I know what you’re thinking.
“Hah, the best time to be a freelance writer is never. Well, unless you want to live in poverty. Gosh, what a joke. Another fluff piece by some stupid kid. Get a real job.”
Look, I’m not going to pretend to be a cheerleader for the freelance writing community.
But I’m not one of those pie-in-the-sky writers trying to sell you some dream, either.
You know what I’m talking about. The “anyone can be a six-figure freelancer overnight” narrative is both boring and potentially dangerous for newbie writers looking to get their start.
That being said, I do think that we’ve truly entered the era of the freelance writer. I’m stoked about it, too.
It’s 2017. We have the touch. We have the power. Insert your favorite cliche here.
But why now?
For Writers, The Times They Are a ‘Changin
Just a few years ago, the landscape for freelance writers was a complete and utter wasteland.
Quick story. In 2011, I was let go from my full-time content writing position with a local Internet marketing company.
The conversation went something like this:
“Brent, we like you. We really like you. We really like your work, too. But it just doesn’t make sense for us financially to have a full-time writer in-house.”
So I sucked it up and tried my hand at freelancing.
And I failed miserably.
But that’s okay. I returned to freelancing in 2016 and now everything’s cool.
Yet over the years, I’ve heard similar stories from full-time writers who eventually became freelance failures. It took me some time to figure out how to make a comfortable full-time income as a freelance writer income; however, I couldn’t imagine doing so in 2011.
Back then, the freelance space was plagued with less-than-a-penny-per-word, non-native speakers and content mills essentially shackling writers with garbage work.
Those horrors still exist, but they don’t have to.
Why Now’s The Best Time to be a Freelance Writer
I could bore you to death with a bunch of facts and statistics, but I’m not going to do that.
Why? Because I like you. If you’ve read this far, you’re pretty okay in my book.
Now, here’s some food for thought regarding why it’s the right time to become a freelance writer.
1. Today’s Businesses Still Need Good Writers
Some of us are skilled salespeople with magnetic personalities. Some of us are wordsmiths with a knack for storytelling.
Rarely do you find all of these qualities balled up into a single person.
If you’re a writer that enjoys the craft, writing doesn’t feel like work.
If you’re a CEO or salesperson for a startup, writing may very well be akin to medieval torture.
Given the choice between cranking out articles themselves or hiring someone to take care of content, most companies will choose the latter without batting an eye.
Why? Because writing is hard, and more importantly, time-consuming.
Perhaps it takes a mindset shift to realize it, but writing is a valuable skill that many people, even really smart people making millions of dollars, inherently lack.
And that’s not a shot at CEOs, either. They need us and we need them: it’s a symbiotic relationship.
2. Modern Companies Have Warmed Up to the Idea of Remote Work
I don’t chase jobs on freelance boards anymore. In fact, my last few clients came from a combination of Facebook, LinkedIn and cold emails from editors.
My clients are respectful, reliable and provide fair compensation for my time. They are not slave-drivers. In short, they’re good people.
The idea of being approached out of the blue by high-quality clients, let alone finding work through freakin’ Facebook, would have sounded like a pipe dream five years ago.
Oh yeah, and being able to work from home is pretty rad.
Generally speaking, companies today are much more willing to work remotely. I can’t point to a specific statistic or reason which fully explains why, but I have a couple of ideas.
For starters, hiring freelancers is a win-win situation for companies as they don’t have to commit to a full-time employees or benefits; likewise, they aren’t geographically tied to their own backyard for talent. Similarly, freelancers can look beyond local businesses for work and can, therefore, take on as many clients as they need to meet their financial goals.
Also, clients and freelancers alike have the opportunity to build legitimate relationships via social media. I’d say that’s preferable to dealing with the cold anonymity of job boards, wouldn’t you?
3. Reliable Writers are Still a Dime a Dozen
Finally, modern companies can’t afford to churn out crappy content anymore.
It hurts their reputation. It’s potentially damaging to their bottom line. Also, it could land them in hot water with Google.
Here’s a not-so-secret secret: most writing, even from the stuff writing “gurus” (ugh) and “experts” claiming to make six-figures in our field, isn’t great.
I’m not trying to be pretentious, nor am I trying to suggest that I’m the Shakespeare of the freelance world.
Hell, I’m trying to empower you.
Most writing sucks: we should take advantage of that, shouldn’t we?
Couple that with the fact that reliable writers are hard to come by, it may take less than you think to “wow” clients who’ve been burned by flaky freelancers in the past.
If you can write with some semblance of style, come up with your own ideas and deliver work on time for your clients, you’re already way ahead of the curve.
Are Good Writers More Valuable Than Ever?
For years, the idea of fair rates and worthwhile work was worlds away.
However, as the need for quality content and storytelling has become apparent for companies looking to stay competitive in their respective industries, perhaps the power is finally in our hands. Literally.
Agree? Disagree? Somewhere in-between? Let me know in the comments below or bug me about it on Twitter (@brentwrites).
Photo Credit: “Typewriter” by Simon Child from the Noun Project.