I am officially free.
In just the past four months, I started my own freelance copywriting business and began making enough money to quit my job and support my wife and three young kids.
Now, granted, we’re not rolling in the cash, Scrooge McDuck-style. Yet.
And I didn’t just get here by some random chance.
Quitting my job and launching full time into freelance writing required that I conquer three specific fears.
Fears that had the potential to hold me back. Fears that could limit what I could accomplish. Fears that could sink me.
If you’re going to live the writing life, you also have to overcome these fears.
So, at the risk of sounding too much like one of those cheesy motivational posters, let me share with you how I overcame these fears as I began my freelance writing career.
Fear of rejection
Every person fears rejection, and writers are particularly vulnerable to this fear. After all, we pour ourselves into what we write. Then we hand the projects off to other people for evaluation. For scrutiny. For criticism.
At the risk of over-dramatization, we bare our souls.
When I first launched my copywriting business, I was scared pantsless (in a mostly figurative way) of rejection.
Being a freelance writer means applying for lots of different jobs on lots of different sites. Applying for lots of different jobs inevitably means you’ll get turned down more than a turtleneck on a nerd.
And I was rejected. Quite often, actually.
But here’s what I discovered: Rejection’s not such a big deal.
I know. Crazy, right?
I discovered that for every person who rejected me, there was another person who needed what I had to offer. For every, “No thanks,” there was another, “Actually, you’re exactly what we’re looking for.”
And that’s how it goes with writing, right? You can’t please everybody.
Some people love Stephen King, other people hate him.
Some people adore Jane Austen, while others, like myself, would rather be beaten with an old Nintendo Power magazine than read her books.
Some love J.K. Rowling, while… OK, everyone loves J.K. Rowling. You get the point.
A large part of my success is due to the fact that I overcame my fear of rejection. If someone doesn’t like me, I simply move one without a second thought.
The faster I move on, the faster I find someone who really loves my writing style and method.
All great artists deal with rejection. Stephen King’s first book, Carrie, was rejected 30 times before being published.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm was rejected with the comment, “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”
[bctt tweet=”The key to success as a freelance writer is overcoming your fear of rejection.”]
You’re going to be rejected, but it’s really OK. You don’t have the skills everyone wants, but you have the skills some people need, and that’s enough to make a living.
Fear of conflict
Most people think writing is pure art. Writers peck away at our keyboards while sipping on green tea in our brightly lit loft apartments.
This is complete and total nonsense.
Writing is just as much business as it is art, and business always involves some conflict. If you don’t have the stomach for conflict, you should probably choose another profession.
If you’re going to make it as a freelance writer, you absolutely must overcome fear of conflict. You’ve got be able to wheel and deal. To even fight, sometimes.
Why? Because even with the best clients, freelancing always involves negotiating. You’ve got to negotiate rates, deadlines and a thousand other little details that go into each project.
If you’re afraid of conflict, you’ll let your client win all of the negotiations. If your client wins all of the negotiations, you’ll end up with less money, less time and less happiness. If that’s not a recipe for total and abject misery, I don’t know what is.
How do you overcome your fear of conflict?
By remembering your value.
You’re a not a temp who can be bought for a miniscule sum and treated like garbage. You’re a professional writer.
You bring significant value to anyone who wants to hire out your services. If they don’t want to pay you what you’re worth, you can find plenty of other work.
Don’t be afraid of conflict. Don’t be afraid of negotiating to get what you’re worth. If you want to make it as a freelance writer, you must overcome fear of conflict.
Fear of mistakes
I’ve written approximately 4,000 words already today, and it’s only 2:30 p.m. Assuming I write approximately 5,000 words per day, that equals between 25,000 and 30,000 per week. That’s roughly a 350-page novel every month.
Holy crap, I write a lot!
I don’t work for a content mill. I’m not churning out articles for $15 a pop.
I just write a lot. Fast. Which is why my clients pay me well. I can turn around a lot high-quality material for them in a short period of time.
But with that amount of output, I’ve had to completely obliterate my fear of mistakes. Yes, I’m a writer, and as a writer, I create art.
But I can’t be a perfectionist about my art. I can’t obsess over a single word choice or spend hours sweating over a paragraph. And I can’t proofread 20 times before I send something off.
I’ve got to create quickly and effectively.
Inevitably, it at means I’ll make mistakes in my writing. At some point, “fat” will become “fart.”
But I’m OK with mistakes. I realize that might sound like heresy to some, but it’s something I’ve come to terms with. I will make mistakes. I am not perfect.
So how have I overcome my fear of mistakes?
It’s pretty simple. At the very beginning of every client interaction (in the negotiation stage), I make one thing very clear: I expect clear communication from both parties.
If I produce a mistake or something they don’t like, the client needs to be open and clear about it. If they do something that doesn’t sit well with me, I’ll also be open and clear about it.
We keep clear lines of communication, which in turn allows me to deliver quickly and also be confident that they’ll alert me to any problems.
I’ve overcome my fear of mistakes by setting up clear boundaries in my client relationships.
As former President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” This is rubbish. I can think of lots of other things to fear, like rodents of unusual size and a new One Direction album.
But fear of rejection, conflict and mistakes can quickly derail your freelance business and ruin your dream of living the writing life.
Take control. Take charge. Conquer your fears and launch.
What have you done to overcome your freelance writing fears?
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