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4 things people forget about freelance writers

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Before you go into a career as a writer, you need to remember a few facts. Here are four things people forget about freelance writers.

It can seem like a cushy job at times. We get to make our own hours and set our own schedule. When my children were younger, I could take time off when they needed it. It could take them to playgroups and mom groups. That all seemed great, and there were some working moms who were jealous.

However, freelance writers don’t have an easy life. It’s not just something to walk into, and there are downsides to the career choice. It’s time to look at four things that many people forget about freelance writers to decide if it is for you.

Freelance writers are only paid for the work they do

When a freelance writer decides on the career, they don’t just immediately get paid for the hours they work. You’re not going to immediately get minimum wage like you would walking into a job at McDonalds.

You can work 20 hours a week, but you won’t get paid for all those 20 hours. You’ll work 60 hours, but not all of those hours are billable. You’ll only get paid for the work you do for clients.

There’s a lot of other work that you’ll need to do. You’ll need to track your finances, manage a billing system, arrange and be in meetings or interviews, and travel for business.

You’ll need to keep all this in mind when it comes to setting your rate.

You won’t get paid for holidays and time off sick

When you take vacation as an employee, you’ll get paid time off. This is only up to certain amount, of course, but you still get some paid time off. You can also get paid sick leave. This isn’t the case for freelance writers.

When writers take time off, they take it off without pay. There is planning needed to be able to make sure the time off is stress free. I spend the weeks before and afterward paying for my time off, even if I take just a few days. If it’s time off sick, there isn’t the chance to plan all that well. It means playing catch-up afterward.

The other option is to hire people to do the work for you. You’ll need to spend money to be able to take time off. Sure, you still make a little bit, but do you want to run the risk of outsourcing work who can’t do it as well as you?

Freelance writers don’t get benefits

When you become an employee, there is a chance of benefits. Many jobs come with health benefits, dental benefits, and pension benefits. That’s not the case when people go self-employed. You have to deal with so much on your own.

As self-employed, I could pay for private health insurance. This would be fine if my dental work or prescriptions cost enough each month to justify the cost. Most of the time they don’t. There may be a one-off, but the private coverage isn’t going to be enough to cover the major emergencies.

So, you need to consider this in your fees. When you charge your clients, you’ll need to factor in the costs of health needs. You’ll need to factor in the fact that your taxes aren’t going to be paid straight out of your paycheck. You need to save money for them. You’ll need to make sure you charge enough to be able to save for retirement yourself.

There are some people who may be able to get some benefits from clients. For example, I end up with a lot of free books to review, and I love reading so I do see this as a benefit. I also get to watch a lot of TV shows ahead of time to review them, and again, I see this as a benefit. However, there are other types of benefits that writers can get including gym memberships or free products depending on what they write about.

You can claim your business expenses

There is one benefit that a lot of people forget when it comes to freelance writers. It’s all about reducing the tax you need to pay.

I know there are a lot of people who hate that businesses avoid tax. There is tax evasion and tax avoidance. The first is illegal, the second could be viewed as immoral, but it’s also allowed. It’s part of doing business.

When you’re employed, the items you need for work are supplied for you. The work will give you the computer you need to work with, and they’ll provide the stationary, the internet at the workplace, and more. If you needed to buy something for work, such as travel tickets, you’d be reimbursed.

This isn’t possible when self-employed. So, instead of reimbursing the costs, the costs are taken off the profits for the business. This helps to reduce the taxable amount paid to the government.

However, with business benefits come responsibilities. You’ll need to keep a record of all expenses for at least seven years. The tax man can come knocking to make sure you’ve claimed the right amount. In most cases, those who have been guilty of tax fraud in the past or those with a sudden change in income are the ones who will be audited. There are random audits, though.

MORE: How not to become a freelance writer

What fact about freelance writers do you regularly forget? What do you need help with to start your career? Share your thoughts in the comments below.