Kicking Freelance Writing “But”

What I’m listening to: Never Let You Go by Third Eye Blind

Yesterday on a private writers’ forum, I saw a post from someone I consider to be a smart, savvy writer. She was asking for help. She wants to lose her full-time gig and go 100% freelance. However, things were getting in the way.

As I read through her post, I realized exactly what was getting in her way. I know, because I used to let the same roadblock stop me in my tracks. Then one day, I kicked that sucker down and have been walking over it ever since.

This post is for her and for every writer like her.

Today, you’re going to learn to kick your “but” to the curb.

I’m talking about that negative follow-up thinking you add to every sentence you write or speak regarding what you want to do, what you are doing, what you have done, and how that relates to finding work and clients. Here are a few ways to clear the “buts” out of your freelance writing career:

Create habits.

I remember too well that sinking-gut feeling I had when I’d spend hours trying to locate work and walking away not knowing what the hell I had done or was doing with this freelance thing. I felt defeated before I began. I was trying too hard to do it all at once. Instead, I started focusing. An hour on job boards was way too depressing, so I spent just ten minutes, then soon avoided them. I set time aside for “learning” — I read blog posts on topics I’d selected to learn about. I scheduled my day, even though there wasn’t much work. I walked away with the feeling that I’d accomplished something, even if it earned me nothing that day. Build your own habits — a schedule, if that suits you — and block out your day for specifics, not just hit-or-miss attempts to find clients.

Shift your perspective.

Maybe it’s not confidence but motivation you need. Understandable. Back in the day, I would fall back on temp work, go on job interviews for jobs I didn’t really want (and turned down offers, which made me sick to do at the time)…  Then one day, a writer named Kristen King said this to me:

Treat freelance writing like it's your only option. Click To Tweet

That’s what it took for me to shift my thinking from “I’ll write until the work dries up” to “I’ll look for writing work every day so it won’t dry up.” That little shift in your own thinking will make a huge impact, I promise.

Avoid perfection thinking.

You really want to write for magazines or clients in the microbrewery industry. You’ve done some profiles and written about one product, but you’re afraid that’s not enough. Refer to the title of this post — kick your “but” out of that sentence. Instead, focus on the positive: you’ve done some profiles and have written a product feature. Stop thinking you have to be an expert to even approach a client. I’ll use a recent client interaction I had as an example. They sought me out because of my background, and they wanted me to write about…. well, about a product I had zero experience with. But they saw what I could do, what I had done, and that was enough. It will be enough for you with some clients. Others — particularly those who have no idea how to hire for talent beyond filling laundry-list criteria — won’t hire you unless you tick every box. That’s not your client. If they can’t see beyond that list, I don’t think that would be a fun relationship for either of you.

Embrace your experience.

Even if you started freelancing last month, you have some experience. You’ve volunteered to write for church newsletters, for friends, for local businesses….it counts even if you’ve not been paid (and who needs to know that?). If you’re a freelancer with a few years of experience, there’s no excuse to still be treating your business like you did at the beginning of your career. So remove these things from your approach:

  • “What if they say no” thinking
  • You-owe-them-for-hiring-you thinking (you owe them your best work, not your “thankyouthankyouthankyou” gratitude)
  • “I don’t have much experience” thinking (remember, a new doctor treats patients just as a 30-year veteran would)
  • The “I’m sorry to bother you” approach (change this to more of a “I’ve studied your magazine and can rock this for you” approach)

As my cousin once told me, she kept her back to the work she had to do when she was weeding the garden. “That way, I see my own progress.”

Apply that to your freelance writing career. Keep your attention on your own career accomplishments while working toward those other skills you don’t have yet.

Step off on your own.

It’s great to have help — a coach, a forum, a support group to help you along the way. But eventually, you have to do this on your own. It’s scary as hell to step off that ledge and not know how far the fall is. But it’s your ledge, and you can build it as close to the ground as you like. Keep your support group close for those times when things aren’t going well, but rely on them for suggestions. Other writers can walk you through it, but the work is up to you.

And you, my writing friend, are more than capable of doing it on your own.

Writers, what “but” statements held you back?
How did you get past them? Which ones still get in your way?

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  • Paula Hendrickson April 19, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    I’m pretty sure I know the writer who inspired this post, and I have the utmost confidence that she will find a way to break through the (relatively few) barriers she thinks are in her way. She’ll be a full-time freelancer soon than she knows!

    • lwidmer April 20, 2017 at 9:55 am

      You probably do, Paula. But her situation is so familiar, isn’t it? I remember my own rough beginnings. Once you realize that the fear is the last road block, it’s smooth sailing. 🙂