The 3 Types of People Who Fail At Freelance Writing

Should you give up your freelance writing dream? Makealivingwriting.comHave you ever wondered if you should just give up on freelance writing?

There are people who should. After nearly a decade mentoring thousands of writers inside Freelance Writers Den and elsewhere, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a few specific types of people who aren’t cut out for this.

If you’re one of these types, freelance writing is not going to work out for you. Ever. Unless you change the type of person you are — which may be tough.

Here’s what I mean…

Yes, I realize saying this is not going to make me popular with every aspiring writer on the planet.

Let me clarify: I’m talking about people who hope to earn a full-time living from freelance writing, and pay all their bills.

If you’re working on a novel, or just like to write the occasional article for the local paper, this post is not about you. Write on!

Regular readers know I like to be encouraging and upbeat. But I also don’t believe in spreading false hope.

If you’re dreaming of making ‘freelance writer’ your job title, you should know there are certain types of people who predictably do not become successful freelance writers. I’ve seen it over and over AND over again.

And no, it’s not because you’re not a ‘good enough’ writer. Mediocrity is rampant in this industry!

Here are the three types of people who fail at freelance writing:

1. You lack self-discipline

Are you one of those people who, when left home alone, binge-watches Game of Thrones until your eyeballs hurt, declutters closets all day, or methodically empties the refrigerator — into your mouth?

That’s a bad sign.

See, in freelancing, it’s up to you to sit yourself down and make your freelance business happen. Nobody is standing there with a whip, or threatening to fire you.

If you do nothing, you earn nothing. Soon, you’re broke and back to the day job. The end.

Successful freelance writers have a strong, internal need to achieve. They’re hungry and driven.

Nobody has to tell them to get going on writing that blog post or sending that query. They don’t lounge around watching funny videos they saw on Facebook all day.

Motivated writers make to-do lists — and then do what’s on them. They find ways to create accountability, prioritize what will help them get the best-paying clients the fastest, and then execute on it.

I wish I had a dime for every email I’ve gotten like this:

I have huge dreams of being a freelance writer, but I really hate marketing. I was wondering if you could tell me some easy way to find clients that pay really well, or to get a steady position.

If I just had clients, I know I could write for them and make a career of this. Could you subcontract your writing work to me?

No, I can’t. Freelance writing is not a career someone else is going to hand you. You’ll have to knock on (real or virtual) doors, write your butt off, and spread the word until you find clients.

If you hate marketing then your job — as someone in business for themselves — is to figure out how to get over that. How to either fall in love with marketing, or at the very least, learn how to suck it up and do a lot of regular marketing, despite your distaste for it.

Change is hard

I also see a decent amount of this:

I joined Freelance Writers Den a year ago to begin my journey as a freelance writer. Now, a year later, I’ve had to go back to the corporate life I hated, because I never started. I never wrote anything or pitched anyone!

This is a typical outcome for undisciplined people who try freelancing.

If your house is littered with half-finished projects, think hard before you hand in your resignation.

The habit of never sitting yourself down and making yourself do difficult things for a long-term positive end result is tough to develop overnight.

Make no mistake: Freelance writing is hard. If it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it.

You might fantasize that once you’re up against it financially, you’ll suddenly grow a backbone and get down to business…but my experience is, you won’t.

If you want to be a freelance writer but you’ve never been a self-starter, try working on the side. See if you can make yourself get some gigs, write some assignments, please some editors. That’ll give you an idea whether you could make yourself do it full time.

2. You’re emotionally fragile

This group falls into three basic types:

  • You’re frozen in fear that your writing will fall short or you’ll otherwise be embarrassed, so you never take action.
  • You’re able to send out query letters, but each rejection destroys you and takes months to get over. As a result, it’s slow going.
  • You’re able to pitch and get gigs, but only for teeny-tiny rates that leave you starving. You don’t believe you’re worth more.

If not getting that gig you saw on Craigslist makes you cry, or hide under the covers, or feel generally worthless, freelance writing is not for you. If you don’t have the gumption to ask for pro rates, you’re going to be in financial trouble.

Comments I see that are a tip-off to this sort of syndrome include:

I’ve been writing and writing on my first blog post, but I just can’t seem to press ‘Publish’ on it. I’m scared people won’t like it!

I know it’s not supposed to bother me, but when an editor never responds to my query, I’m devastated. How do you get over this?

I was afraid to ask for more than $25 a blog post because then they would pick someone cheaper.

So. Being in business for yourself requires a certain emotional toughness. Self-confidence is required. Boldness, even. Mistakes and missed opportunities need to bounce right off.

Seriously, I don’t want anyone ending up jumping off a bridge because I encouraged them to try freelance writing, and the rejection destroyed their soul.

Be honest: Do you have a tough time believing, deep down, that you deserve a freelance writing career? Are you grappling with so many self-confidence demons that it’s hard to get out of bed? If so, talk it out with a good therapist before setting a course for a freelance writing career.

3. You’re not fluent

You might be an amazing writer in your native language.

But you’re trying to earn a living as a freelance writer in a second language you haven’t mastered — usually, English. And that’s not going to fly. I want to warn you that you are banging your head against a brick wall, and it’s never gonna give.

I get an email or blog comment like this pretty much daily:

Hi! I’m Kateryna from Ukraine…and I’m hungry writer. I can write about Ukraine, about situation in my country for your blog. Is it interesting?

Or this:

How do I get these clients yet am not from an English Native country?? I have been writing for content mills and agencies for 5 years but I want to break into a bigger league.–Wangubi

And this:


I am passionate on writing about environment, health and specially mental health, society and more. (I also have education on those fields), but i am not a native english speaker, and my english is not perfect.

Is there any chance for non-native english speakers to be able to make a sustainable living out of writing? Is there a list of such sites you could suggest me?


“Silvia” in Nepal

I get asked this last one a lot, so let me spell it out: There is no list of English-language websites that offer great rates to writers who don’t understand basic English grammar. I’m not aware of any site that pays well for work they’d have to substantially rewrite and re-edit to make publishable, much less enough sites to make a list!

Changing SEO tides

You’d think it would be obvious that you can’t get great pay for writing a language you don’t know well.

So why the confusion? There was a moment in time where you could make good money writing in English, even if you didn’t really know English and your sentences barely made sense. So a lot of Third World writers hopped on the train.

It was the heyday of short, SEO keyword stuffing posts to drive website traffic. Think 2006 or so. These were posts designed for search-engine robots to read, rather than people to read. So the grammar, expressiveness, and creativity of the writing didn’t matter.

The problem is, this SEO gambit is now dead. It’s been dead for well over a year. Google got wise.

As a result, this type of work is evaporating fast. I’m hearing every week from writers who used to scratch out a living creating hundreds of quickie SEO posts on what is now UpWork, or Media Shower, or hundreds of other sites. They now report the work has dried up.

That’s left a legion of writers in the Third World trying to figure out their next move. I feel like you’re all emailing me, and it breaks my heart — because I can’t help.

The vast majority of these writers are not going to be able to find good-paying gigs for English-language clients. That party is over. Excellent, longform writing is valued now, and junk SEO content is not.

The good news is that means great opportunities for talented writers who’re fully fluent.

What about the rest? There’s hope for non-native writers, too, that could pave the way to earning well as writer. But it’ll take a major change in mindset. Strategies that have been proven to work for ESL writers include:

  • Get clients in your native country and language. There are businesses everywhere!
  • Partner with a native English-speaking writer who serves as your editor.
  • Use your location as an advantage, to write about destinations, fashion trends, or business stories other writers don’t know about. Editors may be willing to work with your language challenges a bit more if you bring them a scoop.
  • If you have an expertise area — medicine, technology, law, engineering — become a subject matter expert and partner with an English writer to collaborate on more sophisticated writing gigs in your field.

The key here is realizing the old days of semi-literate writing that paid are over, and setting a new course. Instead, the ESL writers I encounter all seem to think begging and pleading around the Internet and asking other writers to send them work will result in an income. It won’t.

If you don’t recognize yourself in one of these categories, then good news: 2016 is going to be a banner year for freelance writing. And you’ve got what it takes to be part of it.

Should you give up on freelance writing or not? Make your case in the comments.

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112 comments on “The 3 Types of People Who Fail At Freelance Writing
  1. sharmelle says:

    Sorry, I actually meant clients’ (with apostrophe) vs clients ( without apostrophe).

  2. sharmelle says:

    Yes you’re right. It’s like you have all the ideas on your mind and you believe it would really work but you just don’t know how to put your ideas into words. Carol was right. It would be difficult for non native english speakers to be english writers. But I don’t lose hope. I can write in english. I just need to make sure there would be no grammatical errors. Every writer has different style. Some write the word clients’ and some just client. See the difference?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, those mean two different things, Sharmelle. One is possessive/plural, and one is singular. These are the kind of fine points you need to know to write for a living in English.

  3. I really like your blog, keep bloging like this.

  4. Kate says:

    You have given me several things to think about. First, attempt no writing before my second cup of coffee. Second is to go ahead and write, and check the finished article for translation from English to American.

  5. Tufail Shah says:

    Thank you, Carol, and all others for sharing your insights. Good stuff indeed. No denying the importance of emotional toughness, self-discipline, consistency and time management. But the tip for non-native writers sounds rather superficial. I believe a lack of fluency and grammatical accuracy is not insuperable. If you read good stuff and practice writing daily, you will soon be on your way to fluency and a closer-to-native flavor of the language. So please don’t take the heart out of non-native writers. If possible do suggest some practices and resources to help them hone their craft.

  6. Tiffany says:

    Hi Carol, thank you for this excellent kick in the pants. I struggle with number one the most, but it’s different because the marketing is the part I actually like the most. I suppose it’s the thrill of the chase. The part I struggle with is sitting down and writing. A lot of the time, it’s on a topic I have little to no personal interest in, and usually I end up working right up to the deadline because I procrastinate like a mutha. At this point in my life, I feel that freelancing is the only path for me. So perhaps I should start acting like it. I love the Agatha Christie quote that Linda shared. I just might print it out and frame it myself.

    Also, I’ve never said it out loud (typed it out loud?), but you are certainly one of my mentors, Carol! This website has seriously changed my life, and I thank you for that.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for making my day, Tiffany! Love to hear from readers this blog has helped.

      When you find yourself having to put a gun to your head to write the boring topics you’ve got…it’s time to find other clients, in topics you enjoy more. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Angela says:

    This is an interesting post to me because I sort of feel like I’m borderline two of these! I tend to procrastinate, but when push comes to shove I sit down and get it done. I have discovered that people will pay you better rates if you ask, and that was shocking to me, but also motivating.

    I think as far as emotionally-fragile goes, maybe I just hate being criticized. I don’t mind feedback, but I’ve got a bit of an ego so I like to think I can do no wrong. I was actually reading over some critiques for a few pieces I did and got frustrated because my writing wasn’t perfect. Maybe that’s not hurt feelings so much as eating humble pie… as I was able to take a few deep breaths and a hot shower and get back at it.

  8. Stefanie says:

    There was a time that #1 and #2 described me perfectly. And, quite frankly, if I didn’t push myself, it would be easy to fall back into those traits.

    I had a potential client the other day tell me my samples were “all just plane [sic] crap” and I was “not worth calling [myself] a writer.” She was a bit harsh, and in the past, I would’ve shut down my website, huddled up into a little ball, and threw in the towel. But, I thought about it for a secondโ€”those same samples were all published pieces that were very well received and loved by the clients that hired me to write them; so, the conclusion was that the samples weren’t “crap” nor was I a terrible writer. I just wasn’t what she was looking for. Second (and, in my opinion, more importantly), since she decided to be harsh about criticizing my work (hey, I love feedbackโ€”it helps me improve), I figured she would’t really be the type of client I wanted to work for anyway. What would’ve crushed me in the past, I now found myself shrugging off and almost seeing as a “dodged bullet.”

    Organization has never been my strong suit, and procrastination could’ve been my middle name. But I fell in love with freelancingโ€”the lifestyle, the variety, the control, and the freedomโ€”and knew that if I didn’t want to go back to being a desk jockey, I had to change that about myself. Now, I’m the queen of to-do lists. I have a monthly to-do list, a weekly to-do list, and a daily to-do list (which I write down every night before I go to bed, then look at it first thing when I wake up in the morning and get to it). Writing down to-do lists helps me prioritize (which project is most crucial, which deadline is approaching the quickest, which piece can I write the fastest and get it done and out of the way?) and keeps me on point. I will say, though, that one of the things that makes it a lot easier for me to complete those to-do lists is having something to look forward to, whether it’s being able to go to the gym when I’m finished for the day, or a day where I don’t even have to turn on my computer (I deliberately schedule computer-free days to give myself a break).

    After struggling with odd jobs (and being laid off twice in 14 months), freelancing is definitely for me. My career is still just inches out of the starting gate, but I feel like I’ll be running with the best of them this time next year.

    • Carol Tice says:

      It IS a dodged bullet — what sort of person makes these rude comments instead of just not getting back or simply saying they don’t think it’s a fit?

      You wouldn’t want to write for someone who’s so unprofessional anyway.

      Writers tend to let random strangers determine their self-worth — and it’s bad policy. Your belief that you’re a good writer has to come from inside YOU. Then you can shrug off these weirdos and keep moving with your career.

  9. Fouad says:

    I totally agree with you Carol. I’m not guilty of any of these but the post is just kinda motivating. Great one!

  10. Amy Butcher says:

    Great post. I would like to give some hope to people who fall into the emotionally fragile category, as it is possible to get over this state and succeed. When I started freelancing about 15 years ago, one of my first client projects was a bit of a disaster. Not in terms of the actual quality of my work, but more that I didn’t understand the client’s expectations. What amounted to “I don’t like your choice of terms for the agricultural sector; could you review these please?” (a very normal request which wouldn’t phase me now) had me crying in my bed for days. I decided the freelancing life was not for me and quit. But… somehow I ended up on that path anyway, and now fifteen years later I have a thriving business.

    I learned, I matured, and I came to realize that the fear and fragility never go away, no matter how many you clients you have or how much money you make. You have to make peace with it. I was in the Writer’s Den for a few months recently, and Carol’s bootcamp on battling these fears helped me IMMENSELY to deal with the stress of freelancing, which I STILL get after all these years.

    As your freelance career grows, things will change, markets will change and clients will change, so you definitely have to get used to facing your fears on a daily basis. To quote the nurse who ran my prenatal classes, regarding the pain of childbirth, “You won’t die. It may feel like you will, but you won’t.” Just to say that, even if you are emotionally fragile, you can still make it if you work on dealing with what is making you emotionally fragile and start to address those issues. (Carol: again, loved the writer’s fears bootcamp. I can’t tell you how much it improved my quality of life.)

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m so glad the Write Big/fear-busting bootcamp helped you, Amy! I’ll tell Linda Formichelli too, she’ll be pleased to hear it.

      And yes — my real point in writing this piece is not to send people in these 3 categories AWAY…but to say, “You need to address this and CHANGE it, if you want to be successful as a freelance writer.”

  11. Sarai Payne says:

    Hi Carol.
    I enjoyed this article.

    Coincidences never seize to amaze me. I was asked by an editor, “Where are you from?”

    I didn’t think of ESL writers at the time, but NOW I understand why that was one of his first questions. As a internet article and blog reader, seeing typos and bad grammar bugs me terribly.

    I am so grateful for all my English teachers and will no longer take for granted the knowledge and wisdom the Universe has given.

    Thank you for the time and energy you put into this piece.

    • Kate says:

      I learned English from my first Russian teacher. She had to spend three weeks teaching my entire class English grammar before she could even begin to teach us Russian. This was way back in the days when students still received an education in public schools. We were not passed automatically to avoid damaging our egos or to keep the statistics high enough to receive federal money. We had to earn our grades.

      Two years later, after she was forced to retire at 65, we acquired a new teacher with a degree in Russian, and we had to teach her, as we all spoke grammatically correct Russian with native accents, while she was barely able to be understood.

      I will always be grateful to that first teacher, who cared enough to teach, as my novels are selling, and my short stories are being published as fast as I write them. Every article that I have written for the newspaper has been front page above the fold.

      I still need to proof myself, especially on comma placement, but that is because I was taught to be a nit picker.

      • Sarai Payne says:

        Nit picking has its pros and cons. I believe in keeping things in balance. Pro-keeps you on your toes. Con-you can drive yourself crazy. I find a middle ground.

        I was force fed English by 4 teachers. My first language is Spanish. I didn’t care to learn English. It is, in my opinion, an ugly language(looking and sounding).

        BUT…I am very grateful that they pushed me.

        Key to life is to:

        BE A MASTER OF CHANGE, not a victim of change.

        Thanks for sharing your experience. I enjoyed it.

        • Thanks for your post Sarai,
          However, I am offended by your position that English is an Ugly language. Of course this is after all your opinion and not shared with 98% of the worlds population. English after all is the language of commerce worldwide. The ability to speak many languages is very important specifically in 2016. As for myself, my first language is English, thank you very much, but on the other hand I am also fluent in Ukranian, Russian, French and now beginning to consider Spanish given my interest South American countries and Mexico. I agree, English can be a very complicated language and surprisingly there are a number of distinct dialects, depending on regions, ie. the US of A, Canada, and UK. Australia and others and even within these regions there are specific cultural variations. As an example if one is from Ontario Canada it is very difficult at times to understand the English variation spoken in Newfoundland. AND Yessss a very beautiful language and at times difficult to master. In terms of French; we have Ontario French (which is close to Parisian French), Quebec French and even this region is broken down into Acadian dialect. I am sure that the Spanish language although may be beautiful also has regional distinctions.
          Sorry for the long form ….Just had to get it off my chest.

          • Sarai Payne says:

            I am happy that you could get that off your chest. I believe that “holding it in” will only bring unhealthy habits.

            May the Universe bring you peace, love and happiness.

        • john moroz says:

          Be a Master of Change. I couldn’t agree with U more.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Or do they never cease to amaze you? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I mean, I don’t usually play the grammar Nazi, but given our topic here, I’ve been fascinated by the number of errors in this thread.

      I think I’ll make myself reread this great guest post I had a while back from Linda Formichelli now:

      • Sarai Payne says:

        Haha! Thanks for catching that!

        Please be the Grammar Nazi on any of my articles. Shows you are paying close attention.

  12. Kate says:

    I know for a fact that I would never be successful as a freelance writer. I lack the self discipline to work daily, and jump back and forth from one novel to another, to short stories, as ideas come to me. I have broken my back and neck, and some days I am capable of little other than swallowing truckloads of pain pills. I have livestock to care for, and that is what keeps me going.

    There is a thriving market for ESL writers who are not proficient in English. They write instruction manuals for electronics or anything that needs to be assembled by the consumer. (I’m joking)

    • Carol Tice says:

      …or not!

      That could be a point — I think some technical writing standards are different. Knowing the product/process is the key thing. Could be another opportunity for ESL writers.

  13. Hi Carol,
    I have been looking at all of these posts with great interest. Tried to check out the Writers Den and no luck in getting access. How can I find out more about the Writers Den and how does one join this outstanding group of writers or potential writers. Please advise. I have tried the sign up link on the site but does not let me in.

    • Carol Tice says:

      John, the Den is open to new regular members just a few times each year. We were actually just open for 2 weeks for our current bootcamp on writing for e-learning. We’ll be open again sometime this spring.

      The best way to get into the Den is to get on the waiting list, which you should be able to do on our home page. Often, we only tell that list when we’re open — because there are 6,000+ people on it! And we usually take about 300 new members at a time, on a first come, first served basis. So I don’t really want to tell more people, because I don’t like disappointing people! We do a lot of mentoring and helping our brand new members to get oriented in the Den, and that’s why we admit limited members each time. Hope that explains!

      • john moroz says:

        Thanks Carol. Very interested in becoming becoming member. Sounds like a tremendous group to work with.

  14. Great article that calls for some serious soul searching!

    I’m an artsy, ADD (read: attention deficit disorder) type who has to make a schedule and stick to it (as much as is possible for what’s going on in my life at a particular moment) or nothing would get done. I’d just float around doing whatever the spirit moved me to do. And I was a highly competitive athlete! Unfortunately, I didn’t always work “smart.” I’ve been learning how to do that the last several years, particularly through wonderful mentors like Carol and her Den! So, I think I’m moving along nicely in that area.

    However, I’m still a little on the fragile side, having always been terrified of failure. (Grew up being criticized for just about everything that wasn’t done “perfectly.”) And so I often don’t try things because I’m afraid I won’t be any good at them. Or I’m afraid to say something that might offend someone. I have a story in a new Chicken Soup for the Soul book, and now I’m screwing up my courage to call local venues for book signings. The worse thing they can say is “no, thanks” right? It doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like me. And I took Carol’s advice and recently sent a very nice, professional letter to a non-profit client, telling them that I would need to raise my rates. I also pointed out that my new rates still fell far short of the going rate; and that I would be happy to keep my rates as is if I could interview over the phone, rather than drive all over the place (and not get paid for the mileage or extra research work I often had to do for the article).

    Welllll, I haven’t heard a peep from these wonderful clients (at least I thought they were wonderful, anyway) since I sent the letter four weeks ago! And I know they’re working on their next magazine issue. My husband said, “I’m proud of you! You don’t want to work for them anyway, if they don’t even value you enough to respond!” Honestly, I don’t feel bad. I feel liberated โ€” to go on and approach other, higher-paying B2B clients and spend my time doing that and doing more learning! (Thank you, again, Carol Tice, for continuing to tell us that!)

    Oh, and I am a born-and-bred American English speaker, so I’ve at least got that one down!! (I hope!)

    Again, thanks for another thought-provoking article.

  15. Tryphena Marรญa says:

    I really loved your article, and I enjoyed every single part of it but don’t agree with just one part. I think in this article you touched key points that are very important and true. But in my opinion I think the term “Third World writers” was probably misused.

    But it’s okay, I think it’s just a natural part of being humans to sometimes make mistakes in the way we express ourselves about other people. However, I think we all should be more careful about that, especially when publishing things to the world. Sometimes, often inadvertently, we use certain expressions that we should avoid.

    Is my humble opinion.

    I understand your point, but I think a Third World place or country does not make a person. There are well-educated people in Third World countries too. And there are bad uneducated people in the First World countries as well. There are hard-working people all over the world. And there are mediocre people too. So the place is not what determines the quality of a person, but the person himself.

    Simple. “For there to be people that make money producing low quality material, there must be people buying it.” Clients who, not wanting to pay for quality material produced by talented writers, bought poor quality material simply because from the begining they had the intention to pay less.

  16. Ivy Shelden says:

    Just checking in on MALW and of course it never disappoints! I just had to click on this one to see if i’m one of those “types.”

    Truth is, I still struggle with the first 2. Number 2 gets easier the more you pitch, but number 1 will always be the toughest for me to conquer. I wouldn’t say I have a total lack of self-discipline but it is tough to kick your own butt into shape when you don’t have a boss to do it.

    Self-doubt is always creeping around doing it’s thing as well. The important thing is to just keep it moving, because the more longer you stay frozen in fear, the worse you feel about yourself.

    It’s helpful to be reminded of the issues we will constantly have to overcome if we want to be successful writers.

  17. Margie says:

    Carol, I think finding you and your Writer’s Den was some kind of act of divine providence! Although I honestly do struggle with rejection, I treat it like Olympian Ice Skaters (I love Ice Skating – watching it at least, not doing it) – what makes them champions is that if they mess up or fall down, they get right back up again and KEEP GOING. I really appreciated how you addressed this topic about rejection in your “Steps to Freelance Writer Success,” because it helps me to keep things in perspective.

  18. Ivan says:


    I just wanted to say that succeeding as a non-native speaker is possible. I’m a living proof of that.

    The problem, though, is that many people overestimate their knowledge and fluency of English.

    For example, here in Croatia, everybody thinks they know English โ€“ just because they can spit out sentences like Tarzan. For that group of people, I’m afraid there’s no hope.

    However, I think it’s wrong to scare every non-native speaker away. I know some that have made it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I don’t think I’m trying to scare every non-native writer away — as I said above, I’ve seen native US citizens who can’t write English for a living! I’m trying to get ESL writers to reconsider their best options, as for most, writing in English is a shrinking opportunity.

      PS — That would be “I’m living proof,” not “I’m A living proof.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. Laurinda B says:

    This post is so timely. I recently quit my corporate job and decided to write full time. Attempting to do both was wearing me out. I do plan to get a part time job, while I work my business as a freelancer. I had a fear of zoning out to Law & Order reruns every day. Because while I did work a corporate job I would have a one lazy weekend day. But I have a plan and I’m working that plan. I’m shocked how fast the day goes and how worn out I am at the end of the day. Discipline is key, I almost feel like I’m back in graduate school. So I will probably keep my one lazy weekend day! Thanks again.

  20. Ravi says:

    I saw many professional writers used to write in plain English. I think I improved my English when compared to the last month because I am really trying to make my English perfect. Now, I feel I can write English without mistakes.

    What’s your comment on my English?

  21. Arjun says:

    “You might be an amazing writer in your native language.” – True ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Ely says:

    Hi, Carol!

    First, I totally respect and admire you and your work you’re among the few freelance writers I religiously follow. We even exchanged a few emails in late 2014.

    I live in the Philippines.

    I’m also quite a fan of tough love. In fact, I found #1 and #2 motivating.

    But I was quite bothered by #3, being an ESL writer. I don’t know how to feel about it. I thought, “Hey, can’t ESL writers learn how to write fluently in English?” Because it seems you’re really saying that it may be best to just write for the local “scene,” or in our native language. But as Mai said, the pay here is generally low.

    I just feel you’re somewhat discouraging ESL writers to continue writing in English (?) when we could also be in that 5%, though I’m sure it’d take quite a long time. (I used to follow Ed Gandia. I think it took him a long time, too, before he became the awesome writer that he is now. I’m going to follow him again thanks to this post.) ๐Ÿ™‚

    I read books, try to reach a certain word count, and read/study portfolios of writers I admire (including yours!). We are trying. I am trying.

    I appreciate you addressing the issue, especially for ESL writers, but I don’t think there’s really a huge difference between ESL writers and native English writers *who want to become serious freelance writers.* (Most of the time you’d know who’s serious or not anyway.) I even think some native English writers write as bad as I do, or in other words, they haven’t mastered the language, too … but it’s never the end, or is it?

    Perhaps I just heard you say, “Just write in your native language,” more than “Learn the English language for real.”

    It’s really cool of you to speak of the truth (even if it hurts) but I think there are just no real excuses if someone wants something. Most successes have gone a long way; I think I’m quite ready to go a long way.

    This month I’m *finally* putting up my writer site. It’d be a huge first-time thing.

    Anyway, this one’s a long comment already haha. It sure struck a chord. (I’m not really sure whether I’m emotionally fragile.) But … maybe you just got tired of the emails you constantly received; maybe the “undisciplined” majority got your attention … or something. But I’d like to think that there are lots of ESL writers out there who have the similar attitude and perspective about this business as you do, regardless of their (our) life circumstances.

    Thanks, Carol! Thanks for showing us these (sometimes really high) “standards” and how the real freelance writing world looks like. I haven’t joined the Den yet, but it should be one of the first things I’m going to do once I take off.

    • Norine says:

      Ely… I think there are exceptions, and you’re one of them.

    • Ravi says:

      I have the same feeling for the 3rd point. There are many professional freelance writers and writers from non-English countries. Did they know English since their child days or learned later as a 2nd language? I guess many of them learned later.

      When a person can write English but cannot speak as he speaks in his local language, still he can write for the following: eBooks, Articles, Blogs, Reports, Kindle fiction and non-fiction. Maybe some clients would like to give their projects only to the writers who can speak and write English fluently.

      Successful people and seniors like you should discourage the readers who interested in writing and ready to follow whatever you suggest. We can learn new things whether it is writing or speaking when we love it and try it.

      • Ravi says:

        Sorry…In the last paragraph, it should be “not discourage, or encourage”.

        I feel good for my English now, and by your 1st and 2nd points, we can beat 3rd issue (the language challenge).

        • Carol Tice says:

          Ravi, that would be “I feel good ABOUT my English now.”

          There are two categories of writers who aren’t fluent — one type realizes they aren’t and keeps working on their skills like you’re doing, and the other insists they already are fluent. The latter group is the one in the biggest trouble.

          • Ravi says:

            Thank God, I’m in a better side. But I’m in confusion.

            Can I hope, or should I stop dreaming about freelance writing? I am not bad at basic English. But I want improvement for much vocabulary and writing fast without errors.

            Please clarify my position in these 3 types? Hope I’m not in a danger zone.

            • Carol Tice says:

              Ravi…each comment you leave has grammar errors, including this one. Please see my pointers in step #3 in the post of possible good ways forward for you.

              • Ravi says:

                I also showed some of my writing samples to an article writer and asked him, “Can I write for clients?”

                He replied after reading my samples, “Yes. I found a few errors in your samples. But your English is fine,” and advised, “after finishing your article, show to a proofreader. Even established writers also proofread their writings.”

                After his feedback, I read my samples and found those errors myself. Is it not a point?

                I also translated my FICTION short story into English. My professor found only three errors in that 2000 word story, and I found them after his feedback without taking his help.

                Adopting a native speaker’s help is a great advice for me or any other writer who’s from a non-English region.

                But what about my belief: I can write and speak English fluent if I try as I am doing these days?

                I’m sure I am not bad at the English grammar. I also write in my regional language, but my aim for this year is getting a writing job in English. Encourage me to reach the goal. Thanks.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ely, I don’t think #3 is addressed to you — because if you hadn’t told me you were an ESL writer, I wouldn’t have known.

      I’m talking to the many, many writers I hear from like the ones quoted in this post, where it’s clear they don’t have a command of English.

      I just want ESL writers to be realistic about the marketplace. There is a shrinking opportunity for the barely literate for English-language assignments. They can either work hard and become fully fluent to go after better gigs, or they can write in their own language. What I don’t want is people continuing to fantasize that they can earn as a writer in a language they haven’t mastered…because I’m against starving!

      And you’re right — I HAVE also heard from people in the US who are equally in trouble in terms of their English writing competency. That’s why I titled #3 “You’re not fluent” and not “You’re from another country” or “You’re an ESL writer.” Some folks have grown up only with English, but still aren’t in a position to earn as a writer of it!

      • Ely says:

        Hi Carol,

        I just wanted to clarify that I didn’t mean any trouble with my previous comment. ๐Ÿ™‚ Forgive me if I seem to have not understood your point #3 so well.

        Please continue making solid posts like this one; I don’t take any offense at posts like this. I know you just sincerely want to help your fellow writers.

        So, Thank You. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Mai Bantog says:

    Love this eye-opener, Carol. I thought I might be on the brink of failing in the self-discipline department, but thankfully I found a system that works well for me.

    What I really want to fight is burnout, which is inevitable especially if you’ve been writing on the same topic for months on end. Usually a quick vacation gets me back on track, but other times I feel the need to drop the job and explore other options.

    Number 3’s a big deal for me, being an ESL writer myself. I stumbled upon freelance writing during the keyword stuffing era, so it took me more than a couple of years of self-education (through the Den and various freelance writing blogs) to change my mindset. In fact, I used to tell my friends that as long as you can string grammatically correct sentences together, you can make it as a freelance writer. The field has changed since then and to be honest, I love how it all panned out. I get to read (and create) more interesting content.

    But while I don’t have problems in language command (I’ve been exposed to English since I was a kid), I’m afraid that being a writer from a third world country drastically diminishes my marketability. Clients immediately assume that since I’m from the Philippines, I can work for less than the price they pay for their American writers. Just look at all those Craigslist writing ads in Manila. I don’t want to get local gigs either because the pay is small.

    Anyway, I’m not giving up. Thanks to the Den, I learned to do my own marketing and eventually raised my rates to 10 cents a word, which is good enough for me right now. I’m actually planning to start a blog aimed specifically for non-native English writers.

    Sorry for this really long comment, Carol. Your post really hit home that’s why I got a lot to share. Thanks for writing this! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think it definitely IS a challenge for bilingual writers who’re based elsewhere. I think the secret is to find companies where your location is an advantage — businesses that do business in your country, for instance, and might need to know that culture.

  24. Robert says:

    Any writer, freelance or otherwise can relate to this article. Each person is different but this type of career is NOT for everyone. The trick is figuring it out early one way or the other.

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s true — it’s weird to feel like a radical saying, “Not everyone can do this,” but I think the popular mythology is that anyone CAN be a freelance writer. Many writers find out it’s not true the hard way.

  25. Evan Jensen says:

    Really appreciate your get-real approach here. And not sure if I should laugh or cry about the emails you receive from people who want to pursue freelancing.

    I’m much better at applying self-discipline to market consistently than I used to be thanks to encouragement from the Den.

    As for #2 Emotionally-fragile? Rejection letters or no response from queries/LOIs doesn’t bother me, so I’ll press on with that. But I do sometimes second guess my goal to go freelance full time.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Evan as I’m posting this today, I’m getting guest post pitches on email from writers who aren’t fluent in English…it never ends.

      One told me I have the ‘uncorrect’ impression about them. Um, I don’t think so.

  26. Richard Buse says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. Not being emotionally fragile is crucial. There are initial rejections and lost clients. Beyond that, the folks who pay us have the right to edit whatever we write, and some of them exercise that right more than others.
    That’s part of the deal, too.

  27. Karen Marshall says:

    Thank you for this post! This is solid, straight forward, kick-in-the-seat-of-the-pants advice. Having the discipline to do what needs done every day and not being distracted by the constant parade of distractions that life brings is vital for freelance success. And it is definitely not easy.

  28. Kathryn says:

    I think other people who might have to seriously think about whether this career is right for them is perfectionists. This has been a challenge for me but I’ve learnt to just send the work once I’m happy with it and have proofread it, rather than fret over every word and keep tweaking it over and over again. Like you say, if you never press ‘send’ or ‘publish’ this gig is never going to pay. Thanks for your posts – they’re always great to read and an extremely valuable resource for me.

    • Williesha says:

      Yeah perfectionism is a huge deterrent! Gotta just “click send” and go!

    • Carol Tice says:

      You know, I haven’t seen many writers wash out because they’re perfectionists. If you’re willing to work the extra hours you want to go over and over things, you can do it.

      If it’s tied to a fear thing though, and you NEVER send, then you’re in that ’emotionally fragile’ category.

      • You know Carol. You are absolutely right. Being a perfectionist can stop moving forward. Since I do come from that mindset; wanting to have every perfect has stopped me from pressing that magical “publish” button when it comes to developing a new website. I’m getting better.

  29. John Douglas Moroz says:

    Hi Everyone!
    Since I have read all of the above posts, I would like to further add that the number one problem most people I encounter is Self-Discipline, or as I like to call it Self-Doubt. I had been in the Real Estate business for 20 years until I decided it was time for new challenges. The one thing that the RE industry teaches us is Self-Discipline and by this getting leads which starts the ball rolling. One has to constantly prospect and not just in the beginning of any business but all-the-time. No ticky-no washing as one of my former colleague stated years ago. This is the number one reason for failure or success in any business. Emotions is also a big factor but this to can be overcome. Being fluent in a “native” language goes without saying any more.

    • Carol Tice says:

      You might THINK it goes without saying, John, but you don’t read MY mail. Because of the brief SEO ‘writing’ period where you could earn as an illiterate writing in English, there’s a lot of confusion out there about how fluent you need to be. It’s really heartbreaking to get letter after letter from desperately poor people who’re still hoping writing in broken English will save them.

      • Carol, something I’ve seen that’s related are native English speakers who don’t know proper grammar and/or spelling but who think they can freelance (the same is true for photography – I can’t tell you how many people think because they get a fancy camera they’re now a news photographer). I’ve had a couple of friends want to break into the industry but they can’t string a Facebook post into something coherent. You can learn these things, but you have to accept and realize you need some change in this area to move forward. I think that can also be a roadblock for some freelancers, as well.

  30. Williesha says:

    Hey, Carol:

    Thanks for this post. I always need a good dose of tough love. As someone who running a business while having chronic anxiety and depression, I know I have to work hard, not be as sensitive but work smart so that I can take breaks or relax. It’s not easy. I’ve never been “in love” with marketing, but that’s what businesses do.

    Early this morning I went back and followed up on leads via email as far back as June of last year. If I can get the rest, I will do it. I’ve already had a few positive replies.

    I know sometimes it’s a no-no, but I will email a lead every few months until they reply. I figured the huge gap in communication makes it less annoying. I’ve been having lunch or emailing back and forth several times per year for the last 3 years. We are having lunch tomorrow, in fact. This year, I was at least able to get my portfolio to the right person on his team for a project, but there’s no clear timetable for it to start.

    So yes, I’ve been massaging a lead for years. Haha But it helps me land gigs that are more long term.

    Tenacity is something you can achieve even when you have down days or off days or you are like me and “emotionally fragile” is a part of my every day life. I’ve been sick for weeks and I still kept chugging and closed the deal on a couple consulting/VA gigs. So I know what I’m doing is working.

    • Hi Williesha,
      I really admired what you said in your post and your tenacity because I understand how difficult it can be to deal with depression in any profession – and it’s got to be even worse, at times, when you’re freelancing. I’ve had the same issues, of a sort, because I deal with chronic pain issues (fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome). That can make staying disciplined a challenge, particularly since the CFS came on after I had surgery last August. These kind of conditions also can lead to emotional fragility, like you said – but you have to dig deep into yourself and know what you are capable of and how much you are worth. I struggled for several months (as the doctor tried to determine what was wrong with me, finally determining CFS just recently). The two illnesses left me in severe pain most days and weird sleeping patterns every day. Finally, instead of beating myself up that I wasn’t getting up early enough, I started working with my body, working longer at night/overnight to complete assignments. I just had to get past that “have to work 8 to 5” ideal. Now that I have stopped making the situation worse for myself, my productivity and outlook have skyrocketed.

      I have been blessed since I started freelancing that I have a client that keeps me as busy as I want to be (although the income level isn’t as high as I would like). My challenge is to take this new, improved outlook and improving physical condition to garner more, varied work that will help me hit that financial plateau I want to achieve – and beyond. Sometimes we all have bad days; for those of us with chronic conditions it can be worse – but I truly believe you can be a freelancer with those if you can find the balance you need to jump that hurdle.

      • Carol Tice says:

        Hey Traci —

        I think part of the thrill of being a freelancer is if it works better for you to work weird hours, you CAN.

        For me, I did several staff writing jobs from home and just kind of trained up on being available 9-5 for my editors, and now that’s the discipline that works for me. But I definitely know writers who work a variety of odd schedules!

      • Tammy says:

        Fibromyalgia I know about. I used to have it bad, but do not suffer any more. The first thing that helped me was DHEA. It is better if you have a doctor who knows what that is to help regulate it, but they are rare. I would recommend trying the lowest dose you can find and gradually increasing until you have success. Gradually as in, after a week at one dose, increasing slightly. If you notice an uncomfortable increase in sex drive or inappropriate lactation, or if you want to play it safe, a doctor told me she recommends not taking the DHEA but instead doing about 2000 of the glucosamine vs. the 1500 for arthritis alone. 1000 morning and night works best.
        I do not know chronic fatigue syndrome, but I hope you find answers soon. You deserve them.

  31. Norine says:

    Discipline is a challenge because I work a full-time job. But, because I’m determined to escape from this 9-6 job, I’ve developed a time-management plan that I follow. I love writing!

  32. Brent Jones says:

    Hi Carol,

    Great topic for a post. I’m a huge fan of tough love.

    One suggestion I may have, particularly for the ESL group, is to focus on freelance services that aren’t writing.

    For instance, one of my clients is a very talented web and graphic designer… but his English grammar is a little rough. So he outsources writing jobs to me, and I outsource design jobs to him. It’s a win for both of us.

    But for those who lack self-discipline or tend to be emotionally fragile, freelancing will be a tough go — no matter the service(s) being offered.

    Great post. I’ll share this out now.



    • Carol Tice says:

      Brent, I totally agree. Look for freelance coding work, graphic design work — something where the core skill is not writing in English, and you’ll probably be fine!

  33. Excellent points Carol. As a freelance writer you need to manage your time well. You also need to develop a fairly thick skin.

    The fluency question puzzles me as well. Perhaps because I live in Texas I see a fair number of ads wanting writers fluent in Spanish. Even though I’ve been studying Spanish for two years, I know I’m not fluent in it. I would never apply for a writing job that required Spanish fluency.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Same here — but it’s just another example that there ARE opportunities in every language. I just think many ESL writers would do better to seek work in their own language. There are businesses that need marketing copy everywhere in the world.

  34. Oh boy, on bad days I’ve suffered from lack of self-discipline for sure. This usually happens when I’ve been marketing my face off for weeks on end with few results to show for it, then I turn into a brat who whines to myself, “This isn’t WORKING!!” And then watch Sex and the City re-runs in the middle of the work day to console myself. Luckily, this lasts for one day at most, then it’s back to marketing and focusing on doing a kick-butt job on the client work I do have.

    I had a terrible bout of this last August. I researched and sent out LOIs every day of the week. I contacted past clients. I reached out to my low-hanging fruit list of warm leads. I sent an email to my list announcing I had room in my schedule to take on new writing clients. I even checked writing job boards and applied for relevant gigs. The end result of a solid month of this activity was one new client for a small, one-off project.

    A couple months later when I shared this story with a friend, one who used to be a freelance writer and consultant before fleeing the freelance hustle exhaustion to go back to 9-5Landia, she said, “But it was August, of course that was your result! You know not much happens in August. I dare you to go back now (this was in late October) and tweak and re-send those LOIs, follow up again with your warm leads and past clients, send another email to your list, and see what happens!”

    I did do some of those things, and I did get a couple of new projects as a result. At the end of the day, consistency is such a huge part of self-discipline, and if you’re not marketing consistently, even when your project schedule is full (that’s my #1 biggest challenge, I’ll admit), then your freelance business will suffer. If my marketing had been more consistent prior to that awful August, I doubt I would have been in that situation!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Kimberley, when I hear about marketing results that poor, I don’t say, “It’s August.” I say, “Let’s look at what you’re doing in your marketing, and make it better.” Because clients hire every month of the year.

      Inside Freelance Writers Den, we review queries and letters of introduction — and we find most aren’t really sharp enough to get the gig. Effort spent learning how to KILL at marketing pays off, we’ve found. Strengthening your inbound marketing, particularly writer website and LinkedIn profile, also yield better results.

      We’ll see writers go from the kind of results you’re seeing to getting 30 or 40 percent response rates, once they work on their marketing approach. I’d say stop and learn more about how to get those prospects to call and hire you.

      • I’m actually a member of Freelance Writer’s Den, and I posted one of my first ever LOIs there for feedback a couple of years ago, and got some great suggestions on how to improve it. Then I sent it out to a few healthcare clients and got work. So that was awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

        I no longer target the healthcare market so much though, and I think part of the issue that August where I had the terrible results was in the targeting. I was targeting small creative businesses I would have loved to work with, but upon reflection, realized they either don’t have the budget to hire a copywriter, or don’t see the value in outsourcing their web copy, blog content and so on.

        I do have a writer’s website of course, and I spent a big chunk of time improving my LinkedIn profile last Fall. I get consistent leads from my website, and a few here and there from LinkedIn. And I have a decent close rate with prospects. My biggest challenge though is *consistently* doing the level of prospecting I need to do, because when I do that, I don’t usually find myself lacking work.

        Things have much improved since that very lackluster August. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Carol Tice says:

          That’s good to hear! And yes, that’s the other thing to look at when marketing isn’t working — who are you targeting? Often, it’s too-small prospects.

  35. Sylvie says:

    Point #1 resonated for me. When I was a newer freelancer in my early 20s I definitely had issues with time management that got in the way of my productivity and earning potential. Since growing up a little and treating my writing like a business, my income has grown exponentially. And it feels really empowering to think of myself as an entrepreneur and businesswoman, which keeps me motivated to build my business more. Amazing how such a simple (and obvious) change makes such a huge difference!

    • Carol Tice says:

      That mindset change to “I’m in BUSINESS” is huge. Once you ‘get’ that, you don’t imagine clients will come by magic. Like any retail store, you know you need to do marketing, every week.

      • Tammy says:

        Carol and Readers,
        Thank you for making a case for self-discipline, but for those of us who need it, a push can be found in the form of a career or emotional counselor. I have just hooked up with an exciting career counseling organization in my area called IKRON. I do not know what exists in other places, but the counselor with whom I work helps me to establish goals and work through the hang-ups that would keep me from achieving them. You would not believe the accelerated pace at which we address them, or the homework I give myself after one of these meetings. And I am great at following to do lists if I have someone looking over my shoulder… even if it’s just once a week. I do not know yet how successful this will be, but just this past week, I finished writing a book I’ve been working on with a good friend and former roommate for 10 years. It was not on my to do list, but my friend nudged me, and that was all it took! (She’s been nudging on a semi-regular basis all this time, but now I have a conscience.)
        If you do procrastinate without encouragement, or if you are a perfectionist who can’t push send on your own, or if you just can’t get excited about goals you set yourself in isolation, please consider finding someone – a counselor, a friend, a goal-partner, someone who can help you manage yourself. You will amaze yourself with your own productivity.
        P.S. My career counselor found and recommended this site. Thank you!

        • Carol Tice says:

          Well, emotional counselor I recommended in the post. And some kind of career coach is also great. I find many coaches out there don’t really understand the world of freelancing, but if you can find one that does it can be great.

          I always encourage freelancers to take advantage of SCORE mentors, women-owned business centers, and the other SBA resources in the US — the most underutilized small business resources around.

  36. sharmelle says:

    English is not my native language but I believe it’s not an hindrance for me to be a good writer. Grammar is something you can learn. But the passion to write is something that grows within you. You just have to unleash it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, it’s not A hindrance…if you simply write in your native language. Problem solved!

      Grammar IS something you can learn, but I find there are few writers who gain enough command of the English language to make a living professionally writing in it. I’d say over 90% of the writers who are trying to do this aren’t even in the ballpark of the level of sophistication they’d need to earn as English language writers. And 5% of the rest is…Ed Gandia. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      So obviously, it CAN be done. But I think few ESL writers put in the time and effort it would take to get there. Most need to realize that the SEO writing opportunity that once existed in English is gone, and that there really isn’t a similar gig out there. They’ll have to come leagues forward in their English writing to build this career these days.

      • sharmelle says:

        Thank you Carol for some corrections. I am more comfortable to write in English. I know i need to learn the proper prepositions especially the grammar. I feel out of place because all the writers here are fluent in English. It feels like I don’t belong here. But I want to be a writer. That’s why I’m here. To learn.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Sharmelle, I have MANY international readers — and I hope they take this fluency issue to heart and find gigs in their own languages, so they can earn! I know it’s tough with the ‘SEO writing’ gigs drying up now.

          Feel free to keep working on your English…but honestly, I believe better opportunities will lie in your own country.

  37. Linda says:

    Sometimes truth hurts, Carol, and you’ve spoken truth throughout this post. I recall a writing associate I had throughout 2014-2015 who told me she’d decided to go back to a day job because she didn’t like constant “hassle” of marketing every day to find work. My reply was that marketing daily was a key factor in keeping the work flow steady. I would miss her. Her comment actually motivated me though.

    I’ve a quote from Agatha Christie on my wall to remind me daily: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” Rings true to home.

    Thanks for sharing these tips. They made me realize that I am a writer and I will succeed in 2016. But even I get emails for overseas ESL writers who want me to hire them or offer then easy road-maps to success. I don’t. Writing is hard work and through mentors like you I’ve been able to turn things around and succeed.

    2016 is already becoming a stellar year. I’m excited. I’ll share this post with some other writers. They may need to take a step back and review what they’re doing.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Linda — I love that Christie quote! Sums up so much. That’s it exactly. Doing this for a LIVING isn’t about following your muse. It’s about stamping out writing work, and marketing, like hamburger. Enough of it to pay the bills. That’s the difference.

      • Linda says:

        Yes, Carol, her quote sums it all up. I repeat it to myself daily because sometimes I’d rather follow my muse than recognize I’m a business owner with commitments to people who trust me. Reading her autobiography inspires me and makes me realize I truly need to move my cheese and get it going.

    • harish desai says:

      hi Linda,

      I too am more or less like your friend. I do not like to market myself too much. In fact, I would rather spend more time writing more articles than marketing myself, irrespective of the rate I am being offered.
      I too do not like to market my services and probably that is why I am still stuck with low paying clients.
      But, I do follow the gems of knowledge dished out on this site and follow it regularly.

      • Linda says:

        One day Harish, you will realize the low paying clients are time wasters when you could be writing the same amount for 3x more. It will come, when you get hungry enough or you can’t pay the bills and you’re exhausted from writing all the time. Been there, done that. Hang in there.

  38. Daryl says:

    For me #1 is the one I struggle with the most. Having the self-discipline to sit down day after day and do what needs to be done is a struggle for me, and I suspect many other writers. The days that I DO try I see results – more leads, more clients, more traffic to my site. And then there are the days that I get sidetracked with my Game of Thrones marathons (have you been peeking on my video history Carol? Shame!) and I go to sleep without having done one thing on my to do list!

    My biggest resolution is to NEVER let up, for no reason. Keep hustling, ignore my desire for “breaks” until I finally have built up the freelance lifestyle I’ve been chasing for so long!

    • Norine says:

      And even after that, Daryl, you will still have to work hard. A freelancer’s hustle never stops! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well…we all screw off sometimes. I’m talking more about PATTERNS of behavior. If you could let months go by without working on your agenda to find paying clients…then this isn’t for you.

  39. Hi Carol

    Your point about being emotionally fragile really resonates with me right now.

    Yesterday, I parted company with a client who had a tantrum because I told him I’d schedule his work in for when I was available and NOT when he wanted me to be available.

    His whole attitude turned on a sixpence. One minute he was calling me the best copywriter since sliced bread. Then the next I was totally useless and hadn’t got a clue.

    I felt really bad about the whole episode. In fact, I was awake much of the night thinking about it. In other words, I suppose I’m quite sensitive.

    But what’s maybe different is that I carried on with my work regardless. And, despite having a rough night, I’ve already put in a shift this morning.

    I guess having a thin skin is different from being emotionally fragile. For when these setbacks happen, I find the sooner I move onto something else, the more quickly I forget about them.

    • Margo says:

      Kevin, Congratulations on getting back to work this morning! Your anecdote is inspiring. For the future, you could consider having a “rush fee” for work that has a tight deadline. Then your client can make their own decision as to whether to pay extra to have it done “now” or wait until the time you quoted them. Perhaps that might avoid future tantrums?

      • Thanks Margo

        It was actually more complicated than that. He also claimed I ignored his instructions to rewrite his strapline โ€“ even though it was written in the brief that I should offer alternatives. I’d also been working over the weekend to meet another client deadline immediately beforehand. So I couldn’t bring the work forward to when he wanted anyway.

        Back in September, when he first wanted the work done, he took up loads of my time with repeated calls and emails. Then he went AWOL for months on end โ€“ only to suddenly reappear 2 weeks ago wanting the work done in a matter of days.

        I’m not sure what it is about some clients. They think we’re just sitting around doing nothing waiting for their call.

        I’m sure glad I took a deposit. Wish I’d taken 50% rather 20% though.

        • harish desai says:

          Kevin, I was writing for a client who suddenly vanished from the scene without letting me know why. I thought he had stopped giving me work as my articles were not receiving a good response on his website. However, yesterday he emailed me saying that they were changing their rules of working and their payment procedures and that is why he had gone off. He emailed to me the new payment procedure and the new work procedure. Now from today presumably, he will start giving me work. But, I did not collect any deposit from him. Am I wrong? Or am I right? When I asked him for a certificate that I am working for his company, he said that they do not give a certificate to their writers. I want the work that is why I have to abide by his terms and accept his new work. Is there any way I can let him know that I am not at his disposal if he just vanishes like this?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Kevin, I don’t think you’re emotionally fragile — just emotionally connected. It’s upsetting when people are abusive.

      What I’m talking about here is people who are emotionally fragile to the point of being unable to do the work — unable to keep on marketing after a rejection, or after a client relationship falls apart.

      We’re all human, and unpleasant people are stressful to be around. But if that makes you paralyzed, then freelance writing isn’t going to work out. Because stuff happens in freelancing. Things go wrong. Editors don’t respond. And you kind of have to be able to keep your center and remember that it’s not about you, to do this for a living.

      Sounds to me like you’re moving on — and that’s what has to happen. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Carol, I gotta say I’ve focused on mainly easy stuff today. But that kinda makes sense.

        I also have to admit I thought more established freelances had a thicker skin than me. But it sounds as if my immediate reaction was totally normal.

        And, yep, I’m definitely moving on.

        • I started including a line in my contract that says I’ll perform edits requested within 2 weeks of submission – saves me from having to worry about clients that pop back up a month or more after a project’s submitted and no longer fresh in my memory wanting more work. I recommend it!

          • Kristen, I’m a bit more lenient and specify 4 weeks to request revisions.

            Unfortunately that didn’t apply to this client โ€“ because he went AWOL before confirming his instruction to go ahead.

            I’m not sure how to stop this happening. We’d discussed everything through, I was all ready to proceed and then he disappeared for months.

            Just like the revisions that take weeks to come through, you have to familiarise yourself with the project all over again.

            I suppose you could always make them sign on the dotted line before you go into details. But then you’re agreeing to do a project completely blind.

      • harish desai says:

        hi Carol,

        It is not easy moving on if that client has supported you for some period of time. If he is elemental in supporting you financially when the chips are down. I feel there is an emotional attachment in such a case with the client and we tend to accept whatever he does. Am I wrong by doing this? Or am I right?

    • Sharon says:

      I’ve recently taken on a client who seems forgetful and I think it’s natural to wonder about things longer than we should. But you kept going. That’s not overly sensitive.

    • harish desai says:

      hi Kevin,

      I too am thin skinned. I too feel bad when my articles get rejected. But, please note one thing. Writers who are sensitive can do very good work because of their nature. They can understand their reader better and understand easily what they want and serve it to them. All in all, I would like to say that sensitive people make better writers. This is my view from the experience I have gathered in my life.