The Necessity of Change

By Jennifer Mattern

I’m in again for Lori today. Lori will be back next week, and tomorrow Cathy Miller will share a post with you on setting rules for yourself and how she’s done so in her freelance writing career. But first, let’s talk about something you can’t avoid if you want to succeed in freelance writing – or in life for that matter.

Let’s talk about change.

Are you 100% happy with where your freelance career is right now? Can you honestly say your business, or even your motivation, depends on absolutely no outside forces?

If you can answer “yes” to both of those questions, keep doing what you’re doing until one of those answers changes.

But if you want more stability… if you want more money… if you want more freedom… if you want less stress… if you want a different lifestyle…

If you want any of those things to be different, or better, than they are now, you have to make a change.

In my post here earlier this week, I touched on this when I suggested making changes and testing things for yourself so you could set your own freelance writing rules instead of blindly following others’ playbooks. But the need to embrace change goes far beyond experimenting with different business strategies, tools, or tactics.

Sometimes you have to change your mindset.

When I first started my business, it was a rather sudden decision. I mean, I’d thought about it. It was something I wanted to do. But I never thought I actually would at the time. I had a rather cushy job – a private office, authority, a fairly large team working under me, and a job where I could do good in the world.

Eventually I stopped enjoying that job though. There were politics involved that interfered with the mission. There were people involved who didn’t seem to care, and it was rubbing off on others in the office – something I got tired of being around. So I left. And it was a sudden decision to do so.

I was scared.

So, so scared.

As I mentioned in my last post, this was also around the time I split from my then-fiancé. So I was suddenly alone, taking on all the financial burden, and giving up the stability of a regular job to take one of the biggest risks of my life, all in a very short period of time.

I didn’t know if I’d make it. Many days I thought I’d crash and burn. I almost did a few times.

Yet I wasn’t happy with things the way they were. I needed a change. I needed big changes. So I decided to run with that before I could change my mind.

Getting out of that toxic relationship was one of the best things to ever happen to me. That change was easy. But giving up the stability… that was tougher. That was terrifying. But it was a risk, and a change, that paid off.

That’s the thing about the changes that really matter… They can be hard.

They can also be scary. But the reward when you learn to accept, or even embrace, the changes you need to make can be life-changing in the best of ways.

How might your mindset need to change?

  • Do you need to get past fear like I did?
  • Do you need to have more faith in yourself and your abilities to push past doubts? (I’ll admit it. I still struggle with this sometimes myself.)
  • Do you need to mentally move past assumptions you’ve made – about freelancing in general, about your clients, your rates, your specialty?

Change has to begin with you.

If you want to take your freelance writing to the next level, start with your mindset. Make the internal changes you need to make, not only about how you view your writing, but how you view yourself.

In some cases, that will be enough. Little changes can have a huge impact. But sometimes you have to consider more drastic changes. Scarier changes. More painful changes even.

Perhaps you’re not happy where you’re living. You wanted to freelance so you would have the freedom to either travel or move somewhere in particular. You’re indeed freelancing now. But you’ve never made the leap. Figure out why. Then do it. Or make the smaller changes you have to make (like re-working your budget so you can save enough) so you can make the big change you want later. Or, if you haven’t done it yet because you have doubts, consider other options.

The business changes are fairly straightforward.

  • Re-think those rates that aren’t getting you to your goal.
  • Consider targeting a different type of client.
  • Get your advice somewhere else if your current coach or mentor is leaving you stuck in a rut.
  • Add a new service.
  • Promote yourself in new ways.

None of that it terribly hard. None of that is terribly risky. So start there. But don’t stop there. Sometimes the most important changes you need to make are the personal ones.

These changes can be more frightening or difficult simply because they often involve other people. For example:

  • You might have to re-allocate shared responsibilities with your spouse so you can get your business off the ground.
  • You might have to change your childcare situation so you have more time to work on client projects.
  • You might have to sit friends or family members down and have a serious chat about demoralizing behavior coming from them – people telling you you’ll never succeed, or friends telling you you’ve just been lucky and it won’t last. Most of these relationships can be salvaged as long as you confront them and flat-out ask them to stop.
  • In some cases your best, or only, option is to leave certain people behind. Some people simply are not on your side. It might hurt. But you’re better off without those people in your life – especially the ones who do it subtly, feigning support while gently nudging you to quit or doubt yourself.

What can these more subtle folks sound like?

“You’re a great writer, but….”

“I heard about this [full-time] job I thought you’d be great for…”

“Wouldn’t you rather…”

“Are you sure writing is the right career for you?”

“What if you did [insert their grand idea for your life] instead?”

These are the ones who make you feel guilty for pursuing your dreams. They want you to think they’re on your side, when really they don’t believe you can succeed. Or they want you to pursue something else for their own benefit (like a partner who wants you to give up on your dreams because they’ll feel better if you take a traditional job). So they plant little seeds of doubt instead of telling you what they really think.

These can also be the friends who wish they were in your shoes. Let’s face it. To many people, getting paid to write is an envious position to be in. They think it should be them. They think they’re a better writer. Why aren’t people paying them to do something creative like this? You must have just lucked into it. So this can’t last. Or so they’ll gently suggest so you never get your hopes up too high. I’ve seen this more with new authors than freelancers, but it’s a situation that most definitely requires change. I have a one-strike rule when it comes to things like this. Pull it once, and I’ll call you out on it and ask you not to do it again for the sake of our friendship. Do it again, and it’s “good riddance.”

Hopefully you won’t need to make any huge changes to see the kind of success you want. But if you do, have a little faith in yourself. Somewhere inside you, you know what you need to do, even if part of you doesn’t always want to. So trust yourself and get comfortable with the idea of change. You’ll make plenty of them as you progress in your career, both big and small.

What changes do you need to make? Will you hold onto your past or current circumstances for the comfort factor because change is too hard or scary? Or will you go after what you really want? If you want something different from what you have today, you can’t do both. So decide what matters most to you, and figure out what changes you need to make to build the business and life you really want.

Not sure what changes you need to make?

We’re coming up on the end of the 3rd quarter of the year. So it’s a great time to do a general evaluation. (I like to do these quarterly, but admittedly, I skipped July’s.)

Ask yourself some questions:

  • What’s your mission or purpose with your business? What’s the fundamental thing you’re trying to accomplish?
  • What 1-5 key goals do you want to reach in the next quarter (or six months, or year)?
  • What clients, marketing strategies, philosophies, or people are holding you back from those goals? And what can you do to change that or replace them?
  • What new things would you like to try? Are there any experiments you want to run?
  • Are you happy? And if not, what will have to change to make you happier a few months down the road? And what do you need to do about it right now… next week… next month?

I’ll be asking myself these questions over the next week or two as well. I need to make more changes than usual, both business and personal changes, though I’m still trying to figure out exactly what those are and where I want to go next.

I wish I could tell you eventually you can stop making changes and stop trying new things because everything will be perfect all the time… but nope. Learn to love the process. There’s something to be said for the self-discovery of it all.

I’m going to pop over here once more before Lori returns, probably on Saturday. I’ll share a tool or two that you can use to help you through one of these reviews to help you map out your own plan, and required changes, in coming months. But until then, spend a bit of time mulling things over. Figure out what you want and where you want to be, and you’ll have a much easier time hashing out the details later. But improving your freelance writing career or the lifestyle it allows you to build requires change. Now’s as good a time as any to embrace that.


Jenn Mattern is a freelance business writer and blogger with 18 years’ experience. Visit Jenn’s All Freelance Writing, where she’s spent 10 years offering advice, job leads, free tools, and more to help new freelance writers build successful and sustainable businesses.

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  • lwidmer September 11, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    You had me at the business changes bullets.

    Rethink rates: AMEN. Too often, I hear writers lamenting that their clients want to pay them half of their $50 rate. Uh, why is your rate that low? Because you’ve not done the math to realize how little you’re actually earning after taxes.

    Target a different kind of client: Halleluia! If you get referrals from bottom feeders, you’re going to get more of the same. Target a client that’s bigger, more expensive, and better equipped to pay your new rate without complaint. This becomes easy once you raise the rate.

    Get advice elsewhere: right there. That’s what’s holding back so many new writers. They put all their faith in one person — the same person charging them for info that they have to pay a little more to get in its entirety. In one session, you should be able to take something actionable away from it that will transform your business. That shouldn’t come sixteen sessions and two to three courses and ebooks in.

    Add a new service: Yes! It’s not hard to suggest case studies if you’re already doing their brochures or web copy. The writing is similar, and it’s not hard at all to research how it’s done.

    Promote yourself in new ways: Absolutely! My business took off when I mixed social media in with my emailed letters of introduction. Social media is more personal, and there’s a connection, not just a pitch.

  • Jennifer Mattern September 12, 2017 at 6:02 am

    Yep! And it’s usually the low-paying clients who expect the most and push for deeper discounts. Put yourself in a position to compete with newer, cheaper, less-experienced writers, and that’s how clients are likely to treat you.

    It’s often the little changes that make the biggest differences.

    • lwidmer September 12, 2017 at 9:01 am

      True. All but two of my worst clients were low-payers. The other two were disorganized messes (no amount of money is worth taking the blame for someone else’s lack of planning).