Can You Help This Freelance Writer Find the Courage to Start?

Can You Help This Freelance Writer Find the Courage to Start? Makealivingwriting.comAre you having trouble getting started in freelance writing? Maybe you feel unsure of whether your work is ready for publication.

Or maybe you’ve gotten started in freelancing and remember how hard it was to get those first few clips. If so, you might be able to help a reader out today.

I recently got an email from a brand-new writer. “Bunny” writes:

I have been reading you for quite some time now. I am still in those early stages of writing wherein I have nothing published.

I am more than willing to work on that. Your article to invent your audience was of some help, but again I fall short of good content (great is something far far away, I feel) whenever I sit to write.

In the early stages of writing, could you please suggest something just so that I can feel confident enough to publish my first blog post?

Warm Regards–
Bunny

I was intrigued by this question, as I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a note from someone who has not published anything, even on their own blog.

My response:

Given the insecurities I’m sensing in what you’ve written above, Bunny, writing for your own blog is a good place to start.

When you first start a blog, very few people are reading it, so it’s a great opportunity to publish a little. Imagine that no one is looking — you won’t be far wrong.

Play around with your posts and experiment! Be creative. The only way to develop your voice and discover what you really enjoy writing about is to write a lot.

A couple ideas for overcoming your fear of publishing that first blog post:

  • Find a writer’s group or let friends preview your post. You need some feedback, girl! This will help get you ready for the comments and feedback you’ll get on the blog, and later from editors as you start looking for freelance writing gigs. You’ll also probably get some support and encouragement as well once you find a peer group.
  • Look in the mirror and say, “Damn, I’m good.” Seriously. My dad taught me to do that every morning, and if yours didn’t, you should start now. I honestly believe you can’t survive as a freelance writer unless you feel, at base, that you are talented and have something to offer the world through your writing. So take a moment each day to ponder the fact that you are the one and only, unique, special you in the whole world. No one else can write like you!

In the end, at some point, you have to start. You have to say an article is good enough, and let it out into the world. If you can’t do that, you likely can’t be a freelance writer.

You have to get over your fear that your content isn’t “good” and give it a whirl. See this post I did a while back for WM Freelance Writer’s Connection about overcoming writing fears for some funny stories about my own irrational fears when I started out, and this one for 10 strategies for fear-busting. We all had these fears when we started…but just did it anyway.

Get started, and the more you write, the more quickly you’ll improve. Know that most writers look back and cringe when they read work from years back. All you can do is keep striving to get better.

Can you help Bunny find the courage to press “send” and publish that first blog post? Leave your thoughts and comments below.

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40 comments on “Can You Help This Freelance Writer Find the Courage to Start?
  1. Doreen says:

    Hey there!

    You know, I think people need to remember that everything starts small. If you look at an acorn and think, “There’s no way in hell this thing is ever gonna grow into an oak tree,” and you toss it in the trash – well, you’re right, it won’t. But if you plant it and water it and let the the sun shine on it, guess what? Before you know it, you’ll have a little shoot, and that shoot will grow into a huge tree.

    Thoughts are things. Make sure you uproot all those nasty little weeds that try to choke your tree, and give the tree-thought a chance. Or if you really believe those weed-thoughts, just put them on the shelf temporarily. Tell them they’ll have their turn, but you want to water your oak tree first and see what happens.

    This is not a guessing game. This is a science. If you do a, b, c, d, and e, sooner or later, f will follow, and then all the rest. Translation: If you make the right efforts, you will get results. Just don’t shoot yourself in the foot before you start the race.

    My sister told me another great analogy about the fly wheel. At first, you have to push and push and push, but eventually it starts to roll by itself, and then it gets so that you can’t stop it. I prefer a little more control, but that’s not a bad place to be.

    In other words, even if you lack confidence in where you are right now, have confidence in the process – and do it. Do each little goal you choose from start to finish, and I promise you that your skills, confidence, and opportunities will grow. And allow it a little time. Pretty soon, people will be picnicking under your oak tree. : )

    • Carol Tice says:

      Oh, love that flywheel analogy, Doreen — I think that is a lot like pursuing freelance writing. At first it just seems like so much WORK finding clients…and then it gets easier and easier, until word of mouth, referrals, and clients finding your website are all you need to stay fully booked.

  2. A good friend of mine’s partner recently demanded this of me:

    “Dude, just freakin’ look in the mirror.”

    And you know what, Carol?

    Damn, I’m good!

    Thanks for the reminder me ;).
    Sean Vandenberg recently posted…Why I Don’t Care All That Much About SEOing My CopyMy Profile

  3. mascthemoney says:

    just do it. don’t be afraid of what other people think. you can’t please everybody in the world, most people are just wall flowers.

  4. Tia Nielsen says:

    As a person who majored and minored in music in college so I would NOT have to write anything, I am more than surprised that the bulk of my professional life the last four years has been freelance writing and journalism. At this point, I have been privileged to earn a paycheck from 14 print newspapers and news magazines and a handful of businesses. So, take heart, Bunny. Who and what you are eventually pull you into your life.

    A few tips I gathered through experience along the way may be of help:

    Have a goal in mind. What “needs” to be said? It may be vague, or specific.
    Vague,such as, I just have to get these thoughts on “paper.” Or specific, as it could be a piece to motivate readers to action. Or to educate some section of the public. There has to be a reason for expressing your thoughts.

    Practice writing with various word counts. What can you say in 600 words? Then experiment to reshape the story as if you only had300 words., Then 200 words. (Believe me, when an editor gives you a word count, don’t go over the limit.)
    You will find fresh, hidden dimensions in a story when you commit to a certain word count.

    Know something about your target audience. What do you believe is on their collective mind? What do their comments and actions indicate are their priorities?
    Listen to your neighbors, friends, or any group of people in public. And notice what attracts your attention online? What are people saying in response to what they read or see online and out in your community?

    As others have suggested: Just do it. It won’t be perfect, but you will grow in sharing what you see must be said. Have you ever seen an infant smile? Perfection is not that baby’s goal. It is merely to express joy.

    So, write, post, begin. Bring on the joy.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Tia!

      I love your exercise of trying to say something at different lengths…that will really give you a sense of how much can be set in each of those formats.

      • Tia Nielsen says:

        Thanks, Carol. I had to learn how to deal with shifting word counts when editors would say, we have half the space. (Or, we want you to double it… today.) The last time I had to make a drastic cut, I simply started over and changed the premise of the human interest sports story. Amazingly it ended up in the media guide as one of the favorites for a professional sports team when they entered the playoffs. That was the first time I embraced that hidden world of a radically new dimension to a story. Perhaps those writing crossroads make us better than we had thought possible.

        Thanks for your excellent blog posts. They really do offer keen insights. Your gift for clarity is one of my envies.

  5. Kathy Smith says:

    Being of a cautious nature myself, I too found writing daunting in the beginning but it’s like anything. You need to practice the skill and reach out to others for support and opportunities. Look for connections, ask other more seasoned writers, yes, join a writer’s group, etc., and all that, but for sure never give up if it’s really what you want to do. Do some market research and don’t be afraid to approach editors of magazines, etc. and ask them advice. Most are willing to impart some. We all started somewhere and I can bet many writers had others help them along the way. Once you dip your toe in the water, you’ll soon be swimming alongside all of us who are, as you, always learning as we go!

  6. ann simon says:

    You know how you worry when you get a haircut? But its just hair; it grows back. Writing is just like that. It’s just words; you can always change them! And unlike a bad hair cut, the more youwrite, the better you get. Blogging is great because you start anew with each entry. What’s more, if you decide you really can’t live with an entry, you can delete it. What is there to possibly be afraid of? Go ahead and enjoy it!

  7. Hi Bunny, the way that you wrote about your inadequacies and your fears suggests that you have the writing skill. I assure you that in the blogging world, there are more people who would appreciate you and they are willing to help you improve than those who will put you down. I am a beneficiary of the kindness of my virtual friends who encourage me and even coach me.

    I suggest that you write about what drives your passion. Don’t venture writing about unfamiliar topics but scribble great thoughts on what is inside your heart and mind. Just make that first post and publish it. Share it with me and I would be happy to appreciate it.

  8. Robert says:

    I have a list of job sites on one of my blogs where I write about freelance writing.

    There are many places to write such as Helium, Factoidz, EZine Articles are a few.

    The point is to sit your butt in the chair and put your hands on the keyboard. This is the hardest part for many.

    A writer writes every day.

    Do not be afraid of rejections, learn from them. Find a local writing group, find an online writers group like the one I started on FaceBook, or join an online critique group. Groups only work as well as the people are dedicated to doing what the group needs to help its members.

    Good luck, and get writing,
    Bob

  9. MistiKo says:

    Bunny, I wholeheartedly agree with the person who said that you already write well. Based on the small amount of your writing that I have seen, I can already tell that you are able to convey emotion through your words – many writers work their whole life to understand how to do that.

    Now for my advice. BABYSTEPS. You don’t have to worry about “publishing” a blog. Just work on writing one first. If that is too daunting, just work on writing a short summary of your day – just for yourself. You can set your blog to “private” to ensure no one reads it, then one day, all you have to do is decide to change the setting to “public”. Just break the task up into whatever steps you can manage.

    Good luck to you.

  10. Carol Tice says:

    Have to say I’m sort of surprised that no one is over on Twitter retweeting the registration link for the next Webinar to win a free ticket, as mentioned at the end of the post above! Last time I did a Tweet giveaway I was mobbed.

    So just sticking my head in to say the field is still wide open! Most RTs wins, and contest runs through end of Saturday.

    I love giving away free stuff. It was really fun last time — can’t wait to see what happens this time.

  11. Oops. I began blogging in January 2010, not January 1960!

  12. Bunny, based on your email to Carol, let me begin by saying you write very well. In January 1960 it came to me that I needed to start blogging. I was planning to wait until the fall of 2011 to start a blog based on my daily diary entries during my years at Park College (now Park University) in Parkville (suburban Kansas City) MO, 50 years to the day after I wrote them. But I decided, why wait? I got on the phone with my daughter and had her help me get started with a Blogger blog. It is an easy platform to work with as I am currently posting daily diary entries about my senior year of high school. Carol Tice and Judy Dunn, who writes the Cats Eye Writer blog, hosted a Webinar in March. As a participant I learned so much that I was able to give my blog an extreme makeover. The nature of my blog means my content is static. I spend my online time working with its design and learning from and commenting on other people’s blogs.

    Good luck with your blogging and let Carol know when you are ready for us to see the results.

  13. Bunny,

    wow, lot’s of great advice from people with a range of experience who all agree they’ve faced the same insecurities.

    Awesome. You’re not alone.

    To be a writer, you’ve got to write. There is no other certification necessary, no universal level of education or experience required to succeed.

    What kind of work experience do you have that you can speak on authoritatively? I find that if I know the subject well, I worry less about the writing. What sorts of things do you talk about at parties or dinner with friends? If you’re a person that has something to say, you’ll be a fine writer.

    Look around online and see what people publish. Is yours any worse than the worst?

    Decide that want you want to do in life is more important that your fear. Discover that the fear makes the accomplishment more satisfying.

    Come back in a year and give a new writer some advice.

    thanks!
    Brendan McCrain recently posted…Are You Making the Most of FacebookMy Profile

  14. Rakesh says:

    Another great tip that I learned from my mentor Donald….

    Write and print the following text, along with a suitable picture, and paste on your walls

    “I CAN WRITE

    I WILL WRITE

    I AM A WRITER”

    While choosing the picture, make sure that it is something that inspires you [Eg. Money!]

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Rakesh — I like your suggestion, too — similar to something I like to call “speaking into being.”

      When you want to do something you aren’t quite doing yet, start telling people you’re going to be doing it. That creates an impetus within you not to let those people down by not doing it!

      And you know they’re going to ask you in a bit, “Hey, you said you’re blogging now, how’s that going?” So you blog, because you want to be able to say, “It’s great, check it out!”

  15. Linda says:

    Hi Bunny:
    Writing and learning about writing is a very cumulative thing, it pretty much builds on itself. Writers write, so write, write, and write more. It doesn’t have to be “publishable” all the time or even good. There’s just something about the constant rhythm and process that jiggles the unconscious and melds the right and left brain into harmony (at time.) Your moments will come. I came up through deadline journalism. I’d say, although I still have a love-hate relationship with a deadline, I would never have been able to produce consistently decent writing without a deadline. If I were you, I’d set a schedule and stick to it. I’d take a blogging class, a paid-for one by a someone reputable. Either that or pull together your own little advisory board of friends and colleagues and ask them to give you critiques and support. Immerse yourself in the blogging world. Connect with other bloggers. Embrace it. Good luck!
    Linda

  16. terripatrick says:

    I began blogging with the concept that I was sending emails to friends, family and business associates who really didn’t play an active part in my daily life but liked me. So I wrote my posts as a way of sharing information I felt would interest them. Since it was also something that interested me, that I wanted to share, blogging became a pleasure. That was over two years ago.

    I still post a few times a week and it is a personal blog yet I have followers from around the world and pick up new ones all the time. While it is not a promotional blog, I’m sure it will be a great tool when I have published books to promote. 😀 Until then it is a friendly space where I stay connected with lots of people and meet new friends all the time.
    terripatrick recently posted…webbit tour timeMy Profile

  17. Susan K. Proulx says:

    Dear Bunny,

    First, I loved your letter. You moved me to take action and reply to you. That’s huge. Every comment here confirms you connected with each of us. Way to go.

    Second, I feel that fear too at times and I’ve been at awhile. As writers, we need to accept that some readers will hear us, others will not. Some will love us, others will yawn.

    That’s OK though. I’ve yawned my way through some of the classics. But hey — I read your letter start to finish.

    All my best to you.

    • Carol Tice says:

      What a great point, Susan — look at how your writing has moved the readers here! Don’t underestimate the power of your writing, Bunny.

  18. Good advice. I would also say to Bunny that it is a very normal thing to be afraid to put yourself out there. But the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become. I think a writing class would be a great place to start, because you will gain confidence in your abilities. Even if you are not the not best writer yet, commit yourself to becoming better. .As long as you are willing to work hard at it, I see no reason why you can’t succeed. I started out as an art major in college and I was surrounded by people who were far more talented than I was. However, I soon noticed that these students often weren’t succeeding because they did not have a good work ethic. Writing is a talent that can be developed. You just need to work at it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Great suggestion, Joanne — when I first got into reporting I took a couple UCLA Extension courses. They definitely helped me build my confidence.

  19. Dear “Bunny”,

    Your letter resonates greatly with me, even though I’m not really ‘new’ at freelance writing. I’ve been struggling with the professional technicalities for about a year and a half now. For me, it’s been really hard pinning down a routine dedicated to writing. It’s been a struggle with time management, self-discipline and the responsibilities that come along with life. I often have insecurities with my writing as well. I mean, with so many awesome writers out there, who cares about what I have to say? I think that getting over these insecurities is so much about giving it your all, which makes what you have to offer “great”. One post after another, you’ll start to develop a flow, you’ll get better with every piece you write and your confidence will grow. This is something I strive to achieve, although not there yet, I’m glad I established a blog that I can direct prospects too (even though I’ve been slacking on posts!!) instead of just saying something like “I’m a great writer, really”, I have something to show — I may be all over the place, but, I want you to know that your writing is about taking control of your life. Everyone is a work in progress, it’s just a matter of putting in the work. Grab hold of your dream and don’t let it go…we all support you. 🙂
    Ahlam – ProWriterInc recently posted…Why it’s Important to Stand up to the Cool Kids – Even as an AdultMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      “Everyone is a work in progress.” SO TRUE!

      After one of my Webinars about blog design, I had a writer say, “But just tell me — How long did it take until you were satisfied with your blog’s look?”

      I said — “What makes you think I’m satisfied with it NOW????” As it happened, I had changed several things on it that very week!

      We all keep growing and improving, whatever level we’re at.

  20. Thanks so much for sharing this, Carol. As you say, it sounds like Bunny could really use a supportive and constructive writer’s group with whom to share her work and help develop her confidence. I think more than anything else, that will do wonders.

    Also Bunny, maybe try the Ben Franklin approach to learning how to be a better and more confident writer. Legend has it he learned to write well by copying some of his favorite writers. He didn’t publish the copied material, of course. As a form of writing practice, he simply imitated the writer’s style in an effort to become a better writer himself.

    Finally, when you’re done reading the articles Carol suggested, try this one by Joanna Penn:
    http://www.tribalwriter.com/2011/02/09/on-conquering-the-fear-of-criticism-and-judgement

    Her message is:

    “Be brave. You are one in a long line of writers who felt these fears. Don’t be afraid. It’s part of the journey.”
    Michael Pollock recently posted…Is This One Single Belief Stopping You from Earning More Money in Your Online BusinessMy Profile

  21. Debbie Kane says:

    Hi Bunny —

    I just started week two of blogging, so I feel your fear. Carol’s suggestion to repeat a mantra to yourself daily is a good one. Someone actually made the same suggestion to me a few weeks ago. Here’s my mantra: “Blogging is GREAT. It’s going to make my business skyrocket.” I wrote it on a piece of paper and posted it next to my computer where I see it daily. Sounds strange, but it works. And your blog is a great place to practice your writing because you can change it up daily.

    Also: A former boss at a PR agency told me my writing sucked. Fast forward 20 years: I’ve been freelancing for four years and been profitable for three. So believe in your ability — you CAN do it!

  22. kymlee says:

    Fear is the enemy of success. The only way to become a better writer is to write more and find people who can give you constructive criticism. Writing is a process and every writer needs an editor or someone who can point out where improvements can be made. I read posts from some high profile bloggers who admitted that they weren’t the best writers when they started, they just trusted that they had something valuable to say and got better with time.

    Publish your first blog post and then post the next and keep publishing. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, its moving forward despite the fear.
    kymlee recently posted…Raising interesting people not “kids”My Profile

  23. Alan Kravitz says:

    Following up on Carol’s sage advice – Just Do it! I don’t even want to look at my first blog posts. But the more you do it, the better you get. Good luck!
    Alan Kravitz recently posted…5 situations that demand a writing proMy Profile

  24. Christina says:

    Thank you for this post. You have given great practical advice. And thank you to Bunny for reaching out. I can relate to her fears as I struggle to improve my own writing in search of publication. It’s good to know others are in the same spot and I applaud her for pushing herself enough to ask for help. Courage is on the rise. Giving up is not an option.

    • Carol Tice says:

      With that attitude, you’re going places!

      Attitude really is key. I like to joke that I’m glad this writing thing worked out because I really have no other marketable skills…when you commit to continuous improvement and simply never giving up, you’re going to make progress.

  25. It about letting go and start writing, and don’t worry about what people will say..you have to start some where..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”
    TrafficColeman recently posted…Only Dummies Changed Their Avatar PictureMy Profile

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  1. […] people who are bullish on your writing efforts. Look in the mirror every morning and say, “Damn, I’m good.” Repeat until you mean […]

  2. […] tip in one of last week’s posts particularly resonates. Tice writes that her dad taught her to look at herself in the mirror each […]