Punch Fear in the Face: 9 Confidence Boosters for Freelance Writers

Evan Jensen

Freelance Writers: Punch Up Your Confidence Level. Makealivingwriting.comAre you one of those freelance writers with a confidence problem?

You know…you think about pitching businesses and magazines, but you don’t actually do it, because you think you’re not good enough.

Or maybe you get a bite from a prospect, and then take forever to reply or book a call, because you’re afraid you’ll screw it all up.

Or maybe you’re stuck comparing yourself to other freelance writers who appear to be smarter, more creative, more successful.

Sound familiar?

If you’ve ever felt this way as a freelance writer, you’re not alone. But you’ll never achieve your freelance writing goals if you let fear and lack of confidence hold you back.

The truth is, even the most successful freelance writers have doubts, fears, and frustrations. But they know how to fight back, stay productive, and keep moving forward.

Ready to punch fear in the face, and give your freelance writing career a boost? Here’s how it’s done…

Meet the fearless freelancer Linda Formichelli

Linda Formichelli

Linda Formichelli is one of those fearless freelance writers who’s been writing for magazines and businesses for 20-plus years.

Sure, she’s had her fair share of ups and downs like a lot of freelance writers. But that hasn’t stopped her from a successful freelance career. Her work includes:

We recently caught up with Linda for a Freelance Writers Den podcast to find how to punch up your confidence level to be a more successful freelance writer.

Q1: How do you stay positive when freelancing gets hard?

Linda: Keep a brag file, and read it when you need it. When we’re feeling under-confident or even just kind of down and depressed, we tend to remember all the negative things that have happened to us. We forget all the positive things, and it causes this sort of downward spiral that keeps us stuck.

Q2: How do you organize a freelance writer’s brag file?

Linda: I keep a folder in my Gmail where I put every email from someone who compliments me. Mine has 420-something emails in it from editors and clients, my friends, even from my husband. When I’m feeling like I need a shot of confidence, I can look through a few of them. And pretty soon, I’m thinking:

“I remember this. You know what? I did something really cool. Somebody really liked this. I’m not a total loser.”

You could also blog or journal about your successes, compliments, or completed writing projects like your blog post that went viral, or your query letter that landed a dream assignment.

Every freelance writer should document their successes. Because, believe me, when you’re feeling fearful or down, or something negative happens, you are going to forget even the biggest positive events in your career. Reading your brag file can give you a shot of confidence to keep going.

Q3: What kind of mindset shift should freelancers make to boost confidence?

Linda: Remember, it’s not all about you. We tend to think the world sort of revolves around us. And when we get a rejection or a negative response from an editor or a client, we tend to translate that automatically into, “I suck.” But the truth is it’s almost always not about you.

Q4: How do you handle rejection or criticism from an editor?

Linda: Think about it like this. If an editor emails you and it sounds snippy, it’s probably not something you did. It’s more likely she had a fight with her kid, or didn’t get her coffee that morning, or didn’t get a lot of sleep.

  • If you get a rejection, it’s not usually because something you turned in really stinks. It’s usually because the magazine is going through a revamp, they fired all their editorial staff, or they don’t have any room in the issue it would be good for.

So the next time you feel too afraid to send your work, because you’re worried about what the editor will think, you need to remember she’s not thinking about you. She’s thinking about herself like everybody else. And when it comes to rejection, you need to remember there are a lot of reasons  for a rejection that have nothing to do with you at all.

Q5: What do you suggest if you’re always worried about making writing mistakes?

Linda: Try this. Purposely send out something with a typo in it. So many writers are afraid to get their work out there, because they’re worried they’ll make a mistake. But it just doesn’t matter that much.

You’ll start to realize how insignificant your small mistakes are. You can send an email out with a typo in it, and you’ll most likely hear nothing about it. Making small mistakes on purpose like this inoculates you against the fear of doing something wrong. It’s kind of freeing to realize a typo isn’t going to be a career killer.

Q6: Does the fake-it-till-you-make-it strategy work for freelance writers?

Linda: I know it sounds like a cliché, but it works. You don’t act the way you feel, you feel the way you act. So if you act like a confident writer, then the feeling will follow.

  • Imagine you’re not afraid of anything. What would you do differently in your writing career? You might send more queries, call more prospects, or negotiate better contracts. You’re going to feel fear, but if you do it anyway,  your confidence will naturally rise.
  • If you have trouble imagining what you do without fear, then ask yourself: What would a confident pro writer do? Shrink from writing a query or hit send and move on to another project? When you act like a pro writer, even though you’re afraid, your mind starts to realize things often end up in a positive way, and you’ll naturally lose your fear.

Q7: How do you get over the fear of in-person networking?

Linda: Freelance writers tend to be introverts. The idea of actually talking in person to someone who has the power to hire us is kind of scarey. So, a great way to get over your jitters before doing in-person networking is to practice with a friend. Ask a friend to spend some time with you in person and do some run-throughs.

  • Practice your elevator speech.
  • Get a few icebreakers ready.
  • Prepare a handful of questions to get people to talk about themselves.
  • Practice your handshake and body language.

Q8: What are you still scared of as a freelance writer?

Linda: I still get nervous before interviews, and I’ve done I don’t know how many interviews. I’ve written for 150 magazines, multiple times each, multiple interviews for each one. You’d think I would have gotten over it by now after all these years, but no.

Q9: What should you do if fear of failure and perfectionism is holding you back?

Linda: There’s no right way to do anything in writing or in anything else. It’s so subjective. If you are somewhere in the range of normal you are doing fine. If you’re not writing your pitches in crayon, and you’re not calling editors 20 times a day, you’re good. As long as what you’re doing is somewhere in that range of being not crazy, then your freelance career is going to be fine.

There’s not one one way to write a query letter or get work. A lot of writers think there is, and when they can’t figure it out, they don’t do anything at all. If the fear of not doing it right, or not knowing how to do it right is keeping you from putting your work out there, you need to stop that and just go for it.

Freelance confidence booster: Feel your fear and do it anyway

If you’ve been struggling with low-self confidence about your freelance writing career, get anxious about pitching editors, or worry you’re going to make mistakes, that’s perfectly normal. Even pro freelance writers with years of experience feel that way from time to time.

The secret to freelance writing success: Feel your fear. Punch it in the face, and do it anyway. You got this!

Need help improving confidence for freelance writing? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.

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  1. Tanya Scherschel

    Wish I had known about the brag file earlier. What a great idea!

    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Tanya,

      It’s a total confidence booster, especially when you’re feeling doubt or fear blocking your way. Pull together some of your best clips so far, and go from there.

    • Dave Brennan

      Great article! I have done content writing for some companies and I have a Fiverr page, but I am always seeking more work. I currently have a full-time career and have been thinking of doing some freelance writing as a second income. I was thinking of reaching out to some area businesses to see if they have a need for my services. Would you have any advice?

    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Dave,
      Reaching out to businesses in your area can be a great way to market yourself, get some writing samples, and network to connect with more potential clients. Keep going.

  2. Jeannie Michael

    I am always so grateful when a ‘pro’ – a successful and established pro in this line of work – takes the time and thought to reach a helping hand out and suggest real, workable ways to overcome all that fear of failure!
    Thank you, Linda!

    • Evan Jensen

      Great advice in this post from Linda. Really appreciate her candid answer to “what are you afraid of?” Interesting that it’s interviews, even though she’s probably conducted thousands. Feel the fear, and do it anyway. It’s one reason she’s been so successful as a freelancer.

  3. Rebecca Henderson

    Rather interesting that your post suggests including typos into pitches deliberately when the Make a Living Writing writer’s guidelines state: “For instance, I’d say well over half the pitches we get have obvious grammar errors, or are on a topic that we don’t cover on this blog. Don’t be that writer.” Why encourage writers to self-sabotage then? It seems like a highly hypocritical statement to support.

    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Rebecca,
      If I get a solid pitch with a spelling error or a missing period, it’s by no means a dealbreaker. If the idea looks great for the blog, and the writer clearly knows English, I’ll consider it. But if the same minor mistakes appear in broken English or address topics that have nothing to do with the business and craft of freelance writing, it’s a fail every time. FYI – I’ve scored assignments from pitch letters that weren’t perfect.

      The real point is: So many writers get stuck worrying about sending the perfect pitch that they don’t send out anything. Or they send out like one query/pitch letter a month, and spend the rest of the time, waiting, worrying, or complaining they don’t have work.

      Honestly, you don’t have to write a perfect pitch letter. Of course you want it to be good. Do your best, send it out. Keep going. Don’t be a worrier or a waiter, be a writer.

    • Carol Tice

      Rebecca, the point is to challenge your perfectionism — certainly not to send an error-riddled pitch, but to see if you can send out a typo, to get over the fear that your pitch must be utterly perfect to be accepted.

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