What Freelance Writers Can Learn from Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin's Advice to Freelance WritersSarah Palin just keeps grabbing headlines, doesn’t she? Most recently, it was her pronouncement that she could beat President Barack Obama in 2012.

Whether you think that’s unreal hubris or that’s totally gonna happen, there’s a lot freelance writers can learn from Palin. To my mind, the former Alaska governor has some personality traits that freelancers often lack. Develop these traits, and you could really rocket your writing career forward.

What am I talking about? Here’s what Sarah Palin’s got that could help you succeed as a freelance writer:

    • She’s bold. Say what you want about Palin, this woman is utterly fearless. She makes gaffe after gaffe, and just keeps on sucking it up and rolling on. Tina Fey made a cottage industry out of making her out to be an idiot (see the video below). Personally, I think that would make me crawl under a rock and die, and I consider myself pretty self-confident! So many freelance writers I’ve worked with in my mentoring program are held back by fears and insecurity. A Palin injection might be a life-changer.

  • She seeks the limelight. Palin is not afraid to promote herself. She’s everywhere, still, with the election far behind us. She lives by the law of publicity — that is, all publicity (negative or positive) is good publicity. By contrast, many freelance writers feel too insecure to even show up at their local Chamber of Commerce mixer.
  • She is not easily embarrassed. Yes, her daughter had a baby out of wedlock while she was running for national office, pretty highly embarrassing for a Republican-conservative candidate. But on she rolls, like the mighty Columbia. Do you think Palin would let one rejection letter bug her? Or be devastated by one editor who dropped her? No chance.
  • Setbacks do not faze her. OK, she is not the vice president of the United States. She tried for that one and bombed. But clearly, she sees that as just one battle in her war. She’s not going to curl up in a ball and mope, like so many freelance writers do when they don’t get a “yes” on a query letter.
  • She’s got a plan. As you could tell by that Obama comment she recently made, she has no plans to be one of those people who’s famous for 15 minutes and then vanishes into obscurity. She’s still workin’ it. You may not like her plan, but she’s got one. A freelance writer needs a plan too, or life just happens, you wake up next year, and you’re just treading water, writing for the same low-paying clients.
  • She’s a climber. Sarah Palin could have gone on being the governor of Alaska. A lot of women would have been real happy with that achievement. But to her, it’s just a stepping stone. She got to that plateau, looked around, and went, “What’s next?” When the Republican Party came knocking, she could have played it safe and said “no.” But she’s always thinking about how she can take it to the next level, an attitude successful freelance writers need.
  • She’s different. Think what you want about Palin, but one thing’s for sure — there’s never been a female politician quite like her. She reminds me of freelancers who have an unusual niche they write about, or a very unique writing style. They always seem to earn the most.
  • She’s memorable. From her “I can see Russia from my house” cracks to her trademark bun, Palin knows how to brand herself and make an impression. She reminds me of this guy I met at a networking event recently. He had turned his name tag into a gigantic, two-foot-wide laminated board he wore around his neck. What a laugh! And a great way to say “Hey, I’m a pro networker, and a fun person.” Most freelance writers could think more on ways to make themselves stand out like that.

What personality traits do you think are essential for freelance writers? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Photo via Flickr user edalisse

34 comments on “What Freelance Writers Can Learn from Sarah Palin
  1. TiceWrites says:

    Well exactly…I was running on the assumption the freelancers would use these qualities for good, not evil. As far as comparing Palin to Hitler…just glad I wasn't the one who did that.

    Note to all — IntenseDebate is doing the weird thing where it's hiding all the 'replies' again…just click on the "1 reply" link to see responses. I'm on with their support people to try to get to the bottom of this!

  2. Adam says:

    While all of your points above are valid to some extend, you could use the same outline and replace Palin with Hitler and it still rings true.

    It's not enough to have these qualities as a politician, freelancer or human being. It's more about what you do with them. Palin is using these abilities (or her PR team's abilities) to make enough noise to keep the speaking engagements, book deals and reality shows coming. Likewise, how many freelancers use their boldness, plan or lack of embarrassment to push spammy, hype filled crap onto the masses?

  3. Awesome topic! Forget Palin "The Politician", she has a "balls to the wall" attitude and chutzpah that more freelance writers need to embrace!

    • TiceWrites says:

      Well…that's what I'm sayin'. But it's true she is no paragon of virtues. But so many freelance writers need to develop some of her better qualities.

  4. Not an example I would use. She's the recipient of a gift from Mccain, and was fortunate enough to have others savvy enough to see the potential her position provided. It's easy to ignore that your integrity and intelligence are far from being your endearing qualities when millions are rolling in.

    I don't see the qualities you've mentioned as having much to do with her at all. In truth, the simple fact that she could not complete elected office tells me she holds qualities opposite those of a good freelancer.

    A good freelancer needs to be able to build authority and trust. You don't do that by alienating large groups and being consistently wrong.

    A good freelancer needs to be dependable and able to see a job through. Not willing to quit and leave others who have placed trust in them in the lurch the moment a better offer comes along.

    Although it would be hard, I would have to say no, and not trade my dignity and self respect for cashing in.

    • TiceWrites says:

      Well, double ouch! I'd love to see some other writers weigh in on this.

      You've certainly got a point — the quittin' side of Palin's personality would not be helpful to a freelance writer.

      I just do so much confidence-building work with writers that I see where her attitude could be a plus.

  5. Vonnie says:

    Carol,

    While I am not a fan of Sarah Palin, I do agree with your tips. However, what we can and should learn from Sarah is how idiotic we can look if we blast out incorrect information. This goes for writers and potential candidates for Prez!
    My recent post Can a cheater be a good spouse Can anybody

  6. Jean Gogolin says:

    I agree we could all use some of SP's publicity chops, but any comparison with her still makes me gag.
    My recent post Bring Writing to Life with Details

  7. Nice hook Carol! You had me worried there but it turned out to be a good thing…

  8. But she's a great example for women and writers — let nothing and no one get you down. Keep your goals in sight and the hell with what everyone thinks.

    And you're so right about confidence. I have the confidence to write on my terms, about things I know, but the idea of writing for a business or an organization, or even copyediting and editing web sites makes me feel insecure. Meanwhile, it's what I do — teaching college writing essays and editing their work — I was just looking at openings for freelance writers at FlexJobs, but don't feel confident enough to apply. But if I had a fraction of the Palin gumption, I could possibly get paid for writing — which is our goal, right?

  9. Good job with choosing a topic and title that was irresistible. I had to read it. The video was a good touch.

  10. susan says:

    Carol,

    I think you did a great job with this blog. Like her or not, she is always in the news. You did a great job of examining what characteristics and actions enable her to be "newsworthy". And as you said in reply to one of the comments…she's crazy like a fox.

    Freelance writers need some of the same characteristics. Who knows, the next thing she might be doing is teaching people how to get publicity!

  11. Oscar says:

    And she’s had a couple of books published. My guess is she’s very strategic in her approach, thinking like an entrepreneur. Let’s see, first I get lampooned on SNL. Check. Then there’s all this talk about how much money I spent on my wardrobe. Check. Then I get another book published and let the talk show circuit go crazy on me while my daughter wins a big dance competition. Check.

  12. Pam Houghton says:

    I was thinking about making similar comparisons over on the freelance site, but you did such a great job here. She is TERRIFIC at marketing herself. No question. Just brushing yourself off after setbacks, and starting over again – that alone is a trait all writers/freelancers need to have.

    • TiceWrites says:

      My point exactly — so many writers are very weak on the marketing side. They could use her persistence in putting themselves out in the marketplace.

  13. Susan Thwing says:

    You make some very good points. Writer's do need those traits.

    However, I am so tired of seeing that woman's face that I am having trouble getting past my disappointment to take your advice to heart. Ugh. She's even made it into the writing blogs I read.

  14. @write4unj says:

    Sorry, but I don't ever want to be compared with Sarah Palin. She manipulates information, deliberately focuses on the negative side of things, and plays to peoples' fears. Her many negative traits far outweigh anything positive. I am sure there are better examples out there of role models for freelance writers.

    • TiceWrites says:

      Oh, I didn't say she's a role model…I said she's got some personality traits we writers would do well to cultivate. Combine her brass, marketing abilities and self-confidence with your writing ability, and you've got something rockin' there. Hope you didn't get the idea I'm a big Palin fan or something.

  15. debrahilton says:

    Excellent thoughts, Carol – and I think that you are absolutely right about Freelancers and writers in general needing to develop a thick skin, and some appropriate bumptiousness.
    Thank you.

  16. George Angus says:

    Fantastic!

    So nice to see her recognized for her strengths. Brilliant to see the connection between those traits and freelance writing.

    Off to RT this.

    Cheers

    George

  17. John Soares says:

    Carol, these are all good traits for a freelance writer.

    Sarah Palin is very good at keeping herself in the media spotlight. The main concern I have with Sarah Palin is her "fake it 'til you make it" strategy. To me, she's faking that she actually has in-depth knowledge about important economic issues and foreign affairs. She might eventually "make it" to the White House, but unless she really starts to learn about these important subjects, she won't be able to do a credible job as president.

    It's the same with freelance writers. We all need to embody the characteristics in this post, but we also must have the skills to do a great job for our clients.
    My recent post My Upcoming Podcast About Freelance Writing for College Textbook Publishers

    • TiceWrites says:

      True — but there's always that moment you leap into a new specialty in writing, or you tackle a topic that's a little over your head, and you kind of ARE faking it for a bit. I personally just did that with an article on mobile payments for small business, which I've never personally done, and I don't even own a smart phone. As writers, we often have to stretch into places we might not be super-knowledgeable at first.

      So even that way, I think we could benefit from being a little Palinesque.

    • Mike says:

      Good point John, but I think there are two tings at play here. Having the skill set to write well and market, or in Palin's case, to be in the spotlight, is one thing. Having the knowledge is another. I might take an assignment that I know nothing about, but I have the skills to write. I need to learn the subject matter. Palin can market, but as you pointed out, doesn't inspire confidence with her seeming lack of in depth knowledge on economics and political issues.

      Is she learning as she goes along, as many of us do? Time will tell.

      Carol, thanks for the wonderfully well thought out post. Fear and anxiety is a strange creature. For some reason, some of us have more of it than others. It's probably a whole dissertation in and of itself as to why some are so strongly influenced by it and others are not.
      My recent post Some People Never Get It

  18. Star says:

    Tina Fey said the I can see Russia thing, Sarah didn't, though she plays off the line now. I hope writers are prepared to be called "a bucket of slop" and the like–I heard a Dem state legislator call her that. Most her her so-called "gaffes" are misspeaks–such as switching North and South Korea in one sentence recently. I heard a commentator do the same thing the same day. The president, supposedly a world-class intellect, once said there were 57 states. I don't think he really thinks that.

    • TiceWrites says:

      Hi Star! Long time no hear. Hope you are doing well.

      Well, writers certainly have to be prepared to hear their work sucks. We've all had that assignment we turned in that got killed, we just totally missed the mark. But on we must go, a skill Palin certainly has in spades.

  19. Angela says:

    This stopped and made me think. Both about Sara Palin and about trying to make myself unique as a writer. It takes talent to learn how to stand out from the rest of the crowd and you are right, Sara Palin does have that particular talent. Now all I have to do is to figure out how to gain that fearless attitude 🙂

    • TiceWrites says:

      Right on. So many writers are so insecure about their abilities. If we could flip that over, and be super-confident, even if we're wandering into areas where maybe we don't know so much, we could bluster our way into some new, good-paying gigs, I'm thinking.

      Personally, that's been a bit of my success. I tend to say, "Sure, I could write about that"…and then go off and figure out how. Even if it's about purchase-order lending, or exporting, or a million other things I've never done. My motto is give me about two business days and I'll be your expert in just about anything. That's the kind of moxie writers need, and Palin's sure got that.

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