Non-profit consultant and expert grant writer, Derek Link, shares his experience as a freelance grant writer with others who believe they are ready for the task:
This is a serious question with serious consequences only to be considered by serious people because freelancing is a dangerous business.
First let us peer back through the annals of history to get some perspective on the term with the help of Wikipedia...
According to Wikipedia - The term was first used by Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) in Ivanhoe to describe a "medieval mercenary warrior" or "free-lance" (indicating that the lance is not sworn to any lord's services, not that the lance is available free of charge). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freelancer, accessed on 9/16/10)
As you can see, the term referred originally to a mercenary warrior which is what we still are; however, to borrow an over-used phrase from literature, “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword” or in this case, lance.
Just as a mercenary warrior for hire wasn’t free, neither are freelance grant writers. We charge for our services reflecting the skill involved and the grave difficulty of overcoming the wicked enemies (RFP’s, RFA’s, Dragon Naturally speaking, etc).
We’re also similar to the warriors of old, in that if we aren’t really good at what we do, we’re likely to die a premature death; although, our death would be figurative and primarily financial involving a future of cardboard signs and shopping carts; while the warriors, on the other hand, simply died a hideous death.
You must possess certain qualities to become a freelancer. You must be brave to confront the possibility of failure and certain death, you must be skillful to defeat the enemies, and you must be active to find someone who will employ you (or you’re just a vagrant with a lance).
Ah indeed, the life of a freelancer is fraught with danger and intrigue. It is a life on the road, never sleeping in the same place for two nights (Motel 6), eating whatever you can forage along the road (AM/PM, 7-11, conference buffets), and trying to earn enough money to keep your trusty steed healthy and well-fed (oil change on your ’87 Honda Civic and gas at $4 a gallon – scary).
But you think still this life as a freelancer is for you? Ah, you’re hale and hearty if you do, but you’ll be forsaking allegiance to one master, a risky business (i.e., leaving your cushy government job). There will be mistrust because you’re a stranger; there will be misunderstanding (because you don’t speak their language); there will be blind attacks from the right and the left (from nasty Board members and inept leadership); and there will be times of feast and famine (carry trail bars and water in the trunk).
If freelancing courses through your blood then prepare well, for all your skills will be tested and re-tested.
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Knight photo courtesy of Freerk Lautenbag.