Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is Freelancing for You?

To me this title is asking a basic question I’d imagine anyone would consider before just up and deciding that freelancing will become their primary source of income. From time to time I receive emails and inquiries from people in my “real life” asking me for more detailed advice about how to get started. I find that in most cases the inquirer is serious and ready to get in there – they just need to know what to expect or how to handle a specific situation. I’m more than happy to help. But sometimes people looking for an easy money solution approach me wanting to know how to become a freelance writer.

Two weeks ago I met a young lady who, after finding out what I do for a living, expressed an interest and asked if I could help her get started. I agreed and asked her to call me. When we finally spoke, she asked if I could meet with her in person a few times during the week to help her make this writing for a living thing happen.

Like most freelancers my time is very limited. I’m constantly balancing client projects, personal projects, my four kids and husband. I suggested instead that we set aside specified times during the week in the evening hours to talk instead. She agreed. The first night I called she was busy. The second night I called she was busy. After that I left it to her to make contact.

A week went by and suddenly during the weekend I get a frantic phone call from the inquirer. She needs help responding to a job board post that asks applicants to submit a resume. She doesn’t have a resume. What should she do?

You should know that I get really impatient with people who seemingly put forth no effort to handle simple tasks. I tell her to create a very simple resume highlighting her experience and send her to a couple of resume sample links via email (I mean there are tons of these available).

She starts questioning whether or not the resume is really all that important. I explain that a writer’s ability to follow a job poster’s application instructions is a tell-tell sign as to whether or not the writer will follow instructions when given an assignment. She continues to make excuses and finally decides to send the poster a note explaining why she doesn’t have a resume. By now, as you can imagine, I’m done advising.

I like helping people reach their freelancing goals. I feel committed because others helped me when I was just getting started. The difference is that serious freelancers will spend time searching for answers on their own. They’ll ask pertinent questions, take action instead of debating every issue and take sincere advice to heart. If they ask another writer for help, they respect their time by putting forth a sincere effort.

Being a freelance writer isn’t some simple financial solution for when you’re between jobs. You’ve got to be prepared and put in work. Lot’s of it in the beginning. Sometimes you make more than enough to pay the bills, and then there are times when you’re just scraping by. You figure out how to take vacations, holidays and save for retirement. You handle your own health insurance. Some people prefer not to deal with all this, and that’s okay. Freelancing isn't for everyone.


Devon Ellington said...

No, it's not and too many newbies try to suck the rest of us dry.

When someone asks me to "help get started", I tell her I provide coaching services for X amount per hour, and I'm happy to book a session.

My time and hard-won experience are worth money.

I don't mind answering a few initial questions or giving a talk or answering questions on a job board -- although, lately, I've found newbies can't be bothered to search the archives, and, when the CL says, "you should ask Devon, she does it for a living" and I say, "I've answered this a half a dozen times in detail; look in the archives", the newbie gets hostile.

There's so much information out there, and so few have the initiative to even do a search on Google. Freelancing is not for them, and I'm not wasting time -- which equals billable hours -- on the lazy.

There are plenty of those who show initiative and do homework before they start asking questions -- those are the ones worth the time.

The rest think it's "easy money" or like the idea of freelancing much more than the actual work.

Kimberly Ben said...

Devon, when you mentioned the forums you reminded me of a writing forum I used to frequent. Someone posted a question and never bothered to notice the same question was posted right underneath the thread she had started. It had three pages of replies. She got made too when others directed her to read the comments in the older thread. Lol

There is a lot of free information on the web. Some people approach freelance as you said thinking it's easy money; and others are looking for a specific blueprint for success. Won't they be surprised.

Lori said...

Kim, you have more patience than I do! I like to tell folks what they need to read or research in order to get going. Beyond that, it's going to be a fee. Like Devon, I'm happy to help, but I won't have my time wasted because someone's too lazy to do even the most basic research. That may sound harsh, but I've been sucked dry by too many leeches. I point them to various links, then I disengage.

Kimberly Ben said...

Lori, I agree with you and Devon. Funny thing is my husband kept telling me I was wasting my time helping this person. It's not mean. If you are trying to build a viable business as a freelancer, you have to know how to get the information you need. No one will spoon feed it to you.

That's not to say I would never offer simple, helpful advice or point someone in the right direction because others have kindly done the same for me. But I won't do the work for them. I have enough on my own plate.

Patricia said...

I have been a reader for a couple of months now. I just started freelancing a little under six months ago. I still feel like I am learning the whole freelancing business(I am one of those newbies), but when I started I spent over a month really researching what I should do. I can't believe how timely this post is. In the past week I have had dozens of family members/friends (even my brothers EX-mother in law) want to know what they need to do to freelance. Ordinarily I would be happy to help, but when these people (a lot of them are stay at home moms) just want an "easy" way to make money it is insulting. Thanks for helping to justify my feelings of frustration. It feels good to know that I am not the only one who is approached by people about this.

Kimberly Ben said...

Hi Patricia, and that's for reading my blog. I hope that you find it helpful.:)

You sound a lot me me when I got started. As soon as I realized I could make real money as a freelance writer, I was hooked on learning everything I could about building my business! It's funny how as soon as people see you making progress they want in. The thing is you really have to want it because there's a lot involved.

I think I'll take Lori's advice and just refer those looking for easy money to resource links instead.

Kimberly Ben said...

Sorry Patricia - I meant to say "Thanks" for reading my blog. :)

Patricia said...

Thanks. I'll keep reading, I really appreciate what you do. It has been helpful to have freelance writers who share a lot of their knowledge on blogs like this.

I also have to agree that you have to want to work as a freelance writer. There have been several times in the past six months where I have wondered if I should just give up. This is not a job for the faint of heart, but it is very rewarding if you love it.

Kimberly Ben said...

Patricia, I've felt like giving up before too; but don't do it! If you really want it just stick with it and push forward. Keep learning and actively market yourself. Taking action is really important because it's so easy to get stuck in learning or planning mode. Wishing you MUCH success.:~)

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