In this post, I’ll be discussing the main pros and cons of freelance writing. Whether you’re considering a radical career change, or simply interested in earning a bit of extra money online on the side, this one is for you.
I’ve been doing freelance writing for a couple of years now. While I love the benefits of being a freelance writer (and there are many – which is why I do it), there are a few downsides as I’ll explain below.
Table of Contents
- Pros of Being a Freelance Writer
- 1. Flexibility
- 2. Autonomy
- 3. Diverse Projects
- 4. Skill Development
- 5. Work From Anywhere
- 6. Networking Opportunities
- 7. Work-Life Balance
- 8. Creative Freedom
- Cons of Being a Freelance Writer
- 1. Unpredictable Income
- 2. Requires Self-Discipline
- 3. Potentially Isolating
- 4. Lack of Job Security
- 5. No Employee Benefits
- 6. Having Too Few (or Too Many) Clients
- 7. More Admin
- Pros and Cons of Freelance Writing: FAQ’s
If this is a career you’re considering, make sure to check out my post on the best freelance writing courses online, and my review of the Knowadays course (which is currently offering a 25% discount using this link and promo code GOATS25).
For me, the biggest advantages of freelance writing include the flexibility to choose when and where you work, as well as the ability to decide exactly what kind of work you want to do. However, on the flip side, there is no job security and no guaranteed paycheck each month.
You must bear these things in mind when deciding whether or not this is a career (or side hustle) that will work for you. Overall, I think the disadvantages of being a freelance writer are vastly outweighed by the numerous benefits. But, you need to consider what’s right for you.
Pros of Being a Freelance Writer
Here are some of the key advantages of being a freelance writer. This list reflects my own personal experience, as well as the experiences of other people that I know who work as freelance writers. There’s quite a lot of overlap between each point, but I’ve broken them down for the sake of clarity.
Remember that every job is different, and every freelance writer is unique. So, the specific pros and cons of being a freelance writer will vary according to each person and their individual circumstances. However, the following are some general advantages that are likely to apply to most people.
One of my favorite things about freelance writing is the huge amount of flexibility it offers. As a freelancer, you have total control over your schedule, including when, where, and how much you work. This flexibility can be especially helpful for people who have kids or other commitments.
It’s hard to overstate quite how much of a game changer this flexibility is, particularly when compared with a “traditional” job – i.e. full-time, in-person employment. You can set your own hours and take as many breaks, or as much time off, as you want. It’s awesome!
For example, if you’re feeling burnt out, want to attend a friend’s wedding in Italy, fancy a spontaneous road trip, or simply need a change of scenery, you can take a day (or a week, or a month) off without having to ask for permission from your employer or boss.
Of course, you still need to manage the expectations of your clients. However, the dynamic is totally different from being an employee. You just need to let them know what you’re doing – you don’t need to ask permission. It’s an important distinction!
Another major perk of being a freelance writer is the autonomy it provides. This goes hand in hand with flexibility (see above). As a freelancer, you are your own boss. So, you set the rules – including how you want to define “success” in your career.
You have total freedom over which clients you want to work with, which projects to accept, and how you want to tackle them. The amount of time you want to spend researching and writing is entirely up to you, as is how much money you decide to charge for your work.
You also have control over your career progression. No more rigid employment hierarchy with someone else dictating when or whether you get a promotion! Personally, I find this level of independence really liberating and rewarding.
I’m so much more motivated knowing that I have total agency over what I do and where my career takes me. It also allows for a lot of personal growth and development, as I’ll expand on below.
3. Diverse Projects
One of the most exciting aspects of being a freelance writer is the fact that you can work on whatever projects you want. Some freelance writers choose to specialize and niche down more than others. But, essentially, the choice is yours.
If you want to take on a diverse range of projects and explore several different niches or industries, you can do that. Again, you get to set the rules (hence the autonomy, above)!
So, say you’ve always fancied dabbling in creative fiction writing. But, you’re also partial to doing a bit of travel writing and love writing persuasive marketing copy. As a freelance writer, you can choose to do all of these things in the same week, provided you manage your time well.
You can expand your skill set and explore new topics as much as you want. This not only helps to keep things interesting and challenging, but it also gives you the opportunity for continuous learning and growth.
4. Skill Development
Following on from the previous point, choosing to work on a diverse range of projects is, in my experience, a sure-fire way of developing new freelance writing skills and broadening the range of your expertise.
For example, as a freelance writer, you might choose to write a blog post for a website one day, craft social media posts for a brand the next, draft marketing emails the next, and then help write an e-book or white paper the next… And so forth – you get the picture.
Also, you can choose to have a range of clients across a broad spectrum of sectors (e.g. travel, marketing, financial, business, etc.) which helps to ensure you’re constantly learning. Having a diverse range of projects helps make you a more versatile writer with a broader set of skills.
Additionally, freelancers typically have to manage their own admin and business operations. For some people, this is a disadvantage of being a freelance writer. However, you could see it as an opportunity to develop transferable skills such as time management, organization, and financial admin. See Also: best apps for freelance writers
5. Work From Anywhere
Another massive perk of being a freelance writer is the ability to work from anywhere. I’ve gotten paid to do freelance writing from some amazing places all over the world, including when I was living as a digital nomad in Mexico, Costa Rica, Albania, Italy, Sri Lanka, and even a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands.
In general, your clients don’t care where you are, as long as you get the work done to a sufficiently high standard. Again, this is different from most employment relationships. (I hated being employed, in case you hadn’t figured.)
As long as you have a stable internet connection abroad and a power outlet, you can work from virtually anywhere in the world. This is huge for anyone who loves traveling and being able to do it for more than a few weeks per year of annual leave.
It’s also one of the reasons why freelance writing is such a popular job with digital nomads and other remote workers. In fact, this is the main reason I chose to do it.
6. Networking Opportunities
Being a freelance writer can open up opportunities for networking with people across a wide range of sectors. If you choose to work with a diverse spread of clients, you’ll have the chance to build a wide-reaching web of professional relationships.
This is obviously a great way to expand your professional network. Connecting with fellow writers, editors, clients, and other professionals in various niches can lead to a wealth of new job opportunities and yet more valuable connections in the future.
Plus, having a strong network can also help provide you with support and resources that might be useful in the future. It’s also a great way to build your brand and get your name out there.
7. Work-Life Balance
In my opinion, it’s much easier to maintain a healthy work-life balance as a freelancer than as an employee. I say “in my opinion” because it’s a bit of a contentious debate, and I’ve had discussions with other freelancers who disagree with me on this.
I’ve heard people say that working for yourself can give you a worse work-life balance. According to these people, because freelancing is inherently less stable than employment, there’s a tendency for freelancers to overwork to compensate for it. This is true to an extent.
However, in my own experience, it doesn’t have to be the case. While being self-employed does, of course, come with its own pressures, and requires considerable discipline and hard work, autonomy is key.
The huge amount of flexibility you gain means that you can choose how you want to structure your work life. As long as you’re able to manage your time effectively, including consciously allowing yourself enough downtime, you have the power to engineer an amazing work-life balance.
8. Creative Freedom
Creative freedom is a major advantage of being a freelance writer. As a freelancer, you have the opportunity to work on projects that truly interest and inspire you. And, conversely, nobody is forcing you to do any projects that you don’t want to do.
Furthermore, the increased options and control over your career trajectory (discussed above) means that you can choose to focus on areas that give you more creative expression if this is important to you.
If you choose the right projects (and clients), you can get a lot of personal fulfillment from your work. It also allows you to choose to write for publications or clients that align with your personal values and beliefs.
Cons of Being a Freelance Writer
While I really enjoy freelance writing for all of the reasons discussed above, it’s not perfect. (No job is, right?) There are a few downsides to being a freelance writer, which I’ve set out below.
I’m not trying to put anyone off here from becoming a freelance writer. I just want you to go into it with your eyes open, having made an informed decision. That said, not all of these issues will affect every freelance writer, but I’d still recommend considering the following.
1. Unpredictable Income
For me, one of the greatest disadvantages of being a freelance writer is the lack of financial stability. As an employee, you typically get paid every month, on the same day, often the same amount. This makes it easier to plan financially as you have a predictable income.
As a freelance writer, it’s the opposite. Your income can vary drastically from month to month, and not all clients pay on time. Some months you might earn more, some months you might earn less. If you don’t get any work, you don’t get paid at all.
This lack of financial predictability can be tricky to manage. It’s important to have a buffer of cash in your account if possible so that you’re not left in a precarious financial situation if you have a quiet month or, for any other reason, your income drops off.
2. Requires Self-Discipline
Freelance writing requires a considerable amount of self-discipline. Because you work for yourself, you need to be your own boss. This means setting deadlines and goals for yourself, being organized with your time, and ensuring you keep yourself on track.
It’s important to be able to balance the workload of multiple projects, while at the same time keeping up with your other tasks and general life admin. Speaking frankly, this was a bit of a challenge for me when I first started working for myself.
Sometimes I also find that working alone for long periods can make it harder to stay motivated, given the lack of colleagues and coworkers to give support or advice.
Ultimately, you need to be able to motivate yourself to work hard and write creatively, even on days when you don’t feel like it. It’s also important to be able to balance work with relaxation to help avoid burnout.
3. Potentially Isolating
Being a freelance writer can be isolating at times, especially if you work remotely by yourself.
Before becoming a freelance writer, I used to work in an office in London. While I really didn’t enjoy the office politics and performative culture, there was at least always somebody to go for a coffee with, or to stop by and have a chat.
Now I work for myself, I find myself needing to make more of a conscious effort to socialize with other people. It’s not too much of a problem for me, but it is something to think about.
Whether or not this is an issue for you depends, partly, on your personality – including how introverted or extroverted you are, and how much you like to socialize in general. Working from coworking spaces can also be a good way to get a dose of social interaction and combat feelings of isolation.
4. Lack of Job Security
This one ties in with the point about unpredictable income. In most cases, being a freelance writer doesn’t offer the same job security that a traditional 9-5 job does.
Most countries around the world have legal protections in place that offer employees a degree of job security. These vary from country to country (they’re particularly strong in Europe compared with the US). However, the key point here is that these protections mostly apply to employees only.
As a freelancer, employment law protections generally don’t apply to you. If one of your regular clients suddenly stops needing your services or their business goes under, that’s too bad for you – you’ll need to replace that income from somewhere else.
This lack of stability can be tough, especially if you have financial commitments such as rent, a mortgage, bills, or childcare costs to pay. It’s also why I’d always recommend having several different clients to diversify your income streams and protect yourself from sudden changes.
5. No Employee Benefits
Employees typically receive benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, and retirement contributions from their employer. Unfortunately, these perks are not typically available to freelance writers. That’s the price you pay for all that freedom!
This means that you’ll need to cover these expenses yourself, which can be costly. Health insurance, in particular, can be a huge expense for freelancers, especially in countries where healthcare isn’t free. You must budget for these additional costs.
And, while this is not financial advice, it’s extremely important to have financial provisions for your retirement. Otherwise, old age is going to suck – seriously.
6. Having Too Few (or Too Many) Clients
Another major con of being a freelance writer is needing to strike a balance between the number of clients you have at one time. As discussed above, as a freelancer, you’re generally not guaranteed a steady stream of work, and it’s common for your income to fluctuate considerably.
Some people choose to try and combat this by doing lots of work for one or two clients. However, what happens if one of these clients suddenly stops giving you work or goes out of business? Bad things, as far as your finances are concerned.
So, as we agreed above, it’s important to diversify your income streams. However, working for lots of different clients comes with its own challenges, including managing competing deadlines, expectations, and generally higher levels of admin and hassle.
It’s a tricky one and requires you to strike a good balance, which isn’t always easy. In fact, this is something that I often find most challenging about working as a freelance writer.
7. More Admin
As a self-employed freelance writer, you typically have to handle more admin than an employee. This includes tasks such as client outreach, invoicing, setting up and paying into a pension, keeping track of your expenses, and managing your own taxes.
Freelancers are usually paid gross without any tax deduction, so you need to ensure that you keep sufficient records to enable you to file your tax return each year. You also need to ensure that you have enough money to pay your tax bill whenever it falls due – don’t make that mistake!
These admin tasks require you to be fairly organized. They can also be time-consuming and, for many people, a bit overwhelming. But you must keep on top of them to keep your business running smoothly and prevent further headaches down the line.
Pros and Cons of Freelance Writing: FAQ’s
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the ups and downs of being a freelance writer.
For me, freelance writing is definitely worth it. The flexibility and freedom it’s given me have been totally life-changing.
There are various pros and cons of freelance writing, as you’ve seen from this post. Overall, freelance writing can be an excellent career as long as you don’t mind the downsides too much and are prepared to put in the work needed.
There are many benefits of working as a freelance writer. These include the flexibility to work whenever you want, the ability to work from home or anywhere else in the world, and the freedom to pursue topics that interest you.
The main downsides of being a freelance writer include the lack of a stable income, benefits, and job security. It can also sometimes be difficult to find good clients that pay well and on time.
It’s not particularly hard to become a freelance writer. But being a highly-regarded, sought-after freelance writer who can command high rates of pay can be a tricky path to navigate. It’s totally doable though and well worth the effort.
If you’re interested in being a freelance writer, it’s important to think seriously about whether it’s a career that’s suitable for you. There are various pros and cons of being a freelance writer, which vary from person to person and job to job. You have to weigh up whether the pros outweigh the cons.
For me, the benefits of freelance writing greatly outnumber the disadvantages. But, of course, everybody’s different. Either way, I hope this post helped make your decision a little bit easier.