There’s A Price To Be Paid For Becoming A Freelance Writer

becoming a freelance writerI had a green smoothie for breakfast this morning. Hold me.

I was coming straight off the back of an all night writing binge, during which I’d conjured up a freelance piece for a skin care company about the benefits of green smoothies. (NB. Spirulina has more calcium than milk and more protein than eggs, in case you didn’t already know.)

No surprise then that this ‘natural energy booster’ (as I deftly described it) was top of my breakfast list as I whizzed through the morning routine. My defences were low and my blood pressure high as I threw hastily hacked veg in the blender. It tasted as good as it looked (not very) but I had convinced myself of its worth by believing my own copywriting. Damn, I’m good!

This is one of those ‘things no one ever tells you’ about becoming a freelance writer. Unless you happen to have a solid niche specialization, you tend to become a Jack (or Jill) of all trades. You must be happy to research green smoothie recipes one day and real estate trends the next. You must dig deep and find an amicable, professional or quirky ‘voice’ as required, whether you’re interviewing a dentist or sinking your teeth into the stock market.

Every month I take on a wide range of projects for different clients, from book reviews, to press releases, to articles about hardware, hire cars or home loans. Sometimes it’s fascinating stuff and I love the learning process. Sometimes it’s tedious, but it pays the bills.

The biggest problem, though, is an insidious melange of FOMO, consumerism and paranoia. I can’t help but compare my real life to the life I’m selling when I write some of these commercial pieces!

If everyone else is drinking green smoothies (because I’ve just told them to) then why aren’t I?

Thanks to articles I’ve written or researched this week, I now have the Fire Service locked in to inspect my smoke alarms, an appointment with an advisor to discuss superannuation, a holiday booked that I probably can’t afford and total paranoia about my son being poorly prepared for starting school next year.

My colleagues tell horror stories of dreaming about their current writing projects. This is nice if you’ve just written about holidaying in Hawaii; not so great if you’ve spent days researching cockroach infestations.

Every now and then you’ll get a highly appreciative client who offers you a discount on whatever it is they sell. You buy, of course, because you’ve spent days convincing readers (and yourself) of the client’s greatness. It’s like a supermarket 2-for-1 deal on a product you never needed in the first place. Step away from the Paypal button!

It reminds me of my student days (or my breastfeeding days) when ab crunchers and nutribullets and sets of steak knives started to sound appealing because I’d heard them mentioned so many times, night after night, as I stared bleary-eyed at late night TV.

I think I may have uncovered a ‘dirty secret’ about becoming a freelance writer. All the controversy about being paid what we’re worth is born of a myth. Maybe we are all paid quite handsomely, it just doesn’t feel like it because we SPEND IT ALL on our clients’ products and services?!

Thank goodness I haven’t had a job from Tiffany or Ferrari lately.

Tell me, freelancers – do you get FOMO when you’re writing for a range of clients? What ‘thick skin’ tips would you give someone who’s keen on becoming a freelance writer?

22 comments for “There’s A Price To Be Paid For Becoming A Freelance Writer

  1. Kasper
    February 24, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    No FOMO from me on the green smoothies. Good on you for making them sound so appealing.
    I can relate to the buying products bit. Every time I have a stall at the markets, I tend to buy more goodies than I sell. It is such a fun way to shop though.
    Happy writing
    cheers, Kasper

  2. December 7, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Living the dream… and mortgaging it as we go

    • This Charming Mum
      December 7, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Yep. It’s a good dream 🙂

  3. December 7, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Oh my goodness all the yes! This is so true!

    • This Charming Mum
      December 7, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Glad you can relate!

  4. November 13, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Oh I would be hopeless at this, Lara. FOMO would get me into all sorts of trouble!
    And the dusty AbCruncher in our garage is proof 🙂

  5. November 13, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    I find people either want me all at the same time or no one loves me at all… Argh

  6. November 13, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Haha that does sound like a pretty big pitfall!

  7. November 13, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Hahaha. This is a great post.
    Confession: I bought a nutri-bullet (actually it’s the Nutri Ninja) and I LOVE my green juices. I actually do. And that thing up there about Spirulina having high calcium and protein, Bonus! After 10 years of us trying to prevent it, our daughter has just declared herself vegetarian (groan) which means I need some good substitutes. Spriulina it is! In the Ninja of course …

  8. Mumma McD
    November 13, 2015 at 7:52 am

    I’m the same with sponsored posts on my blog, everything I earn seems to go on whatever I’ve been spruiking!

  9. November 13, 2015 at 6:34 am

    When I was doing freelance and consultancy I worked with a client Sunseeker – as in luxury boats. They were pretty amazing (although I was never going to afford one of those babies). We did do a really cool launch party at the Sydney International Boat Show. I was actually working with a friend who represented quite a few luxury brands – it has been her thing. To me I actually got a little tired of thinking up superfluous adjectives – sublime, stunning, spectacular etc. It often felt false and over-the-top. But then it was nice to experience what life might be like if you owned an $8m cruiser!

    • This Charming Mum
      November 13, 2015 at 7:16 am

      Sounds like a nice gig! I know what you mean about the adjectives though. I feel like that if I’ve written several pieces for the same client. There are only so many different ways to describe the same product or service. It does give you the chance to dip into many different ‘worlds’ though, which keeps life interesting.

  10. November 13, 2015 at 6:31 am

    Congrats on making a living freelance writing! I think I would be the same – huge FOMO. It’s like blogging for example – I can get lost down so many rabbit holes – the latest must have plugin – the must do blogging course – the free webinars – the podcasts. I can get myself so overwhelmed sometimes! 😉

    • This Charming Mum
      November 13, 2015 at 7:13 am

      Totally! I just ignore a lot of the must-have apps now and continue to feel like a failed blogger instead, lol. Actually, my blog has been neglected since I started making actual money doing other writing. Hard to get the balance right.

  11. November 13, 2015 at 6:16 am

    Ahh that’s hilarious. I had the same problem when I was writing an article for a wine magazine years ago. It was about Rose wines. I had to do lots of research on that one 🙂 I’d love to hear people’s thick skin advice because I hope to take the leap to part-time freelance writing very soon.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 13, 2015 at 7:11 am

      I often wonder how people who write for food and wine mags stay coherent! That’s a good kind of research to have to do. I love your writing. You’ll rock it as a freelancer 🙂

  12. November 13, 2015 at 6:01 am

    Not quite the same but I had to write 2 articles on the benefits of seafood for a writing course. I hate seafood so now take fish oil capsules as a consequence! 😀

    • This Charming Mum
      November 13, 2015 at 7:09 am

      Ha ha! That’s exactly the sort of thing I would do. Again, it shows you’re a very convincing writer!

  13. November 13, 2015 at 5:53 am

    I’m just jealous you’re making a living writing…

    • This Charming Mum
      November 13, 2015 at 7:09 am

      Good days and bad days, but I do enjoy it overall.

  14. November 12, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    Great post! The other thing I’ve found in the past is that when I’ve written about something – whether jealousy or kids having accidents or whatever – the exact same thing seems to happen to me not long after!

    • This Charming Mum
      November 13, 2015 at 7:08 am

      Oh so maybe there’s a writers’ jinx at work as well as the FOMO? Maybe I should write a big post about winning lotto, lol.

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