Freelance Writing: Think Twice — Isn’t For The Faint of Heart.

Olivia Pennelle
5 min readJan 4, 2020

When I tell people I’m a writer, I am almost always greeted with wide-eyes and a sense of awe. Wow! They exclaim. That’s amazing!

For some reason meeting a published writer attracts a level of notoriety. If only they knew that I’m paying for my kale and cranberry salad with my credit card and that I have no idea how I’m going to pay my bills next month — I think to myself.

We’re considered one of the creatives in the world: a wordsmith who weaves their magic arranging words into a masterpiece online and in print.

Writing is a creative pursuit and an exhilarating job, too. But it is also highly dysregulating, rarely pays a living wage, and involves a considerable amount of work that goes beyond the scope of just writing and publishing an article, we often work over 50 hours a week, at least 50 weeks a year. Writers often experience burnout, suffer with debilitating depression and anxiety, and end up giving up writing in favor of a job with stability and health insurance, and saving what’s left of their sanity.

Writing isn’t just sitting at a computer and vomiting words onto the screen.

To be a well-respected writer, one must ensure they are up-to-date with the latest research by reading extensively, establishing relationships with key stakeholders in the community they serve, and seeking opposing perspectives for their articles. That often involves considerable social media interaction — asking challenging questions that generate an unmanageable amount of discourse — and sweet talking researchers to obtain a copy of papers that sit behind a prohibitive subscription fee screen. And, because of the nature of my writing, I often engage in a hefty amount of post publication dialogue with AA enthusiasts who refuse to make space for alternative pathways or perspectives of recovery.

Freelance writing also means spinning at least 50 plates to keep your head above water, like calculating the risk of an article taking a week to write (for just $150) just for the byline and subsequent career progression, pitching to a broad section of outlets, cultivating relationships with large organizations for copywriting and blog management work, networking, and dreaming up articles that will carve out a name for…

Olivia Pennelle

Writer. Journalist. Activist. MSW student. Passionate about challenging perspectives on addiction and recovery.