I feel like most of my blog posts these days begin with “hello everyone, remember this horrific world we in the United States are living through right now? Hopefully we can turn this chaos and mass tragedy of COVID-19 and the failings of our nation into something positive!”
And it’s hard, sometimes. I’m writing this on Fourth of July because… what else am I going to do? It feels like we’re in work mode all the time now, and I keep blocking off “rest days” that end up turning into work days anyways because… might as well I guess?
So, there is a method to my madness: if we’re going to be cooped up at home for the next however long, why not make the most of it? Why not save up for travel and exploration and the future? Why not work hard now so we can play later?
I say this as someone who enjoys the work I do (I’m working on writing an essay about how hustle culture can be toxic — more on that later!) and finding purpose in my work grounds me and helps me stay sane.
(I’m also gardening and reading books and watching way too much Shark Tank and Warrior Nun, so I’m not working ALL the time! Also Warrior Nun is a new Netflix series that is surprisingly delightful, go check it out. It’s very reminiscent of Buffy.)
Catholic superhero shows aside, I wanted to write this article to talk a little bit about the landscape of freelancing in the pandemic from my experiences in case you were looking to get started as a freelance writer or were looking for some new strategies in this uncertain time. Let’s go!
In Some Areas, There’s More Freelance Work Than Ever
Since so many of us are lucky to be cooped up at home, a lot of small businesses and individuals are hiring freelancers to help move the needle and increase sales or write that book or invest in a large project or asset.
In all honesty, I’m the busiest I’ve ever been with my freelance work, and I feel like I’m getting a landslide of new inquiries. (There were crickets at the beginning of this pandemic that have since turned into more work than I have time for.)
There are some industries in which freelance writers are struggling. Media outlets seem on the verge of collapse, begging readers to unblock their ad blockers or buy a subscription. Massive layoffs mean there’s a flood of amazing journalists and writers who are competing for freelance assignments. Even though people are on the Internet more, ad sales aren’t necessarily as high since we’re in a recession. So, in the “traditional” media fields and new media blog jobs and travel writing niches, there seems to be a lot less freelance writing work.
Where there seems to be more opportunity, however, is in ghostwriting.
Now is a Great Time to Be a Ghost(writer)!
Ghostwriting is my area of expertise — I’ve built all of my freelance writing business pretty much around ghostwriting memoirs!
I also ghostwrite articles, about pages and blog content, but by far the bulk of my income comes from ghostwriting memoirs and nonfiction books.
Right now, everybody is ready to write their memoir, revamp their blog, and rebrand their company. They’re prepping to get back to work — or attracting new customers. Or, they’re thinking about building a legacy as we’re spiraling in an out-of-control world.
If you’re a freelance writer — or photographer or graphic designer! — take a look at the different kinds of businesses that are thriving right now. E-Commerce stores need copyrighters to tout their cool mask designs, and bunker prepping kits need blog posts written about how to secure your home in a pandemic or earthquake (please dear God let’s not have an earthquake this year, the plot for 2020 already went too far with the murder hornets.)
You can cold pitch these kinds of businesses on your services, or you can sign up for a freelance marketplace like Upwork to see what kinds of jobs are out there.
Freelance Writers: Say No To “Pandemic Pricing”
Just because we’re in a pandemic does not mean you discount your rates.
It might seem like a good idea to lower your rates to attract more clients, but honestly? It’s hard enough to be a functioning professional and do your best work in a pandemic. You might even consider raising your rates to make up for the fact that our productivity is probably taking a hit due to the, oh, I don’t know, existential dread we are collectively going through?
In all seriousness, though, you’re still a professional rendering services, and your services are still valuable (if not more valuable now that so many companies have laid off full-time workers and are turning to freelance professionals to fill in the gaps.)
The businesses and people who are thriving or investing in bigger picture projects know that now is a time to build and grow, and they’ll see the right freelance writer as an asset to their growth or whatever they’re investing in.
Save the Money You Make as a Freelance Writer for Future Sabbaticals
Instead of getting take-out every night, see what money you can save for future travel and investments so that this time can be one of growing your resources.
You don’t have to live a spartan life, but there’s probably a lot of things you’ve already cut out (Ubers, bars, coffee shops, entertainment, dining out) or could cut (unnecessary subscriptions, too much takeout, clothes you don’t need other than sweatpants, booze, etc.) in order to decrease your spending and save more money.
Consider this your “Thoreau” year. I’m not saying make your Mom do your laundry and avoid paying taxes — I’m saying consider living more simply and spend time gardening rather than drinking, or reading books rather than shopping online.
Living more simply and cutting expenses will feel good, and allow you to more joyfully approach your freelance work while banking the extra cash for rainy days and jaunts around the globe.
Don’t Feel Bad if You’re Not Working
Stay inside, wear a mask, write that novel, and freelance when you can — but also don’t beat yourself if you’re not matching your pre-pandemic levels of freelance income.
We’re probably going to be in this thing for awhile, so expect it to ebb and flow. You might even use this downtime to do something productive like learning a new skill or exploring a new facet of your business and developing a niche in a different part of freelance writing.
Or, you might just rest. Rest is important, too. If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, make sure you’re making time to just chill. Rest can help with your clarity and quality of mind, and I’ve been particularly loving the Radio Headspace Podcast if you’re looking for a little zen in your week. If you’re not familiar with Headspace, it’s a meditation app, and the free podcast is a soothing collection of short, 5-minute reflections on how to live a peaceful life.
So, whether you decide to take this time and rest or throw yourself into your work, you do you. You might feel called to simplify and organize, or you might feel energized by trying something new in how you approach attracting clients and presenting your freelance writing services.
Whether you’re building out a new portfolio website or having Netflix marathons or Marie Kondo-ing your home, just take things day-by-day and be kind to yourself.
We’re living through history — and history has always exhausted me.
Stay healthy, friends.
Want to learn more about freelance writing? Check out the links below for free resources or check out my book on how to get started as a freelancer!
- How to Make Money Having Opinions on the Internet AKA Blogging
- How to Hire and Work with Freelance Writers
- Remote Work Survival Guide: How to Work from Home and Not Lose Your Mind
- Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer
- How I Made My First $10k as a Freelance Writer on Upwork
- How to Ghostwrite a Memoir or Hire a Ghostwriter for Your Autobiography