One of my tried-and-trusted sources for info on freelance writing is Allena Tapia’s About.com page about freelancing. In a new item, Allena answers the question “Is freelance writing a good career choice for a mother who wants to work at home with her children?” and she does an admirable job at laying out the pros and cons. And I can say, as someone who’s been freelancing regularly for several years, there are definitely pros and cons, and anyone who’s considering a career as a freelance writer should probably carefully consider them before taking the plunge, especially if the plunge entails quitting a full-time job.
My initial reaction to the question, however, was, “Well, are you actually a writer? Or are you just looking for something you think you can do at home, and writing seems easy enough?” Because here’s the deal: writing is not like selling Pampered Chef products or scrapbooking supplies. It’s a skill, one that needs to be honed with plenty of practice. The average person can’t just pick it up, just like that, after a couple of orientation sessions and some tips from the experts. Many of us who are freelancers are actual trained writers, with extensive backgrounds in professional writing. We have degrees, experience, clip files, writing seminars, professional memberships. We take this seriously. We’re not just doing it because we don’t want Johnny and Susie to go to daycare all day. Personally, I am freelancing for a couple of major reasons, including 1) I’m a professional journalist with years of experience to draw from, and it’s logical for me to continue my career in writing and 2) I have one young child and another one on the way, and it’s wonderful to have the chance, the opportunity, to not have to work away from them in an office full-time during this time in his/their lives. I can schedule interviews and writing sessions during preschool and around visits to the pediatrician. I contribute to our family income, and I am keeping my writing and reporting skills, not to mention my clip file and resume, current.
Now, I’m not saying that you can’t start out with zero experience and work your way up. You certainly can, and lots of people do. But if you are not truly dedicated to not just becoming a writer but to writing and to working on improving your writing, then this is not the career move for you. If you’re just settling on “freelance writing” because it doesn’t require you to have any special degrees or training or background, well, try again. Find something that does match your skill set, or your background. Or if you are bound and determined to become a freelance writer, then, by God, work at it. Take it seriously. Because I do. And lots of my colleagues do, too.
Okay. I’ll hop off my soapbox now. After all, I have a new assignment to tackle…