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Should I freelance full-time?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Tdell8, Jun 30, 2016.

  1. Tdell8

    Tdell8 New Member

    This is an open thread for anyone with full-time freelancing experience. I've been a PT'er for a few years now (it's been great getting me through school) but with graduation closing in, I'm considering making a career out of it. Pros? Cons? Any kind of thoughts are welcome.

  2. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    LongTimeListener likes this.
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    If this is the direction you want to go, I would try to branch out and do more than cover games. You will get pigeonholed that way and it will be harder to find a full-time writing job.

    Also, the folks that seem to have more success are ones that are also blogging, doing radio shows, videos, being out there on social media, etc.

    So there are opportunities, but you need to be working all the corners.
  4. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    My wife and I have both full-time freelanced for extended periods, though not at the same time -- so one of us had the other's benefits and full-time income to fall back on. So I can't speak with experience to doing it without those safety nets, which of course is the hard way.

    Freedom, obviously. Play golf in the morning, write at night, you name it.
    The freedom to choose your own work and do stuff you really care about.
    The diversity. Cover games, write magazine takeouts, blog for travel sites.

    Having to take on some dreadful gigs just to pay the bills. Not many freelancers can get by on big-ticket stuff without doing any drudge work.
    The freelance churn: Gotta be pitching constantly. You can't just finish one gig, take a day off and then start hunting the next one.
    Haggling over money. You're not going to get by if you give people discounts and taking 10-cent-a-word gigs. And it should go without saying that "writing for exposure" is a NO-NO.
    And then waiting to get paid. Sometimes having to nag, nag and nag again to get paid.
    The IRS, if you don't have the discipline to make quarterly tax payments. Find the discipline to make quarterly tax payments.

    I don't mean to have more cons than pros, they just came to mind quicker. For a while, freelancing was a great gig for me. But it takes a certain breed to do it for the long haul.
    CD Boogie likes this.
  5. CD Boogie

    CD Boogie Well-Known Member

    I was a full-time freelancer for five-plus years, part of which I spent as a stay-at-home dad with a newborn. It can be great, but some of the outlets I wrote for -- and these were usually the better paying ones -- wanted completed columns/commentary and not just pitches. The constant threat that a completed column would get killed really fucked with my disposition and put a strain on my marriage. To spend time on a piece and then not get paid for it was a real mindfuck and it bled into my relationships. So, yeah, that sucked. But if you can get steady gigs -- like a weekly NFL preview, or blogging about the local NFL team -- then you can relax a bit more. One year I had ten 1040s to file, so that was interesting around tax time. But if you set up a home office, you can deduct all kinds of things -- like portions of your cable, TV and electricity bills. Buy some books about freelancing full time. There are plenty out there. S

    Specializing in a sport helps, too. Or about a particular topic -- like concussions in sports, or paying college athletes or domestic violence among athletes.
  6. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    It's because there are way more cons than pros.
  7. Tdell8

    Tdell8 New Member

    Interesting that you mentioned building a home office. One of my main concerns with freelancing full-time actually isn't finding good contracts, but remaining content with the whole "work-from-home" routine. Last summer, I held a full-time editor gig but it was all remote and, after a few weeks, really started to suck me dry and as you mentioned, affected my relationships. Intrinsic motivation severely lacked; but I didn't invest in a desktop, nice desk, printer, etc. to make it feel like a great place to sustain productivity.

    I had planned to purchase some books on freelancing, new media and sports journalism (why not master the craft?), especially since my degree is in a non-related field (sports management). Do you have any recommendations?

    I appreciate the help, Boogie!
  8. JohnHammond

    JohnHammond Well-Known Member

    Why get a degree in sports management if you don't want to work in the field?

    If you had problems working on your own last year, it won't get better when you're working for free a good deal of your time pitching stories.
  9. Tdell8

    Tdell8 New Member

    Great question. In short, I've had several unplanned obstacles (some health related) that threw me off course and I ended up just going the route that would "hopefully" make me look more versatile to future employers. We'll see if that holds any truth (TBD), but I have interned in athletic communications and could still take that path, though there is more work to be done there I'm sure. I enjoy the flexibility of freelancing, though, and have always found enjoyment producing worthwhile content. Just want to cross my T's and dot my I's before I make any final decisions.
  10. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    I never made quarterly payments, but I did put a quarter or a third of each check into a savings account specifically set up for my taxes.

    The working-from-home thing could be lessened, or even averted, if you find a local coffee shop that won't mind you being there while also giving them a fair amount of business.

    The insurance obstacle was the big one for me at the time, but the rollout of Obamacare means you should have some less expensive options out there.

    Good luck.
  11. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure you really realize just how full-time trying to be a full-time freelancer will be.
  12. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    My wife has been a freelance writer since our first child was born, and he just graduated high school.

    You can absolutely make a living at it, but it's not easy, and it takes a while to get to that point. It has obviously helped that I've had a full time job with benefits the whole time.

    A few bits of advice, from what I've witnessed over that time:

    -- Work hard and be low maintenance on every assignment, big or small. If you make a living at this it will be because of referrals. You may take a job with shitty pay, but do it right and that editor will recommend you to someone with a better budget.

    -- Diversify. For God's sake, don't limit yourself to sports. From what I've seen on here, the pay is not even close to worth it considering the time and hassle involved. Learn to write anything.

    -- Get as many regular clients as possible. Years ago my wife wrote mostly for the local paper. They eliminated their freelance budget and it put us in a pinch. Now she probably has 15 regular clients, so losing one isn't a major issue.

    -- Don't do it thinking you're going to be writing great take-out pieces and, as you put it, "worthwhile content." If you can work your way into that, great. If you want to make a living you're much better off looking to competently grind out content. My wife gets to write some terrific longer features, but her bread and butter is the $40 press release she can crank out in 45 minutes. She writes stuff and she doesn't even know what it's being used for, but the money pops up a couple of hours later.

    Now, having said all that, for someone just graduating and starting a career? I think trying to freelance right out of the chute would be a giant mistake. It's really, really hard. It's a great option if you don't want to put your baby in daycare and don't have to worry about healthcare. Otherwise? Get a regular job. Make contacts. Maybe try to get freelancing gigs on the side.
    Ace, wicked and I Should Coco like this.
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