How are freelance and fiction writing similar?

The previous post discussed a few ways that freelance writing and fiction writing are different. You might be surprised that there are many more ways that they’re similar, aside from sharing the same general function of creating words where there  were none before.

I can understand that some fiction writers might be leery of freelance writing, or “writing as work” in general. If you believe that you have just a certain number of words available to you each day, and that once you use up that quota, you can’t write anymore, then sure, that’d be difficult to then build a career off of daily writing projects for clients. You certainly don’t want all your time and energy drained by work and have nothing left for your novel or short story (one of the reasons I recently decided to make a go at full-time freelancing).

For me, my fiction is my passion, but at this point it doesn’t contribute much in the way of paying the bills. I feel lucky, though, to have a job where I can use those same writing skills to, you know, help keep the lights on and pay for groceries. Through this, I also support my fiction career, in the hopes that the two will eventually balance out and I’ll be able to focus more on my stories. Now then:

How are freelance and fiction writing similar?

  • The required dedication – Both fiction and freelance writing can be difficult fields to break into. Both can require years of initial investment before you start seeing any significant return on your work. Both require the ability to motivate yourself to sit in a chair for hours at a time,
  • The variety of work – In fiction, you’ve got a smorgasbord of genres to choose from, as well as the formats and lengths of work you can experiment with. Novels? Poems? Short stories? Flash fic? Same with freelance writing. There are numerous types of writing you can do for clients, including web pages, SEO articles, press releases, emails, blogs, traditional marketing materials, and so on. Plus you end up writing for a huge variety of companies and are exposed to information about numerous industries.
  • You set the schedule – Freedom! Isn’t that what many people crave in their job? The freedom to choose what they work on, who they work with, and how much they make? As a writer, you have the power to turn down offers from freelance clients and publishing houses…though I know some writers might wonder why you’d ever want to do that. Another post for another time.
  • The feedback – As a writer of any sort, you must be able and willing to accept feedback, both positive and negative. In fiction, this comes from critique groups and editors (all of whom should have the goal of seeing your writing and your story improve). In freelancing, the feedback comes from clients. Remember that, ultimately, they’re the ones paying you for the work, and so you often need to adhere to their specifications. “Creative/artistic license” doesn’t have as much swing in freelancing as it does in fiction.
  • The need for contracts – Contracts are essential to a freelance career. They determine how much you get paid and give you legal recourse should clients attempt to stiff on a completed project. In publishing, your book contracts determine your advance, royalties, rights, and many other facets of how you might (or might not) profit from the story you’ve invested so much of your life in.
  • The need for industry research – It’s a personal mantra that “Research is king!” when it comes to being a writer of any sort. Research is vital both for the business and craft elements of writing, whether you’re checking out police procedure for a murder mystery or researching a company’s product so you can sound intelligent when you write an article or web page on it.

There are many other elements these two writing paths share, but those are some big ones. What’s your experience been with either or both? How else are they similar?

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