I’ve been making a big deal about changing careers because I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the freelance writing business and it’s future outlook, or lack thereof. The wheels are in motion to begin my ESL teaching career abroad, but for the moment I still have to uphold the responsibilities I have to my clients.
If you are one of my clients and you’re reading this blog you can rest assured that I would never leave you high and dry. When the time comes for me to finally move to China or Taiwan or Hong Kong, I will finish whatever assignments I have, and you will be given ample advance notice of my departure.
But it occurs to me that maybe this doesn’t truly have to be the end. Freelance writing, due to the mobility and flexibility that it presents, make it the perfect side hustle. Even if I just take a handful of assignments each month, it would still be a nice cash infusion in addition to my teaching work. It’s also worth mentioning that I would not have to pay taxes to the Canadian government for any money I earn abroad, so the work could effectively be tax-exempt.
As a primary source of income freelance writing is a tough slog. Few people who get into this actually become successful. There’s just too much competition and that drives down pay rates; because there are so many people who can do the same job, the value of the work plummets. It’s basic economics. Most clients, or at least the ones I’ve encountered, simply don’t pay enough. There are freelancers who make six-figures a year, but they are the rare exceptions. The vast majority of freelance writers have a day job and only do this on the side.
For most of us making a decent living exclusively through freelance writing work is not possible. I was only able to do it at the expense of suffering various hardships such as going on social assistance, living in shitty basement apartments, not going out on weekends, seldom buying new clothing, not dating because I was too broke, selling possessions for rent money, and constantly falling behind on my bills. I still don’t have anything put away for retirement and only a very modest amount in a TFSA as my emergency fund. As for home ownership or investing in things like stocks or REITS? Ha! Yeah right…
I would not recommend anyone get into this business thinking they can make a living at it, because the honest truth is that most people don’t and end up giving up within the first year. The internet is full of snake oil salesmen dispensing false hope and rose-tinted glasses. I’m here to tell you the truth. Freelance writing can be a great side hustle, but as a primary source of income? Unless you have industry connections, don’t quit your day job.