Freelance Writer: Know Thyself

Month Four on the murky seas of Words for Money.

I have drifted for days. The skies are gray, but hold no rain, barrels running low. If I have to eat another moldy cracker I may assassinate a seagull.

Yes, the money is getting better. Yes, the jobs are rolling in. But by all that is black and white, I must have a challenge.

I’m learning that, as a freelancer, it isn’t enough to set your standards high and work hard. You have to know yourself:  your strengths, your peeves, your failings. That way you can choose the projects and clients that keep you working happy, and working well.

These are a few things I’ve learned in my short career:

My interest has a limit. And when my interest is spent, writing becomes work, in the most menial sense of the word. You do not want my writing to sound like work, so I will hack and claw and thump at it until it sounds the way it should. But that level of quality comes at a severe cost to my time and sanity. On the other hand…

Challenging projects are interesting projects. When a job requires a ridiculous level of creativity and spunk and precision, I am THERE. You cannot stop me from breaking my head happily against that project until you and I are both thrilled with the results. Once it becomes formulaic and predictable, I am faithfully filling the blanks until the project ends, and then I’m gone.

My favorite part of freelancing is the ever-evolving project list. It takes all kinds to keep me going. I need the steady, big industry neutrals to prepare me for the super nimble startups and their wide array of colors and goals and choices. I need the freedom to flirt with irreverent ad copy when I’m a little too done with those by-the-book web articles. And I need room to course correct, to realize maybe this type of piece is not the best for me, but that one makes me completely school girl giddy.

As a freelance writer, I can move on to the next step with a little more wisdom about what I can handle, and a little more confidence in saying, “Yes, I can write that for you. I would love it.”


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