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Toughen Up: 7 Ways to Get Serious About Full-Time Freelance Writing

Carol Tice

Get serious about being a freelancer. Makealivingwriting.comHave you been toying with the idea of becoming a full-time freelance writer?

If so, I’ve got some tips for you. It’s time to change your thinking.

Writing full-time to pay your bills isn’t for the meek. And it’s not a career you can succeed at with a half-hearted effort. This is going to take serious commitment, and a thick skin.

I hear from writers every day who’re in love with the idea of becoming a freelancer…but they’re hooked on the security of that paycheck. Fears hold them back.

If this is you, let me give you a step-by-step on what successful, full-time freelance writers do to launch their business:

1. Give up stuff. 

Everything truly worthwhile involves sacrifice. The reason your freelance writing career hasn’t taken off is that you’re trying to shoehorn it in on top of everything else you do now. Likely, something has to go.

Like TV. Really, one show a week is fine. I didn’t watch a TV show for 2.5 years, when I was building this blog. I didn’t go to plays or movies or go to bars and hang out with my friends.

If you really want this, you can find the time.

2. Don’t aspire

There are no aspiring writers. There are writers, and people who are just kidding themselves.

Do you write? I don’t care if it’s in your journal, or only on your own blog. Do you feel driven to express yourself through the written word? Are you lying awake nights, thinking about things you can’t wait to write down in the morning?

If so…you’re a writer. Own it. Making this mental shift will do good things for your attitude, and put you into action.

3. Don’t give others power over you

If you’re an emotionally fragile flower who is devastated if an editor doesn’t get back to you, or won’t write a word while you wait the 6-8 weeks for an editor response, writing for a living is not for you.

Your sense of value has to come from within, not from what an editor says to you. If you believe writing is your gift and that your right livelihood involves writing for a living, persist.

4. Stop waiting

I wish I had a dime for every time a writer said to me:

“Well, I’m waiting to get my website finished before I pitch anyone.”


“How long should I wait before I follow up with my editor on that query?”

As I’ve said before, if you’re serious about this career, you’ll need to be a writer, not a waiter. Pitch with what you’ve got, and keep improving your site as you go. Wait zero minutes to follow up if it’s nerve-wracking for you to wait and wonder, and send out more queries instead.

Many would-be writers are paralyzed by fears, and waiting until they feel more confident to put their writing out there. They’re writing in the privacy of their own room, never showing their work to anyone.

If this is you, stop it right now.

Unless you live in one of those countries where you could be imprisoned or shot for what you write, realize that there is no real danger in sending a query, or self-publishing that e-book. So do it.

You will not build confidence through inaction. You can only build it by pitching, writing, networking, and marketing your writing services. The more you get out and say, “I’m a freelance writer” to people, the more it will be possible for this career to happen for you.

5. End the learning excuse

If you are doing nothing but reading blog posts about freelancing and writing, taking classes about writing, and going to conferences about writing…you need to stop.

I know, you feel like you don’t know enough! Guess what? I don’t, either. Learning is a lifelong process.

It’s time to take action. You’re using ‘learning’ as a procrastination excuse.

Instead, learn one new thing about how to be a freelance writer — and then go out and do it. Don’t worry, those newsletters will still be in your email inbox when you get back. Once you’ve tried it out, come back and learn more.

6. Take the plunge

Have you been saying for years that you’re going to quit your job and write full time?

Bulletin: There will never be a better time than now. It will always feel scary to give up what seems like job security (but really isn’t, since you could be laid off at any time).

I know writers who’ve been slowly building up their freelance client base on the side for ages, but still don’t make their move. Know that it will be impossible to replace your freelance income before you quit — you’d have two full-time jobs then! At some point, you’ve got to pull the trigger.

Cut your expenses, save money, or just plain go for it. But stop waiting for it to feel ‘safe’ to do this.

7. Compete only with yourself

Stop worrying about all the other, more established writers out there. You are unique and so is your writing journey. There is room for you in the enormous freelance marketplace — if you go at it with intent.

Too many writers are stopped by fears that their writing isn’t ‘good enough,’ when mediocrity is the norm in marketing writing, and at many publications, too!

Remember that the only writer you have to compete with is yourself. Commit to constant improvement, and your career will thrive.

It’s not for everybody

There are many writers for whom the pressure of hustling up clients, meeting constant deadlines, and paying all your bills with your writing simply isn’t a fit. If that’s you — that’s cool! Write that novel nights and weekends, and crush it. Not putting that down in any way.

But if you want to become a full-time freelance writer, look yourself in the mirror, end the excuses, and make it happen.

Are you serious about freelance writing? Count the ways for us in the comments, and add to my list.