When you’re trying to build your freelance business in a sea of young writers and seasoned veterans, there’s a good chance it feels like you’re floundering. I know I did.
When I first started writing, I spent a ton of time worrying, procrastinating, and making excuses for why I couldn’t make a living doing what I loved. I wanted to break free from the corporate world and find success on my own terms.
For the first 6 months, I let my fear of being under-qualified hold me back. As one of those young writers, I thought it might take me years to earn well as a freelancer. But I desperately wanted to find a way to speed up success.
I took courses, read freelance blogs like this one, and tried to learn everything I could about being a successful writer.
The only problem? I didn’t know how to get out of my own head and actually do the work.
Today, I make six figures, have a full client list, and teach other young writers how to overcome the same roadblocks I struggled with. As I’ve coached students in my Earn Big as a Young Writer course, I realized that my obstacles were very common.
Here are the top four obstacles young writers face (including me), and how to overcome them.
1. You feel your age is a disadvantage
It’s easy for young writers to feel like age and lack of experience are insurmountable challenges. Some writers have been at it for years (looking at you, Carol Tice) and make the whole writing thing look so easy. Yet, when you compare yourself to someone who has already put in the time and effort to make their career successful, you’ll inevitably fall short.
One day, you’ll be a seasoned writer. But right now, your youth is actually an advantage. If you want to succeed as a young writer, you have to treat it like one.
Want to know how being young is an advantage? Well, Business Insider released an article last year titled “Top 100 Brands for Millennials,” which shows that brands (and publications) are targeting our generation. This is because, as of 2015, there were 75 million millennials who wield $170 billion per year in purchasing power. And those numbers are only rising.
The fix: Use what you know. You are a young writer, so use that to help brands that want to reach young customers. Use your knowledge of trends, social media, and content to help companies understand what Millennials want to read.
2. You don’t have writing samples
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that being young can be turned into a selling point. The proof is in the numbers. But how then, with no clips to show, do you get high-paying writing gigs?
This is one of the questions I hear nearly every day. Young writers fear that, without physical (or digital) proof of their ability to write well, they’re destined to write for content mills while living in their parent’s basement. I’ve been there and I get it, but here’s the truth: everyone starts somewhere. And not having a full portfolio is not always a deal breaker.
If you don’t have writing samples, you can get some. A few simple ways to do that:
- Write for a friend or family members business
- Write your own blog
- Write a sample for a brand you want to work with
- Pitch a personal essay to a publication like Bustle (this might not be the kind of writing you want to do but my first piece of writing was published on xoJane (site now gone) and that led to me getting a huge retainer client 3 months later)
- Submit a guest post on a friend’s blog
It turns out, brands and publications alike are often more interested in the fact that you understand their mission and target audience than they are in reviewing your portfolio. Yes, there’s always a chance you’ll get turned down for not having any clips. That’s OK.
Move on to the next prospect and keep going. You won’t ever have samples to show if you don’t at least try to get work!
The fix: Pitch without samples. If you don’t want to work for free or low rates just to get samples, pitch without them. Share your story ideas and show how your age makes you a perfect candidate to create content young people want to read.
3. You lack the confidence to charge pro rates
In a survey of young writers, Carol Tice found that over 50 percent named lack of confidence as a top challenge. It’s important for young writers to understand the value they bring to the table. This seems to be a “catch-22” for many young writers.
You think you’ll gain confidence as you gain experience. But when you charge low rates, you’re actually undermining your confidence — and your professionalism.
The fix: Fake it ‘til you make it. To build confidence, treat your writing as a business that needs to turn a profit. Show clients, through your professional rates, that you’re serious about what you do and sure of the value you provide.
4. You don’t get started
One writer I know has reached out to me every few weeks for almost a year. Her message is always the same, “Ok, I’m ready to do this. Finally. I’m going to start pitching!”
Still, she never follows through. Her excuses range from being too scared to being too busy. I see this all the time with young writers — and I used to do the same thing.
The fix: Just do it. Get writing samples. Pitch with or without them. Set professional rates. Pretend you’re confident until you actually are. Even if you only take one small action a day, do something.
Young writers: Face fear and take action
Overcoming these obstacles may seem scary. And when you overcome one, another will pop up in its place.
But even the most experienced writers have fears they have to face. It’s a matter of deciding whether you’re going to throw in the towel or get out of your own way.
I got out of my head and did the work, so I can confidently recommend the latter. There are plenty of opportunities for young writers to earn big money and do work that they love. If you want it, you have to get started.
What are your biggest obstacles to building a good-paying freelance writing business? Leave a comment and tell us about it.