Be a Writer, Not a Waiter

Carol Tice

Don't Wait for Freelance Writing SuccessI have a writer friend I’ve stayed in touch with over many years. We recently met for lunch and caught up on who we’re writing for these days. She’s always struggled to earn as much as she needed to support her family, and our lunch reminded me of why.

She rattled off a list of very interesting prospective projects that seemed to be waiting in the wings. Some were potentially very lucrative.

The problem? I’d heard about many of these same projects months back. She was still in a holding pattern, waiting for them to materialize. In the meanwhile, she hadn’t earned much.

“I’m still waiting to hear,” she told me of many of the projects.

Which reminded me of one of my rules of earning well as a freelance writer: Be a writer, not a waiter.

My mentees bring this home to me as well. Often, they’ll get a nibble from a prospective client or editor…and then…paralysis. Weeks of waiting. And maybe that nibble turns into a client…but often, it doesn’t. Personally, I got four really awesome-sounding emails from four different, new possible copywriting clients late last week. I was kinda stoked! And then Monday came, and none of them got back to me. This happens — it’s just a reality of life as a freelance writer. There’s a lotta flakes out there.

To avoid wasting time on prospects that don’t pan out, here are my rules for coping with prospective projects that aren’t confirmed yet:

Don’t get excited about them.

Don’t “leave room” on your schedule for them.

Don’t stop marketing your business.

Don’t turn down other firm assignments, even if they’re not as good as the nibble.

Don’t expect them to pan out.

In my experience, many businesses that explore copywriting don’t ever end up doing their projects. Editors who make vague noises of interest but never translate that into an actual assignment are also not uncommon. So don’t get your hopes up prematurely, as it can put you into a deadly waiting game that costs you big money. This way, if a new client actually inks a deal with you, it’s an exciting and pleasant surprise — as opposed to the disaster that occurs when you pencil in a chunk of pay and mentally count it as income you expect this month…and then it gets delayed, or never happens.

When you have a signed contract, a confirmed assignment, and/or a deposit check in hand, then put the article or copywriting project on your calendar and consider it a “go.” Until then, remember — writers earn from writing, not from waiting.

Photo via Flickr user batega


  1. Toni Star

    Excellent points! Like some, I’ve learned the hard way but now I don’t wait a “mini-second.” I move on!



  1. Torrey - ... This article may perhaps be pointed out on Twitter by somebody. really?...

Related Posts

You CAN Write a Query Letter That Gets a “Yes”: 5 Resources

Freelance writer getting a gig after learning to write a query letter.

Love them or hate them, queries are one of the most important marketing tools for any freelancer who wants to write for magazines. And the skills you learn from writing a good query letter also help business writers and copywriters pitch their potential clients.

If you’ve been sending queries off into space and never getting a reply, you may think it’s impossible to break into new magazines. But it’s not true! Editors are always looking for new talent.

To help you learn to write a query letter that will get you the gig, we’ve pulled together a collection of five of our best posts on pitching:

Can’t Write? Try These 9 Ideas for Writing Motivation

It’s the bane of every freelance writer’s life: You know you need to sit yourself down and get some writing done, but nothing happens. The writing motivation just isn’t there. Sometimes, you can't even make yourself sit down with the computer -- even if you...