Speak Up and Out

This blog is all about words that work and our thoughts on freelance writing, grant writing, and fundraising work.

Are Freelance Writers Inherently Loners?

Thoughts on the nature and impact of each and every freelancer.

Thoughts on the nature and impact of each and every freelancer.

Join In The Merry Band Of Freelance Writers!

My freelance writing business began in full force on the luckiest day of the year: March 17, 2017. I had a year’s worth of savings, a client that assured me enough work to cover the equivalent of a quarter of my take-home pay, and spousal healthcare coverage.

I joined the merry band of freelance writers—to the sound of nothing.

One week, I was a director of development for a nonprofit, paid to meet with people every single day. The next week, I was a full-time freelance writer.

That first Monday as a freelancer, still giddy with all that flexibility, I opened an email from my one and only client. It read: “Sorry! Our budget was slashed and we have to let you go! We loved working with you, though!”

You can imagine the freakout that followed.

After chastising myself for not securing a second—and third—client before leaving my cushy (by comparison) salary, I reminded myself why I went into business for myself in the first place: to do the most good that I could while holding down the home front. The year before I had become a stepmom of three very busy kiddos.

Looking back, I never stopped to ask: How much good can one writer do?  

A Collective of Loners

Now that I am a part of the gig economy I am responsible to my business purpose as written: do the most good for the most people. How can one person do that much from a home office?

Most days I write alone. I may have a phone meeting. I may be on Slack with a client throughout the day, but I am physically alone. There are moments when I miss the buzz of an office environment. There are days when I feel so far away from the reader and wish I could call someone up and say, “Can I read this to you?” I used to love working on a team that celebrated success. When I worked in an office, I was still doing my work but my performance reflected on my boss. Now, I’m the boss. There is no one else to say, “Good work!” but me.

Freelance writers must inherently be loners to give up the esprit de corps of office life and work alone in their home office or at their kitchen table day after day. After all human beings are social by nature. We derive meaning, purpose and joy from living, working and playing together.

Just the other day, another freelancer told me I was a “social writer,” meaning I preferred the communion of other writers while working. If I am writing next to another freelancer, on purpose, we are not making something together but we are making side-by-side.

More and more people these days are choosing the gig economy over salaried work. And collectively freelancers are making things better.

One For All, All For One

At the advice of a friend who has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs create business plans, I also tried to create a business plan for my freelance writing LLC. One critical question all new businesses have to answer is: why?

After nearly two years as a freelance writer, I wonder: is there a collective advantage to solo work?

As a freelancer I make things all day long for clients. We create white papers or blog posts about kitchen-table issues at our kitchen table. We work when and where we are at our best.

An important differential between contract and salaried worker is this: freelancers are able to develop broader networks with deeper expertise than our salaried counterparts. Freelancers work alone but when needed, are able to tap their network to advise, consult and solve problems effectively. All served by one.

Writing Individually, Working Collectively

Freelance writers are creatives. We make something whole from disparate parts. We provide our clients with the end product they desire. And tens of thousands of writers do all of this making alone. The following are a few thoughts on why freelancers need to work collectively in order to succeed—not only as individual businesses, but as the freelance industry.

Every freelance writer’s greatest limitation is time. A writer with back-up help is working smarter. A writing collective or a less formal meetup between colleagues provides a strapped-for-time writer (and their clients) with trusted referrals and broader expertise. To succeed as solo writers-for-hire, we need to mix and mingle with other writers and non-writers alike, in order to create our own collective competitive advantage. One for all!

A freelancer’s network is an asset to their clients. We cannot and should not do it all. Clients deserve the best service and when freelancers can refer out, they are providing added value to clients.

Freelancers united will always have work. Commissions for referrals are a great way to support other freelancers and to ensure future referrals. I have paid a commission to another freelancer who referred me to a successful job. I encourage other freelancers to do the same.

I still feel lucky to be involved in work that is deeply satisfying and contributes value and helps to make the world a better place.

If making the world a better place appeals to you, let’s talk!