First things first, writing freelance is not for the faint-hearted; it can be stressful, you don’t always know where your next pay cheque is coming from, you can spend as much time looking for work as you spend doing it, and relatively little of the work you do is going to be written from the heart.
So why do it? Well, everyone need a job and it’s a question of what that job is. If you have a day job you love then fair enough; do that and write that novel in your spare time. But if, like me, there is nothing you’d rather do than write, why not make that your day job? Given the choice I’d rather be working on a script or a book but until someone is willing to pay me for that I can still take pride and pleasure in writing whatever I can be paid for. Just because I write for money doesn’t mean I can’t spend my free time writing for love.
Firstly the practical side; you can work from home and set your own hours, your office can be 6 feet from your bed and if you’re having a bad day you can knock off and go to the cinema. It takes time to establish your perfect working routine but if you can get past the temptation to procrastinate it’s the most satisfying way to work.
There is a great tradition of writing for money to fund the writing you love; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes stories to pay the bills while he worked on historical novels, countless classic Hollywood screenwriters wrote movie scripts between serious novels and plays. I can’t pretend that the greetings cards, text-jokes and magazine stories I write are in that league, but what I share in common with those examples is that I try to do the best job I can in whatever I write.
I like writing to order, taking someone else’s idea and putting my spin on it; I like writing to a deadline; I like writing something outside of my comfort zone. Writing freelance makes you a better writer because it forces you to work on subjects and in conditions that you would not normally choose. I also like the knowledge that the people buying my work do not know me, they are basing their decision on the quality of my work; there is no better feeling for a writer.
Finally, I like not knowing where the next pay cheque is coming from. I like the knowledge that me making rent next month depends on the quality of my work this month. There is no shortage of freelance writers, if I don’t do my best work someone else will step in. I think being a freelance writer sharpens my skills as a writer in general, because I can’t afford to be anything but my best.