The Myth of the Freelance Writers’ Flexible Time

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

“I want to control my own time!”

I suspect more people at least attempt freelance writing because they want to control their time than any other reason. We’re the ones who chafe at showing up in someone else’s office from 9–5, after struggling through a traffic mess and knowing we’ll face another on the home trip. We find most meetings boring and unnecessary. We have an inner voice that aches for time to be creative, and find the 40 hour week plus commute and running a household leave us tired and unsatisfied.

In our mind’s eye, the grass seems really greener over there where we would freelance.

80 hours to avoid 40

While there is some truth to the notion we can control our time when we’re working on our own, what’s closer to reality is we tend to work 80 hours to avoid working 40. What we overlooked when yearning to freelance is we will be running our own business.

Running a business and making a profit is not trivial. I had no idea what I was doing and find that’s true of many would be entrepreneurs. Every bit of it is learnable but the learning curve can be quite steep. And it takes time. Even when we’ve more or less mastered the business side, it takes time to do it properly — time that can feel like it cuts drastically into our creative time.

In my writing forum new writers often ask “how much time should I spend writing and how much running my business?” In general most of us tend to spend at least half of our work time on the business itself — marketing, talking with prospective clients, keeping books, sending invoices, dealing with taxes, dealing with the clients we write for in addition to the time we spend writing for them. It’s shocking how much time the business can eat up and how difficult it can be to find time to really write and create.

On the other hand, I find if I write, and I mean really write, more than four hours in a day I can’t write well the next day. Not all of us are that way. A close friend of mine seems able to live on way less sleep than I am and log in solid writing time late into the night.

Sure we can sleep late…

Of course, it’s true, we can sleep in and do much of our writing and business work at midnight. Our lack of commute opens up hours — mine commute is about 2 feet and is measured in seconds because my desk is in my bedroom. We can arrange work and writing hours any which way, as long as we get it done.

What happens often is that wearing the two hats — writer or creative and business manager, means we work longer hours than we would if we had a job working for someone else simply because we’re doing it all.

Is it worth it? For some of us it definitely is. I’ve happily given up regular hours and paid sick leave. Many others have done the same. It’s also true that a regular job with it’s regular paycheck appeals to lots of folks. Listen to your own inner voice and you’ll know what you need to do.

Write well and often,

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Anne Wayman — www.AnneWayman.com

Writer, life and writing coach, book ghostwriter, Grandmother, Buddhist. Liberal who listens to the other side, political activist-www.DemocracyCounts.org

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