The Walking Dead and Freelancing: Only the Strong Survive

The Walking Dead & Freelancing - Only the Strong Survive

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you’ve no doubt heard of The Walking Dead.

In this AMC original series, the dead outnumber the living in a post-apocalyptic world that’s been overrun by zombies, and survival is not a given. Each week, the beloved characters inevitably run into a whole new set of obstacles that they must overcome in order to stay alive.

Spoiler alert: Not all of them make it.

While watching this week’s new episode, I got to thinking about the unique premise of The Walking Dead and how the plight of the main characters bears some striking similarities to that of a freelance writer.

Okay, I’m not suggesting that making it as a freelance writer is the same as making it in a world riddled with zombies, but hear me out!

Believe it or not, freelancers make up approximately a third of the U.S. workforce. A 2015 study found that the number of people who are full-time freelancers came close to 54 million!

With the American workforce constantly changing and many opting to forgo the stereotypical corporate culture for a more laidback work environment, the freelance path has quickly become one of the most viable options for aspiring solopreneurs.

But anyway, back to The Walking Dead.

In order to convince you that the hardships faced by Rick Grimes and friends closely mirrors the many challenges that a freelance writer encounters on their road to success, take a look at this list of comparisons and you be the judge.

Just Another Corpse

In The Walking Dead, people can turn into zombies at the flick of a switch. The affable, easygoing person you once knew suddenly transforms into a walking corpse. Destructively altered and drained of all color, a blatant expression of lifelessness now lingers in their blank eyes.

Well, the same can be said for freelance writers.

When working on a million different projects that all seem to have the same looming deadline, we freelancers can sometimes turn into sinister, zombie-like versions of ourselves.

Sooner or later, working all of those unconventional hours and running on little to no sleep will take its toll. Unpredictable schedules and last minute client calls will eventually get the better of us, which means even the most absurd things will set us off! Suddenly, the innocent question of, “How’s it going?” seems to be the worst possible thing anyone could ask.

Though it sounds counterproductive, it’s important for freelancers to take breaks when the opportunity presents itself. Unlike our Walking Dead friends, freelancers aren’t in any danger of losing their life should they opt to take a short 10-minute break. (Well, unless you have a really unreasonable client.)

And for those of you who are living among us freelance writers, we thank you for your patience. Please continue to resist the urge to bash our heads in when we’re at the height of our zombie-like prowess. We appreciate it!

Procrastination Equals Death

When a zombie is approaching one of our Walking Dead characters, time is of the essence. Their reactions need to be on point because the slightest delay can cost them their life!

Realistically, procrastination isn’t life threatening for freelance writers, but it could cost them a high-paying client.

Most of us have the good fortune of being able to carve out our own hours and work comfortably from home. However, with that amount of freedom comes the responsibility to get things done! It’s up to each individual freelancer to stay on top of deadlines and avoid pushing off projects that need to be submitted to the client in a timely manner.

Much like in The Walking Dead, you must have a handle on the situation before you’re completely ambushed. So quit wasting time and get to work!

Practice Makes Perfect

Sure, Rick Grimes was a cop before the world turned to zombie land in The Walking Dead, but do you think Carol, the stay-at-home mom, knew how to shoot a gun before the fall of humanity? What about Glenn, the pizza delivery boy? What are the odds he already knew how to wield a knife before the vast majority of the human race got wiped out?

As with anything, the gang needed to practice destroying zombies in order for them to get really good at it. Practicing was necessary for their survival!

With a third of the workforce opting to freelance, the market can be extremely competitive. There are a ton of skilled writers out there, so in order for a freelancer to stand out, they need to perfect their craft every day.

You heard me. Every day!

There are a ton of profitable writing niches on the market, so in order to thrive in a niche that’s already ultra competitive, the writing needs to be able to stand on its own. It’s up to freelancers to take it upon themselves to hone their craft and sharpen their skills. Just like Rick and company!

Stay Sharp

Nine times out of ten, the ones who lose their cool in The Walking Dead are the ones who end up losing their life. The characters who remain calm, confident, and maintain a good head on their shoulders are the ones who live to see another episode.

That is, until the head writers decide their time has come and they, too, are killed off in a most gruesome fashion.

Many new freelancers question whether or not they’re cut out for a freelance writing career. They convince themselves that they’re not good enough or maybe they don’t have an adequate support system. For the faint of heart, freelancing certainly isn’t an easy career path to pursue.

In order to thrive in this business, freelancers need to commit themselves to learning new skills and staying up to date on industry related trends and developments. A whole lot of hustle is needed to succeed and one can’t be afraid of rejection.

Just like the characters in The Walking Dead, freelancers cannot afford to do anything rash! They need to keep their emotions in check and prevent their doubts and fears from taking control.

Strength in Numbers

With so many zombies wandering around in The Walking Dead’s post-apocalyptic world, the living tend to lean on one another just to make it through the day alive.

Freelancers aren’t in danger of being overrun by a hoard of flesh-eating zombies, but the unpredictable world of freelancing can certainly be a scary one.

I’ve found the freelance writing community to be an extremely valuable resource as I make my way through the oftentimes stressful business.

It’s important for freelancers to know that they don’t have to figure this all out on their own. Joining Facebook groups, reading up on influential blog posts, and following prominent freelancers on Twitter will provide a new freelance writer with the tools they need to stay motivated.

The Bottom Line

If you want to triumph as a successful freelance writer, then start thinking like Rick Grimes!

As a one-woman (or man) show, you need to possess all of the qualities of a fearless leader. After all, this is your business we’re talking about!

If you’ve been thinking about taking the plunge into freelancing full-time and you have the means to do so, go for it! Unlike the characters on The Walking Dead, what have you really got to lose?


  1. I absolutely loved this!

    One of my biggest issues is remembering to take breaks. I get so “in the zone” that I forget to take a moment to get up and walk around. I’ve started setting a timer to remind me.

    • Thanks so much, Alexia!

      I’m right there with you. Sometimes I get so caught up in what I’m writing that stopping to take a break just seems totally out of the question! But I’ve gotten into the habit of forcing myself to walk away from the computer and take five every now and then. It definitely kick starts my creative juices back into gear once I sit back down to write!

  2. Awesome post Kate!

    For me it’s the procrastination. Last week, I went on Youtube and found Lip Sync Battle and was sucked into episode after episode!

    For me, if I have too much work, I procrastinate, so I have to stop doing that!

    • Thanks, Elna!!

      Procrastination is definitely a killer. I try to write down a list of all the things I need to get done at the start of each day. Of course, the tough part is actually sticking to it! But after it’s all said and done, seeing the finished piece of work is always worth it!

    • Absolutely, Beth! Freelancing is definitely a nontraditional career path, but I’ve found it to be the most rewarding. I’m so happy I took the road less traveled! Bring on those demons! 🙂

  3. Another great post Kate!
    The freelancing community is definitely a supportive one. Glad to be part of it.
    Also, I love the Walking Dead and am absolutely a survivor, though I’ve had my moments like you.

    • Thank you, Heather! Freelancers definitely need to possess a survivor’s mentality and leaning on others for support along the way is the best way to stay alive! 🙂

      P.S. – No spoilers, but after last night’s episode I’m getting nervous for Rick & Co. and what may happen to some of them as we near the end of the season!!

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