The realities of being a freelance, homeworking copywriter

Being a freelance copywriter definitely has its perks. I get to write stuff. I’m my own boss. And I don’t have to go to work. Well, not in the commutable sense anyway. But writing from home is not all typing along happily in your pyjamas drinking endless cups of tea (although there is a bit of the former and a lot of the latter). It brings challenges like any job.

Working isn’t 9-5 any more

Admittedly, starting and finishing work whenever I want is pretty sweet. No one is tapping their watch if I’m not ready to go at 9 am, and no one minds when I go to pick the kids up from school at 3.30 pm – expect me when I’m on a writing roll and don’t want to stop.

But this kind of flexibility can have its downsides. With no set time to start and finish, knowing when to put your pen (typing fingers) away can be a problem. Entire evenings can be swallowed up ‘just doing a little bit more’ on this or that article or webpage. In addition, several of my clients are based overseas, which means early or late night calls or emails are common.

Your laptop is your (only) friend

When you write from home, it can get lonely. Save from the occasional work-related phone or Skype call, or a quick catch up with a friend or neighbour, it’s just me and my laptop. Luckily many of us wordy types like our own company (our thoughts tend to keep us occupied), so this is not a problem most of the time.

But sometimes, just sometimes, having someone to turn around to and have a gossip with or bounce ideas against would be nice. This is where fellow freelance writing friends are worth their weight in gold. The upside to a lack of colleagues, of course, is that I don’t have to endure office politics, pointless meetings, or polite chit chat in the kitchen.

How’s the hobby going?

Yes, what I do is an actual job. Why do I say this? Because for some reason, when you work from home, and you write stuff for a living, people assume it’s more of a fun pastime than fulltime employment. This is exacerbated further in today’s digital world, where it seems anyone can be a blogger or social media commentator.

Okay, yes, I enjoy what I do, and yes, it gives me a chance to be creative, but freelance copywriting isn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, it can take many hours (and sometimes a lot of stress) to research, write and edit even 500 words. Plus, there’s all the other stuff that goes with it: marketing, pitches, networking, relationship management. And the admin and invoices won’t do themselves.

The feedback fear

Remember that feeling when you handed in an essay at school, and you waited (in trepidation) for it to be returned? Will they think it’s any good? What mark will I get? Should I have written this instead of that? Well, this is the pain us copywriters endure daily.

Submitting something which you have poured your creativity and energy in to, which is the case whether you have written a lighthearted blog or a business-like webpage or presentation, and then waiting to hear what the client (or the audience) thinks can be stressful.

Even when you have years of experience behind you, you’re confident you’ve hit the brief, and you know it’s error-free, writer’s fear can kick in – and there’s no one to distract you from your worrying. Of course, as a hardened copywriter, I don’t take changes negativity, or not as many ‘likes’ personally (most of the time), it’s just part of the process.

No work; no pay

Unlike your average office job, where you’re sure of the amount of money you’ll take home each month, freelance writing offers no guarantees. One week you might have briefs spilling out of your inbox and pretty decent earnings; the next, you might just have a few small jobs to do, and you’re worrying about your bank balance.

Regular clients are fantastic as they keep you ticking along with new projects – providing you with at least some kind of financial certainty. But if you want to go on holiday or you get sick, you can forget pay. The reality is simple: no writing; no earning – there’s no compensation here for not being at work.

Being a freelance, homeworking copywriter and editor certainly has its challenges. But luckily I love what I do – except maybe when writer’s block strikes or a client expects champagne copy on beer money. The best bits? The variety of my work, happy clients, and seeing my work get published.

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