Fringe Benefits for Freelance Writers

Freelance Writerfringe ben·e·fit
noun
Definition: an extra benefit supplementing an employee’s salary, for example, a company car, subsidized meals, health insurance, etc.
synonyms:
extra, added extra, additional benefit, privilege, bonus;

There are a number of bonuses that comes with a writer’s career. Even to this day, getting paid for writing seems like magic—it’s soooo easy, isn’t it? However, money isn’t the only reward for being a freelance writer. Fringe benefits abound and you may find yourself swimming in benefits that aren’t readily apparent. In this article we’ll now take a look at a few of the many reasons why this career path is so great.

Staying Current

You’ll never be out of the loop as a freelance writer. You get to stay current because you’re typically dealing with topical content. 90% of the writing assignments I undertake are based online. This means that I get to stay abreast of the latest trends that I would otherwise miss locked in a cubicle or installing drywall on some construction site.

Job Security

Is there anything more tragic than watching a consistently-employed individual become redundant by a new technology or trend? Or, watching someone scramble to pay the bills after being laid off? For writers, there’s always work. Everywhere you go you will see the written word, someone had to write that—and that someone could be you.

Good help is hard to find. Smart clients know how valuable good writers are and seek to retain them.

You will also learn other skills, ensuring your don’t need to put your eggs in one baket. I’ve had several instances where I’ve gone from writing PR copy to catfishing on a client’s behalf. Each of these skills increases the breadth of my available job market, usually while being paid a healthy rate.

Business Know-How

Ever worked at a job where you just knew your boss was an idiot? As a freelancer, not only do you get to choose which idiot(s) you work for,  but you can also see what’s going on under the hood, understanding what’s causing their business to run inefficiently.

If you have an entrepreneurial instinct, you have the chance to observe how other businesses are run, learning what works and what doesn’t. For instance, I’ve had clients that are very disorganized; however, they have great ideas. One common archetype is a client that has bitten off more than they could chew. Basically, their ambitions exceeded their abilities—it’s a common motif in freelancing.

On the other hand, I’ve met people with ambitions but no ideas beyond copying ideas from success stories. This type is a little more difficult because their intent is to have you come up with all the intellectual legwork while they just fund the project. I’ve often said, “well, I can do that I suppose…” and got to work on my own similar projects. Hey, as long as the checks get cashed, I’ll play along.

Finally, you can have great clients that not only pay well, but are also very successful. One client I work for has been featured on CNN, Oprah, Huffington Post, and so forth, but I know exactly why—they’re organized, efficient. They treat their freelancers well,  and expect a high level of consistent output.

Community

Writing can be solitary, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be that way. Because you’re interviewing sources and engaging people, you become part of a local community whether you like it or not.

Ever wonder what’s happening in your town? Write about it. It gives you a good excuse to snoop around or find out what really goes on. Plus, you may surprise yourself with the positive things; last week, I found out some local initiatives that are planned for next year for public art projects, all thanks to asking a librarian to help me cross-reference some research for an unrelated assignment. Hey, you never know…

You may catch some people off-guard by asking too many questions. I’ve had several instances where people take me aside, taking offense at my inquisitive nature. Perhaps that’s one of the job hazards for writers (besides carpal tunnel syndrome), but I find that more often than not, people want to tell you their opinions, knowing that you can give voice to the voiceless. Not a bad gig, if you ask me.

Self-Determinism

I’ll never forget being forced to quit a cooking gig when I told my then-boss that I needed to find a second job to pay my bills. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but now it does: my boss was trying to retain me and limit my earnings.

Yikes, I’m glad those days are over. As a freelance writer, I don’t have to “ask for permission” to seek out more work. Heck, I’m going to go on a cigarette break RIGHT NOW!

[Five minutes later…]

Ahh, sweet freedom. While I’ve maintained a freelance writing career for a number of years, I’ve also had the opportunity to work other jobs simultaneously. Remember this: the only metric freelance writers are judged by is their output. You don’t have to play Machiavellian office politics, nor suck up to a manager. Better yet, when I’ve been overwhelmed with assignments, no one batted an eyelid when I outsourced the extra work. Try pawning off your office gig to your friend when you’ve got a hangover and see what happens…

The takeaway is that you are in charge of your earnings and your career. You have no one else to blame when you come up short and you can set your own hourly rate. Like I said, sweet freedom.

Freeing Up Your Time and Energy

Back when I was a nine-to-fiver, my free time was squeezed in between commutes, grocery shopping, and running errands. With freelance writing, I find that I have an abundance of free time—so much so that I almost feel guilty when comparing notes with my salaried friends. The fringe benefit of writing is that you can squeeze your job in between your life; not the other way around.

The other interesting thing is the actual physical effort that is required for writing. I’ve shoveled asphalt for near minimum-wage to driving in a semi across the US. I’ll tell you what: those jobs are exhausting. Often, I’d find myself in a lifeless daze after every shift, reaching out for whatever low-energy amusement that would give me a dose of instant gratification and induce sleep. With writing, I find myself seeking out physical exercise to wind me down from the day. Even the mental fatigue caused by monotony is erased; every assignment is a new approach and a new test of my skills that I’m more than happy to develop.

* * *

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of being a writer. I won’t even tell you all the times I’ve managed to impress people at engagements with random facts or an in-depth knowledge about esoteric topics. After reading this article, you can tell everyone gathered around you why this job is the best.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a glass of beer.

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