We’re hearing a lot on the news these days about a “freelance economy.” Many people are rejecting the 9-to-5, 40-plus hours-per-week schedule and office work that we think of as normal. The prospect is enticing for freelance academic writers, certainly – you get an income on your own volition, on largely your own terms. You get to choose your clients, or you get the excitement of being chosen. And, perhaps most importantly, you get to be your own boss, and set your own hours.
But, being an academic freelancer comes with its own unique set of restrictions. There is an assumption that you will have complete freedom when you decide to be an academic freelance writer. When people imagine what it would be like to do freelance work, they see themselves as free agents. But academic writers should be a bit more grounded than this, should they take the plunge. And when they do, there are two main categories of freelancing to research.
Custom Writing Agencies – More Like a Full-time Job
The first category is custom writing agencies. You are essentially employed by the agency, and are assigned academic writing jobs as the client submits their request to the agency. You do not generally have your choice of jobs; nor do you set your own prices and rates. If the agency does not choose you, the clients themselves do, so your reputation is very important in this context. It can be a great boon for you if you have an established history, because the better your reviews and evaluations, the more customers you will receive, so this number can increase exponentially. In the end, the agency usually takes a fixed-rate cut from whatever the client pays for your work, and you keep the rest.
A custom writing agency can provide long-term stability and guaranteed employment, which can be enticing to many people. It can be seen as a sort of by-way, or midway point, for those trying to transition into full-time freelancing. Other academic freelance writers see these agencies as a restriction to their own freedom, and feel that it is not true freelancing. To these people, you are still something of a cog in a machine, reporting to the agency and waiting for your work, instead of actively pursuing and accepting it.
Freelance Academic Community – You’re the Boss
The other main category of academic freelancing is a freelance community like ThePensters.com. This is much more common than flying solo, because it is very difficult to go it alone as a freelancer, especially if you do not have a public following. A freelance community is a place where freelancers come together, usually on a website that hosts their profiles and provides some amount of payment verification and security for both the client and the freelancer.
Freelance communities are ideal for those who want a little more stability than going solo, without the hassles and restrictions of a custom writing agency. Here you get to “apply” for jobs that you want, when you want to. You set your own prices and terms, or negotiate them with your potential client, but it is all in your hands. The hosting site for the community usually takes a small percentage of the payment, and you keep the vast majority of the final deliverable.
So, when it comes to stability, a custom writing agency is your best bet. But, if you think you want to go this route, you should ask yourself: why not stick with your full-time job with benefits? If you are truly looking for an academic freelance writing experience, with the joys of setting your own times, jobs, and wages, then a freelance community like ThePensters just might be your dream job.