That’s Not How It Works! 12 Freelance Writing Myths to Dispel

photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid (cc)

You freelance writers are all {insert assumption here}!

And you just stare at the other person with widened eyes and mumble “But… that’s not how it works…”.

As a freelance writer myself, I have been there so many times, home and outside of home, that I have collected plenty of myths (or just wrong assumptions?) over the years about “writers without a boss” and the life we chose for ourselves.

The problem with freelance writing myths is that they can undermine your confidence in pursuing your career.

It’s why I had to get this post done quickly. To help you stay strong as a freelance writer — and to open non-freelancers’ eyes about what being a freelancer really means.

So, what myths about the freelance writing career do non-freelancers believe?

Below is my list of 12 wrong assumptions about our lifestyle. 😉

1. Freelance writers are lazy

You know, we sit in front of a computer all day long, playing videogames online and wasting our precious time on Twitter, Facebook and other social media…



Freelance writers working from home or from a office are not lazy for the simple fact they sit comfortably at their desk and you can see them updating their accounts quite often.

Social interactions are part of the job. It’s the marketing and networking aspect of freelancing. We need to talk to people if we want people to know we exist and what services we provide.

Also, working from home is not for the ‘lazy’ at all. It’s actually easier to work in a office where you can focus on your work only. Home is filled with distractions and often with family members trying to snatch you from your duties. It takes great discipline to work from home and sit at your desk, in your room or in the living room, for several hours in a row, working your way through completion of an assignment, no matter what happens in your surroundings.

So no, freelance writers are not lazy at all. Don’t let this kind of comments discourage you (yes, we’re pretty tough people!).

2. Freelance writers can’t make a living for their own

We can’t make a living for our own (and our families) only if we charge rates so low that they won’t cover the bills and leave enough to bring food to the table.

A freelance writing career is a career like any other. Ultimately, for success to happen, you’ll need to stick with your work ethics and your rate list.

An example of success? Freelancer and author Carol Tice of Make A Living Writing. Her blog is proof that freelance writers definitely can make a living doing what they love the most.

3. Freelance writers overprice for easy work

This myth involves two assumptions– one, that freelance writers charge too much for a gig; two, that easy work should be low cost.

The fact is that ‘easy work’ doesn’t exist. No task is ‘easy’ when taken seriously, and a freelancer who can do something quickly and efficiently can do so because they have matured years of experience and problem solving, and so they should quote fair (and definitely NOT low) rates for their competencies and the value they provide to clients.

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Professional, experienced freelancers who work with companies and high level projects charge average to high rates and they are entitled to do so. A beginner may temporarily charge less to get their foot in the door, but a good prospective client knows that constant bottom-of-the-barrel rates are a sign that a freelancer may be too inexperienced or unreliable for their needs.

So don’t undercharge. Don’t go below average just because non-freelancers think you should.

You’ll be doing a disservice to yourself and your clients.

4. Freelance life equals underpaid for life

When Myth #3 gets in your systems and begins to influence the way you price your services, you make Myth #4 a reality.

Freelancers are workers like any others, so you are entitled to fair pay for your work. To undercharge all the time and put yourself under a lot of stress to make ends meet every month doesn’t do justice to yourself as a person and a worker, nor to your client.

The only way to make this myth die forever is to charge rates that are respectful of your and your client’s needs.

Once you set a minimum rate for a certain type of task, never go below that; only go up when the project requires more work.

5. Freelance work (and writing, maybe?) is not a “real job”

Awkward myth, but it takes from the perception of “real work” as a synonym of “employee work”.

What’s the definition of “real job” in people’s minds, after all? The sight of an employee doing subordinate, 9-to-5 work, Monday to Friday. Sometimes, if someone is really powerful in their position, these people will accept being a CEO or a running a company or a shop as a “real job” as well.

The truth is– every job is a real job. If you do something in order to earn a living, you have a job. It’s that simple.

Freelance writing is a real job. A writer has real clients and offers real services to them. The fact that freelance writers usually work from home or private office, and alone, doesn’t make it less than a job.

Don’t abandon your career to get a “real job” just because people around you push you to do it. Only do so if you have a real reason to change career path, as Daisha Cassel explains in her Renegade Writer post titled “5 Signs it’s Time to Quit Freelancing and get a “Real Job”“.

6. To sell yourself as a freelance writer, you have to lie

Presenting yourself in a professional manner is not lying.

A freelance writer who has no experience but a few “spec” case study and white paper clips is not a liar– they’re just new to the field.

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To offer a new service is always a bait of trust for both parties involved and generally, if a prospective client appreciates a freelancer’s other work, they may be up to hire that freelancer to provide their new services, too.

Freelance writers need to be good marketers, too. Marketing is not about lying– it’s all about making things interesting for a prospective client. 😉

7. Freelance work will never be high quality like in-house work

Where does this come from, since 66% of companies in 2019 allow remote work and 90% of workers admit to being more productive when working from home?

Actually, the place where you perform your job tasks does not influence your performance (unless, of course, you worked in a very noisy, distraction-filled environment!).

A web designer who creates a new website template for a company, for example, won’t perform less if they work at home instead of the company’s office. Actually, working from home may go to their advantage.

This myth has more to do with prejudice than freelance work, actually – the prejudice that workers in an office are kept under control, while someone working from home works in a climate of complete freedom.

But a client who trusts the freelancer they hired will be at ease with giving them all the freedom they need. No need for control.

8. You can’t make a living as a freelance writer without recurring clients

Unless you work with big businesses as a copywriter or other service provider, you don’t have to worry about getting more than one recurring client to keep your schedule busy and your living expenses covered.

This is even truer if you work for magazines – it’s unlikely that you will work with the same publication or editor more than once, so you should pitch new ideas to more magazines every week to keep the well filled.

You might still get on the sympathies of an editor who likes your writing and ideas and wants to buy more of your stories or turn you into a paid columnist, but even when that doesn’t happen, your marketing and pitching will keep work in the funnel – and this is why you don’t need recurring clients (but a recurring client is always a blessing!)

9. Freelance writers need to work 10+ hours a day to make a decent living

Don’t let this myth push you to overwork until you get sick. You do NOT need to work 10+ hours daily in order to earn a decent income.

What you need to do is quote fair rates, pick the right projects, plan, schedule… and then stick to schedule (leave some room for flexibility, as being human comes with variables!).

You might still want to pick the seldom rush assignment that will keep you busy for 10+ hours over the next three days, but you should keep this option open only when you feel a project is really worth it and it means something for you.

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By all means, don’t make it your standard approach to work or it will wear you down soon, get you on meds and put an end to your career. You don’t want that.

10. Women freelancers earn less than men freelancers

Not always a myth, this is sometimes true, especially for rates that exceed $100-$150, as Dianna Huff says in her post for the International Freelancer Academy, and a possible cause is low self-worth.

As a woman freelancer who grew up in an area where entrepreneurship and business are still sometimes seen as something not for women, I know it can be all too easy to let such prejudices influence your approach to business, but your experience, competence and background count just as much as any man’s with similar assets.

It’s all in the way you sell your services to prospects – be confident and proud of who you are!

Not feeling confident enough? Fake confidence until you gain your own. It’s not lying (see Myth #6 in this post about it).

11. Freelance writers can’t keep up with deadlines

Freelance writers are pretty good at juggling deadlines because they keep their goals and earnings in sight and help us make informed, responsible decisions.

Doesn’t mean that a deadline or two can’t slip from our fingers from time to time. If this is your case, don’t worry— you can keep up with deadlines, but you’re only human and sometimes… you just can’t help it, whether the cause comes from your life or from your client.

Start worrying when missing deadlines becomes a habit, though. Is there anything you can fix in your life to make sure it won’t happen again? What’s the core of the problem that keeps you from sticking to your deadlines?

Tackle your issues in advance. If your problem is related to health, only pick clients who ask for soft or flexible deadlines that you can work with without stress.

12. Bills and taxes will eat up most of a freelance writer’s income

Not really a myth if you charge rates so low that you have to scratch the bottom of the barrel to get food for dinner, but if you charge standard (average to high) rates, this is definitely not true.

The amount of legal papers and taxes you need to pay to keep your freelance business running will vary according to the country you reside and work in, but generally speaking, if you learn to live on less and you wisely manage your finances and freelance projects, you will eventually marry your spending needs with your saving efforts and have emergency or vacation money at the end of each month.

Keep it going!

If you’re looking for more than these 12 freelance writing myths, there are 6 more myths at Lindsay Van Tohen blog post at Freelancers Union.

Image credit: Scott Beale (cc)

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