Growing As A Freelance Writer: 3 Stages

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the different types of freelance writers: I see some major differences between freelancers, to the point where I think there are three separate stages of freelance writing. How long you’ve been in the game doesn’t really affect what stage you’re in, though: it seems to be a matter of an evolving mindset. As we grow as freelancers, we start to explore certain ideas and move towards certain goals. As I see it, these are the three major stages:

The Starting Freelancer

Freelancers in the first stage are focused on learning — while many freelance writers dedicate themselves to learning throughout the course of their careers, the starting freelancer is still a little uncertain about why other freelancers use certain tactics or charge certain rates. In a way, moving out of this level is mostly a matter of building confidence.

It is easy to get caught in the beginning stage of freelancing for the long term. I’ve seen a lot of freelance writers who chose freelancing because they had something else in their lives that needed to take priority. Whether that’s a day job or a family or something else, it’s possible to stay a little unsure of your freelancing when you spend a lot of time focusing on something else.

The Practicing Freelancer

Practicing freelancers tend to feel comfortable with the way they do business: they’re comfortable that clients are willing to pay their rates. That means that a practicing freelancer isn’t scared to pitch editors at big publications or market themselves to big name clients. One of the biggest concerns for a freelancer at this level is how to grow the number of clients he or she is working with (and hopefully the payrates as well).

I think a lot of freelancers are pretty comfortable reaching this level and just sticking with it. It’s very satisfying to keep writing and building a bigger business and many freelance writers can more than reach their financial goals at the level of the practicing Freelancer.

The Expanding Freelancer

Some freelancers move on to a third stage, based n the idea that maybe they want to do more than work for clients. It’s a definite mental shift, but I know plenty of freelance writers who have branched out into building up a bigger business. That can look like anything from hiring a few writers to work for you to teaching classes to selling ebooks, but the general idea is to build up revenue streams that don’t necessarily depend on how many hours you spend on a client’s work.

The life of an expanding freelancer isn’t a bed of roses, though. It has a whole new set of problems that a freelancer has to learn how to deal with, which don’t necessarily translate well from a freelance point of view.

Where Do You Fit?

I find that while not all freelancers want to put themselves into a particular category, most of the writers I know fit into one of these three groups. Do you think this type of classification sounds about right? And do you feel like you belong to one of the three groups? I’d love to hear some other takes on the matter.


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