7 Important Lessons Freelance Writers Can Learn from Working in Fast Food

by Deborah Ng

We joke a lot about careers in the fast food industry, but the truth is many freelance writers worked in fast food at some point in their lives. While it may not be the most glamorous job in the world, many important lessions can be learned while flipping burgers or rocking a cash register.

Don’t believe me? Check it out:

1. If you have time to lean you have time to clean

I can’t tell you how many times I heard this, yeah I’m a leaner. Here’s the thing, if you find yourself with some down time, there’s still something to do. Just because you’re in between jobs doesn’t mean you have to sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Look for work, research rates, go over your accounts, do some cold calling, read up on news pertaining to your niche…if there’s nothing at all to do during regular business hours, you’re doing it wrong.

2. Would you like fries with that?

Suggestive selling is annoying but there’s no denying it works. When a client hires you for a job, think about what might be missing. For instance, if he’s launching a new business and needs a brochure and letter of introduction, he might also need copy for his website or a press release.

3. The customer is always right

Every time I say this here certain members of this community give me a dressing down. Agree or disagree, you’re still nothing without your clients. If you don’t think a certain idea will work, feel free to respectfully suggest an alternative. Storming off in a huff because your client isn’t going with your suggestions won’t help your bank account any. Moreover, by burning bridges with your clients you won’t land recommendations or referrals.

4. Smile when you say that

We all have difficult clients, they’re an unfortunate part of the job. They can be nitpicky, rude and flat out wrong, but you know what? They pay the bills. Always keep in mind one gets more flies with honey than vinegar. Smile, offer to correct the problem and move on.

5. Your burger is nothing without the fixins’

In all fast food restaurants, someone is always behind the scenes chopping tomatoes, filling the condiment containers and toasting the buns. There’s a reason for this. Fast food wouldn’t be fast food if each cook had to stop, chop a tomato, get pickle slices out of a jar and toast his own rolls. As a freelance writer, it’s to your benefit to prep before you begin your work as well. Research your client, learn as much about his business as you can so you can better tailor your project to his needs. Research topics and niches, interview experts and take copious notes. Now, you can write without interrupting the flow. When you pause every five minutes to Google your topic, you lose something in the process.

6. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us

Many freelance writers have set fees for set projects. If a client strays from the norm and makes special requests they might get a little flustered. That’s not part of the package! Now you have to re-figure your pay rates and time.

So what?

Cookie cutter freelancers don’t do well. Having the ability to meet each client’s needs, no matter how special, will set you apart from the rest.

7. Consider the Extra Value Meal

Freelance writers who are just starting out might have lower rates than a veteran freelancer, and that’s ok. Even the vets will lower their prices for a prestigious gig. We all do it, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. If you feel you need to reasonably lower your rates to land a really great client, use your best judgment. If you do a great job the client might be receptive to paying a higher rate in the future and even refer you to other prestigious clients.

You might also want to go for the combination platter and offer several options for one low price. This is a great way to bring in business, especially for writers just starting out.

What are some of the lessons you learned while working in fast food?





4 responses
  1. Dawne Avatar

    Multi-Tasking! 🙂
    While your waiting on a reply from your current client on a project, you could start researching the next assignment you have. Gather information and drop it into a clearly labeled folder so that when you finish your current job or when there is a standstill in the project, you can just go right into review of your material for the next.

  2. Scribette Avatar

    Well written article! Wish I can say that I found my experience working at a fast food place that enlightening …. 😉

  3. Stewart Dale Spencer Avatar

    I was an assistant manager at a McDonald’s back in the 1970’s. One night business was rather hectic and I was so busy I wasn’t connecting with customers. One customer handed his money over to pay for his meal. When I went to grab it he didn’t let go. I looked up into his face and he was smiling so sweetly that I had to laugh. Moral: Don’t ever let the job rob you of your humanity.

  4. Missy Avatar

    Nice job! I cracked up reading this. I spent 7 years as a McD’s manager prior to becoming a writer, and I never realized how working in fast food prepared me for a successful career as a freelancer.

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