Why Your Freelance Writing Career is Stalled

What I’m listening to: Drive by The Cars

shortcut-1444988-1280x960Interesting week. I’m trying to locate off-the-record comments for a client project, but no one is talking. I had to come up with an alternate plan for the client, which he likes, but I really wanted to get feedback from these people so we could hit on a solid product. I’ll keep dialing the phone…

In between writing an article, researching, and setting up another assignment, I browsed forums. I like forums because you can get a good mix of skill levels and topics.

I don’t like forums because you get to see people making the same mistakes repeatedly.

After reading through a few exchanges, I’ve figured out why some freelance writing careers (maybe yours?) seem to be stuck at one level for years. Another writer and I were discussing this very thing two days ago — it’s a simple truth, but too many freelance writers will overlook it, ignore it, deny it. My friend said it best:

I am so tired of people thinking you can shortcut networking.

Yep. Right there with you.

Everything from asking the same question year over year to restating advice into something completely different, writers are constantly looking for a shortcut. Maybe they see a successful freelancer who makes it look easy. Maybe that signals to them that this writer just walked right in and built a business without trying.

Not true. I’d bet good money that in every case of a successful freelance writing career, that writer worked his or her tail off — both behind the scenes and out in the open. I’d be willing to bet they didn’t shortcut networking, or any other part of their business process.

You can’t. There is no shortcut to any of it. There’s work.

If you’re ready to stop cutting corners, making excuses, or ignoring the obvious, you’re ready to build a successful freelance writing career. Here’s where I suggest you start:

Commit. Hey, it’s a short walk to failure if you don’t accept the work ahead of you. Don’t commit to the latest get-rich-quick fad or the latest networking trend.

Create your own process. Yes, you should build your own, one-size-fits-you networking plan. You’re much more likely to continue your plan if it fits you. That doesn’t mean you can’t take cues from others — I do, and so do plenty of writers. Just don’t think mirroring someone else is going to net the same results. It won’t. You’re not reaching out to the same clients or even the same industry.

Copy what appeals. Yes, it’s your own process. It’s built from stuff you like, but it can have elements from other successful writers. Let’s use Paula Hendrickson as an example (don’t hurt me, Paula!). Paula writes for the entertainment industry. Her clients are very specific. I wouldn’t use the same approach with my insurance clients, but I might be drawn to Paula’s letter of introduction technique (I am — she taught me the process). She wouldn’t copy my approach to insurance clients, but she might like my process for setting up face-to-face meetings.

Forget about the sale. To me, networking is about getting to know people. In my own experience, I remember the people who had a conversation with me, who asked me questions or shared industry insights. The people I don’t remember are the ones who shoved a business card in my hand and started going on about who they are and why their products/services are what I need. Drop the sales talk and focus on the person.

Do your own homework. It’s so tempting to ask a question and wait for the answer to come to you. How much faster — and more impactful — it is to look up the answers yourself! It’s okay to ask questions, but don’t forget to look for your own solutions. Imagine what you’ll find if you just open the browser and search…

Find your own mojo. Networking isn’t an instant sale, nor is it a process that will pay off today or even tomorrow. It’s going to require your commitment to making connections and nurturing them. Try what appeals, but don’t forget to mix it up and try something new. If you go into a networking situation sounding and acting just like someone else, what’s going to set you apart enough for people to care?

Writers, how long did it take you to build your networking process?

What makes it uniquely yours?

What advice would you give writers who are looking for that quick fix?

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  • Paula Hendrickson August 24, 2016 at 10:54 am

    I only woulda hurt you if you’d misspelled my name, Lori.

    I wish I could remember where I learned about LOIs so I could give thanks and proper credit. But chances are that person had learned about LOIs from someone else. But that’s the whole point, right? We learn and borrow things from others, filter out what works, or doesn’t work, for us, and combine what remains into our own quirky little systems.

    • lwidmer August 24, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      LOL Glad I got it right then, Fred. 😉

      Exactly. We should share. We’re all stronger if we help each other build stronger businesses.