Showing Your Chops

What’s on Pandora: You’re No Good by Linda Ronstadt

I’m still at the conference. Today I’ll be dropping by booths and attending press events and educational sessions. A full day topped off with a hospitality suite in the evening. I’ve invited a PR chum along so she has somewhere to go and so we can bond over cocktails and finger food.

I was thinking back to the incident last week in which the new writer responded to a wealth of advice from experienced writers so flippantly. It’s quite okay to be nervous, lack some confidence, even be afraid. It’s not okay to slough off well-meaning advice with a “I’m not sure I’m going this route anyway” type of comment. This particular poster had a passion lying elsewhere. That’s fine. I’m all for following your passion….so why are you looking to be a writer exactly?

The advice given would fit his/her particular path. It all applies. Build your presence, learn your market, don’t accept less than you deserve, don’t believe that unpaid and underpaid work is all you can get, etc. This one may be young — I’m guessing fresh out of college. However, you’re never too young to grow a backbone, and no matter what profession you’re in, you need one.

So how do you build a backbone and show your professional chops?

Take the leap. The hardest leap you’ll ever make is that first one. It’s new territory for you. However, plenty before you have charted it and left trails all over blogs, books, courses, and coaching sessions. You’re not alone. Before leaping, learn what it takes to make a more successful jump.

Once you jump, commit. Freelancing isn’t finger painting — if you’re in it to dabble and not really put effort into it, don’t bother. But once you’ve decided to give it a go, give it your full effort and attention. Your career will eventually thank you for it.

Accept your own reality. I can tell you all day how rosy the world of freelancing is (not that I would), or someone else could tell you how horrific it is and how there’s no money in it. The truth — your truth — lies somewhere between those two points. It’s yours to create and build. Decide what it is and accept no less.

Turn your passion outward. You love this job, so why are you taking content mill gigs? Because you’ve disconnected from your passion. You’re in survival mode (and ironically, the content mills give you little chance of survival). Get in active business mode — learn what you love doing, get those jobs, and get busy loving what you do. Don’t take any gig that won’t make you happy to go to the computer every day. And if you end up with one of those jobs, do your best to replace it as quickly as possible.

What has gone into the creation of your backbone?

About the author




  • Devon Ellington April 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I am burned out by the amount of wanna-bes who don't have the basic courtesy, when asked for advice to simply say, "thank you." You don't have to use it if it doesn't take you where you want to go. But if someone with a track record has taken the time to share expertise, you damn well better receive it with basic graciousness.

    No one OWES you. Earn respect. Part of that is basic professional courtesy.

    And when you commit to something — see it through. Whether it's a class or a job or a meeting. If it's not a good fit, you don't commit again. But show you're a professional.

  • Damaria Senne April 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I had to grow a backbone when I realised that the lack of one was hurting me (wasting my time, lost opportunities because I was busy tilting windmills thinking I was helping someone who actually wanted help). I'm happy to offer advice to a new freelancer and to direct them to the resources that have also helped me. But they have to be willing to do the work. I can't and won't do it for them.

  • Paula April 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I'm sure most of us who've been freelancing a long time has at least one or two failures that strengthened our resolve (and backbone) to never make the same mistake again. Often, the mistake was trusting someone who hadn't earned our trust.

    Freelancing is like life – you get more out of it when you put more into it.

  • PJ April 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    I had the good fortune to be raised by parents who told me nothing comes easy and anything you really want you will probably have to work hard for. That has held me in good stead for many years and through many career changes. I also have had the good fortune to be mentored by a line of editors/writers who have given me advice for which I will be forever grateful. God bless those willing to share, to help those willing to put in the effort to succeed in a competitive but highly satisfying field.

  • Heather TJ-Palmer April 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    I want to say, as a new freelancer, THANK YOU for your wise words. I appreciate everything you've said, and have enjoyed all of your blogs immensely. As Devon stated above, I don't want to be a "wanna-be" and am so thankful for any advice given. For every person that's a jackass, there's a person who honors your success and expertise.
    After a bleak day of beating myself up, reading your blog gave me renewed strength and faith. You reminded me of what I could change, and reinforced what I know I'm doing right. I'm humbled by your success and hope to be as well-spoken as you someday. Thank you and I look forward to reading future blogs!

  • Lori April 18, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Devon, I get that. I'm fortunate that no one has done that to me, but it's sure happened to others! I keep remembering the few who have gotten upset because you wouldn't hand over contacts. Absurd!

    Damaria, same here. I do love helping, but I have to have A) time to, and B) a willing audience. You're right — if they don't do it for themselves, it's never happening.

    Paula, great point. The failures I've had have made me a stronger business person. We come into this gig thinking it's all writing and creativity. Hell, it's also a business and it requires constant attention. The failures make you smarter about how you do things, and it helps you learn to protect the business.

    PJ, sounds like you had great role models. 🙂

    Heather, I'm glad you found some inspiration here. Don't be humbled– you can do this, too. I've no doubt of it. We all start out on shaky legs. It takes a little time to get balance, but I've total faith you can do it if you stick with it. Thanks for the compliment. 🙂 Please, consider this your place, too. It is. I'd love to read your comments more often!