Solutions For the Top 5 Worries that Terrify New Freelance Writers

Face Your Fears: Tips for New Freelance Writers. Makealivingwriting.comNew freelance writers have a lot of worries. So I want to check in about that.

Are you frozen in fear, and not taking any steps to get your freelance-writing career off the ground?

Usually, that means fear has you stuck.

The good news is, a lot of worries newbies have are completely unfounded.

Today, let’s bust those fears. What you’re worried about probably isn’t an issue at all.

Wonder what I mean? Let me list the top five irrational fears new freelance writers tell me they’re plagued by — and I’ll show you that you don’t have to worry about any of them. You’re good to go!

Ready?

1. I’m not an expert

This has to be the biggest myth out there, that you have to be an expert in something to write about it. Let me tell you about some of the things I’ve written about — and my lack of innate knowledge about them:

  • I’ve written cover features for the Los Angeles Times‘ real estate section, but am not a real estate broker or mortgage lender.
  • I’ve been Entrepreneur magazine’s tax columnist. And am not a former CPA.
  • I just wrote a 100-page e-book all about crowdfunding, but have never done a crowdfunding campaign myself.
  • Have written hundreds of pieces about franchising over the years, but have never owned a franchise business.

I could go on…but does that help?

The skill we bring to the table is writing. The ability to spin a good yarn. (Or in copywriting, to push customer buttons and help them understand why they can’t live without our thing.) Also, the ability to find out facts, call people up, conduct interviews, research, get information.

You can do that, right?

My slogan is: “Give me 24 hours, and I’ll be your expert.”

I mean, we have the Internet now! Not hard to learn stuff. In general, well-paid freelance writing work doesn’t involve being the expert. Those folks write for free, to promote their expensive coaching/consulting/widget they sell.

Professional writers get paid to write, and to think, and to learn stuff. You got this!

2. I don’t have connections

This is a pernicious myth. That getting to write for good companies or fun publications is all about who you know.

I started with absolutely zero connections. Knew no editors or marketing managers.

And yet, my clients have included Costco, American Express, Delta Sky and Forbes.

Yes, it would be great if you already knew people at the places you want to write. But it’s totally not necessary.

Why? Because you’re a writer. And that means you can write your way to where you want to go. Your strong writing is your ticket in the door.

3. I don’t know what the rules are

New freelance writers seem to think there are a lot of hard-and-fast rules to freelance writing. Maybe there are even secret rules you don’t know or understand — so you’re quaking in your boots that you might make a mistake.

A deadly mistake that will spell the end of your freelance writing career!

Cue the suspense music: <duh dun duuuuuuun!>

I get questions galore about this. Questions like:

What is the correct way to submit my article?

How do I accept payment from clients?

Do I need to include photos?

Must I set regular business hours?

Will I need to create a contract, or will they send me one?

Let me answer these and all your other questions like them: It depends.

Know who it depends on? Your client.

When you get a nibble, you’ll ask your client questions. They’ll tell you how they want stuff done. Then, you’ll do it that way, if you want the gig.

Simple!

There actually are no ‘common practice’ rules. There’s no secret handshake that’s been kept from you.

It’s your business to run. You will actually make your own rules for your business. You’ll decide what you can and can’t do, what you’re willing to put up with. Your client will say how they want it, and you’ll decide if you’re in.

You’re the boss.

4. I don’t have a degree

Whaddaya know — me neither! I did two years of medium-rank state university, and then dropped out to be a starving songwriter.

It’s a weird thing, but traditional ‘credentials’ just don’t matter in freelance writing.

What matters is that you write well.

Nobody’s reviewing your college transcript to see if they want to hire you for a freelance assignment. They’re reading your portfolio. That’s it.

And if you’re about to ask if going back for your MFA or master’s in journalism will change everything for you…it won’t. I’ve coached so many writers with advanced degrees, it’s crazy.

It actually appears that the longer you hang around academia, the harder it is to get into the groove of being a freelance writer. All those stiff, academic papers you write…it’s just a style you’ll have to unlearn later.

Degrees don’t teach you how to freelance. Writing for clients does.

5. I worry I’m not good enough

This might be the top insecurity that prevents writers from going out and launching their freelance careers.

Got good news for you: Only good writers worry about this!

Bad writers don’t know there’s a problem. o_O

Good writers are always trying to improve. I’m still doing it. Looking through my draft going, “Could this be shorter? Punchier? Have a snappier tone?”

If that’s you, congrats — you have an ethic of constant self-improvement. That’s a good trait, in this line of work. Not something to worry about.

The other good news: No matter where you’re at in developing your writing craft, there’s probably a business owner out there who could use your help — and you write 1,000% better than that guy.

There are still clients you could start helping. And the more you write, and get feedback from clients, the better you’ll get.

Freelance writers need not fear

Are you feeling better? I hope so!

The thing is, freelance writing is not for fear-based people. Think of this all as a madcap adventure! A science experiment!

No lives are at risk. So strap on your boots and go.

If you find yourself drawn to this career, it’s probably because you know, deep down, you were put on earth to spend your time writing.

Try it out. See if you can find someone you could write a bit for. See how it makes you feel.

If you’re like me, you’ll never look back.

What’s holding you back from launching your freelance career? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

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35 comments on “Solutions For the Top 5 Worries that Terrify New Freelance Writers
  1. Ramsey says:

    This post is just what I needed to read! My biggest hang up right now is a portfolio/samples! I know I’m a good writer and I know I can succeed at this, but I haven’t written anything in the www for anyone – ever, so I worry about what to show potential clients.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Remember that your own writer website can be a great writing sample, Ramsey. In the bootcamp coming up, we will be quickly looking for pro bono samples for people who have none, too.

  2. Carol, stumbled onto your site and I think I’m glad I did :- )
    I’m thinking about getting started in freelance writing.
    Actually I’m already a writer. I’m a staff writer (sports writer to be exact) for a small-town newspaper. And as you well know newspaper writers don’t make all the money in the world;- )So I’m looking for a way to supplement my income doing something I already know how to do.
    Plus, I’m not getting any younger and won’t be working for the paper forever. But freelancing is something I could do for years to come.
    But I have no idea how to get started. Have I come to the right place?

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Perfect timing with this article. This morning I explained to my husband these exact fears for beginning freelance writing. Thank you for dispelling these fears and sharing your personal journey for each of them. Greatly appreciated! I feel much better as I continue working on my portfolio and my journey.

  4. George says:

    Hello Carol,
    Your article instills braveness into beginner writers, my biggest fear has been quitting my fulltime job to go into writing. My main worry being, how i will be able to grow a sustainable income through writing, and how to start from scratch.

  5. Janine says:

    Thanks Carol, this is helpful, inspiring advice for newbies.

  6. kerri says:

    Wow, You really have my number so to speak. I fear I am not a good enough writer and will make mistakes. This is where I am.

    Thank you for giving me reassurance that I can do it.

  7. hari says:

    Hi Carol,
    “Give me 24 hours, and I’ll be your expert.”
    What a ripper of a statement.
    In my opinion, that’s the mindset that every freelance writer must’ve
    whether they are new, expert, or experienced.
    Couldn’t agree with you more on this!
    And also, there is a place for every good writer in this freelancing universe.
    So, I request every freelance writer to put away those self-doubting
    statements in to their trash-cans.
    These advises are brought to you by, a guy   who failed in two careers
    because of circumstances, yet he strapped his boots and became
    successful freelancer for local businesses.

  8. Evan Jensen says:

    Carol, at one time or another, I’ve fallen into the trap of every one of these fears. And they’re all unfounded. Your no-nonsense approach to dispelling fears and motivating writers is such a fresh voice for so many who think there’s no way to make a living writing.

    For writers: If you’re just starting out, or you’ve been struggling to make freelancing work, Carol’s approach and advice about freelancing absolutely works. If you’re willing to learn the basics about the business and craft of freelance writing, H-U-S-T-L-E, and keep going, you can do this!

  9. Hi,
    I love this article! I’m a new freelance writer and the fears you’ve listed here are the exact things that are in the back of my mind while I’m writing. I still dont have any connections and I’m constantly worried about how good my writing is. On top of that, I worry about following proper etiquette when pitching to clients.
    This article has helped me feel a bit better because it helps me to understand that I’m not the only one who fears putting themselves out there.
    Thank you!

  10. Urska Pav says:

    Are you reading my mind? Because you just listed 5 of my biggest worries. Maybe I’ll print your post and put it on the wall behind computer screen to make me feel better whenever I start worrying about my writing again. 🙂

  11. Beth Deyo says:

    This arrived in my inbox at exactly the right time. Sometimes we really do need to just take a step back and realize most of our fears are unfounded. Thank you so much for the reminder!

  12. Laura Newman says:

    HI I”m new here and happy to have found your site. I’m a working copywriter and have freelanced for a number of businesses in the past and do some minor easy service pieces for a blog here and there (which are boring to me, but was a connection.) Anyway..this was helfpul to read.. I feel like I’ve been dancing around this goal for years, and years: “I want to get published” and “make money writing fitness/health” articles (my passion) and also publish personal essays, HOWEVER I never quite can do it. I started a fitness blog and just never continued it. I’ve taken part in writing groups, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to pitching and putting myself out there. Do I really want it? or am I afraid? Sometimes I think writing is too solitary for me. Maybe I”ll find my way with the help of your writing here! 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Laura — sorry for the delay posting your comment! Now that you’re approved, your comments will post immediately.

      I actually just worked with one coaching student who felt like she was too extrovert to sit in a room and write…and she has a background in giving speeches, Toastermaster alum. So…she’s going after speechwriting gigs! Maybe writing for podcasts, speeches, presentations?

  13. Ann Earle says:

    Thank you. All your advice is always so good. It makes me feel so much better.

  14. Steve says:

    What constitutes a clip? A published piece? Does it have to be a certain length or published in a certain kind of media to count as a clip? Where does one store clips to show to potential clients?

    I have been a social media coordinator (Facebook) for a local bike shop. Can I consider my body of FB posts for this client as a “clip”?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Steve — The answers are: It depends. As I say in the article. There’s no universal scoreboard for what qualifies as a clip!

      A clip is really any piece of published writing you have — or even unpublished, if you have nothing sold yet. We all make our portfolio from the best writing samples we currently have, and keep improving from there.

      Most of us use a writer website to display and promote our portfolio.

      If you’re going after more social media jobs, I would think FB posts that got high engagement would be the samples you need! But they’re unlikely to get you other types of writing jobs — white papers, article assignments for magazines, say. Hope that helps clarify!

  15. Jessica says:

    I have been blog writing for a while now but always end up making a new blog again… I like my work and I make alot of research, read alot of books in those niches and on top of that, many months after, I go back and re-write my own articles because I learned something new and want to improve those articles too.

    Yet, I have not been able to make money from my writing skills, I’m working as an ecommerce translator as I’m fluent in 4 languages, but besides been paid 7€ per hour, I find it not the type of translation work I like, which I’m not even allowed to do by a tablet or phone.

    This really makes it hard for me, as a mother of a 8 months old baby, most of my free time is when my daughter is asleep on my arms and the easier is to work on my tablet or phone.

    I also have started 4 ebooks which I believe they are good enough but I’m not sure if amazon – kindle is the right place to publish or if I really should contact publishers?..

    How can I know that my writing skills – are enough and actually not just one more blog ?

    thank you!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well…usually feedback from readers is a good yardstick of whether your writing is compelling. And writing for clients — pro bono at first if need be — is the best way to find out if you can write for clients.

      But maybe there’s a bigger problem here, that you seem to start and not finish many projects, go around in circles updating old posts instead of pitching for work?

      • Jessica says:

        How can I get readers feedback? /:

        Indeed.. I’m very perfectionist, so I keep editing my posts. With the ebooks I keep doing the same thing and never publish.

        Any suggestion on what I could do? Or it will all depend on forcing myself to not edit no matter what? /:

        • Carol Tice says:

          You can ask them. I did a survey in 2010 that led to the founding of my Freelance Writers Den community — that was what people needed.

          There’s also always reading your blog comments…often lots of ideas and gems in there.

          • Jessica says:

            Hm.. Yeah, I don’t have followers, nobody ever coments besides spam and only have 1 follower that is not active.

            Did one survey once and only 8 persons answered. And wss shared in tones of fb groups and instagram.

            Thanks anyways..

  16. Steph Cooke says:

    For me it is definitely a fear of not being good enough, of not being able to handle the gig, of not knowing what to tell them when they ask what my price is…

    Got to push through these fears this year!

  17. All apply to me . Despite being published. I have been abandoning that behaviour I just need to get a steady writing schedule. I just joined the Den to help fix that.Great post Carol.

  18. Thanks for the reminder! I’m no longer a newbie, and I still have these fears now and then. The trick is to not let your fears hold you back. If you’re afraid…do it anyway.

  19. I would like to do the freelance writing among my curent job as a high school professor of two languages. I realy like to write and I don’t have any fear that’s stoping me but I don’t know where to start. I have my blog for almost a year and an eBook on Amazon but not any particular result by now.

    • Carol Tice says:

      What result were you hoping for? In general, most personal blogs don’t attract freelance clients. You’ll need a writer website for that, an optimized LinkedIn profile, and proactive marketing.