Two Ways Freelance Writing is Like Weight Loss

Carol Tice

Becoming A Freelance Writer Is Like Losing WeightBy James Patterson

It’s January and, inevitably, gyms and Weight Watchers locations around the country are filling their coffers with money from new members making yet another resolution to finally lose that weight. And, just as inevitably, most of those eager people will abandon their weight-loss goals once again and go back to their old habits.

I guess you could say I know a little bit about what it takes to lose weight. Between October of 2008 and May of 2009 I lost a total of 65 pounds, or almost 27 percent of my body weight. I trained for and ran a half marathon. I became a different person.

It’s no coincidence to me that, at the same time, I started my freelancing business. Looking back, almost all of the principles you have to understand to lose a significant amount of weight are the same ones necessary for developing a successful freelancing business. I want to talk about two of them here.

There’s No Secret….Well, Actually There Is

Friends and family who see me now notice my weight loss. When I tell them I’ve lost 65 pounds, I almost universally get asked “Well, what’s your secret?”

When I tell people I work from home, work 25 percent fewer hours and make 25 percent more money than I did in my old 9-to-5 job, I get the same question. “What’s your secret?”

The truth is, there’s no one magic secret that successful freelancers are holding back in order to hoard all the good clients.

When people ask me that universal question, I like to play a game with them. I say “Actually, I do have a secret. It’s a secret that most people don’t know about and fewer are actually willing to use.”

Their eyes get wide and they get curious, then I tell them the answer. “It takes lots of really, really, REALLY hard work. That’s the secret.”

It’s true. Whether it’s freelancing or losing weight, you have to work hard. Those who do, and persevere through the discouragement and the disappointment are the ones who have success.

Those who give up when the first prospect says no or give up when they can’t wake up early enough to go the gym are the ones who wonder why they can never build a successful freelancing career, or why they make the same New Year’s resolution every year to lose weight.

Team Up With People Who Support You

If there was one thing that made the difference between all the times I tried to lose weight and failed and this time when I succeeded, it was this. It was actually my wife who came up with the idea to sign up for a half marathon.

I thought she was crazy. I had never run more than a mile all at once since middle school. Now she wanted me to run 13.1? But there she was with me, every step of the way in the training, the sore feet, and there we were at the finish line together after we had both accomplished our goal.

We both lost a tremendous amount of weight and became regular runners. I couldn’t have done it without her.

If you’re trying to go it alone in the freelancing world, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to. Team up with someone who shares your goals.

Joining Carol’s freelance mentoring group was one of the best decisions I ever made and it’s had a direct impact on my bottom line. The support Carol and the group provides gives me the confidence I need to try new things and push myself past what I think I can accomplish.

In May, I’ll run my third half marathon. I’ll also celebrate my first anniversary of full-time freelancing. It’s a dream come true, and both accomplishments were worth every bit of blood, sweat and tears. Trust me, if I can do it, you can too.

What other major life accomplishments have you achieved that helped you in freelancing writing? Tell us about it in the comments.

James Patterson is a freelance health writer and public relations consultant at OnPoint Writing and Communications. His past clients include the National Institutes of Health, the President’s Cancer Panel and the National Diabetes Education Program.

Photo via Flickr user alancleaver_2000


  1. Carol Tice

    Great post, James! Wish I could get my husband inspired to do this kind of weight loss.

    I didn’t know you were going to write about mentee support! Glad it’s working for you.

    I will say I have seen a huge difference in what writers accomplish in growing their career between those who participate in some kind of support community and those who don’t. Freelance writing is so solitary — it seems like it’s very useful to be held accountable by a group, and have other writers to ask questions when you’re trying to learn new strategies.

    • James

      Thanks for the chance to guest-post again, Carol! The mentoring group has been like going to Weight Watchers meetings, where you get support, motivation and ideas for how to get my business going. And the one-on-one mentoring from you has been like intense personal training. You’re like the Jillian Michaels of freelance writing! You don’t pull punches, but you also truly care about the success of your mentees. I just remember how alone I felt when I first started. It can be scary out there, and everyone can use someone for support who’s been there and done that and had success at it, whether it’s weight loss or freelancing.

  2. Erika

    James – I have to admit, I was expecting something goofy in this article and was pleasantly surprised (I guess I’ve just read about too many crazy New Year’s weight loss schemes in the past few days). Persevering when you’re discouraged is so tough, but I agree it’s key. Congratulations on your success, both in weight loss & freelancing!

    • James

      Thanks Erika! That’s the thing, there are tons of weight-loss schemes out there and there are plenty of freelance writing schemes out there too. Fad diets don’t work, and neither do fad money-making schemes. It takes hard work and more hard work. Then a little bit more hard work after that!

      • Carol Tice

        No kidding…wish anyone who thinks it’s easy to be a freelance writer could see the stack of stories I’ve gotten kicked back to me for rewrites lately…

  3. Debbie Kane

    James — congratulations on your half-marathon! That’s a huge accomplishment. I’m a freelance writer as well as a distance runner: both require endurance and mental training to persevere (I knew that already thru running, I’m learning it now as a writer). As a runner, you have to remain positive and ignore the nagging thoughts that run through your mind like “my leg/hip/knee hurts,” “I’m thirsty,” and “why’s that guy passing me?.” As a writer, you have to ignore the negative thoughts or events that inevitably pop up: the rocking query ignored by editors; the client who keeps changing her mind about what she wants; the networking contact who stood you up for coffee (just happened to me this morning!). Support is crucial, whether it’s one partner or a group. I have a running group, a writer’s group and, recently, a business coach. I consider them all my cheerleaders and we support each other. Finding Carol’s blog and the LinkedIn writers group has been incredibly useful as well.

    • James

      Great points, Debbie…in fact I was waffling back and forth on whether to write a post on the similarities to long-distance running training or losing weight to freelancing writing. All of them take a tremendous amount of work and stick-to-it-iveness!

      For me, it’s self-doubt that usually keeps me from achieving my goals. Lose over 50 pounds? Yeah right, I could never do that. Run over 13 miles at once? Fat chance! Make a living freelance writing, and a good one at that? In my dreams!

      But, I set my mind to all three goals, and did them. Now the sky’s the limit!

      So glad to hear you’re having success too and using the same mindset. Keep it up!

  4. Ahlam Yassin

    I have a nephew who lost 60 pounds, and he’s only 17! I tell him often, I’m so proud of you for conquering something so huge, now you have proved to yourself that you can take on anything and conquer it. (He’s also an inspiration to me as I take on many new things in my life).

    Great post James, got me thinking about the much needed support and the self-discipline needed to succeed.

    • James

      That’s the great thing about accomplishing a huge goal, Ahlam….it opens your mind up to the possibility that you can do anything. And that, usually, is half the battle. Glad you felt inspired by the post!

  5. Zahra Brown

    I’ve lost almost 80lbs and I never realised how similar freelance writing is to weight loss. It’s very true that the people who succeed at weight loss/gain and successfully maintain their weight loss never gave up. Every regain (writing rejection) we kept plugging on (kept writing and submitting).

    Here’s a quote that fits: ‘Persistent people begin their success where others end in failure.’

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, I’m impressed with how many of my readers have done some serious work on their weight and health! Personally, if I could just drop about 10 pounds I would be thrilled…

  6. Karen

    I can relate to this! I’d say it applies to more than freelance writing and weight loss. Whenever you are successful at anything in life you WILL be asked what the secret is. And the answer ‘hard work’ is so not what people are looking for. Everyone wants a 4-hour work week, a 4-hour body, a way to write a book, build an online presence, raise a child and make a million bucks in 4 hours or less. The idea of hard work and sustained effort is much harder to sell – as the authors of all those ‘4 hour’ style books have worked out 😉

  7. Krissy Brady

    Such a refreshing post! I think too many people idealize the concept of working at home, or becoming self-employed (or losing weight). I’ve had so many experiences where I say I work for myself, or I work at home, and they act like I live in the lap of luxury and “have it made”. Only when they actually make the attempt do they understand the real work and insane amount of focus and dedication that’s involved. What we do cannot be explained (I even went so far as to draw little stick men once!), only experienced.

  8. James

    Hey Krissy and Karen, great points. These principles aren’t exclusive to weight loss or freelancing. Hard work is somewhat of a lost commodity these days with fad diets and get-rich-quick schemes. I know I appreciate my weight loss and my freelance success so much more exactly because I had to work so hard for both of them.

    The thing is, too, I could be working harder at my freelancing business. Putting in more hours, using more marketing techniques. I’m heading out this morning to a health and wellness fair to hand out business cards, in fact. There’s always something more you can be doing!

  9. Janette Dolores

    Congratulations on your impressive weight loss–and in seven months!–and on achieving full-time freelancer status. Your accomplishments are a testament to your discipline and ambition.

    Your article struck a chord with me on three levels. First, on the weight-loss end, I lost 49 pounds in the span of eight months. Was it easy? Absolutely not. Did I dread working out five days a week on top of maintaining a tedious daily food journal? With every fiber of my being. Except on Mondays, which was my weigh-in day. Mondays I liked because I got to see my tiny victories in the form of decreasing numerals on the bathroom scale. Not that there weren’t Mondays that showed a slight increase in weight–enter the weight-loss term: plateau. But I kept my mind fixed on the decreasing numbers, and on my goal weight in the distance. I reached my goal, and have kept the weight off for one year and five months, and counting! As a result, I can empathize with the hard work and focus that accompany substantial weight-loss AND subsequent maintenance of a target weight.

    Secondly, I’ve also started training for a marathon. I am that person who was never heavy as a youth, but had no physical stamina. I couldn’t jog one side of a block without needing a breather and potentially a foot rub. Now, I’m training for a marathon, and I’m confident I’ll run it. Even if I come in dead last, as long as I push one finger over the finish line, I’ll consider it a race won.

    Last, I, too, plan to freelance full-time. I used to think I would have to go it alone. However, after reading articles like yours, I’m comforted and excited about the prospect of freelance mentoring groups. It’s definitely a resource I’m glad you shared with us.

    Hope you are having a wonderful and blessed New Year.

    • James

      Another success story! You all are inspiring. Good luck with your marathon training, Janette. There’s nothing like the thrill of crossing that finish line knowing you’ve accomplished such a monumental goal. Good luck this year as you check off a couple more milestones.

  10. Stephanie Mojica


    I get those questions a lot too…like how do you REALLY make more than 700 percent of your hourly salary (I used to make $12 an hour writing for a newspaper; now my low hourly average is $90 per hour…of course, I don’t write eight hours a day!)

    Support as you and others such as Carol and Krissy mentioned is so crucial. I needed to really “master my psychology” and found better support in groups, coaching, and positive forums than therapy. Therapy was way too focused on past trauma and not moving forward…

    I too am doing well on the weight loss…but I gave up sugar, flour, wheat, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners. I’ve realized that I wanted to be free in all ways possible; including not being enslaved to any type of food.


  11. edina jackson

    Great blog and great post. I have found some very interesting tips here. so thanks again.


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