Many people dream of becoming freelance writers. The problem is, that’s all most of them do — dream.
Somehow, the idea of becoming a paid writer never gets off the ground.
I find there are three major reasons why freelance writing dreams don’t come true.
You can spot all three reasons in this email I recently received, from a writer who’s been reading my blog for more than two years. This was sent in response to the news that I had a new class coming up:
“I’m not taking this class because I never took the last class I bought. But I refuse to give up hope that the day will come when I can make a living wage from writing. And the day will come that I actually make a plan and follow it, so that my puny dream can come true.”–Lois
These sort of letters make me real sad. This is not what I want to hear from writers who’re years into learning about freelance writing!
Did you spot the three problems here? Let me call them out.
1. No plan
When you have access to materials that could help you create a plan for launching your business, but you never use them, you’re not serious about this.
Action plans are what make dreams come true. Not pie-in-the-sky musings, not trying a bit of this and that. You need a concrete list of proven, doable steps that will bring you closer to your goal.
Many freelance writers I’ve met need help developing an action plan, because the freelance world is complex and multifaceted. Without a plan, it’s easy to gravitate to the Underworld of Freelance Writing and waste a lot of time writing quickie work for little pay.
One of the reasons many wannabe freelance writers lack an action plan is that this is not a one-size-fits-all sort of career. There isn’t one universally workable, best, fastest way to become a freelance writer. Your best moves will depend a lot on you — who you are, what you know, how much writing you’ve done, the sort of clients you want.
The freelance writers who launch successfully take the time to learn enough about this industry that they can create a business plan. It maps out where they want to go, and includes a marketing plan for how they’ll get there.
The freelance writers who don’t make progress are simply faking it along, trying this and that, and hoping to strike gold.
2. Stop the negative self-talk
I’m sure you picked up on the smacktalk attitude that permeates this writer’s message. “when I actually follow a plan…”
So here’s the thing: Sitting around beating yourself up about what you don’t know or haven’t taken action on yet is not going to help you take the plunge into the uncertain world of freelancing.
Negative self-talk is an epidemic among freelance writers. No matter how much we’ve accomplished, our focus seems to be on what we haven’t achieved.
This past week, I coached a successful freelance writer with years of experience writing for newspapers, regional magazines, and trade publications. She’s looking to move up to higher-paying national magazines, but confessed she “feels like a failure” because she’s only billing $2,000 a month.
I know hundreds of writers who’d kill to be in her shoes — to have a portfolio of legitimate clips and steady clients with good assignments, as opposed to content-mill junk. But all she could see was where she hadn’t made it to yet.
If you’re running yourself down about your shortcomings, it’s time to pop that tape out of your brain and install a new one. Create a ‘brag sheet’ of accomplishments you can refer to. Make a list of your strengths.
Whatever action you take to reprogram the negativity, know that there’s only one of you in this whole wide world. Appreciate that nobody else can write it like you — and that out there are clients who would probably love your help.
Instead of being your own worst critic, become your own biggest champion. Then, you’re ready to get out there and freelance.
3. Take your dreams seriously
What really smacked me in the face in this writer’s missive was the phrase “my puny dream.”
Honestly, that statement shocked me.
If you could only take one thing away from the more than 600 posts on this blog, I want it to be this: Your dreams are not puny.
They are huge.
What could possibly be more important than envisioning your ideal life and then striving to live it, in the precious few days you have on this planet?
It’s sad and cruel to belittle what you want most out of life.
It’s also a dodge to make it feel somehow OK that you’re not going after what you really want.
No matter how many sarcastic cracks you make, you know that deep down, your freelance writing dream is still there. That tug you feel in your gut is your soul, trying to pull you onto the road where you belong.
There’s really nothing you can do except either bear that pain, or get started.
What’s standing in the way of your freelance dreams? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it.