m the odd one out.
Hi Mishvo nice to know you .
I stumbled upon your site as I am in s dilemma to go into freelance writing.
I am from Singapore and the challenge I found is wow it seems like the freelance writing niche is kinda overwhelming.
I like your straight forward style and you are the one who paints the true picture in trying to be a freelance writer.
Not to mention in my country as a freelancer seems to be a forbidden trade as every Joe is holding a secure job.
Anyway I have subscribed to your email.
Because to me it seems like you are a freelance writer who has a different stance from the rest.
Yeah another concern of mine is the Taxes.
I am afraid to die and also being taxed.
I love your truthfulness and no B’s hype content.
Thank you Mishvo.
Yes it’s totally overwhelming. It feels like there’s a lot of competition out there but in fact, businesses REALLY struggle to find quality writers.
I also know what you mean about it feeling like a ‘forbidden trade’. When I speak with other Americans and tell them what I do, they are always super curious/surprised and have looooots of questions about how freelancing works. It’s very much against the norm. But when I talk to Europeans or Brits about it, they’re just like “oh that’s cool” and get it right away. Different cultures have different expectations about lifestyle and it’s hard but you have to follow your heart even if it leads you to something unconventional. Making freelancing work financially and finding a good work-life balance is a true challenge but if you never try you’ll never know.
Anyways, thanks for your kind words and feel free to comment/share any time if you have any thoughts or questions!
Michelle aka Mishvo
Accurate comments. I really like being at home for the kids after school and doing different work each week. But yes, the job instability doesn’t bear thinking about!
Yes completely! Being able to spend more time with family is a major benefit of the freelance life.