Being a Freelance Writer: When an Ending is a Beginning

| February 18, 2013 | 6 Comments


When I first became a freelance writer, I had visions of 20-hour work weeks, taking weeks off at a time and filling the world with enlightening writing that would delight and inspire. I pictured having assignments just appear before me for the taking — and really being able to choose what I worked on and didn’t. Those visions? Not quite reality. While it may seem like what being a freelance writer is all about, there is a lot more to it than that. There are times when I work 80 hours a week and feel like so many important things fall by the wayside. There are times when it feels like I just can’t seem to catch a break. And there are times when a gem of an assignment comes to me and I’m overjoyed. The best times? When my writing touches people — and I find out about it. That makes everything¬† — every up and down worthwhile.

To make a career of being a freelance writer, you have to be constantly vigilant — always pitching, always creating and always on the lookout for jobs to insulate your income. And assignments? Though some will just appear, most come because you’ve spent the time researching, writing and sending queries. It’s a busy business that requires more than luck and a good attitude — it requires drive and a willingness to do what it takes to get things done well.

And yet, despite all your best efforts, sometimes long-term gigs end, leaving a hole in your income and schedule.

Last year, a longtime freelance gig ended for me and it was bittersweet, to say the least. After more than two years with the publication, I wasn’t finding the same joy in my work that I once had. Things had changed substantially, and the publication had developed a voice and style that was vastly different than my own. In the online world, being authentic is so important — and though I could mimic what they wanted, it wasn’t me. Still, we’d tried to make it work for awhile. I loved working with the publication, and having the gig come to an end was both a relief and a disappointment.

When I had started writing for the publication, it was brand new and looking for direction. My experience was tapped repeatedly as they grew rapidly over the first 18 months. As the site developed a niche and a voice, it began reaching an audience that is underutilized. At the same time, the site changed its needs. They developed a visual style and levied more importance on the photos used. Meanwhile, the tone of the writing also changed from knowledgeable source to edgy, young fun friend.

In short, the site grew from the small one that I helped mold to a major player with big talent. For a while, my suggestions created a lot of change on the site for the better. Google’s many tools were used to manage calendars and planning. Features were added. But as the site grew, my knowledge wasn’t tapped as often. They didn’t need to, because they found their space and role.

When I received the call that my contract was ending, I remember looking out the window as the news was delivered. It was a sunny January day, and my kids were just coming home from school. Even as it was ending, so much else was happening. I thanked them, and that was it. I was sad to have the gig end. But life moves on, and I must too.

More than a year later, I do miss working with that publication. It was a fun group, and there was always something fun coming up. But over the past year, I have had the opportunity to really evaluate what I am doing — and what I am passionate about. It hasn’t been an easy, but I finally realized that in everything I do, what I want most is to inspire people through my writing. I want to be the voice that says you-can-do-this without saying it.

Parting ways with that client was hard, but finding my overarching joy and passion in writing again was a blessing.

When a long-term assignment ends, it’s natural to be upset. But it’s what happens after that is really important. Do you let it grate on you and hold you down? Do you let it eat at you? Or do you pick up, fill the gaps and take a closer look at what really matters and what you really want?

The latter is the way to go. It will lead to something better. It will give you that new beginning.


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Category: Freelancing

About the Author ()

Sarah W. Caron is a freelance writer, editor and recipe developer. She lives in Maine with her two kids. And she loves the beach, writing and good books ...

Comments (6)

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  1. Ralph says:

    As we have set up an LLC (Alcam Writing & Admin LLC) I am looking for side jobs – currently only have an ongoing assignment to write/layout and print a newsletter for the non-profit in West Haven (that I used to work for). My hope is to get more business…but doubts do creep in as I do not have a writing pedigree no matter how proficient I am with the Queen’s English.

    It is the doubts that can be limiting as to whether success can be had – although I have been paid for my efforts since last August. If this assignment were to end could I at the very least hit a modicum of success anywhere else. Confidence can be fleeting.

    This thoughtful post is quite timely

    • Sarah W. Caron says:

      Ralph, been there! Diversification is so important to success. I’ll put together a post with suggestions, but here are a few to get you started: have you signed up for Elance and other freelance job match sites? Do you regularly check Craigslist and other freelance boards? Have you pitched any other businesses to do something similar? Perhaps some local farms could use help with their newsletters? Just some thoughts.

  2. Sarah, what an honest piece. As someone just launching a freelance writing career, I appreciate your honesty and advice. I also think it’s great advice to apply to any change in life. It’s how we respond and move forward that shapes how we can reflect on the experience with fondness. I’m glad to know you!!!

  3. Tristram DeRoma says:

    Nice post Sarah, I’m a cops/schools reporter working in Los Alamos NM now, but sometimes I wonder what the grass is like on the other side of the fence.

    • Sarah W. Caron says:

      Thanks, Tris … Is the grass ever really greener? ;) The idea of a full-time gig is always alluring to me — all that security and benefits. But I really do love freelancing.

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