What’s holding you back from freelance success?
For a lot of writers, it’s fear of failure, doubt, or that voice inside your head that tries to convince you that you’ll never be good enough.
Believe me. I know what it’s like to keep second-guessing yourself, steer clear of networking and marketing, and get stuck feeling like every other writer is killing it but you.
I wasn’t always a freelance writer. In fact, I was a TV news reporter and producer, teacher, and human resources professional, before I made the leap to full-time freelancing.
Even though I had plenty of career experience, I had my doubts about freelance success.
But I knew I had to slay those dragons and stop making excuses.
It didn’t happen overnight. But I have found ways to overcome my doubts and fears, move up and earn more. And so can you.
Here are a few ways I deal with the doubts that trip me up the most:
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Recently, I rented a booth at a small business event. I had rock-star marketing collateral and a cool, antique typewriter on the table.
A woman spotted the typewriter and made a beeline for me.
Our conversation went like this:
“I love old typewriters! So, what do you do?”
“I’m a freelance writer.”
“What do you write?”
I listed all kinds of writing that her business might need.
Meanwhile, in my head, a voice chanted, “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest fraud of all?”
Fear is no fairy tale for new writers, and more experienced writers, too. But you can’t let that hold you back from freelance success.
Grab your virtual sword and cut your way through these fears and doubts:
1. I don’t believe I’m a freelance writer
Does your inner voice shout, “Liar, liar, pants on fire” when you tell people what you do?
You’re in good company. Many people experience this (a version of it anyway) and it’s got a name: Imposter syndrome.
I get it. I taught school for over a decade and struggle to see myself as a writer. Time helps. The longer you freelance, the more it becomes second nature.
In the meantime, here are few things you can do to slay your doubts and boost your confidence:
- Join a networking group (or several) and attend local business events. Will networking land you new clients? Maybe. What it will do is build confidence. Every time I introduce myself as a writer, I believe it more.
- Seek out other writers. It’s crucial to find your tribe. Get out there in person or online and share victories, challenges, advice, and ideas. I didn’t know any other writers, so I joined the Freelance Writers Den. It’s been a gold mine of information and support.
- Build a killer website. It’s a business necessity, but you’ll also look and feel more professional. Check out other writer sites for ideas. Want to know a secret? I look at my own site when I’m feeling wobbly and think, “I’d hire her!”
2. I don’t know anyone I can ask for referrals
Really? I find that hard to believe. Just ask your family, friends, and professional contacts this simple question: Do you know anyone who needs a freelance writer?
You’re not imposing, taking advantage of a relationship, or bothering people when you do this. In fact, when you ask for referrals this way, instead of begging for work, most people will want to help you. Leveraging who and what you know is just smart.
Changing careers is no big deal
If you’re new to freelancing and worry your contacts will think you’re making another crazy career move, it’s really just another dragon of doubt you need to slay.
Statistics vary on how many times the average person changes careers in the US, but numbers range from 2 to 15. Add the gig economy, and transition is the new normal.
Me? I’ve been a journalist, trainer, agency writer, teacher … even a ski instructor.
- Ask for referrals. Anyone you’ve made a connection with through work, play, or other activities is fair game. Ask for referrals.
- Use LinkedIn and Facebook to see who you know and how you’re connected to people you’d like to work with.
3. I don’t know enough about writing
That’s an easy fix. Websites, articles, blogs, and books abound. The choices can be overwhelming so you’ll need to weed out the noise.
The resources I’ve turned to learn more about freelance writing include:
- Freelance Writers Den
- Make a Living Writing
- Writers Market
- The Write Life
- Robert W. Bly’s books
- The Well-Fed Writer
4. My writing might not be good enough
I’ve had my doubts about whether or not I’ve got the chops to handle a writing assignment or pitch a client that seems out of reach.
But I’m not the only one. Even pro writers sometimes take the rolling-around-on-the-floor-crying approach to deal with self doubt and get on with an assignment.
If you’ve managed to land an assignment, you’ve probably got what takes to do the work. But if you’re really concerned about whether or not your writing is good enough, here are a few ways find out:
- Find a mentor or writers group. If you can find support close to home – great. If not, search online – geography isn’t an obstacle thanks to the Web. Or just join the Freelance Writers Den, where you can network with other writers, get help with query letters and LOIs, and develop your skills for freelance success.
- Follow successful writers. Read up on writers who are doing well – then check out their work.
- Get on with pitching. Just try it, instead of waiting around for tomorrow, next month, or next year. Search out potential clients and pitch your ideas. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Two different clients asked that I do a trial piece before they hired me for on-going assignments. Guess what? I got both gigs. Chances are your work is as good as the competition and maybe better.
5. What if I fail?
What if you do? I could go back to a day job in teaching, TV, or human resources. But there’s no way to know if you can do this, unless you try.
There are many avenues you can pursue in freelance writing like magazine writing, copywriting, or blog writing. Not all are a going to be a good fit.
But it’s just as important to find out what you’re not good at as it is to know what writing skills you do have to be a freelance success.
- Learn from failure. I figured this out along the way. I’m not a copy editor. Oh, I know the rules of grammar and can follow a stylebook, but it’s not my strength. If you’re serious about freelancing, even if it’s just a part-time gig starting out, give it your best shot, and see what happens. You’ll never know unless you try.
Slay your doubts for freelance success
Everybody has doubts and fears. But you can’t let those things, or that creepy, talking mirror, hold you back from freelance success. Grab your virtual sword and take control of your freelance writing career. You can slay this.
Tara Brophy is a Boston-based freelance writer. She has followed her passion for writing through careers in TV news, education, advertising, and corporate learning & development.
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