Skyword Contributor Evan Wade on Finding Success—and Joy—in Freelance Writing
Storytelling Communications

Skyword Contributor Evan Wade on Finding Success—and Joy—in Freelance Writing

Going to work every day? It can be a challenge—ask anyone who has to do it. But most full-time jobs come with inherent perks: the guarantee of a consistent paycheck, a manager to turn to in times of crisis, and, you know, little things like health insurance. And yet, freelance writing (complete with a grand total of none of those) is now considered a coveted job, with Skyword’s community brimming with professional, talented champions of the written word.

What is it about content creation that’s so appealing? I sat down with Evan Wade, a Skyword contributor and full-time freelance writer, editor, video producer, and designer, to discuss the hows and whys of choosing freelancing as a career.

Question: How has adopting a full-time freelance writing career changed your life? What did you do for work before, and has the shift been positive?

It’s changed my life in too many ways to count, almost all for the better. I was in journalism for a while, then moved on to cell phone retail—print media was dead enough that I made more money hawking smartphones to mall shoppers than I did being a journalist. I’m kind of an introvert and don’t suffer dumb people very well, so five years in that industry really drained me. I’d been doing freelance stuff on the side when I lost my job with the company, and figured I’d try to go full time before looking for more traditional work.

It ended up being a success, and I have no plans to look back. I was a stressed, unpleasant person when working in the cell retail industry. As dramatic as it sounds, going freelance was really good for my soul. It kind of restored my humanity and helped me enjoy life again. One hundred percent serious there.

Q: What are some of the top challenges freelancers face, and how have you dealt with them?

The feast-or-famine nature and lack of health insurance. Fortunately, my wife works full time, so we’re able to keep me insured; the other problem basically comes down to working a bunch and—more importantly—searching for work even when you don’t have to. This ensures you have clients to turn to when one inevitably drops, vanishes, or changes course. It’s easy to work three hours and call it a day when you’re making a bunch of money per article, but if you don’t spend at least a little time hunting for jobs after that, even if your slate is pretty full, you’re eventually going to pay for it.

Q: On the flip side, what about the freelance writing life do you love?

Too many things to list, again, but the freedom to set my own schedule is probably the biggest. If I have an appointment or need to do something or just want to take a day off, I can generally schedule around it. There’s no need to ask permission to take an extra 20 minutes on my lunch break. The reality of owning my own business and being ultimately responsible for its success or failure is a huge motivating factor and reason to get out of bed each morning, as is working with some awesome people who have similar interests and tools. I enjoy having some solitude and working in quiet, by myself. And I don’t have to be fake about anything—if a client or interview subject or whoever is being insufferable, I can just stop doing business with them in most cases. Fortunately, I haven’t had too many bad people in that regard, but knowing the option’s there is always nice.

Q: What are some major differences between freelancing as a full-time career and freelancing on the side to supplement existing income?

The money, obviously. But beyond that, I’ve found that clients really dig it when you go out of your way to explain you are full time—they get all the benefits of having a full-time employee, with far less worry about the freelancer’s “real life” getting in the way. You don’t have to feel bad about spending eight or nine hours freelancing in a day if it’s your full-time thing; if you’re juggling another job on top of that, I could see it really stinging. Freelancing is the kind of career that rewards you more the more time you put in. Ultimately I would say that makes full time better, though part time can definitely help supplement income.

Q: Do you use any tools to find work, or to make running your business of one easier?

Just the usual sites and portals everyone uses. I also make pretty extensive use of Adobe’s Creative Suite (specifically Illustrator and InDesign) to create all my marketing materials and resumes. Other than that, my biggest tools are my ability to research and to connect my experience with the things potential clients ask for in their ads. If you think hard enough, you can always find a way to make your past relevant to their needs.

Q: Which projects are you most proud of?

I wrote the script and developed the characters for a fairly popular Facebook game and wrote all the copy for a major (as in major-major) real estate company’s new website. That and my video work with Techly.

Q: Are there any tips you would offer to a person considering making the jump to freelancing?

Make sure you’re motivated. There isn’t going to be a boss breathing down your neck to get this or that done—you have to do it yourself. Honestly, people say freelance writing is difficult, but I find that 95 percent of it is just finding that motivation and going to work. When I think back to my time in the cell-phone mines, my computer desk always looks like an attractive alternative. It isn’t for everyone, and it requires a certain creative and professional mindset to succeed, but it’s rewarding beyond belief if you can’t stand the rigors of working a “regular” job.

Ready to make a (happy) change? Join Skyword’s community of contributing writers. And if you want to talk shop, find Jess on Twitter at @editorjess.

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