Working as a freelance content writer can be an exciting and rewarding experience. But it is also one that involves uncertainty, plenty of competition and unexpected turns. Here’s how being a freelance writer is much like playing poker for a living.
You Won’t Know Everything
Poker is exciting because it is an imperfect-information game. When playing, poker players get to see only two-thirds of the information they need to make a risk-free decision — they know the community cards and their hole cards, but what the other players hold remains unknown.
Uncertainty is something that you’ll often experience as a content writer. From dealing with clients who are not sure what they want you to do to wondering whether your work reaches through to readers or where your next cheque will come from day-to-day. Often, it’ll be up to you to fill in the blanks.
Do What Makes You Happy
The best poker players niche down on a poker style. That’s because different poker variants call for different strategies, and so is the case with freelance writing. You’ll be much better valued if you make a name for yourself as an expert in a niche or type of writing (blogging, technical, SEO, etc.).
Of course, you can dip your toes in every field and type of content writing, and it is even advisable to start as a generalist to find “your thing.” Don’t worry, choosing a focus is not a life sentence. You can always pivot.
But Expect Surprises
The truth is you should expect to pivot. You might never have to but keep it as an idea in the back of your mind. Industries change all the time, and your interest might also change. Take it from poker — you never know what cards you’ll receive and how far they will get you.
The field of content writing is hot right now with plenty of players employed in it. But this also means that nobody is indispensable. On the other hand, surprises might be good — you might develop an interest in a niche that you found boring before.
You Can Learn How to Be the Best
“I’m not that good at writing” is perhaps one of the thoughts that are holding you back from becoming a content writer. Lucky for you, writing well is something that you can master provided you have the grit to learn and practice.
Every year, there are stories of big poker tournament wins claimed by people who until yesterday were recreational players playing with pocket change. And major poker tournaments attract thousands of players, including the top names in the game. So, when someone wins through such stiff competition, it shows that everybody has a shot at the top. Same with freelancing.
You’ll Face Plenty of Competition
Poker players compete for a limited prize pool. Similarly, you’ll be competing with many other writers for a limited number of jobs. Of course, just like the best poker tournaments attract the best players, for the highest-paid jobs, you’ll compete with the most experienced writers.
So, don’t expect to make big money right away. And things won’t always happen to your liking. For every poker amateur who rose on top, there are thousands of others who didn’t. But just like poker is not a zero-sum game, freelance content writing jobs are available for many people.
There’ll Be Other Chances
You didn’t get the job. It sucks. But disappointments will not end there. Clients will reject your work, and some might even stop working with you. Readers will leave snarky comments under your posts. Many of your pitches will remain unanswered.
So, what? Even the best poker players bust out of tournaments sometimes empty-handed. But it’s not the end of the world. For the time being, there’s plenty of work for content writers, so getting rejected doesn’t mean an end to your career. Content writing jobs pop up every minute, so any hiccup is manageable.
You’ll Have to Read People
This one is big. What separates top poker players from mediocre ones are their ability to read people, so to have the skills to do your job well is a must but only half of the picture. Being a freelancer also means that you’ll rarely get to meet your clients or readers face-to-face.
So, just like players who play online, you’ll have to get as much information as possible out of the little emotional feedback you get from online communication. To do your work well, you need to research not only on your clients but also, their target audience. Ultimately, your job is to make your clients look good in the eyes of their clients.
You’ll Be Sitting a Lot
Scientists say that “sitting is the new smoking” —a sedentary lifestyle has become a pandemic. If you are going to be a freelance content writer, expect to spend the better part of your working hours strapped to a chair or lying in bed.
It’s no different than playing poker for a living — you spend most of your day inactive, closed in between walls, except that poker players work among many other people while freelancing can get quite lonely. The sedentary lifestyle can quickly take its toll on both your health and your work.
You Need to Make Time for Yourself
When it comes to health habits, freelancing is like what professional poker players experience all year-long. But the best players — the ones who make big money — know that habits such as healthy eating and working out are not only good for the body but also, help them in their work.
To keep your mind fresh, you must make time for yourself,including preparing nutritious meals and getting some activity. And it’s best to do it right away — once you fall into the “I don’t have time” trap, it’s a pain getting out of it.
You’ll Need to Manage Your Bankroll
Poker pros are much like entrepreneurs. They deal with financial uncertainty and need to exercise sensible financial management to be successful. So, do freelancers. To make a living as a content writer, you need to learn some accounting and financial management.
While you’ll probably outsource these functions, you do need to keep an eye on your income/expenses balance. It’s also not uncommon for upcoming freelancers to have unstable income. So, you might get more projects than you know what to do with one month and run into a dry spell for the next two.
To be a freelancer is to be a business owner. And successful business owners share common traits with good poker players. Both know how to make use of weak hands, read people well and are good with money. Mastering these qualities will help you significantly should you decide to become a freelance content writer.