Not sure how to break this to you. It’s bad news.
Maybe you really *shouldn’t* try to be a freelance blogger. I mean, normally I’m quick to point out that almost anyone who is teachable can learn to do freelance blogging.
And yep, anyone teachable can learn to earn anything from a decent chunk of “mad money” to a full-time income that pays for everything you want to do.
But this career choice isn’t right for everyone.
So how can you find out if it’s wrong for you, before you spend valuable time trying and failing?
I’ll tell you.
If you see any of these warning signs in yourself or your usual lifestyle, then freelance blogging may not be a good idea for you. ￼
1: You have a special message to share with the world
That’s awesome, but it isn’t how freelance blogging works. You need clients who pay you to write for *them* — and that means your special message for the world is irrelevant unless it overlaps with your client’s.
Carving out a niche for yourself is important, and you will probably gravitate towards clients and projects that fit into the niche you want to own, with similar views and values. But if you just want to share your personal thoughts and opinions online, start your own blog!
(Side note: I just this moment realised how weird the phrase “gravitate towards” is. I mean, I think it’s supposed to suggest a slow attraction, but gravity is the thing that turns absent-minded bungee jumpers into jelly on impact… Gravitating towards stuff can be fatal.)
2: You have a unique voice that blog readers will love
Hmm… ALL the blog readers? Are you sure?
This is kinda the same as the “special message” problem above. Paying clients may love your natural voice and want you to use nothing else. Or they might want you to write in a different style that meshes your natural voice with theirs. Or perhaps they’ll need a ghost blogger to create content for their CEO’ weekly posts, in which case it’s your job to write in *their* voice instead of your own.
And, word to the wise, nobody in the universe has a voice that literally *everyone* loves. Some people hate my cursing, get upset about “kinda” and “gonna”, or think my use of old-fashioned emoticons is either unprofessional (if they’re older) or dated (if they’re younger). You can’t win them all. ;P
It’s your job to find out what voice is needed for a post, and use it. That’s how you’ll win over your client’s target audience and keep them interested.
3: You can’t control time
Fair enough, you’re not Hiro Nakamura or Doctor Strange. I don’t expect you to have superpowers.
What I really mean is, “You absolutely suck at being on time for pretty much anything, even when it’s important.”
How many times in an average month do you miss a bus or train, give a birthday gift late, or miss the start of a meeting or event?
If your answer is more than a few — hell, if your answer’s more than zero — then once you start freelance blogging you may discover you don’t enjoy a career in which your reputation and your income are connected to your punctuality.
(But then again, you just might discover a knack for finding clients who don’t care so much about perfect timekeeping. I suppose it really depends on whether you’d rather achieve timeliness or great marketing.)
4: You can’t wait to start earning
Hey, we’d all love to get paid the very first day we start freelance blogging. But as I’ve learned from years of training and mentoring other freelance bloggers, most don’t earn a huge amount in their first month of business unless they already have good business sense, strong motivation, plenty of time to spend on marketing, and a lot of balls.
If you need to pay next week’s rent or buy this week’s groceries, for the love of all the gods please *don’t* rely on freelance blogging to make that happen.
Find a job that pays fast and reliably, even if that job sucks — and work on freelance blogging in your spare time until you can afford to make it your main source of income. Yeah, your bread-and-butter job might be boring. But it’s better than not knowing how you’ll pay the rent.
5: You’re looking forward to working on the beach / in your PJs / at the kitchen table while surrounded by adorable children at play…
Yeeaah. All those freelance writing experts who chirp about the joys of working from home while you raise (maybe even homeschool) your little ones, grow your own food AND train to run a marathon while wearing a gorilla costume?
I wish it were true! But it isn’t for most people, because it’s very difficult to fit all of those things into your day while still earning a living.
If you have children who are at home during your working hours, you will need childcare to get some of your blogging work done.
Doesn’t have to be an official daycare centre, and you may not need it all the time. But sooner or later you’ll need someone who can take younger children off your hands while you handle high-focus tasks like editing and invoicing.
The only other option is to blog while your offspring sleeps, which worked for me in the early days (when we had only one young baby in the house) but would be totally impractical now that we’ve got more — and older — children.
And for every digital nomad who blogs self-sustainably from glorious beaches around the world, there are a hundred other freelance bloggers who’ve barely left the house since last year because they’re so busy churning out posts for low pay at content mills. They might be in their PJs, sure — but that’s not necessarily a sign that things are going well.
6: You hate numbers, mathematics, or money
I’ve forgotten most of what I ever learned about spreadsheets. But I did once take a bookkeeping course (SO DULL), I don’t mind working with numbers, and I can just about handle it well enough to keep my own accounts and file my own tax returns. Wouldn’t call it fun, but it’s manageable. 😉
Unfortunately, unless you’ve got a ready source of funds you probably can’t just pay a qualified accountant to do it all for you right from Day One (you know, the day when you start out with zero freelance blogging income). That’s only gonna happen if you miraculously find an accountant who works on credit or barter, or if you have a generous and tolerant family who don’t mind you paying the accountant out of the household budget for the first few months.
The truth is that if you really can’t stand doing some basic bookkeeping and cash flow tracking… then you’re gonna quit from repetitive math injury long before your profit numbers get big enough to keep you motivated.
The bigger problem is that even if you can handle the bookkeeping, that level of numeracy still isn’t enough to give you useful insights into how your business is really doing — and how you can improve your cash flow, your profit, and your earning potential.
For that financial level-up, you have to combine mathematical capability with strategic thinking and a solid grasp of how your business works.
I know lots of people who disliked the minutiae of business, but could cope with numbers, who’ve become successful freelancers with support from a few online tools at first and backed that up with a business coach as they started seeing more revenue. But most of the truly math-phobic people I’ve worked with have needed human support to stay on top of their finances.
As for the few people I’ve met who outright told me they didn’t care to think about money and assumed that it would all be dealt with fairly… well, those people are either still writing for low, low rates, or they quit because they didn’t feel respected or appreciated by their clients.
7: You don’t like talking to people
Listen, I get it. If you’re introverted, you’re introverted.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to people; it simply means you feel drained if you spend too much time with too many other people.
You can be shy, too. That’s totally cool and it’s normal. As long as you admit your curiosity is capable of outweighing your shyness.
Because if you had a chance to chat quietly with someone who’s doing something unprecedentedly fascinating, you’d take that opportunity, right? And often, that curiosity is where the best blog posts come from.
8: You feel entitled
I have no doubt that you’re a wonderful human being who writes well and has interesting ideas. However, I’ve seen a strange thing happen to a smallish percentage of the freelance bloggers whose careers I’ve watched from their beginnings, and I’m going to take this opportunity to warn you about it.
See, even very good bloggers who are running their freelance businesses without any real problems sometimes fall into this trap as their careers lengthen. They start to believe they’re entitled to certain things just because they’ve received them recently, or they’ve heard that other writers did, or even because they’ve “paid their dues” for a certain number of years.
So when you hear that Jane earned $500 for writing a post at Example.com, you pitch the editor your idea and you feel entitled to expect the same rate of pay as Jane. But that’s between you and your editor; Jane’s rate is between her and her editor. Seek to understand what your post is worth to the client instead of focusing on what other people earn.
Or maybe your last three clients all paid in full in advance. Good for you! Don’t be offended, though, if your next client asks for a different arrangement. You’re not entitled to any special terms except the ones you negotiate in each new client contract, and your client isn’t a Scrooge just because they’re being cautious about paying the unknown new writer (that’s you!) upfront.
Don’t lower your expectations — but do remember the difference between a right and a privilege.
9: You run away from the tough stuff
Sometime or other, something will go horribly wrong in your freelance blogging life.
Don’t kid yourself for a second that it won’t happen to you. (That’s if it hasn’t happened already, of course; if it has, you have my deepest sympathy.)
It might be a brilliant post that gets mangled by the editor until you’re ashamed to see it carry your byline. It might be the horror of comment trolls. It might be a client who gets angry with you or refuses to pay you. It might be a pressing family concern that stops you focusing on your work. It might be a challenge to your mental health. It might be almost anything.
And when it happens, it’ll hit you harder than you ever thought a really fucking hard thing could hit. There will be tears before bedtime. You’ll be tormented by self-doubt and second guesses, convinced that you’ve done entirely the wrong thing and that your situation is hopeless.
Here’s my advice: if you can’t stomach the idea that once or twice a year you’ll wind up sobbing into your cornflakes because your whole freelance blogging career is The Biggest Mistake Ever, then you might as well quit now.
[Pro tip for the non-quitters: When you’ve finished crying, start looking for a possible solution to your problem. And ask for help when you need it.]
OK, if you’re still with me at this point, I’m going to assume that means you still want to be a freelance blogger.
Today is this blog’s 6th birthday.
Don’t read them all at once. 😉
But that’s not all. I celebrate Be a Freelance Blogger’s birthday each year with a prize contest, and this year I’m giving away more prizes than usual!
The BAFB Birthday Prize
This year, 10 people will win copies of my book with Lauren Tharp, How to Pitch a Blog Post (Kindle edition, or PDF if you prefer).
And one person will win a half-hour live mentoring session with me to discuss any freelance blogging ideas, questions or struggles you think I might be able to help with.
What do you have to do for a chance to win one of these prizes?
Tell me what this blog means to you.
Did you learn something good from us? Did we help you solve a problem, or answer a question? Did we give you confidence to do more, earn more, enjoy more?
Share your “me and BAFB” story in the comments, and I’ll choose the 11 winners on January 20th, 2019. The most detailed and compelling stories get the prizes! 🙂