Many freelancers tell me they have writing fears holding them back from taking the plunge into freelancing.
They worry they write too slow.
Or they believe the writing fears and worries that not having a journalism degree means they’re not qualified.
Many writers are introverts, and worry they won’t be able to do enough marketing to get clients.
Some are too afraid to make cold calls, attend networking meetings, ask for pro rates…
These stories always make me think of my high-school friend Kristy.
She didn’t own any shoes.
Kristy’s father was a professional gambler who was often out of town, or out of money. Or both.
With the result that most of the time, Kristy and her mother were barely scraping by.
But this didn’t stop Kristy from doing anything.
- She left the tiny apartment she shared with her mother each morning
- She attended school, and even sang in a vocal group with me.
- The vocal group even wore a dressy skirt-and-blouse ensemble she designed.
- We performed in swanky venues like banquet halls and fancy restaurants. We even played the Hollywood Bowl once!
Kristy was never asked to leave any of these places because she was barefoot. She never even got called out at school because she went shoeless.
I was fascinated by this, so I made a study of what she did that allowed her to skate by without this usually-essential item of attire.
Why? It’s a recipe for obliterating writing fears and overcoming shyness that every writer should follow.
Kristy’s secret: Faking confidence
She never looked down and drew attention to the fact that she was barefoot.
And she never acted sad or like anything was wrong.
She held her head up, met people’s eyes with complete confidence, smiled her dazzling smile, flipped her super-long, strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder, and let her gorgeous soprano voice ring out.
I can only imagine how Kristy felt inside, knowing that her poverty was on view for anyone who cared to notice. But she certainly wasn’t going to give students who might taunt and humiliate her any hints on where to stick in the knife.
And it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the singing outfit she designed for our group had a full-length skirt.
4 tips to obliterate freelance writing fears
Kristy’s approach to dealing with your deficits works great for freelance writers, too.
In the Freelance Writers Den, writers can do a SWOT analysis as part of the Freelance Business Bootcamp. You have to identify your:
It’s a critical step to building a successful freelance business. And it’s a fantastic exercise that I strongly recommend for all freelance writers!
Once you’ve identified your weak points, you can look at ways to improve on or minimize those writing fears and weaknesses and maximize your strengths.
Here are a 4 Kristy-inspired ways to overcome your freelance writing fears and weaknesses:
1. Fail to mention your weak spot
One writer recently wrote me that she feared her three advanced degrees and complex writing clips on arcane topics would put off prospects. They might feel she was overqualified or would want sky-high rates!
I pointed out that she could simply not bring up her academic background, and create a concise bio sign-off for herself that focused on her writing experience or industries she knew.
The same goes for whatever you’ve got in your life that you think might make clients shy away.
- Are you about to embark on a six-month backpacking trip?
- Have a physical disability?
- Your first love is writing your novel?
- You’ve got lots of writing experience, but you’ve never written a (blog post, white paper, case study, etc., fill in the blank)?
- You’re returning to writing after a long break?
FYI…The client does not need to know. Stop broadcasting your shortcomings, and focus on your strengths.
2. Ignore deficits and just go for it
Many introvert writers have fears that their lack of a writing-related degree will make it impossible for them to pursue a freelance writing career.
Fortunately, I never let the fact that I’m a college dropout stop me from writing for prestigious publications including Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.
“Realize that freelance writing is a field with no qualifications except what you can put on the page.”
I can tell you from experience, clients don’t care how you came by your article-writing skills — in a back alley or at Columbia.
If you can tell a story, you can write your way to the career you want.
3. Play up your strengths
Instead of sitting around bemoaning what you don’t have on the ball, learn to emphasize your strengths, just like Kristy did. For example:
- Did you work for a mortgage lender in the past? Bet those types of firms would love to have you write their websites. Prioritize those likely prospects to the top of your marketing calendar.
- Do you write fast? Maybe specializing in rush work could allow you to earn more. Let your writer network know you can dive into the breach if they have a client with an emergency they don’t want to handle.
- Do you have a healthcare background? One freelance writer used her experience as a nurse to launch a freelance writing career as a health writer.
If all your clips are from content mills, just write super-strong query letters and don’t get into a discussion of your portfolio.
More than one writer has gotten a national magazine article sale this way.
4. Take action to turn weaknesses into strengths
Sometimes, writers have a weakness that poses a true obstacle to their being able to earn a living as a freelancer. For example:
Goal: You want to write articles for great-paying magazines or top websites
But there’s obstacles in the way like:
- You worry that you don’t have the writing chops.
- You know you’re a weak headline writer
- Maybe you’re inexperienced at matching your writing style to that of the publication.
- You’re shaky on how to get great quotes and weave them into the story.
In these situations, you’ve got three choices:
- Trial and error. You can spend many years writing and trying to improve on your own. (This is actually the method I took! What a time-waster.)
- Career stagnation. Or you can keep feeling insecure, holding back from marketing your writing services, and not make much progress as a freelance writer.
- Take a shortcut. Finally, if you want to solve this now, you can take a class and get a mentor to share decades of their experience and tips with you.
Now is always the best time to banish freelance writing fears
So what if you’re a shy freelance writer or identify as an introvert? That doesn’t have to hold you back from being a freelance writer, landing well-paying clients, and getting paid to write.
My friend Kristy didn’t let her shortcomings prevent her from doing what she loved. And neither should you. Now is always the best time to rise up, face your freelance writing fears, and move forward. You can do this!
What writing fears are holding you back? Let’s discuss in the comments.