The World of a Freelancer

I always knew my wife could write – those long, beautiful romantic letters she wrote during our courtship are etched forever in my mind. Back then, it never occurred to me that her immaculate English speaking and writing skills were actually a gift that could be used in the future.

The Start

A few months ago, my wife secured a technical writing assignment as a freelancer. This assignment was outsourced by a US-based publishing and trade show company focused on the telecommunications industry. The company publishes hundreds of articles on their website each week. For this assignment, they were seeking freelancers to write technology-related articles for their website, which implied they only wanted to hire a tech-savvy writer.

My wife's education is in commerce and French. She strongly detests computers. On any given day, she would rather sit at Starbucks with her favorite Paulo Coelho novel, instead of burning the midnight oil in front of a computer. This was until she entered into the world of freelancing.

It is amazing what freelancing does to you. For one, it makes you disciplined. It certainly adds variety to your life. This is one profession where each assignment is different, and you get to choose the subjects you wish to write about.

The Preparation

Many people believe that freelancing is quite a tall order. I could not agree more. If you do not have any industry exposure, getting started as a freelancer can be extremely difficult. My advice would be to build a professional résumé and a portfolio of your work, which you can display to the hiring companies. You may also maintain a blog that demonstrates your writing prowess.

Some companies conduct an online test to choose the right person for the job. My wife was asked to pass a written test, which required her to paraphrase an actual press release. She had to put the news into her own words and create an original story. Luckily, she was given the flexibility to add her own elements to the story either general information about the technology itself or additional background information about the company from any sources (with proper attribution of course!)

The company made it clear that they wanted the article to be completed within 24 hours with a maximum limit of 1000 words. Could she deliver the results? You bet! She did well on the test and the company extended the job offer to her.

Freelance assignments are largely driven by time and commitment, and you need to honor both. In case you have problems with any one of these, you must back out immediately. As a freelancer, you must be able to answer in the affirmative to the following:

  • Are you available to work Monday through Friday?
  • Can you work eight hours a day?
  • Do you think you can generate a minimum of two articles a day, to start?
  • Can you eventually work your way up to five stories a day?

If the company has extended a freelance job offer to you, do not start until you have signed a contract with them. A contract not only ensures timely payments, it also details the agreed terms and conditions that both the parties must agree to. Read the terms and conditions of the contract carefully, and clarify any questions you have about the contract with the hiring company. The agreement is valid upon affirmation by both parties via email, fax, or snail mail. Usually, the basic agreement is for the writer to provide written content on a for-hire basis to the company in exchange for a fee. In case the hiring company is situated in a different geographical location, sign the printed version, scan it, and return it via email to the company.

One of the most important things you need to clarify with the hiring company is who owns the copyright to all works produced under the agreement. Some companies ask for a limited-period unrestricted copyright. Usually, authors own the work completely and all reuse or reprint requests should be directed straight to the authors.

The Process

As a freelancer, you are expected to write compelling content, be it articles based on press releases and news stories, or user manuals for an application. Did I say original? You must agree to provide good-quality original content according to guidelines stated by the company, which may be updated from time-to-time. You must warrant that all content is original and that any quotations from other works are excerpted according to "fair use" guidelines and are properly attributed.

When my wife started writing the freelance assignments, she struggled to find stories on her own using the Internet, yet she never resorted to plagiarism. If she did not understand the context, she used to politely request that the editor provide her more time or resources.

Most freelancers work in the convenience of their home setup. For my wife, the only investment she had to make was to procure a decent Internet broadband connection and install a word processor on her personal computer. She also advocates using open source tools. There are many free software tools, which you can download and use from the Internet. This way you save on the extra overhead.

The Result

Always produce your invoices on time. Timely payment is a big issue in freelancing, especially if you are being paid using a wire transfer services, such as PayPal or Xoom. Check your PayPal account on the stipulated date to see if any funds were received. In addition, assure the reliability of the mail system if you receive payments through checks. The freelancer may invoice on the terms and conditions agreed in the contract. The company then must clear the payment for the invoice within the defined period.

It is necessary to maintain the confidentiality of your dealings in freelancing. You must be tightlipped about the amount of fee and other contract terms; these are strictly confidential, and the freelancer is not to divulge these to any other party.

Freelancing can be fun provided you do it the right way. It is true that freelancers choose their own destiny. As a fellow freelancer says, "We don’t see watches while working, nor do we count the days we work. We never wait for Sundays to enjoy, because we enjoy every day. We constantly look out for new challenges and never say I cannot do it."


  1. Kudos Rahul. You have detailed the world of freelancing in a simple way. Even though I am a part-time freelancer, there are many things that I can relate to what you stated in the article. The truth is that, as you said, freelancing adds more discipline and variety to one's life.

  2. Congrats Rahul! The article has shaped up very nicely. It is both informative and entertaining.

    Just one expectation - Can you cover the challenges in Free-lancing in your next article? The worst come worst scenatios, how to avoid them, how to face them.. etc.? It'll equip the free-lancers more.

  3. Nice post, Rahul. Visited your blog after a long gap.Some good work here.Keep the fire burning, mate !


  4. That was one informative piece on freelancing. You have simplified the subject to a great extent. Keep up the good work.

  5. Good one!

    Tell your wife 'it's only the beginning!' and she will enjoy her 100th project with the same joy and excitement that she felt when she completed her first freelance project. Also tell her that she will be tested every now and then and will need a lot of courage and strong desire to float out of all those uncertainties that is invisible to her at the moment. Tell her that her trust will be burned many times by the people she will trust most, and that she will receive both applauses and criticism from her clients. Tell her that even with all these negatives, it’s still a wonderful roller-coaster ride. Tell her 'it's only the beginning', my friend.

    Warm Regards

  6. Nice article, Rahul! My best wishes to your wife. Freelancers, like your wife also have to manage the house work in addition to work. One more important thing while freelancing is to keep a log of your work.

    I see that most of your fav books are of Mitch Albom's. I read Tuesdays with Morrie and liked it too.


  7. This is thoughtful, well-presented article. Your wife may find that she enjoys the life of a free-lance writer, be it as a technical writer, journalist, or whatever. You are smart to emphasize the importance of a detailed contract and timely invoices.

    I have worked as an independent contractor for 15 years while raising my daughter. Free-lance assignments have allowed me to continue to produce professional work, explore different industries, keep my skills fresh, and develop a solid, current portfolio. Now that my daughter is in college, I am using my free-lance work as an avenue to return to permanent employmet. If this is what your wife wants to do in the future, she will have opportunities.

    My best wishes to you both.

    Patricia Egan
    San Francisco, California, USA

  8. This article is amazing! A complete summary of what a freelancer goes through. It took me down memory lane, and revived my emotions six years ago!

    Wishing your wife all the very best for her future as a freelancer.


  9. Hello Rahul,

    The article sumarizes well, what preparation a TW should do before entering into freelancing. The information that you have provided is a good start for a "to-be freelancer" in tecnical writing like me :)


  10. Rahul,

    Very good article. Your article have brought to light many important things we have to keep in mind while preparing for becoming and working as a frelancer.


  11. Rahul,

    I concur, you've done a pretty darn good job of summing up what a freelancing gig is all about. . .its full of all sorts of ups and downs, but I find it to be entirely worth this risk and late hours given the security it eventually provides.

    For freelancers interested in learning more about how to perfect your system of bringing in new business, I would suggest checking out Peter Bowerman's "Well-Fed Writer" []. It's the gold-standard as far as how-to books on commercial freelance writing.

    Doc Kane [STC-Singapore Associate Member]

  12. Hello Rahul ,

    Thanks for the enlightening writeup. It is a confidence booster for those of us who would like to take up freelancing opportunities.


  13. Rahul,

    Thanks for an interesting article. I'm left wondering though, how your wife gets new work, and with what kind of companies. Maybe you could expand on this?

  14. Hi, very nice and truly described article, but I have one point to raise, you have mentioned 'creative writing' one field as a freelancer.

    myself doing freelanceing but the field is different from writing, its graphics & websites design, and same as your wife the only thing I need is a good PC with good internet connection. thanx for sharing

  15. Hi Rahul,

    Wonderful article. Thanks so much. It did gave me a few tips to move forward, as I too am trying to establish myself as a freelance Instructional Designer and Web Writer. Looking forward to more such useful pieces.


  16. Hi Rahul,

    You have mentioned that "a contract not only ensures timely payments, it also details the agreed terms and conditions that both the parties must agree to."

    In Sydney, contracts offer little protection against dodgy companies and people. There are no legal avenues in ensuring companies and people abide by the terms of a contract. Some may not pay on time and some may not pay at all citing various reasons, which are contrary to the terms of the contract. And the legal costs here are too high for a freelancer to be engaged in a legal battle with a company.

    Of course, you still need to have a contract. But I would say, unless there is some kind of legal enforcement body who can be of aid to freelancers, a contract offers no surety.

  17. Hi Rahul,

    Nice post. A very informative article.

    Eddie Gear

  18. Hi Rahul,

    I have been considering freelancing for some time now. It is totally an unchartered territory for me. Your article has given me the guidance I have been looking for. Thank you so much for posting this article.


  19. Pretty cool post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
    that I have really liked reading your blog posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!
    Regards,Linda C Barksdale
    Extenze Reviews

  20. Well done, Rahul. You've always been very expressive and open in sharing your experiences.

    Are congrats further in order for motivating your wife to take up tech writing too?

    I am glad to see this endorsement of freelance writing. I thought that tech writer list discussions were dominated by employee writers whose views on tech writing were limited to their understanding their own jobs.

    Believe me, like Gurpreet says, the excitement never wanes. However I am yet to get a solely-via-internet experience.


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