Are you the job type or the freelance type?

April 15, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Freelancing 

job or freelance typeIf you want to make a career of copywriting, should you look for a full-time job or strike out on your own as a freelancer?

Good question.

With the economy the way it is, there’s a lot of curiosity about freelancing. So much so that I created a copywriter information center on my business site with quite a bit of information about this.

Over my career, I’ve done both the job thing and the freelance thing and have come to the conclusion that freelancing is what I like best.

I earn good money, set my own hours, and don’t have to deal with the stress of traffic, corporate politics, and an office full of idiots and suck-ups.

Oh, and no ties. I hate ties. I work in jeans and Hawaiian shirts (which I love but my wife thinks are ugly). Yes, I know I’m wearing a tie in my publicity photo, but I did it just that once. And with therapy, I’ve recovered fairly well.

But that’s just me. What’s best for you?

I know plenty of people who prefer having a full-time writing job. They like getting a regular paycheck, having a set schedule, and socializing with co-workers every day. Just because freelancing is best for some people doesn’t mean it’s best for everyone.

It’s important that you look at both options and be honest with yourself about which is best for you. If you’re not the freelance type, if you’re better suited for a full-time job, you won’t make it as a freelancer. And it’s better to find that out before you flip off your boss and storm out of the office, don’t you think?

So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a writing job and freelance writing.

Writing Job Pros:

You get to work in an exciting, fast-paced work environment. If you work at the right company, that is. Some writing jobs are just dreary, like being a marketing writer at Shoelaces-R-Us. But if you like writing for business, most jobs require lots of writing on tight schedules, which can be challenging and fun.

You get to socialize 5 days a week. I have to admit that freelancing can get a little lonely. So if you’re the social type, you’ll want all the personal contact you get from a corporate office environment.

You get a regular paycheck and paid benefits. This is a biggie. It’s about cash flow. Knowing how much money you’ll get and when you’ll get it makes life a lot easier. And benefits, such as paid health insurance, is a huge plus.

You have the possibility for advancement. A full-time writing job is a great starting point for advancing into management jobs where you can start earning real money. Ad agency copywriters can advance to Creative Director positions, for example.

Writing Job Cons:

You can get burned out. Writing isn’t physically hard, but it’s taxing on the brain. Creative work can wear you out if you do it on demanding schedules every day for years. Add the mental toll to a stressful work environment and you have a recipe for burnout.

You have to deal with big egos. Some people, like me, have a thick skin and can deal with Type-A personalities. But most writers are not compatible with hard-charging personalities and the competitive nature in some office settings.

You face layoff when work slows. When the economy gets bad, the company loses customers, and the budget tightens up, who are they going to fire? Often they’ll come after you. Advertising, marketing, PR, and other writing-related needs are easy expenses to cut.

You have to fit into the corporate culture. You have to speak the language, tow the line, go along to get along, and never rock the boat. Writers are usually pretty smart and free-thinking, so keeping that phony smile plastered to your face all day and pretending that the boss is right is like a second job.

Freelance Writing Pros:

You have control over your work and schedule. If you want to make good money, you can’t sleep until noon and play video games for 4 hours every day. But you don’t punch a clock either. You’re the boss. You set the schedule. And you can be as flexible as you like.

You can enjoy a stress-free work environment. Once you get over the fear of being on your own, there isn’t much stress at all. You sit at a desk. Dress in comfortable clothes. Think. Type. Email. Answer the phone now and then. It’s pretty laid back.

You can earn as much as you want. Not everyone wants to bust their hump to earn a bazillion dollars a year. Some writers are happy with just a little extra income. But if you work in the right specialty, you can earn a handsome, professional-level income.

You can enjoy more variety. This is a big benefit of freelancing. Since your work will come from a variety of clients, you can potentially do different types of writing on many different subjects from one week to the next.

Freelance Writing Cons:

You have to find your own work. No one will hand work to you. You have to generate leads and close deals to get the paying projects. It’s not all that bad once you learn how, but it’s not a job for wall flowers.

You are alone most of the time. You can do all the partying you want nights and weekends. But during business hours, you’ll probably be alone in your office. I’m fine with that. But it drives some people bonkers.

You must deal with irregular cash flow. There’s no paycheck and no set time when money comes in. You could get a big check one week, then go a month with nothing. You have to be disciplined with money and plan ahead.

You have to juggle projects and clients. If you’re busy, you’ll have a lot going on all at once. If you like to finish writing one thing before you start another thing, and you flip out when anyone rushes you or makes changes, freelancing isn’t for you.

The choice is yours: be a full-time writer with a regular job or take the plunge and freelance on your own for a living.

There’s no one right answer for everyone. But there is one right answer for you.

So what do you think? Are you the job type or the freelance type?

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Smart Comments

12 Comments on Are you the job type or the freelance type?

  1. Ivan Walsh on Apr 15th, 2010 10:08 am
  2. at the risk of being slightly difficult… you can also be both.

    I worked 9-5 for years and did fl work in the evenings until I could make the transition full-time.

    Great site you have here by the way!

  3. Dean Rieck on Apr 15th, 2010 10:15 am
  4. Ivan,
    You’re right. You can work and moonlight. Many people do just that.

  5. Joshua Black on Apr 15th, 2010 11:13 am
  6. Freelance Type!

    I think that the biggest hurdle for most people that really are begging to cut the cord with their day job is to do exactly that. They just need to cut the cord.

    Once you realize that you won’t die, it will FORCE you to start coming up with more clients that you would if you were just moonlighting and hoping to get there “some day.”

    It’s the SCARY way to go, but that’s the way the magic really happens. Just look at all of the people that have gotten laid off recently and went on to create the magic business that they were always too scared to do.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black’s last blog … My Gift to You- Join The Underdog Millionaire Movement =-.

  7. Dean Rieck on Apr 15th, 2010 11:41 am
  8. Joshua,
    I’ve always told people that freelancing is much more secure than having a job. You only have to lose one job to be broke. But you can lose several freelance clients and still be able to pay the bills.

    Freelancing “feels” less secure, but it’s not. It’s like investing, where the rule is to not put all your eggs in one basket.

  9. Julie on Apr 15th, 2010 1:02 pm
  10. I think freelancing takes a bit of a different mindset and is not for everyone. With freelancing the buck stops with YOU, and there is no one else to fall back on or blame if something goes wrong.

    I came from a corporate job (but not in writing) and I have fully embraced freelancing; but it took several years for me to change mindsets. At first it was just too easy to lounge around in pj’s and not really work. Now I’m up and at my desk early – although I still wear house slippers.

    ~Julie
    P.S. I just discovered your site. Thanks for all the great information.
    .-= Julie’s last blog … Doggie Etiquette =-.

  11. Dean Rieck on Apr 15th, 2010 1:15 pm
  12. Julie,
    Comfort is one of the big benefits of freelancing. Never apologize for comfy slippers. I sport my Hawaiian shirts proudly.

  13. Hugo Moolenaar on Apr 15th, 2010 6:19 pm
  14. Freelance Type, definitely!

    “It’s a feel the fear and do it anyway kindathing,” I heard Raul Midon say on Ted.com. I wrote down that specific line, thinking: that applies to freelancing too. For me that is.

    The ‘pay’ of freelancing is bigger. The adrenaline, the kick of landing a new assignment, these are rewards many times bigger than what I experienced working for a large company.

    When writing, you’re always working on getting in touch with people, with customers you talk to and whith readers ofcourse. The freedom of doing that on my own, or with a changing group of people I choose to work with, that’s priceless.
    .-= Hugo Moolenaar’s last blog … Samen maken we meer lezers blij =-.

  15. Lucy Smith on Apr 15th, 2010 10:40 pm
  16. I never imagined myself being self-employed, but circumstances led to me giving it a go, and honestly, I can’t imagine myself working in an office job again. I love being able to get up when I’m awake, and working when and how I want.

    I love that, thanks to accounting and company structure, I pay a lot less tax than employees, and the sense of achievement I’m going to feel when I build my business to a point that I’m earning a really healthy income for far fewer hours a week than otherwise.

    Sometimes I do miss having co-workers, but then I remember the annoying ones and the feeling passes ;-)
    .-= Lucy Smith’s last blog … Some light relief for a short week =-.

  17. nelley on Apr 16th, 2010 11:42 am
  18. Both for sure….. I’d hope. Actually, right now I work a mundane non copywriting 50k/yr job with amazing benefits (26+ or 5 weeks vacation days/year, full medical and dental, rrsps, pension plan and stock option matching, etc). However, I also do freelance writing on the side. I like the assurance of a bi-weekly paycheque and it’s sooo appealing right now but eventually (and I mean within the next year) I want to get an official copywriting position as well as continue to do my own writing on the side. Hopefully get paid lots for both too, lol. Long term, definitely freelance. Oh the freedom!! Oh the autonomy!! I drool just thinking about it. ;)
    .-= nelley’s last blog … New Theme: Inuit Types =-.

  19. Bian on Apr 21st, 2010 9:04 am
  20. hi, a friend of mine saw this piece and sent to me because it was just what I needed. I’ve just branched out from corporate life into freelance world and I’m experiencing all the ups and downs… I’m still not sure which side suits me better because I hated all the downs you mention of corporate life but am also struggling with the idea of selling myself (as you have to do). Can you have the best of both worlds? That is, work part time and do freelance on the side?

    Bian Salins
    Freelance writer
    http://www.thewritersblog.co.uk
    http://www.twitter.com/b1an

  21. Dean Rieck on Apr 21st, 2010 9:40 am
  22. Bian,
    Why not? You can moonlight for the freelance work or work part time and freelance the rest of the time. In fact, you might want to try getting some freelance clients while you’re still working to see if you like it before making any decisions.

    [...] you really the freelance type? Earlier this year I wrote about the pros and cons of freelancing. As I said then, I can’t tell you if you’re best suited for a job or for freelancing. [...]