This post, by Nathan Meunier, originally appeared on his Freelance Writer / Game Journalist / 8-Bit Dude Shop Talk blog on 8/30/11. While the article is addressed specifically to aspiring freelance game journalists, its content really applies to any kind of aspiring freelance writer.
Few job descriptions are as awesome as: “play lots of video games, then get paid to write about them.” Game journalism is a fun and fulfilling career, but it’s far from easy. Unlike landing a staff position at a game magazine or website, being freelance means you’re completely on your own. The freedom of managing your workload and schedule the way you want to without someone breathing down your neck is exhilarating. However, being your own boss can quickly turn into a soul-sucking black hole of stress if you’re not careful. There’s a reason why so many freelance writers pack it in and return to the relative safety and comfort of a nine-to-five job.
As a freelancer, you’re essentially creating and running your own writing business. Playing games and churning out words is only a small portion of the many day-to-day tasks you have to juggle. From pitching editors and chasing late paychecks to managing your finances and tracking assignments, it falls on your shoulders alone to handle every important facet of your business. For some, that weight can be stifling. Not everyone can hack the rigors of the freelance life, but those who can stick it out through the rough patches will find it can be a rewarding and lucrative career. Are you sure you’ve got what it takes? Consider these important questions:
Do you have tight writing chops?
A solid command of the English language is an absolute must for this gig. Spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and creative flair are not things to be taken lightly. Spewing an abundance of unintelligible word vomit at an editor’s in-box is the fastest way to unemployment. While a college degree in journalism or creative writing certainly doesn’t hurt, having fancy writing credentials is far less important to editors than your ability to write well. The good news is you can always hone your chop with practice, but you still have to possess a certain level of requisite writing skill to get off the ground first.
Can you write well under pressure?
Deadlines can be a real bitch, but they’re an ever-present reality in the freelancer’s regular routine. Failing to meet them is not an option. Juggling rolling deadlines for different editors between multiple outlets can get hairy at times, and you need to be able to keep cool and do good work when it gets down to the wire. Sometimes inadvertent scheduling bottlenecks force you to bash out multiple assignments in a very short time-span. Other times editors want a particular piece done on a lightning quick turnaround. If you can’t deliver the goods by go-time, you’re pretty screwed.
Can you make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs?
Because you totally need to be able to do that shit if you want to freelance. Ok, trick question. Moving on.
Are you willing to sell yourself and market your work?