To Grow or Not to Grow?

In early 2010, I made the difficult decision to leave the public sector in order to start my own writing and strategy firm, Inkwell Strategies.  After serving as a speechwriter for the legislative and executive branches of government, I was ready for a new challenge.

After making the decision to go out on my own, my first step was to seek advice from friends and former colleagues who had done the same.  One of these associates – the presidentof a small public affairs firm – had this to say:

"You’ll start out with a client or two, but if you’re successful, pretty quickly you’ll have to decide whether you want to be a freelancer or a business owner."

Many freelance writers will face this decision at somepoint in their careers.  There’s no wrong answer, but there are persuasive arguments on both sides:

Pros to Freelancing

  • Low overhead. A freelance writer caneasily work out of a spare bedroom or kitchen table.  The only barriers to entry are talent and an internet connection.  You don’t have to payfor rent, salary, office supplies or other equipment – and the basic items you do need are still tax deductible.
  • You’re not "locked in." If a great full-time job comes along, you’re free to take it without much difficulty.  Once you’ve built a company with employees and accounting, there’s a lot more involved with winding down.
  • You can focus on writing. Many of the professional writers I know prefer to write in quiet isolation.  Writers aren’t generally known as outgoing people.  The skills necessary to be agood writer aren’t always compatible with those necessary to build a successful business.  By staying a freelancer, you can focus on what you’re best at.
  • Quality control. Because freelancers are the sole author of everything you produce, you can have complete confidence in yourwork.

Pros to Building a Business

  • Greater capacity. As a freelancer, you will be writing and editing every word.  Writing is a time-consuming trade; as a result, there’s a limit to how much work you can take on.  As a business owner, you can keep hiring to meet demand and theoretically there’s no limit to how big you can grow.
  • Building a brand. Even if your company serves only a small writing niche, it can be a powerful marketing tool to build a recognizable brand name.  It’s much easier to do this as a business owner rather than a freelancer.
  • Thrill of the chase. If your goal is to build a business, you’re likely to spend a significant portion of your time marketing.  For some, this is daunting –for others, it’s rewarding.

As I said, there’s no right answer to this question – it’s entirely personal.  My freelancer friends tend to strike a healthy work-life balance. Because I chose to build a business, I’m "always on."  On the other hand, it’s gratifying to build something that will hopefully continue to grow for years to come.

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David Meadvin is President of Inkwell Strategies, a professional speechwriting and executive communications firm based in Washington, DC.  He was chief speechwriter to the U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senate Majority Leader.  You can email David here and follow Inkwell Strategies on Twitter @inkwellstrat.

1 thought on “To Grow or Not to Grow?”

  1. Great post, David. I think the pros far outweigh the cons. There are drawbacks, but if you really want to work for yourself, you’ll find a way to overcome them.


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