As the digital world that is the internet turns into a massive, all-encompassing part of our lives that will probably (one day soon) be accessible via implanted chips in our brains, you've probably heard the term "freelance writer" a lot more frequently. But what are these people, and the profession, all about? According to popular opinion...
THEY'RE ACTUALLY UNEMPLOYED
Um, no. Writing as a freelancer is a real thing - a real job that pays money. Nevertheless, people who don't understand the industry tend to think of the term "freelance writer" as a throwaway, an excuse not to look for a "real" job. Even a good friend of mine once said, "You don't really work, though, right? I mean you don't do anything during the day."
WHAT?! (You know who you are. I forgive you :P) During the day I work on 1-4 writing assignments and turn them in to my clients FOR MONEY. Why is this difficult to understand? How do you think I pay the rent and feed Homer the Freelance Cat?! Anyway.
(or) THEY HAVE A BLOG, AND IT'S KIND OF LIKE A DIARY
No, and no. Plenty of people have blog-diaries, but these are rarely on par with professional writing, and moreover, no one wants to read them. As it happens, lots of freelance writers do have blogs (you're reading one right now!) but this is just a small part of the business. Real money usually comes from companies that hire us to write sales letters, web pages, THEIR blogs, articles, brochures, journalistic pieces, etcetera.
Sigh. It's tough when you start out, but isn't every business? Given a little time, every good freelance writer can make enough money so that some actually stays in his or her pocket. The image of the "hungry writer" is traditionally fairly apt, but these days there's no reason to go around skipping meals. Thanks to the internet and online commerce, there's plenty of work to go around!
THEY DO THEIR JOBS WHILE SIPPING COCKTAILS
Not after the first couple of botched jobs, anyway ;) Seriously, this isn't a vacation. Writing requires a lot of attention to detail and valid research. If I waste time writing garbage or skipping my daily to-do list in favour of margaritas, beer or the beach, no one pays me. We writers have to work hard and often to make our monthly quotas.
THEY ARE NO MORE TALENTED THAN THE NEXT GUY
Thanks a lot! I live in Mexico, among a lot of other Canadian, American and British expats that need to earn money in creative ways in order to stay here. It's a given that when you meet a vacationer, he's going to ask you how you make a living. What do I say? "I'm a freelance writer!" What do others say, when the truth is that they've been here 6 months, run out all their cash and still not been able to figure out an income? "I'm a freelance writer too!" Oh, how I loathe this. People hear me talk about my job and seem to think "Oh, that sounds so easy! I'll just do that."
Where are they now? BACK HOME (or irritatingly omnipresent, living off of some relative's pension while becoming an increasingly less-functional alcoholic. Ugh.)
Don't take this profession or its professionals lightly! It's a real job and someone's got to do it.