The Confused Identity of the Freelance WriterMarch 12th, 2013 by Michael Kwan
But what about freelance writers? There are groups, forums and websites that are geared toward the freelance writing community, but I feel that it extends quite a bit further than that. Just as there is a confused perception of freelance income, it feels like the identity of the freelance writer can also be somewhat confused. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it does mean that we can identify with a vast range of other professionals in a vast range of other professions.
The “traditional” journalist is someone who works at a newspaper, magazine, radio station, television news program or some other related media outlet. Typically paid on a salary, they can sometimes be hit with unconventional working hours, but the end goal is still to report (and possibly comment on) the news. As a freelance writer who blogs regularly for a few sites, I can relate. Some people will say that bloggers and journalists aren’t the same thing, and there may be something to that, but our end goals can be quite similar. They want a story and, as a freelance writer, I’m oftentimes hired to tell those stories.
Authors and Bloggers
I hesitate to put these two groups together, but both groups usually contain people who would also identify themselves as freelance writers. They may effectively work for themselves, especially in the case of independent authors, or they may take on clients. If those authors are ghost-writing for someone else for a fee, they are also freelancers. Many blogs don’t hire full-time staff to write their articles; they hire freelance bloggers and they pay on a per-post basis. Even if the freelance writer isn’t strictly a blogger, discussions of that industry can be quite relevant.
This will depend on the nature of the freelance writing being performed, but there is a strong connection between freelance writers and Internet marketers too. We have our websites and we want to attract eyeballs to those websites, just as Internet marketers do. We need to stay on top of tools like Google Analytics or we may advertise using Google AdWords. We need to be familiar with search engine optimization and social media marketing. Even if you don’t get into affiliate marketing directly, understanding those principles can aid in your freelance business too.
The entrepreneur who decides to launch his own web startup also has a lot in common with freelance writers. We usually start with little more than an idea and then we have to work to develop that idea. Both of us usually start with shoestring budgets and we work hard to get the attention that we need. We aim to address a specific need in the marketplace and we adjust our strategies when we need to do so. While the exact details will vary, freelancers will also have a lot in common with small and medium-sized business owners. If you’re opening up a small cafe, you still have to work to build your website and attract customers. A writer is doing the same thing.
Professional Service Providers
There is an automatic legitimacy that is given to people who provide certain professional services. If you’re an accountant, a lawyer or a mortgage broker, people will automatically view what you do as a legitimate business. Unfortunately, the same isn’t necessarily true when it comes to freelance writers. Even so, we are running real businesses just like anyone else. We have to worry about charging sales tax, keeping customer records, and so on. We actually have a lot in common.
All of the Above
If you’re thinking about getting into the business of freelance writer, recognize that networking outside of that sphere can be quite valuable. The independent wedding photographer might not do much writing, but you both share the same struggles when it comes to client acquisition and bookkeeping. The “mompreneur” may have a perfectly viable handicraft business via Etsy or eBay, but she also struggles with being taken seriously by others.
Yes, the identity of the freelance writer can be a little confusing, but that’s just because the business is so varied. You might actually have more in common with the mobile app developer than you do with the children’s story author.
Filed under Freelance Writing.