Self-Employed Freelance Writer or Low Paid Employee?

Recently, I met a freelance writer who is a very strong writer. She's disciplined. She follows client instructions. She sticks to deadlines. She takes on more work than a mother with two young kids should. And yet her spouse believes she doesn't have a "real job".

It never ceases to amaze me how biased some people can be against self-employed freelance writers. Believe it or not, there are really people out there who believe the life of a full time freelance writer consists of sleeping in until 10am before playing Facebook games all day.

These same biased people don't seem to see the hours of research, the long hours of sitting alone, writing countless articles or press releases or reviews, and trying to stick to insane deadlines set by clients who seem to believe we're all capable of writing 20,000 words a day with only 24 hour notice. All of this is done, by the way, while looking after a home, raising children, cooking meals and still being a wonderful spouse.

Yet, when pay-day arrives and there really is money sitting in the bank account, all those hours of sitting around and doing "nothing" actually seem to make sense to those who don't live in this world every day.

So how does a freelance writer explain the nature of being self-employed to a spouse or loved one who is determined to believe that working at Wal-Mart for $10 is a better option?

Is setting out to find a part-time "J.O.B" really worth the effort? Should you look for something that will give you regular hours every evening that means you need to give up your precious time with your kids? Is it worth it to miss out on time alone with your spouse while you're out earning minimum wage for a j.o.b?

More importantly, is it worth the extra cost to pay for fuel to drive to that job, the extra cost of paying for work clothing, cooking less healthy meals for your family, buying take-out more frequently to make up for being tired, paying for baby-sitters, putting up with managers telling you how to do your job and all the other tiny little bits of cr@p that go along with earning minimum wage?

Or is it worth the effort to show these freelance-biased people just how and why they're so WRONG in their thinking?

Of course I think the latter. Let's get into it in a little more detail:

Earning More Money

As a freelance writer, the amount you earn is 100% dependent on you. The amount you write, the type of work you accept, and the clients you choose will all play a part in determining your income. If you really sit down and apply your butt to your chair, get those fingers working on your keyboard and actually WRITE, you'll make money.

Work out what you're capable of writing in an hour of solid work and charge accordingly. Be sure you charge your clients more money than you could earn flipping burgers at McDonalds.

Spending Less Money

The vast majority of freelance writers fail to accept that working at home also means you need to earn less money to live more comfortably. You don't need to earn so much to pay for fuel or car maintenance or repairs. You just need to walk to your computer.

You don't need expensive uniforms or fashionable work clothes. You just need to be wearing something comfortable enough to allow you to sit and work.

You don't need to buy expensive take-out lunches when it's far easier to make a simple sandwich in the kitchen.

Add up the amount you're NOT spending and you'll soon find that you're able to live far more comfortably working at home than you could if you were heading out to work part-time.

Tax Advantages of Being a Self-Employed Freelance Writer

One thing serial-employees really don't understand is how badly they have it as employees. You see, they earn an hourly rate, which is then taxed at exorbitant rates. Then they receive their "in-hand" pay - the amount they get after tax is already automatically deducted, along with health insurance. From this remaining "in-hand" amount they receive, they're expected to pay bills, buy food, pay for fuel, keep the Internet connected, contribute to their 401k (or superannuation, depending in which country you live) and then put some aside for savings.

How very backwards.

Yet a self-employed freelance writer has the luxury of earning their money first. They get to pay their phone bill, Internet bill, pay for computer upgrades, deduct home office equipment, including printers, stationary, software, pens, desks, chairs and other fun tax deductible stuff that is the same in almost EVERY country.

After they've paid for the deductible things they want and need in order to continue earning a freelance income, they are taxed on what's left over. This means they earn similar amounts of money, but they pay for the things they need for their business with pre-tax dollars. They pay less tax in the long run, which gives them more money at the end of the day.

Of course, this is where most people who are stuck in the "employee mindset" really struggle. These are the people who simply don't understand that it's also their responsibility to with-hold their own taxes from the amounts they earn. They forget they need to pay their own insurance, pay their own health premiums - basically take some real responsibility for running a real business.

A true freelancer cherishes taking responsibility for the business-aspect of being a freelance writer. This includes learning what can and can't be deducted as part of operating a business from a home-office.

Yet all the while, a freelance writer is still "sitting at home playing on the Internet"

The Best Part of All

The very best part about being a self-employed freelance writer is the ability to enjoy your children growing up. You're not off working as a miserable low-paying employee while someone else cares for your kids. You're at home, able to work your schedule around their needs. You don't get to miss that first step, that first tooth coming out, that first day of school - all those important things far too many parents miss out on.

You can get up and prepare dinner in your time without having to struggle through peak-hour traffic for an hour first.

You can catch up with friends when it suits you to do so and then catch up your workload aroundd this.

So Why Don't Employees Understand?

Serial employees only ever think of the "regular" pay check they receive each week. They don't understand that the nature of being self-employed is all about taking responsibility for being self-disciplined and working around a schedule. They don't understand about finding clients or sticking to deadlines. They don't even understand that sometimes you'll get paid once every two weeks - but other times you'll be paid 4 times in a week.

They only see that they are given a set number of hours to work. They work them and they get paid on a regular basis. Nothing is ever mentioned about their productivity or effectiveness or accountability or responsibility. They just get paid and they like the certainty and regularity.

Maybe this is why they're paid so poorly?

Employees don't have the freedom to increase their income by raising their rates. They don't have the ability to diversify their incomes and bring in extra streams of cash. They can't find better clients who will cherish them and place bigger orders that add up to even more money overall. They can't just decide to do a bit of extra work when it suits them in order to earn a few extra dollars here and there.

But freelance writers can do all these things.

So the next time a serial-employed person dares to tell you to go out and "get a real job" - tell them to learn a bit about how business works before they dare to question what you're doing



Alleykat said...

Great post. It sure is frustrating when people who "go to work" think that freelancers don't work because they don't actually report to a boss at a physical location. And the comment about working at Wal-Mart for $10 being looked at as a "real job" more than freelancing was spot on. (Not that there is anything wrong with working for Wal-Mart, of course.)

Jae said...

I do not have any children, but I do love being able to come an go as I please. I plan on traveling the world for a year or more. Freelance writing affords me the opportunity to work while I travel. I don't need to convince my boss to let me telecommute. My BOSSES expect it.

Cheers to living the dream!

Restless Writer|Becoming a Freelance Writer:Introduction

Vandana Singhal said...

Hi Bianca,

Very well written and thoughtful post. You have written what I think and feel. In my case, it is not my spouse, but other people in my home who take my job as nothing. They think I am just wasting my day in front of my computer.

But, still I am happy because my spouse understands my position and hardwork.

Thanks again for sharing good thoughts.

Warm regards,
<a href="http://www.thinktankcontentlabs.com/>Thinktank Content Labs</a>

lisajayne said...

Being a freelance writer and managing money can be rather difficult at times, especially if you have just started writing. That's what I found at first anyway.

There are also other resources out there that are full of information and advice. One of which I found quite helpful is this one - http://www.writersbureau.com/blog/keeping-contact-contacts/2012/10/