Welcome to Write Bites, an audio series where we discuss writing, marketing, and freelancing during one of my daily walks around the neighborhood.
In Episode #6, I talk about why freelance writing isn’t a good fit for everyone and how to figure out if it’s right for you.
Transcript: Why Freelance Writing Isn’t For Everyone
Welcome to Write Bites, an audio series where we discuss writing, marketing and freelancing during one of my daily walks around the neighborhood.
Today, I want to talk about why freelance writing isn’t for everyone, and how to tell if it’s right for you.
In most of these episodes, I’m focusing on the benefits of freelancing, the benefits of writing, and how accessible the career is. It really is a very accessible career. But at the end of the day, it’s not for everyone. So I wanted to touch on three (of what I would consider) deal-breakers for freelance copywriting—freelance writing, specifically. The first one will apply to writing as a career in general, the second two are more specifically related to freelancing.
If you feel like you qualify on any of these, I’m not the one to say, “Don’t go for it anyway.” If you want to do it, absolutely go for it. This is just my personal opinion, and you’ll see why as we dig into it.
The first reason freelance copywriting might not be for you is if you struggle to communicate via written words… if you struggle to write. And I’m not talking about a specific writing struggle here. I’m saying if you were just to have a thought that you wanted to share to a friend, but you couldn’t talk—for whatever reason, you needed to write a note to pass it to them—would you struggle to translate your thoughts into words?
That’s one of those things that I don’t know how to teach. That doesn’t mean it can’t be taught; there could be people out there who really understand how to teach just the discipline of writing in general, or the practice of translating your thoughts into words. But, from my own experience and talking with other people who have attempted to help students with this, I’ve just come to the point where I don’t necessarily know that it can be taught.
The only advice I would give, if you do struggle to translate your thoughts into words—I’m just talking about at a really basic level here—then the only thing I can suggest is to read a lot.
Most of the people I know who have always considered themselves good writers are also big readers. They tend to do a lot of reading—not any specific type of reading—just a lot of reading. To be honest, I have no clue how the brain works with this. I feel like you tend to emulate the people you talk with—you might find yourself using phrases they use or kind of communicating with a certain cadence that’s similar to the people you’re around. I think in the same way, we tend to mimic what we’re reading. The ways that certain authors express themselves tends to come out when we’re doing our own writing.
I might be completely off base; this is a pretty arbitrary take, but that’s just my thought on how it works; that’s how it seems to work for me.
But again, if just at the basic level, you struggle to write, then freelance writing—writing in general—is probably not the best career choice. That would be a weakness for you. But again, if you feel you have that weakness and you still want to go for it, by all means, more power to you.
The second one is this: If you struggle outside of having explicit instructions given to you, it’s going to be a bit more difficult to be a freelancer. Freelancing is different than any other career in the sense that there’s no one telling you what to do. You have no boss. The funny thing is, when we look at most careers, one of the biggest reasons a job is considered a good job versus a bad job comes down to how specific and how explicit the instructions are from the boss.
So for example, if you have a boss who’s giving you really clear, really explicit instructions, and then obviously following through on those in the sense that if you follow the directions, you are considered to have done a good job, that’s considered a great boss. If you have a boss who’s really vague with the instructions and then is always unsatisfied with the results, that’s a shit job; no one wants that job.
So, back to freelancing, here we are talking about clarity of instruction being one of the biggest factors to “Is a job good?” in 95% of careers, and in freelancing, we’re just deleting it completely. Forget vague; you don’t have any instructions. It’s all up to you. Everything comes down to you; you make the instructions.
Now, as empowering as that is for some people, it can be crippling for others. And so, if you’re someone who really comes alive when you have a clear set of guidelines to follow through on, then either you’re going to struggle with freelancing or you’re going to need to find your instructions from somewhere else.
For example, you could take a course that lays out really clearly what you should do and then just follow those; let the course kind of be your boss. Or you could hire a business coach and kind of let the business coach be your boss, or a consultant, whatever. You can kind of appoint your own instructions and then follow through on those. But that’s sort of what you’re going to have to do, and if you can’t do that, then again, you’re going to struggle.
And that leads us into the final thought here, which is, if you struggle to problem-solve, freelancing might not be a great fit for you.
What we just talked about is an example of problem-solving where if we take a random freelancer who thrives with clear instructions but without clear instructions, they struggle, if they’re also not a good problem-solver, they may not come to the conclusion that, “I need to grab a course,” or “I need a coach,” or “I need some other mechanism to give me the clear instructions in order for me to thrive.” That same thing translates to so many areas.
One of the big struggles with freelancing is that you have to take care of literally every aspect of your business: the sales; the fulfillment; the writing; the customer service; the accounting; the branding. It all ultimately has to be completed by you.
And in order to do that, you need to be either multi-talented and just good at doing everything yourself, or you need to be a really good problem-solver who has a good amount of self-awareness and can understand where your weaknesses are and find solutions to those weaknesses.
Like we just said, if you identified with, “Hey, I really need clear instructions in order to be productive or in order to move forward,” a problem-solver will find a way to get those clear instructions. Let’s say you identify with, “Hey, I’m struggling in the sales department,” so you do what it takes to increase your leads and sales. The problem that problem-solving is that it’s not necessarily ever one big thing. It’s 100 little things across 100 different areas of your career and areas of your day-to-day freelance life.
And if you’re the type of person who really struggles when a problem pops up that you weren’t expecting, you’ll either have to adapt to become someone who rolls with the punches, or it’s going to just all add up so fast that it can start to become paralyzing.
To review, we’ve hit on all three here:
From the writing perspective, if you struggle to turn thoughts into words, it could be a bit difficult to be a professional writer.
When we talk about copywriting, copywriting is not really a difficult writing skill; it’s very straightforward. Most of the challenges that new copywriters face have more to do with getting out of their own way, getting over their misconceptions, getting over their impulse to be overly formal and right, like they think business-speak is supposed to sound.
Once they get over that, it’s really pretty simple stuff. Copywriting doesn’t require an incredible level of writing talent, but you obviously do have to be able to do the basics of turning thoughts into words.
Living without instructions: You have to be able to dictate your own course, and make your own way, find how to macro level your own path forward. And if you struggle with that, it’s going to be harder for you. It’s something that you have to figure out. If you don’t figure it out, you’re not going to be able to be a freelancer.
And then the third piece gets to the micro-level, the day-to-day, task-to-task, problem-solving of having 100 different skills, 100 different tasks, 100 different little things that have to have boxes checked off, which can all go wrong.
You have to be able to roll with the punches, be adaptable, be flexible, be willing to figure things out on the fly, be willing to have something come up that’s going to ruin your day. And when that happens, you’re willing to sit there and do what it takes to figure it out. And sometimes you might have a few days like that in a row and the options are either you figure it out or you fail. You have to be the type of person who’s willing to suck it up and make it happen.
These things aren’t outside the bounds of normal life. That’s why you want to have community, you want to have people that you can turn to for help in situations where you’re really struggling outside of your freelancing life.
I’m not trying to say you just need to just be an absolute beast and do everything yourself and not have any help from anyone. I’m not saying that.
There are tons of resources at your disposal. And again, being able to go out and get those resources and turn to those resources when you need them, that is problem-solving. At the end of the day, it needs to be a very outcome-oriented approach,
Anyway, that about covers it. Obviously, if you listen to all those things and none of them really felt like, “Hey, that’s me. That’s a big red flag for me,” then then you’re good to go. You’re going to do great.
If writing comes naturally to you, if you’re able to pick a strategy or put together your own To-do list, you have a bit of self-initiative, you’re good to go. If you can roll with the punches and figure out how to achieve outcomes, whether it’s you figuring it out on your own or finding the people who can help, you’re going to do great.
Anyway, that about wraps it up. I hope that was helpful, and I will see you in the next episode.
Share Your Thoughts
I hope this was helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.
Plus, if you have a question you want answered on a future Write Bites episode, ask in the comments, and I’ll add it to the schedule.