5 Surprises New Freelance Writers Face

A white gift box springs open to reveal the word Surprise


Freelance writing is full of surprises–some pleasant, some not so pleasant.

Many freelance writers simply don’t know what to expect from freelance writing.

Much of what has been written about freelance writing is incomplete. It highlights certain aspects of writing or certain problems and glosses over the rest.

When I started freelancing several things took me by surprise. Even though I had read all I could find about freelance writing, I was still unprepared. I don’t want other new writers to go through that.

In this post, I share five things about freelance writing that may take you by surprise if you’re just getting started.

Surprise #1: Writing Takes a Lot of Time

Most new freelance writers underestimate the amount of time that it takes to write a good article or blog post. To make matters worse, the Internet is filled with articles and posts on how to write quickly.

The truth is that while you may be able to speed up the writing process a little, it takes time to create a well-researched, well-written post. By time, I mean hours and not minutes.

Sure, you may have a few topics that you are knowledgeable about. You can probably write about those topics quickly and without research. But you still have to proofread those posts when you are done. And most clients want you to write about a topic of their own choosing, not about what you already know.

Surprise #2: You Still Deal with People

I’ve seen a lot of comments online from would-be writers who hate dealing with people. They mistakenly believe that, as a writer who works from home, they won’t have to deal with others. Often these comments are from someone who has had a bad experience in a traditional workplace.

Unless you’re independently wealthy and writing for fun, you need people. You need to deal with clients and would-be clients, and editors. If you’re a blogger, you’ll also need to deal with your readers.

Good people skills are a definite must for freelance writers. Those skills include selling and negotiating. If you are uncomfortable with selling your services or negotiating the terms of a project, you might have trouble as a freelance writer.

Surprise #3: There Will Be Slow Times

Most new freelance writers will tell you the same story.

After a few months of writing they find themselves with several repeat clients. Understandably, the new writer relaxes. After all, they have steady clients now. Often, this means they stop marketing their writing business.

The shock comes later when those steady clients dry up and suddenly the new writer has no income.

Your earnings from freelance writing will fluctuate. If you’ve always held a traditional job in the past, the slow times could surprise you.

Surprise #4: You Are Not Alone

As a new freelance writer, you might feel like you’re all alone as a writer. You’d be wrong.

One of the nicest surprises I found as a freelance writer is that there is a big community of other freelance writers online. Most of those writers are willing to share their experiences through blog posts and comments in forums.

Today, I value my friendships with other freelance writers. They provide me with practical and emotional support for my freelance writing career.

Where can you find those writing communities? Well, social media is a good place to look. You can also join a forum or community designed for writers.

Surprise #5: You Can Make a Good Living

This is another one of those pleasant surprises. If you know what you’re doing, you can earn a living as a writer.

Here’s a little secret. I put off freelance writing for years because I didn’t believe that it was possible to earn a living as a freelance writer.

Sure, I knew writing skills were worth money. After all, I was already being paid for my technical writing skills.

But I had no idea how much demand there is for writers of all kinds. And that demand has grown since I started as a freelance writer.

Your Turn

Are you already an experienced freelance writer? If you are, what took you by surprise about freelance writing?

P.S. I’ve teamed up with veteran writer Carol Tice to bring you a book that can prepare you for many of the unpleasant surprises. That book is The Step By Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success. You can learn more about it here.


  1. says

    Hey Laura,

    I’d like to discuss the first surprise; i have been writing since 1 year and when i started i was not at all associated with writing and it was so difficult for me to start with it.

    It took me more than 24 hours to write my 1st article and after writing few articles i learnt to wind up articles in 6 hours and today i’m able to write articles in 30 minutes and that’s because i started freelance writing, practicing things again and again boosted my confidence.

    -Siraj Wahid

    • Laura Spencer says

      Thanks for the feedback! :)

      It’s true that you get faster with practice, but I’d be cautious about those 30 minute articles (unless they are very short). Make sure that they are well-researched and that you are double-checking them for errors.

      Best wishes to you.

  2. says

    Very encouraging, Laura. One of my issues right now is carving out time, because I have realized over the years that it does take more than a few minutes or hour to write a good post or article. One good thing is that summer is almost here, and I’ll have an opportunity to sit down and determine what’s needed and establish a work flow to try to get efficient.

    Thank you!

Leave a Reply