I’m heading into my 5th year of full-time freelance writing. I was crafting content part-time for four years prior to launching my business, Nenn Pen, Ink, full time. That puts me at nearly a decade of professional wordsmithing.
The honeymoon is over.
But that’s not all bad. I’ve been married to my best friend, Chris, for more than 20 years now. Our honeymoon has been over for two decades, but our marriage is richer than it’s ever been. All those years have helped us learn a lot about each other, and we’ve grown and changed together. There have been rough patches, but God has seen us through, and we’ve come out stronger on the other side.
I think the same goes for writing. At the beginning, it might be all excitement and romance. After the honeymoon is over, you have to be committed to persevere and continue on this journey.
It’s not always fun. There might be days when the last thing you feel like doing is typing one more sentence. Other days, your hands will be excited to fly over the keyboard as creative ideas surge through your brain, searching for a path of escape.
And then there are all the hum-drum days in between. It’s the life of a writer—which is what you wanted, right?
Well, maybe not exactly. The writer’s road might have some challenges you weren’t expecting. Here are four that I’ve had to face—and some advice on how to tackle them.
One of the things I love about freelance writing is the variety it provides. One day I might be writing about fundraising events and the next, fish tanks. Despite this diversity in projects, I’ve discovered I can still get bored. Even writing about things that are interesting can start to feel like a grind. This can be especially true during long Chicago winters, when you’re cooped up in your home with a laptop for months on end, waiting for the temperature to rise above freezing once again.
Or maybe that’s just me.At any rate, you might find yourself at a point where your freelance work is feeling more like work than freedom. It is, after all, a job. And that can get old.
To keep things fresh, consider ways you can change up your days (beyond variation in writing topics). Find new physical places to write. Maybe you want to spend one day a week at a local coffee shop. Maybe your town has a great library where you can sit among words as you write them. The writer’s world can be lonely and isolating, so getting out and about may also provide some much-needed personal interactions that don’t involve a screen.
You can also vary your schedule. If you’ve been keeping the same hours for a while, consider changing them. You could spend an hour every afternoon reading a book, exercising, playing a game, or praying. Then, work an hour at night instead. You can still get the same amount of work done, but this breaks up your day and makes your day more flexible and fun.
For more simple change-ups, check out this article I posted during a particularly grinding winter several years ago.
If you ask people about their favorite hobby, I think it’s a pretty sure bet that no one will say “I really enjoy looking for a job. All the searching, applying, interviewing, and rate negotiations are immensely enjoyable. They’re my favorite.”
I personally love scavenger hunts. Some people love duck hunts. The job hunt…is another story.
And as a freelance writer, you’re constantly on this hunt. At least, it’s likely that you will be. You may get some long-term clients, but even those projects may ebb and flow based on the client’s workload. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll need to be on the lookout for new opportunities at all times. Projects start and end. Clients’ needs change. Just like a painter or a plumber constantly booking the next gig, you’ll find yourself in an ongoing search for writing work.
This continuous hunt is taxing. You can never sit back and relax, watching the paychecks roll in as you clock in and out of your cushy job.
I admit, there have been moments when I’ve wondered if I should just take a j-o-b so I can be done with this hunt. I think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a stable income for the next year, and not have to wonder what I’ll be working on six months from now?”
But, I just can’t do it. Despite those moments, I love what I do. It’s a huge blessing from the Lord. And I want to keep doing it.
So, I continue to hunt.
But, if you’re like me, and that hunt starts to take its toll, try these two tips:
- Take a break. If you have some steady clients, give yourself permission to stop looking for jobs for a month. Ignore the job alerts. Delete the writer newsletter emails. Just focus on your current projects for a while.
- Expand your search. Maybe it’s time to enhance your portfolio by exploring new territories. Have you been applying for a lot of blogging jobs? Try some professional articles. Have you written a lot of articles? Maybe it’s time to try your hand at editing. This will not only make your job search more interesting, it could take your writing career in a new, exciting (and profitable!) direction.
The Pet Peeve Project
Some writing is fun and exciting. Some projects are…the opposite. You might discover the client is difficult to work with, or the content is different than you expected, or that you grossly underbid your rate based on the work involved.
Whatever the reason, you aren’t enjoying the job and wish you could drop it. See Step #9 of this series for advice on how to get out of this sticky situation.
The Battle: Personal vs. Professional
What personal writing goals are you finding it hard to meet? As your days fill up with clients’ projects, when are you supposed to find time for your own?
This is a tough one. You have to pay the bills, right? And maybe your Sci-Fi story could help do that if it gets published, but maybe it won’t. How can you keep moving forward with your freelance work and still find a way to pull these back-burner projects to the front?
I think it’s important to make these personal writing passions a priority. Don’t neglect them completely. Find a way to work them into your schedule. Set aside Friday afternoons to work on your own stuff. Take 20 minutes a day to make progress on a current personal project. Or, make Sunday evenings your “me” writing time (which happens to be when I’m typing this blog post). You might even look into a weekend writer’s retreat.
If you have a gift for writing, it’s possible God has some things He wants you to say through your own content, so don’t ignore the desires of your own heart to write.
- Finish and submit a book proposal by the end of summer
- Join a writer’s group
- Enter three poetry contents this month
- Learn a new writing skill through a class or online research
- Attend one writer’s conference this year
The point is to look for ways you can improve your craft and accomplish long-term goals. Remember to keep goals SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Ready to keep moving forward? If you’ve come this far, it’s time to persevere in your writing career. You can do it!
Like anniversary celebrations and vow renewals for a marriage, taking these steps will keep your writing career fresh, fun, and rewarding—long after the honeymoon is over.