Can freelancers write 40 hours a week?

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I have worked in many freelance roles, and I’ve had lots of good experiences. It’s strange for my parents to understand how I work from home, but it suits me. I occasionally miss having somewhere to go to actually work, and occasionally I miss coworkers, but not often. During almost every freelance position I’ve held, I’ve connected with at least one remote coworker. We email or IM to discuss our common ground, and making those connections is refreshing.

The freelance market is much more saturated than it was several years ago. That’s a good thing. More companies are interested in contract workers that can work from home, meaning more flexibility for companies and workers. As companies navigate the freelance waters, some things become murky, such as: DECENT PAY.

Have you looked for freelance jobs? First, it’s difficult to look. I’ve found two solid, decent-paying freelance gigs on Craigslist, but generally Craigslist has lots of posts where employers don’t want to pay writers much, if anything. You may have seen this phrase in the “compensation” field: No pay, but will look great on your resume! All other freelance jobs have come to me through people I know looking for experienced writers. It’s all who you know, right?

A recent article published on Daily Writing Tips describes the reality of freelance writing. The author, Mark Nichol, investigates how sustainable it is to expect a writer to produce 20,000 words of content per week (20 articles at 1000 words per piece). The pay started at $20 per piece, and after a time could go up to $40 or $50 per piece. These figures come directly from a Craigslist post calling for freelancers. This, he explains, is a fulltime job.

So now it seems some companies are tipping back over to fulltime employees, though in many cases these fulltime writers still maintain a “contract” status. This happened to me. I, a contract writer with a reasonable pay and a reasonable set of monthly articles, was let go. The company instead hired a fulltime writer, and they chose to phase out their freelancers. No hard feelings; as a financial choice, I completely understand. What I don’t comprehend is the reality of the situation.  Mark Nichol’s article struck a chord with me.

It’s unrealistic to expect someone to put in that many hours churning out content, even if one finds writing about widgets an exhilarating prospect. It’s unsustainable for a writer to do so, and disingenuous for an employer to expect that the writer can do so.

Another murky point: EXPECTATION V. REALITY. Maybe a really excellent technical writer can tackle 40 hours of researching and writing every week, but to me, the prospect seems exhausting. My eyes are already glazing over. I know the longer I work without breaks, the less coherent I can be. The 39th hour of writing won’t be as stellar as the 2nd or 3rd hour. And I guess companies are accepting this fact, or possibly they don’t understand or expect it at all. And so Nichol writes, and I emphatically echo:

Do they want to attract writers, or are they content with typists? (No offense intended against transcribers, of course.)

It’s a great question, and I’m interested to see how it will play out.

I don’t do much writing for pay anymore. Instead I spend my time designing apps and websites, planning functionality and design with my husband, and writing fiction in my spare time. I wouldn’t have left my freelance gig unless something better came along, but now that I’ve been squeezed out, I’m very happy. Relieved, even.

Have any of you experienced similar issues in the freelancing world?


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