4 Freelance Writing Myths You Can Dispel Right Now

I was talking with a relative at a party last year when I realized I was missing a pretty big opportunity. He’d asked me how the writing was going, and then he said it:

“You write stories and magazine articles, right?”

Magazine articles, yes. But stories? Hardly ever, and certainly not for pay.

He had gotten his information secondhand, from another relative who assumed what I did all day based on one conversation about a side project that didn’t include exactly what I did.

His bad, right?

Wrong. My bad.

That’s right — his misconception came as a result of something I did — or rather, I didn’t do.

I hadn’t told the first relative what I was really doing all day.

Why this sucks for me:

He’s connected.

He’s seriously connected.

And because I didn’t speak up, I may have missed several opportunities.

He was impressed when I did tell him what I did all day. A risk management concentration makes a much bigger impression on a relative who has a deep background in brokering and finance. Stories? Not so much. He assumed (this time based on bad intel) that I was like other writers — trying to get a novel into print.

It’s just one of the myths we writers can dispel with minimal effort, too. Here are the few myths I’ve had to clear up over the years:

We’re all writing fiction.

Hey, nothing wrong with writing fiction if that’s your thing. Plenty of writers make a decent living doing just that. But just because it’s her niche doesn’t mean it’s yours. And it’s an easy misconception to clear up:

Make sure all your conversations, marketing materials, and social interactions clearly identify your… Click To Tweet

We’re all scraping to get by.

Even my mom knows this isn’t the case. And it’s because I’ve made it a point to tell her so that she knows writers can make a damn decent living without clocking in or commuting to someone else’s location. Whenever I have the chance, I talk about my business as a business. I talk about taxes, marketing, clients — things that come with implications of a professional. Even my friends on Facebook can tell I have a serious business. I don’t have to be serious 24/7 to get that point across, either. Treat your own freelance writing business with that same respect — talk about it using business terms.

We’re desperate for work.

You’ve had the same experiences I’ve had — those “clients” who show up offering you garbage rates and acting like they’re doing you a favor. For every five fantastic clients who treat you like the professional you are, there will be one who acts like a little dictator who has this perception of you sitting there eager to take anything that comes along. To be fair to the dictators, there are writers who will take far too much work for far too little pay. But it’s easy to walk away when you realize the benefits of the collaboration are a one-way street and you’re being asked to go the wrong way. In every conversation with your potential and current clients, use language that positions you as an equal, a partner. The use of “we” and “let’s” and words that indicate a partnership elevate you in the eyes of your clients. Partners are not desperate for work, are they? And don’t act desperate. Measure the tone of your response. Meet their energy, yes, but don’t overdo it and try too hard to please. While you’ll still get a few clients who will attempt to undermine your value, you’ll be sending a message — to them and to yourself — that you’re a serious pro.

We’re only doing this temporarily.

Thankfully, some of my clients who contact me infrequently have stopped asking me the question. “Are you still freelancing?” The term freelancing is such a loaded one. We’re viewed as people leisurely sipping coffee in a cafe while writing our Great American Novel in between blogging assignments. Only not many of us have the damn time to sip a coffee let alone work on a novel. You can’t blame clients  — they’ve seen freelancers pop up whenever magazines and newspapers shutter their operations. They’ve dealt with the flaky writers who can’t hit a deadline standing six inches from it. They think freelancers are just biding their time waiting for that next job offer. How do you dispel that myth? Simply. Build a robust marketing presence and social media presence. Be seen hanging out with and conversing with industry experts. Show up at a trade show or two, a webinar, a Twitter chat, and definitely show up in their email. The more you show your commitment to your job, the less often you’ll be thought of as another writer between full-time gigs.

Writers, what myths have you managed to dispel?
Do you still have clients who harbor misconceptions about your time, your commitment, anything?

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  • Paula Hendrickson September 15, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Ugh. The “Are you still freelancing?” is like the writer’s equivalent of constantly being asked, “Are you still single?” — the implication being you’re somehow not complete or fulfilled unless you’re married and have a full-time job. That’s pretty darn insulting.

    When I get the “Are you still freelancing?” question, I usually say something flip like, “Yes. Thank goodness I haven’t had to stoop to taking a corporate job. That would be horrible.”

    I still remember when a new neighbor moved in and introduced herself. I don’t know who she spoke to first, but after telling me her name and that she was a math teacher at a nearby private high school, she said, “I hear you’re the aspiring writer.” This was a long time ago, and in her defense, I tend look younger than I am. I said something like, “No. I AM a writer,” then listed off a few clients.

    • Anne Wayman September 15, 2017 at 11:03 am

      Mostly I have to shift their thinking from fiction to non fiction, although lord knows we non-fiction writers often tell stories.

      • lwidmer September 15, 2017 at 11:09 am

        Anne, I remember an encounter with a border/customs agent when we arrived back in the states. He asked each of us what we did for a living and I said I was a business writer. He said, “Oh, do you write anything creative?”

        My answer brought a smile to his face: “It’s ALL creative!” He got it, and I suspect he’ll never read an article again without thinking about that.

    • lwidmer September 15, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Paula, may I just bottle you and pull out these fantastic comebacks whenever I need them? You seriously made me laugh out loud! It’s the perfect response to “Are you still freelancing”!

      Aspiring? Yep, sounds like the relayed info to her wasn’t quite accurate. I guess you can forgive that as she was either told something incorrect or was putting her own implication on what “writer” means. Glad you straightened her out. 🙂

      • Paula Hendrickson September 15, 2017 at 11:42 am

        That neighbor turned out to be a great neighbor. She moved away about eight years ago and I still miss our chats.