The Business of Freelancing: Disregard at Your Own Risk

Every now and again I'm caught off guard by the nature of this industry. I might not have been involved in the world of online marketing and freelance writing my entire adult life, but almost eight years in the field is enough to give me a rather cynical perspective on a lot of things.

That being said, an experience this week took me aback and made me wonder - are there really writers out there who don't know that they are a business?

Apparently so. Let me explain:

Earlier this week, I was working with a client on a post for a site dedicated to freelance writers. (For the record, I'm not referring to this site.) As part of the ghost writing project, my client and I had settled on a relevant topic that was then approved by the site as we usually do.

I then wrote the post about the nature of freelance writing and turned it over to the client - it was a ghost writing project and I'm not going to go into too many details in order to protect that relationship, of course.

Shortly thereafter, my client hit me up with a problem. The website dedicated to freelance writers felt that the post had too much business stuff. Apparently the site's readers - freelance writers, mind you - don't think of themselves or their writing as part of a business.

When I got that response, I touched base with my client to be sure that I wasn't crazy - did our post about running a writing business get rejected because it was about the business of writing?

He was as baffled as I was, but we decided that it would be easier to revise and take a different approach for that project rather than trying to point out the fallacy to the site owner.

Good news, lucky Thanksgiving Day readers, I've decided to point that fallacy out to you instead.

Here's the deal: If you're a freelance writer and you get paid to write something for other people, regardless of whether it's blogs, articles or website copy, you're in a business.

If you're savvy, you have already started your own complete service and you're looking for clients on your own terms. But even if you're working with a content mill writing the occasional article, you're still running your own business as an independent contractor.

Shocking, I know.

Let's take a high look at the nature of a business. A service or good is offered to customers. The customer pays accordingly for the item in question. Now pretend that you're a writer. You are offering a service to others and getting paid accordingly.

If you're writing for fun, you're either running a non-profit (as in, none at all) or you're a hobby writer. Both of those are great, but if you're seeking money as a form of compensation for your time, effort, and skill, it's time to recognize what you're doing is a form of entrepreneurship. You're a small business owner. You are making your own profits and managing your time and resources.

Perhaps it's time for many writers to enjoy a paradigm shift. If you're still denying that you're running your own business, or you're not interested in the business of writing, you're not alone. Apparently there are entire freelance sites dedicated to people who write for money but aren't in business. (I'm rolling my eyes as I say that, for the record.)

Allow me to end this rant/post with a final thought. If you refuse to embrace the fact that your freelance writing is, in fact, a form of business, you're looking at either a short career or one that is ultimately going to be stagnant and unrewarding. All businesses must include planning, accounting, managing, marketing and encouragement to grow and thrive. You're in charge of your writing business. What you do with it will determine your rewards.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!


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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.

2 thoughts on “The Business of Freelancing: Disregard at Your Own Risk”

  1. Rebecca,

    Not only is freelancing a business, perish the thought, but the business of freelancing requires marketing.

    If you are serious about freelancing as a career, you must commit to doing marketing for the duration of this career.

    Those who wish to freelance will progress much more quickly if they recognize this truth rather than hide from it, or worse yet, actively reject marketing from the mountaintop of moral superiority.


    • Amen to that.

      Every new freelance writer needs to understand that their marketing skills will far outweigh their writing skills when it comes to succeeding as a freelancer. Plenty of mediocre writers will earn big money because they knew how to identify and target the right markets. And plenty of amazing writers will stick to their “starving artist” labels because they mistakenly view selling their services as selling out.

      The big thing to remember is that marketing doesn’t have to be pushy or intimidating to be effective.


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