Becoming a freelance writer is a big step to make. In theory, it sounds pretty easy: You like writing, you’re good at it, and people have enjoyed what you have written in the past. That’s a great start, but being good at something and making a living from it are two completely different things.
This isn’t going to be a negative diatribe, far from it. There is money to be made out there, especially now that the internet and social media have bridged the gap between writers and businesses who may need a writer to help them out. It is also easier for writers to be published, with so many blogs and news websites asking for contributors and in some cases, paying well for your work.
The warning for all freelancers who may believe that this will be an easy ride is that there are a number of factors that can derail your confidence, your momentum and your enthusiasm, and it is important to know what they are so that you can avoid them. At some point in their career, every freelance writer has faced the following challenges, so don’t worry: You are not alone.
1. The Sweatpants and T-Shirt Lifestyle
If you come across a freelance writer who tells you that they get up at dawn, has a shower, puts on a suit and then heads to the writing desk for 8 hours, they have defeated the toughest side of being a freelancer: The sweatpants and T-shirt lifestyle.
It is incredibly easy to become lazy. Not necessarily in your writing, but definitely in the way that you conduct your day-to-day business. Not leaving the house today because you’re writing? No problem. Get those sweatpants on and don’t worry about the way you look. Nobody’s going to see you.
If you start thinking like this, you’re on a slippery slope to becoming a slob, and there’s only a matter of time that it will start to affect your work. One of the best ways to combat the lure of the lazy freelance lifestyle is to get up early, get some exercise (even if it’s just a walk to the newsagent and back), and dress for success. You don’t have to be suited and booted, but at least dress like you’re working and not hanging out at a student flat playing Nintendo.
2. The ‘Now What?’ Phase
One of the toughest challenges of being a freelancer is motivating yourself to get up and write every day. There are plenty of experts out there who will have advice on how to deal with this, but certainly one of the tried and tested ways to motivate yourself is to have a plan in place. If you use Google Mail, open your Calendar and start filling your days with tasks. You don’t have to go crazy and schedule tight, inflexible 8 hour shifts, but having a ‘To Do’ list or plan of action will help keep you on track and is likely to motivate you.
Freelance writing is more than just writing. Set yourself time for reading, contacting blogs and websites you’d like to write for, job hunting on freelance sites and time for tweaking your personal website. You should leave no aspect of your freelance career behind. They are all as important as each other. The writing is just the tip of the iceberg.
3. The Inevitable Lull
There is a reason that a freelance writing career isn’t for everyone: Consistency. There will be times when clients will say their farewells, and replacements won’t be forthcoming. There will also be times when the last thing in the world that you want to do is write. You could be ill, suffering from a crisis in confidence or just having a lazy moment, where procrastination seems like a better way to spend the day than knuckling down at the writing desk. Whatever the reason, you need to pull through. Here are some great ways to keep writing even when the lull comes a-calling.
Forcing yourself to write isn’t the answer. It is far better to write one amazing blog post a day than four below standard articles that don’t show the true potential in your writing. In order to find consistency and pull through the inevitable lull that you will face at some point, the key is to step away from the writing desk and do something else without feeling guilty about it.
This takes time to adjust to, mainly because people will have filled your head with advice along the lines of ‘write every day’ and set unrealistic expectations for you. At the end of the day, they are not the writer you are. Everyone has their own techniques and routines, and you have to find yours without putting pressure on yourself. You have to learn to accept that a freelance writing career comes with waves and lulls. Embrace them.
4. Dealing with Rejection
It doesn’t matter how good a writer you are, sooner or later, somebody is going to reject your work. It might not be a reflection on you as a writer, but it is very easy to take it this way. Taking rejection personally is a sure-fire way to self-sabotage, because as soon as your confidence wavers and you are not in the right place mentally, your writing will suffer.
It’s too easy to just say ‘it happens to everyone’ or ‘you have to learn to deal with it’, because not everybody functions in the same way. Some writers shrug their shoulders at rejection and soldier on as if nothing ever happened, whereas another writer could take a week to pick up a pen again. Rejection is just a fact of life though, and it has happened to some of the greatest writers in the history of literature. If it happened to the likes of James Joyce and Graham Greene, you’d better believe that it’s going to happen to you.
Be honest with yourself and listen to any feedback you may receive. If what you have written can be improved, don’t rush it through. Make sure the writing is 100% before you submit the piece. In the case of feedback, block out the feelings of dejection and anger when being rejected and listen to what they have said. Is there feedback in the response that can help your writing moving forward? Take a deep breath and come back stronger than before. No writer has an undefeated record, but the best ones dust themselves off after being rejected and come back with better writing because they have learned from their mistakes and not allowed rejection to deter them.