Game Changers: Is It Time to Throw in the Freelance Towel?

It’s crossed the mind of every freelancer at one point or another, perhaps on the day that a major deal falls through or you learn you're looking at a divorce or pregnancy. Is there a good time to stop freelance writing? While our knee jerk reaction may be to immediately deny the thoughts of walking away or scaling back, logically there are some times when life requires we reassess plans and make modifications – sometimes big ones.

You Need Money Now

Freelance writing can earn you some money quickly if you find jobs quickly or you already have a well-established business with plenty of clients. But if you’re new to the world of freelance, building up a full-time, lucrative writing career takes longer than a few weeks unless you have very specific contacts in the industry and you’re not exactly starting from scratch.

If life throws you some serious knocks – your husband is laid off and can’t find a job or you’re at risk of losing your home or car if you can’t send money immediately – you may decide to move freelancing to a part-time schedule and pick up another job as quickly as you can just to pay the bills.

This is a totally personal decision, of course. Some might feel that taking a couple of part-time jobs at local retail establishments will deliver a steady paycheck for looming bills, but it will require that you spend less time freelancing, which is a hardship if you’re still getting started.

If you feel you’re close to a breakthrough in your freelancing career, you can always take out a loan for now or borrow money from a family member with the intent of paying it back once you gain a few more clients. Just be sure you don’t feel “close to a breakthrough” longer than your family is willing to float you loans.

You Need Great Health Insurance

There are some programs that let freelancers enroll in reasonable health insurance programs, but in some areas you can’t get good health insurance without going through a full-time employer – at least for the time being. If you have preexisting conditions, for example, or you’re considering starting a family soon, self-employed insurance often won’t cover those conditions. The same is true for many mental health issues.

It’s worth some serious investigation into all of your options, of course, but going back to work full-time for a year or two to earn some paid maternity leave along with that critical health insurance may be very worthwhile. You will simply have to move to a part-time freelance schedule in the evenings or weekends to maintain the business during your time with another company.

You’re Not Making Enough for Your Effort

If you’re a stay or work-at-home mom and you started writing online to make some extra money, how much are you really making for the amount of time and effort you’re putting into it? If you’re only making $5 per article and spending an hour writing, revising and posting the article, you’re making well below minimum wage, and certainly considerably less than a working wage.

Add to that the schedule that most moms have to keep with kids around and the $45 you earned this week may not be worth the effort it took to make it. There are obvious solutions to this, of course. You can simply find better paying clients, for one.

If you started writing to make a bit of extra money, you may be fine with working up to bigger clients and earning more down the road as you have more time and clients. But if you’ve been slaving away for a while, you can’t seem to land the bigger fish and you are feeling stressed and frustrated, it could be that other options may be a better fit. This is especially true if you’re not in love with the actual writing part of the job.

You’re Tired of It

There is a certain amount of stress and creative drain that comes with being a freelance writer. It’s a creative process and sometimes you just feel like all of your brain magic is simply used up. You’re tired, and you want to try something new. If you've been feeling that way for a while and tweaking your business model or taking on a new specialty isn't doing it for you, why not make a change?

Try out a new career and see if you like it. Workers in our generation are expected to change careers seven or more times over the course of a lifetime. It may be that freelance writing is only one of your seven careers. You may also try that new job and quickly realize that freelancing is just what you needed after all and come back as quickly as you can.

What’s most important to realize is that freelance writing, full-time or just a few articles per week for spending money, isn't an all or nothing sort of deal. The best thing about freelancing is the flexibility – sometimes your career may just need to be extra stretchy for a bit.


Profile image for Rebecca Garland
Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

3 thoughts on “Game Changers: Is It Time to Throw in the Freelance Towel?”

  1. “Try out a new career and see if you like it. Workers in our generation are expected to change careers seven or more times over the course of a lifetime. It may be that freelance writing is only one of your seven careers.” I’m glad you mentioned this because I’ve been looking for a part-time and or full-time job to supplement my freelance writing. I’ve had one interview thus far and have been trying to network with people since I ‘boomeranged’ back to NEO.

    I’m also reevaluating writing books versus writing screenplays. I know I can write a screenplay quickly or not-so-quickly, depending on the number of pages (short film versus full-length feature), but I’ve been struggling to sit down and focus on my personal writing projects such as YA, fiction, and non-fiction. I don’t know. Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on me. 🙂

    Anyway…I don’t think there’s anything wrong with multiple streams of income. Freelance writing can be one stream and some other business venture can be another.

  2. Good points, Rebecca. That freelance money pinch is about to get worse. Offshore freelancers are becoming more and more proficient in writing as well. Who can compete with $3 per hour? I’ll pass this article along to writers in my network. Thanks!

    • No writer has to compete with $3 per hour content creators unless they choose to. It’s a very different market than those professional writers work within. And most clients in better markets wouldn’t even consider a writer charging rates that low. They know they get what they pay for, and they’re not willing to risk their businesses by paying bottom of the barrel rates. They know that comes with risks like copyright infringement, libel suits, and basic bad PR as a result. That’s not to say rates don’t play a role. But don’t mistake a crap market for the competition. If you value yourself more than that and you can back up your rates, you’ll always find clients who are happy to pay them.


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