The Two Kinds of Fears Freelance Writers Face — and How to Slay Them Both

Carol Tice

Recently, I asked about what scares you.

I wanted to know more about what is holding freelance writers back from achieving their goals and earning more.

Boy, did I get an earful.

More than 225 writers took my survey.

I’ll be sharing more of what I learned from your answers later this week, but for now let’s say this: You’re scared.

In sifting through your comments, I also realized something.

There are two basic types of fears that paralyze freelance writers and keep them from having the writing careers they want.

  • Fears of things that are probably going to happen, if you pursue freelancing

  • Fears of things that are unlikely to happen to most freelancers

An example of a likely fear is the fear that you’ll be rejected when you send out query letters.

An example of an improbable, almost irrational fear is that one mistake you make will ruin your chances of being a freelance writer.

How can you stop the fears?

Though there are two types of fears that plague freelancers, there is really only one solution.

You reduce fear by taking action.

It’s been said that anxiety is uncertainty multiplied by powerlessness.

The more we sit and worry about what might happen and don’t try anything, the more unsure of ourselves we feel. It’s a vicious cycle.

When you take action, you take back control.

You are brave enough to experiment with the world and see what happens.

Instead of worrying, send out some query letters. You’ll see that after they get rejected, you don’t die.

If you write much, you’re sure to make a mistake sooner or later. I’ve made some grand ones.

You’ll discover there is no universal editor network that will be notified never to hire you again.

You will live to write another day.

So ask your editor that thing that you’re wondering about. You’ll be surprised to discover she doesn’t bite.

Ask your prospect 40 questions before you agree to do the gig, even though you’re worried it makes you seem like you don’t know enough. In fact, it makes you look pro.

What if you’re afraid you don’t know enough?

This is actually one of the big fears we saw in our survey.

If you feel like you’re not legit, that may be in your head.

Or it may be that you have some real knowledge gaps and need to learn more.

Much of the good-paying writing work in print, for instance, requires some journalism chops. If you don’t have that skill, you may be getting left out.

Sometimes, a little more training can give you the confidence you’ve been missing, to go after — and land — the big-money writing assignments.


  1. Mitch Mitchell

    Unfortunately, you hit the nail right on the head with this one. I work in multiple fields, and since I’m a sole proprietor, the biggest issue I always have is knowing I have to learn how to deal with rejection of some kind better. I know Wayne Gretzky supposedly said he never made any shots he didn’t take but at least it wasn’t marketing! lol

  2. Ollin Morales

    To MLW readers:

    Ask yourself if your fear is unreasonable.

    Think of maslow’s hierarchy of needs: if you have food, shelter, and water right now, and you’re not in a war torn country, then you’re good and have NOTHING to fear.

    Unless you are experiencing a REAL emergency like a sudden disease or a natural disaster, everything else you are worried about is just melodrama.

    In fact, you’re WAY better off than a huge amount of people in this world.

    THINK ABOUT IT: if you can read and write, even moderately, you are even BETTER off than most people in this world.

    Focus on that blessing instead of focusing on all your shortcomings. If you can read and write you are way head of the game, at least in comparison to those who can’t.

    Think of those people who don’t have anything to eat today. Be grateful that you are able to acquire food, even if it isn’t the “best” food.

    Now, I know you might be afraid that you won’t eat in the near future if you don’t get this assignment, but the future hasn’t happened yet.

    If you have food today then you are good. Use that energy to write another query. Don’t wast the opportunity given to you.

    Living in blessing may be a great way to motivate you forward and vaporize those unreasonable fears.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for the perspective-setter, Ollin. I’m always in favor of taking time to do that.

      Having buried my best friend in the past week, who was my age, I feel the blessing of every ray of sunshine and butterfly and hummerbird I see in my spring garden, like never before, knowing they are sights she’ll never see again.

      I was always struck by the idea that if you have a change jar in your home, you’re rich. In most homes, if you have a handful of change, you go straight to the market, buy food, and come home and feed it to your family. Because there’s nothing in the house, and they’re hungry.

      Truly, we have so many advantages. Sending a query places you in no mortal danger. Dare to send one…and then another, and another.

      In my study recently on what’s holding writers back, 60 percent of the writers said they had never sent a single query. That blew our minds. Freelance writing is an occupation for the bold…so put it out there.

  3. Katherine Swarts

    This is just because I think I forgot to request follow-up notifications on my first comment.


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