No, I don’t write in my pajamas.
The best freelance writers exhibit professionalism – and that includes treating freelance clients with RESPECT. I show respect for my clients by rising each day, entering a my office, and behaving in a business-like manner.
Professionalism Among Freelance Writers: Why Don’t We Get Any Respect?
I’m fed up – truly sick and tired – with advertisements online for freelance writing websites, job boards and coaching programs that show a woman twirling madly on the beach, blonde hair flying, arms outstretched, so happy she is free from the corporate grind that she is WRITING on the BEACH. On the beach!
Or the advertisements that claim you can “write in your pajamas” and “never get out of bed!”
Talk to your physicians, your attorney, your accountant. I’m betting they get up, shower and dress before tackling their work for the day. Why would anyone assume writers are different?
The Assumptions and the Realities of Freelance Writing as a Business
The reason these advertisements make me so angry is that there’s an underlying assumption that freelance writing is easy. Freelance writing isn’t easy. Neither is owning your own business, and that’s what you’re doing when you decide to hang out your shingle as a professional freelance writer. You’re an artist, but you are also an entrepreneur. You wear many hats. None of them are sun visors to keep the glare of the sun from the ocean waters away from your eyes.
The assumptions I see daily about freelance writers include:
- Anyone can become a freelance writer
- It’s easy to make six figures a year (or if you buy a proven formula or take a class, you can make six figures in a year)
- You don’t need any special training to own a freelance writing business
- You can work from home in your pajamas all day
- You can make as much money as you want
The realities of owning and running a freelance writing business are:
- Anyone can become a freelance writer, but few people have the talent, skills, experience, education and innate creativity and curiosity to make it happen. Freelance writing for a living is more than stringing together words to form sentences. You must be able to find new clients, pitch ideas, and successfully sell the ideas (and your skills). You must understand basic accounting and business practices, basic copyright and business law, and basic website design, build and programming. You must be able to juggle multiple projects simultaneously, speak confidently, communicate effectively, and hit every deadline, ever single time. Are you ready for that?
- Is it easy to make six figures a year? Zero is a figure. So yes, it’s easy. Is it easy to make an excellent income as a freelance writer? No. Can you make a living wage as a freelance writer? Yes, if you are good at what you do, treat it like a business, and focus on your most profitable writing services.
- Of course you don’t need any special training, licenses, degrees or certifications to own a freelance writing business. But if you lack the credentials, it will be all the more difficult to sell your services and to run your business. At a minimum you need a high school diploma, preferably a college diploma in English. You need basic business skills, which can be obtained by taking adult education courses, online courses, reading books, or self-study. But you do need to constantly refine and add to your skills as new technology, new communications methods become available.
- Sure you can work in your pajamas all day. Some do, some don’t. But the idea that you’re going to lounge around in bed or on the couch all day watching talk shows while the money pours in is just ludicrous. You will need to interview people by telephone. You will need to attend local meetings and video chats, and please don’t think you can do so in your jammies. I find that when I dress professionally, I act professionally. I have a dedicated home office with a separate business telephone line, a business fax machine, and a door that closes so that I can have quiet when I am on the phone with clients. When you treat your work professionally, clients sense it.
- Can you make as much money as you want? Ask yourself: what will I trade for that money? Money represents a trade, whether you’re trading goods for money or time for money. So yes, if you are willing to invest all of your time, energy and talents into your freelance writing business, you can make as much money as you want. You can write your own books and sell them at a profit; you can write a blog that eventually earns a good income; you can hustle and gain dozens of clients. The trade off, of course, will be time.
If you are a business owner seeking a freelance writer, please do us all a favor: don’t make your pitch to us as if we’re lazy bums lolling in bed all day casually tapping at a keyboard. And if you’re a freelance writer, please do the profession a favor, and treat the profession like a professional. Show up on time, submit your copy by the deadline, treat your clients as you would like to be treated, keep good accounting records, comply with business laws and regulations, and treat your business like a business, not like a hobby. If you want to write as a hobby, by all means, do so. Write poems, plays, novels, short stories, blog posts, or anything that makes your heart sing. But when you begin to sell your time and talent to paying clients, get out of bed and get to work. In the end, it will show in the quality of your work.
Jeanne Grunert is the president of Seven Oaks Consulting and a popular magazine columnist, blogger and book author. She did not write this article from bed. She is seated at her desk, as you can see, below.