Are you a college graduate who loves to write? If so, you may be drawn to the many, many websites that offer ‘academic writing’ opportunities.

I’ve been writing since I was a young kid, developing characters and fantasy lands in hopes of one day writing my own novel. That hasn’t happened (yet) so I decided to take a different path—freelancing.

If writing isn’t your day job (yet), I bet you’ve daydreamed of what it must be like. You’ve probably imagined a life spent creating fantastical characters from thin air, as you smoke a cigar, and peck away on your typewriter.

Wait—wrong century.

So, grab a cup of coffee, take out your notepad (for when you get a spark of inspiration and faze out of this blog post momentarily to scribble it down), and let’s talk truths about writing that no one tells us about. Let’s dig in:

It’s a Bumpy Beginning

Starting out, I did what almost every aspiring freelancer does—start a blog. My own corner of the Internet to lay out my thoughts and help people.

Long story short, blogging wasn’t for me. It takes a lot of time building one from scratch. Not only that but the amount of effort I had to dedicate to marketing became too much. I didn’t spend much time writing either.

I felt like I could advance my career better by seeking opportunities outside of blogging. After deciding that, I felt a tad lost. Blogging kickstarted a lot of careers for some so without having my own blog, I didn’t know where to turn.

I started looking at job boards. Luckily, I landed a freelance writing position for the place I’m employed at now. I did a test article and got in! From there, I joined LinkedIn, which helps secure more clients.

Moral of the story is: it wasn’t an easy beginning. I didn’t have an extensive portfolio, just what I write in my spare time. Everything I learned, I learned either on the job or from the internet. It’s important to try different outlets like blogging or even microblogging. Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t the same for you.

You’ll Undersell Yourself

Being a freelance writer is no easy gig. There’s a lot of competition and sometimes, pure skill isn’t enough. Those with bachelor degrees are preferred, even for lesser-known publications.

With the pressure to land more clients, I undersold myself a couple of times. Let me tell you…it did not feel good.

At first, I would be excited to land a new job. Afterward, I felt like I cheated myself. I did a lot of writing, put in a lot of effort conducting valid research—all for little pay. Setting prices is complicated, that’s for sure. I like to think I’m a good writer, familiar with SEO, can conduct research but I haven’t been in the game professionally for long. Therefore, I don’t charge triple digits.

Right now, I charge $50 for 1,000 words. Personally, I charge based off of my experience. As I gain more work then I’ll start charging more.

Clients Aren’t Always Nice

Being an editor for the marketing company, I constantly see other writers’ work rejected for unnecessary reasons. Sometimes, clients are nasty. They’ll flat out say, “This sucks and I could’ve written this 10x better in less time.”

Yeah, it’s bad sometimes.

They can be really impolite and make you think twice about continuing on as a writer. If you deal with this, heed my advice: work through it. Take two or ten minutes to let out your frustration or sadness. Afterward, read their objections intensely. As hard as it’ll be, try to understand their point of view. Then, give them what they want.

The more you try to convince them the writing is acceptable the way it is, the more they’ll argue. Even if they’re being nasty, be courteous. There’s no point in adding fuel to the fire since it’s your professional reputation at stake.

You Must Read Everyday

Writers who say they don’t read disturb me. Why write if you don’t appreciate the written word? How can you possibly grow as a writer without reading the great works of other writers, past and present?

As a writer, you should surround yourself with rich language often. Read as much as you write.

You’re Technically a Ghostwriter

One major thing I learned right off the bat is you won’t be putting your name on everything you write. You act as a ghostwriter a lot of the time. Unless otherwise stated, clients are buying the rights to your work. That means once they pay you and you hand over the article, it’s theirs to do with as they please. And that means putting their name on your work.

At first, this bothered me. I wanted my name on every piece I churned out.

Soon after, I learned it’s just the name of the game. I’m getting compensated for what I love to do so in a way, it makes up for it.

For those troublesome clients, it can be harder to deal with. They didn’t treat you the best but there they are…acting like they wrote their own content. But hey, it comes with the territory. That’s why it’s also important to charge what you’re worth.

There is no Correct Way to Write, but there are a lot of Incorrect Ways. 

This one is confusing and it took me a while to figure it out. Writing is an odd profession because there is no set way to write an article, nor is there an incorrect style of writing. Obviously, this is not the case for many other studies, such as math. I hate math. 1 + 1 will always equal 2. How boring is that? But, because writing is such a fluid practice, many so called writers don’t take it seriously. While you can write in whatever way seems best to you, you’ll also have to learn when to use paragraph breaks and how to avoid creating flat characters. It’s hard to find a balance, but extremely necessary.

Your Writing is Always Going to Suck.

At least it will look that way to you. You're always going to be chasing after becoming the 'perfect' writer, but you'll never make it because it's not really possible. There’s a reason many freelance writers are alcoholics, drug addicts, or just downright insane. Is there a solution to this? Yes. Well, actually, no. Maybe?

There Are Multiple Career Paths to Take

Freelance writing is just the beginning. Knowing where you want to take it is a tough journey.

You could become a novelist, a technical writer, a magazine editor…the list goes on and on. Freelancing is a great start, don’t get me wrong. But turning it into a sustainable full-time job is difficult since work or clients are never guaranteed.

You need a plan B. A career path that’ll lead you to stability and financial security. Knowing this in the beginning would’ve given me a lot more to strive for.


There is a great deal of advice around about how to write and indeed, we have written some of this ourselves. Some people claim that it takes 10 years to become an expert at anything, but we would argue that one probably never really feels like an expert writer. Being a freelance writer is an endless process of discovery. It is a little like becoming a professional musician; committing to being a writer means a lifetime of honing your technique through practice.

Becoming a freelance writer is also a bit like becoming a parent. It’s not until you have walked the floor with a screaming infant at 4am that you can truly understand what all the talk about ‘tiredness’ is about. But there are many aspects of parenting that no one tells you – or doesn’t think to mention. Like ear infections, strange phobias, weird little habits and so on.

So it is with freelance writing. Only by indulging in the practice of writing, day in and day out, do you really understand what it means to be a freelance writer. Like parenting, writing can be full of surprises – both pleasant and unpleasant. We thought we would compile this list of “Things they don’t tell you about freelance writing” in an attempt to prepare you for what is coming!
Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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