Starting Out

Is Freelance Writing Really as Great as It Sounds?

Let me guess.

You want to be a freelance writer because it sounds exciting, freeing, and everything you’ve ever wanted in a career. You get to write for a living, sit in cafes checking your email, and travel the world while raking in the big bucks.

Is Freelance Writing Really as Great as It Sounds?

The thing is, nothing’s that simple. Or that easy.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of freelance writers who sit in cafes a lot and who travel the world while earning a good living. Plus, writing for a living is a good amount of fun.

If your dream is tour Vietnam in the morning and write in the afternoon, then do it

But it takes time and patience to get to the point where sitting in cafes for an entire day won’t bankrupt you, not to mention the sheer skill and determination it takes to work while travelling.

If your dream is to tour Vietnam in the morning and write in the afternoon, then you can do it.

I believe you can do whatever you want if you believe in the dream. But you’re going to have to get there first, so be prepared for a whole bunch of hard work.

Now that I’ve well and truly brought you down to Earth, it’s time to get serious.

Some freelancers make the lifestyle sound effortless and easy, but it’s not. Oh, and it is a lifestyle. An engineer can leave his work at the office, but as a freelance writer, work will become a part of you.

Freelancing isn’t something you do; it’s who you are.

Anyway, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that catches rose-tinted newbies off guard, including:

1. It Gets Lonely. Quickly.

Once you’ve become successful enough to start freelancing full-time (or like me, you began right out of high school and have never known not being surrounded by people), the isolation is the first thing to hit you. It’s like a punch in the gut.

I tell my readers the reason I work out of the library is to improve productivity, but a big part of my reasoning was too see actual people during the day.

Being taken out of an office (or school) full of people and then to suddenly experience the isolation of working from home is quite a shock, let me tell you.

2. Money Isn’t Instant

The most common falsehood wannabee freelance writers hear is how much glorious green money they can earn by doing nothing but typing up a couple of paragraphs every few hours.

Sure, you can earn a money as a freelance writer, but what most of these whisperers seem to leave out is that this too takes time.

It can take anything from 3 months to a year to earn anything approaching serious money, and that’s if you’ve had the time to devote more than a few hours a day to growing your business.

Never mind the loose change needed to set off on your first adventure.

3. This is a business. A tough one.

Oh, freelance writing is just something you do, dear. It’s like a hobby, only it pays marvelously!


There are a thousand (way more, actually) freelance writers fighting for exactly the same thing you are, and they’ll do anything they can to achieve exactly what you’re dreaming about. The only difference is they know that to be a successful freelancer you need to be a writer and a businessperson to succeed.

There’s marketing, accounting, taxes, income reports, earning predictions, and a whole host of other things business-minded freelancers involve themselves in, because freelance writing isn’t a hobby, it’s a business.

Do yourself a favor and read a few marketing books. Seth Godin’s always a good recommend. You’ll be amazed at the world opened up to you and by how much this knowledge can give you a competitive edge.

4. There Ain’t No Benefits Here, Sir

If you’ve ever had a full-time job, then you probably had a wide variety of benefits: health insurance, 401k matching, and what not. But unless you have an employed spouse, that’s all going to disappear.

And you’ll be amazed by how much it all costs.

5. If You Stop, You Starve

The tricky thing about freelance writing is that you’re directly responsible for the work that comes your way, and, as a result, for the money you earn each month. If you stop marketing for a couple of weeks, no new work is going to come your way.

What happens then? Well, you don’t earn any money.

If you stop working, and you don’t have an emergency fund, you’ll quite literally starve. There’s no steady paycheck anymore. You have to make sure you earn the money, and the only way to do that is to work. Continuously.

But damn, it’s worth it.

You have to either be crazy, tenacious as hell or both to read this article and think, “My goodness, but it still sounds absolutely lovely! What’s next, dear chap?”

But if you do read this, and you still think it’s worth it, then you couldn’t be more right in your entire life. Not even as right as when you knew the new Star Wars movie would be awesome.

Here’s what I love about it:

  • The challenge of having my entire career depend on no one else but me. It’s both liberating and terrifying.
  • I get to live the way it suits me. If getting up at 8 am and starting work 3 hours later works for me, then that’s what’s going to happen.
  • The freedom to step away from my desk, grab my car keys, and enjoy a coffee in a nearby café because I can
  • I can advance my business and earnings with nothing more than hard work and an Internet of knowledge.
  • Being authentically me, without any repercussions.

Being a freelance writer is absolutely wonderful, difficult and beautiful. If you’re tough enough to take a few knocks every so often, you’ll love being a freelance writer.

Damien du Preez is a freelance writer. He operates out of Cape Town, South Africa and you can follow him on Twitter as @DamienJDP for some sage wisdom and plenty of swearing.

Leave a Reply


Damien, You nailed it. I have a toddler who keeps me company, but at times also drives me insane. I like Elna enjoy being able to stay home and follow my passion by being a freelance writer. It took me a year plus a few months volunteer writing for Mozilla until I landed a paid gig. It’s all really worth it if you want it.Reply to Heather
Damien du Preez Hi Heather, Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! It’s epic to see woman like you and Elna raising children as well as running your own freelance writing businesses. Hopefully your success will help inspire other mothers to work for what they want just as hard as you two have. Good luck with your writing! 🙂Reply to Damien
Damien, This post is spot on! I’m a freelance writer and a mom to twins and let me tell you, it’s freaking tough. My toddlers are getting older, which means less time to write. This is fine, but I’ve built up my business and want to maintain this level of success. I’m finding the isolation bothersome at times. But, I have an IRL blogger friend who just gets it and it’s nice to vent. But, I wouldn’t change this for the world! I’m doing what I totally love – writing, marketing and networking – and I get to stay home and watch my toddlers grow! I have the freedom to travel, but for now I’m staying put 🙂 Thanks for the great post.Reply to Elna
Damien du Preez That’s always how I’ve seen it. No matter how tough it may seem at times, it’s always worth it! Thanks again for having me. 🙂Reply to Damien
Damien du Preez Thanks for the opportunity to post on FreelancerFAQs, Elna. I had a blast! 🙂Reply to Damien