4 Ways Freelance Writers Can Obliterate Their Weak Points

Carol Tice

Freelance writer advertising her weak pointsMany writers tell me they have obstacles holding them back from taking the plunge into freelancing.

They worry they write too slow, or don’t have a journalism degree, or are introverted and won’t be able to do enough marketing.

These stories always make me think of Kristy.

She’s a friend I had in high school who didn’t own any shoes.

Kristy’s father was a professional gambler who was often out of town, or out of money. Or both. With the result that most of the time, Kristy and her mother were barely scraping by.

What impressed me was that it didn’t stop Kristy from doing anything. She left the tiny apartment she shared with her mother each morning, attended school, and even sang in a vocal group with me, for which we wore a dressy skirt-and-blouse ensemble she had designed.

We performed in swanky venues like banquet halls and fancy restaurants. We even played the Hollywood Bowl once!

Kristy was never asked to leave any of those places because she was barefoot. She never even got called out at school because she went shoeless.

I was fascinated by that, so I made a study of what she did that allowed her to skate by without this usually essential item of attire.

Faking confidence

Kristy’s secret: She never looked down and drew attention to the fact that she was barefoot.

She never acted sad or like anything was wrong. She held her head up, met people’s eyes with complete confidence, smiled her dazzling smile, flipped her super-long, strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder, and let her gorgeous soprano voice ring out.

I can only imagine how Kristy felt inside, knowing that her poverty was on view for anyone who cared to notice. But she certainly wasn’t going to give students who might taunt and humiliate her any hints on where to stick in the knife.

And it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the singing outfit she designed for our group had a full-length skirt.

How to play to your writing strengths

Kristy’s approach to dealing with your deficits works great for freelance writers, too.

Recently in Freelance Writers Den, we’ve been having writers do a SWOT analysis as part of our Freelance Business Bootcamp. That is, writers have to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in building their freelance business

This has been a fantastic exercise that I strongly recommend for all freelance writers!

Once they’ve identified their weak points, students look at ways to improve on or minimize those weaknesses and maximize their strengths.

Here are a few tips on how to do that:

1. Fail to mention your weak spot

One writer recently wrote me that she feared her three advanced degrees and complex writing clips on arcane topics would put off prospects. They might feel she was overqualified or would want sky-high rates!

I pointed out that she could simply not bring up her academic background, and create a concise bio signoff for herself that focused on her writing experience or industries she knew.

The same goes for whatever you’ve got in your life that you think might make clients shy away.

Are you about embark on a six-month backpacking trip? Have a physical disability? Your first love is writing your novel? The client does not need to know.

Don’t be like the girl in the photo above, flashing what you don’t have on the ball. Just keep that shirt buttoned up.

2. Ignore deficits and just go for it

Many writers have fears that their lack of a writing-related degree will make it impossible for them to pursue a freelance writing career. Fortunately, I never let the fact that I’m a college dropout stop me from writing for prestigious publications including Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.

Realize that freelance writing is a field with no qualifications except what you can put on the page.

I can tell you from experience, clients don’t care how you came by your article writing skills — in a back alley or at Columbia. If you can tell a story, you can write your way to the career you want.

3. Play up your strengths

Instead of sitting around bemoaning what you don’t have on the ball, learn to emphasize your strengths, just like Kristy did.

Did you used to work for a mortgage lender? Bet those types of firms would love to have you write their websites. Prioritize those likely prospects to the top of your marketing calendar.

Do you write fast? Maybe specializing in rush work could allow you to earn more. Let your writer network know you can dive into the breach if they have a client with an emergency they don’t want to handle.

If all your clips are from content mills, just write super-strong query letters and don’t get into a discussion of your portfolio. More than one writer has gotten a national magazine article sale that way.

4. Take action to turn weaknesses into strengths

Sometimes, writers have a weakness that poses a true obstacle to their being able to earn a living as a freelancer.

Say, you want to write articles for great-paying magazines or top websites, but worry that you don’t have the writing chops.

You know you’re a weak headline writer, or you have a hard time matching your writing style to that of the publication. Or you’re shaky on how to get great quotes and weave them into the story.

In these situations, you’ve got three choices.

  1. Trial and error. You can spend many years writing and trying to improve on your own. (This is actually the method I took! What a timewaster.)
  2. Career stagnation. Or you can keep feeling insecure, holding back from marketing your writing services, and not make much progress as a freelance writer.
  3. Take a shortcut. Finally, if you want to solve this now, you can take an article writing class and get a mentor to share decades of their experience and tips with you.

What are your weaknesses as a freelance writer? Leave a comment and tell us how you overcome them.



  1. Williesha

    Lacking confidence and always worrying about money are my weaknesses. Even with a j-school degree, the feeling of inadequacy run rampant. Thanks for the encouragement. Having a bad morning.

    • Carol Tice

      And you HAVE a J-school degree, Willi? My question is, what WILL it take for writers to have a sense of their own legitimacy?

      Really, you had it all along, even before the degree. 😉

      • Williesha

        Oh yeah, love my degree. 🙂 Thought about master’s but I banged my way through undergrad in ’01. “Imposter syndrome” even affects us college folk!

  2. Manisha

    I’m probably on the same boat as Williesha above. I lack the confidence that I can deliver on time yet I refuse to quit my 9 to 5 because I don’t think I can be a self-sufficient content writer. It’s a circle, really, but your tips are very useful and definitely going to start working on them! Thanks!

  3. Matthew Eaton

    There is power in the statement “fake it until you make it.”

    You can always get yourself to act yourself into thinking more than you can think yourself into action. Your example is perfect, and I think this is a great resource for anyone who is doubting themselves.

    Thanks for sharing, I know I’ll be saving this on my links to refer to once again!

    • Carol Tice

      Right on. There’s an American concept of “It’s the thought that counts”…but really, it’s not. It’s the action. Just take action. Nobody has to know how you feel inside about it.

  4. Kevin Carlton

    Carol, like Kristy my upbringing was tough. Very tough.

    But unlike Kristy I DID let it get to me. And I was one of the laughing stocks in school.

    Then one day the penny dropped.

    I finally realised it wasn’t a lack of knowledge or ability that was holding me back. It was confidence.

    OK, you don’t become super-confident overnight. You have to practise at it.

    But what you do find, as you practise, is that you naturally learn to stop focusing on your weak points.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, I can only imagine how she felt inside, but the point was she didn’t show that to the world.

      Presenting a confident face to the world definitely does take practice! And I’d like ALL my readers to get on that. Because it seems to be the #1 thing holding people back from having the freelancing life they want.

  5. Katherine James

    *What are your weaknesses as a freelance writer?*

    Setting aside the time to write.

    I sometimes find myself becoming weighed down by all of the work that goes on around the fringes; from accounting, to emailing, to networking. I need to learn to outsource certain jobs out (like accounting for example).

    When I finally sit down to write, I can at times feel too mentally exhausted to even start. Thankfully, once I do start writing, I find it easy to continue.

    • Carol Tice

      For many years, I prioritized the morning for writing and did it first, and did marketing and other admin tasks later. Might be something to try, Katherine.

  6. Elke Feuer

    Love your friend’s story! Thanks for sharing it.

    My weakness is time. I have lots of ideas for articles, but I’m also writing a series, and have a full-time job. Life doesn’t slow down so I know I have to figure out how to work my schedule to fit it all in.

    My plan is to write one/submit one article a month to a local (I live in the Cayman Islands) magazine. I’ve done two so far. 🙂

  7. Nida Sea

    Great post! I sympathize with Kristy and her past situation, but her ability to remain confident, especially in high school is inspiring. I learned that confidence plays a big part in winning good and great writing projects.

    My most recent win was a $500 project for an About Page, Service Page, and two articles for a client. I was thrilled to receive such a project and I know my confidence on the phone with the client is what sold me.

    I never had such confidence before my writing venture, but now I wouldn’t want to be without it. I truly enjoyed this post!

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah…confidence. It’s what gets you dinner, as a freelance writer.

      That sounds like a low number to me for two web pages and two entire articles — so keep building that confidence and raising your rates!

  8. Nadia McDonald

    Carol this article was inspiring. I came from a underprivileged background where my father was absent. I couldn’t afford college. Instead, I had to work a minimum wage job and help support the family. I was writing from a little girl, and is about to embark on writing my first novel. I agree with the barefoot girl story, she didn’t allow her situation to dictate her progress in life. When I started my blog randomly, it was suspended because I went into it with zero knowledge and a blank in my head. I have learnt so much from Carol during the many weeks. I’ve known about freelancing for quit sometime, but I struggled because I had no on-line presence. Then I went on-line I discovered Carol and her training courses. Life is a journey of obstacles. In my experience, I get side-track or lose my concentration. Nevertheless, I dust off the rumbles of defeat and keep going!

    • D Kendra Franceso

      Nat King Cole (singer in the late 40s/50s) sang, “Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and start all over again.” Also, there’s that really old saying: Fall down 10 times, get up 11.

  9. Penny Hawes

    This is kind of like a 12 step program:
    I’m Penny and I only have two semesters of college (which I did when I was in my 40s). I’m a horse trainer and riding instructor.

    My first step in getting past these “weaknesses” is to own them. Yup, I didn’t graduate college, but my father never even attended, and he was one of the most intelligent people I ever had the honor to know.

    My second step is to know that I have value to offer so many people. Am I likely to be the next Darren Rowse, Mary Jaksh (or Carol Tice 😉 ? Nope. But you know what? They’ll never be me either. I have a unique voice, a great sense of humor and wonderful people skills.

    I haven’t come up with the other 10 steps yet; because, quite honestly, I don’t need them. I’m fine where I am.

    Caveat – I’m 55 years old. This attitude and acceptance did not happen overnight, and it didn’t magically appear. For those who need 10 more steps – I’d love to hear what you come up with! (Sorry Carol, hope I’m not hijacking your post!)

    • Carol Tice

      Not at all. I personally made it four semesters before dropping out.

      But you’re on the right track by realizing you’re uniqueness is what you’ve got. You know horses! See where it takes you.

      • Penny Hawes

        Thanks Carol. Since joining the Den, I’m pushing past my comfort zone. I write regularly for 2 regional pubs and have just queried a national magazine. I’m also now doing copywriting for a major competition and a major show venue. Loving it.

        • Carol Tice

          That’s awesome!

  10. Angela Gholston

    My biggest weakness was I always private, never wanted people in my personal business. But then at one of my lowest points in my life, I begin to write about everything I had been through & all the things that I was ashamed of. I decided to let it all hangout. I touched so many people with my testimony, that I continued to write. Now I am writing a book. I never imagined that I could take my pain and help heal others.

  11. D Kendra Franceso

    My weakness? Lack of follow-through.

    I make goals and plans, and then don’t do them. When it comes time to get them started, I balk and procrastinate, claim fatigue or feel ill, sleep all day, or get distracted by an art project best left for evenings. Sometimes I wait too long and the opportunity goes away. Sometimes I shrug it off, sometimes I beat myself up over it. You’d think I’d learn, right? The next time I get another opportunity, I might or might not follow through on that one!

    Which is why I have an accountability buddy. Via email (we live in different states), we tell each other what we’ve accomplished, what our next goals are. We give each other lifts and lectures. Knowing that I have to make good or look bad to her (and by extension, to myself), I tend to do more now than I used to. I’m still not following through on everything, but I’m doing much better than I was.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m a huge fan of having an accountability buddy, Kendra — one reason why we have a forum to facilitate that in the Den!

      • D Kendra Franceso

        🙂 That’s where I found her, in the Den.

  12. Edie Dykeman

    Good points to consider. There is nothing wrong with taking courses from others who have the knowledge and experience that a new writer needs. Finding a mentor doesn’t hurt either.

  13. Hemu

    i don’t what is holding me back, i think its lack of confidence in me or i have no degree, being a college dropout. See I really don’t know, but like you say its time to hold your head up high and act like those things never happened. thanks for sharing such wonderful story.

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