The Drawbacks of Freelancing or…. Why I like Criticism

As much as I enjoy freelancing there are some major drawbacks to not working in a traditional office setting. The commonly considered one is a lack of colleagues with whom you can collaborate. But with today’s various forms of social media and a good network, that is significantly less of a concern than it once was. There are even various co-working clubs in major cities across the US, where you can go sit at a desk just so that you’re not working alone, at home.

For me, there are other drawbacks that are much more serious. For example, I have no one to proofread my work. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Every time I reread something I wrote, I change it. I tweak it – a little here, a little there. Which means sometimes, I make typos or mistakes toward the end of the editing process. Which means sometimes I don’t catch said mistakes. And that’s frustrating.

The biggest drawback, however, is the lack of feedback. During college, teachers provide us with constant feedback in the form of grades and classroom discussions. They write comments on your papers about how to improve your writing. In an office setting you have a boss, and one of his jobs is to make sure you do a good job – which means they evaluate your work. I consider myself very luck at my current job, because my boss provides me with feedback on a frequent basis – we talk for a few minutes about different aspects of my job on what is at least a monthly basis.

You’ll notice, however, that I used the word “feedback” – both positive and negative. Almost everyone likes positive feedback, but many people aren’t so hot on criticism. Yet criticism is the factor I miss most when doing freelance work. Most of the time when you send a file to a client they either tell you it’s great – exactly what they wanted… or they simply don’t use you again. Neither really offers you a chance to improve.

Criticism is, and should be viewed, as an opportunity. It is someone directly telling you how to become better than you are. One of the reasons I blog is to try to become a better writer, by spending time writing each day. For me, improving my writing is a constant goal.

I don’t think it’s possible for a writer to continue to improve without some sort of feedback. Because of this, when I switch (eventually) to freelancing full-time, I will probably join a writers group or find a mentor of some sort. I’ll also continue to try to find flaws in my own writing and to critically evaluate pieces I enjoy by other writers, to see what techniques I can pick up (like i did here).

One of the things I love about writing is that it requires the writer to always be learning – I’d hate for that to apply to everything except the act of writing itself.

What do you do to keep learning about your industry? How do make sure you’re always pushing yourself?

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