The Freelance Writer's Definitive Compilation of Fear-Busting Tips - Make a Living Writing

The Freelance Writer’s Definitive Compilation of Fear-Busting Tips

Carol Tice | 21 Comments

Freelance writers can learn about marketing.

They can take classes on how to improve their writing.

But without one ingredient, the whole thing is going nowhere.

What is it?


If you don’t think you can do this, then it’s a non-starter.

If you’re scared to put yourself out there, then you won’t.

Or not enough to earn a living at this, anyway.

Freelancing simply requires hustle. You need to feel you have something valuable to offer, that people should pay money for.

When I did a bootcamp recently on breaking into freelance writing recently in Freelance Writers Den, writers told me the most important session of the four wasn’t the one on story ideas, or the one on how to write like a pro.

It was the one on how to build your confidence to actually get out there and get gigs.

I’ve done quite a few posts over the years about overcoming fear and gaining confidence, so I thought I’d turn them into a quick confidence-building course.

Here are more than a dozen posts that offer my best confidence-building tips for freelance writers from this blog (and one I did as a guest post, too):

How are you overcoming your freelance fears? Leave a comment and add your tips.




21 comments on “The Freelance Writer’s Definitive Compilation of Fear-Busting Tips

  1. Michael on

    As a stutterer and freelance writer, it is twice as hard for me to be self-confident especially when cold-calling or introducing myself to a potential client. I don’t let it stop me though because I know someday I’ll regret it if I don’t take action now.

    Life is too short not to do what you want to do. I try to live by that idea every day by stepping out of my comfort zone. It’s been difficult but very rewarding. I would encourage everyone to do the same!

    • Carol Tice on

      Not everybody has to make cold calls — as it happens, I never have. You might find email prospecting more your speed. Everyone has to find their own flavor.

      My own rabbi is a stutterer…so I can tell you the sky is still the limit!

  2. Jamie on

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks for a refreshingly helpful compilation.

    I think we start becoming afraid as soon as we stop writing and start thinking. We end up over analyzing our work from a third party perspective – who in our mind is a demonic critic who is just waiting to rip our papers to shreds and shout at us for wasting their time. For the newbies among us we need to spend more time writing, rewriting and submitting and stop wasting time with trying to read the minds of publishers.

    As you point out it is inspiring that in your own experience that writers troubles so often stem from a lack of confidence as opposed to their own ability. I take this as a real boost and that there really is nothing to fear so long as you keep trying your best until our becomes more of a habit than our worrying.


    • Carol Tice on

      I almost never find myself in a situation where I think a writer should be told the problem is they’re just not a good writer. It’s all about the confidence, and the willingness to take criticism and keep improving.

  3. Theresa on

    I’ve been freelancing for several decades in one form or another. Funny, I specialize in marketing (to a whole different crowd) and ghost writer “frequently.” You’d think I’d have this whole think and market outside-the-box down pat.

    Based on my current audience, they are thrilled. But everyone needs to grow or what’s the point…

    What I personally need to do is stop letting the day-to-day stuff get in the way. Self motivation to explore outside the realm of what I do now and expand my horizons.

    It’s strange, but my mind goes completely blank. I know I know a ton (and if not I know how to research), but weirdly when I think, “Okay pick a target and target,” that’s what stumps me. Suddenly I question everything about myself (other than what I’m currently doing and the clients I’m current doing for).

    Is it fear? Or that I need a good, swift kick in the butt? 🙂

    • Carol Tice on

      I don’t know. Maybe you’re just happy with what you’re doing. A lot of writers, when faced with having to actively market their business vs just making do with the money they’re able to bring in now, simply pick the latter. The pain of marketing isn’t worth the gain to you of better paying clients. When you hit the tipping point where you can’t stand where you are now, you start marketing.

  4. Richard Myers on

    I really don’t have confidence issues, due to the success I’ve experienced in the past, as a newspaper columnist and a freelancer. Whereas I have a fair amount of things published in the freelance arena, I have received only one rejection slip. That was for a satirical short story about Neil Bush and the Silverado Savings and Loan debacle. It was rejected due to bad timing on my part. The magazine editor said he would’ve used it, had I submitted it a year earlier. Not having written it at that point, it would have been somewhat impossible to submit. My problem is finding inspiration and how to market my future renderings. It would seem that much has changed since I last submitted anything for publication. I will be grateful and appreciative for any advice and criticism that comes my way.

  5. Megan Harris - on

    Great post! I just talked about fear on my blog this week! We must be on the same wavelength.

    You wrote, “Freelancing simply requires hustle. You need to feel you have something valuable to offer, that people should pay money for.” Spot on, Carol! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Fear is something that’s hard to overcome, but it’s not impossible.

  6. J. Delancy on

    Tiny steps is actually the name of a self-persuasion technique taught by Dr. BJ.Fogg. Consistently planned and executed small steps become habits, then both skill and confidence become embedded. I’m still getting used to the idea of writing everyday but with tiny steps, I plan to be richer from freelance writing next year than I was last year.

  7. Sophie Lizard on

    My little girl is the only fear-buster I need! She’s the reason I became a responsible adult, and the reason I pushed myself through the confidence barrier to succeed.

    If I ever feel less-than-confident about anything, I tell myself to set her a good example. Then I do what I think she would want me to do if she understood my work (she’s only two years old).

  8. Rob on

    In spite of all your good advice, the only way I’m overcoming my freelance fears is by taking a step-by-step approach. In the past, I really couldn’t afford to be picky, but as I started finding decent paying gigs, I started gaining confidence. Getting angry helped, too. When I discovered how badly I was being taking advantage of, I decided enough was enough. I’ve got to tell you, though, if I hadn’t stumbled across the Writers Den, I’d still be dubious about my online earning power and probably wouldn’t be upping the ante as much as I am now. On bidding sites, where most are offering $5 a post, $20 looks pretty good. It’s a terrible trap and I’m happy to have found my way out of it.

    • Carol Tice on

      With that mentee I was talking to yesterday, that’s exactly what I told her — you’re afraid because you’re letting it be overwhelming. You have to break it down into tiny steps: “This week, I am researching and finding 20 prospects and their contact info.”

      FYI I checked out your link — thanks for the review! But you might want to switch out your banner for a Den ‘reserve your seat’ one, as that 10 Obstacles class is over!

  9. Thomas on

    Good stuff.

    Here’s what I do boost my confidence and hopefully win contracts.

    1: Dazzle prespective clients with wriitng brilliance.
    2: Convince prespective clients that hiring me is a win-win endeavor.
    3: If all else fails. Bring a baseball bat to the next meeting-very results oriented I assure you.


    • Carol Tice on

      Results yes…but not sure they’d be the results I want!

      I’m always telling my family I need to get sleep, exercise, and be at my best…because clients expect Brilliant Carol. We always have to bring the awesome and be exceeding expectations to build our business.

  10. Will Bontrger on

    One of the keys for me was realizing my work really was valuable in other people’s perception.

    Software programming was so easy for me that it was hard for me to grasp that it is not easy for everybody; maybe not as easy as I found it but not hard, surely. All you gotta do is have a programming reference manual handy and write the software so it does what you want it to do.

    When I realized many people are flummoxed by software source code and some people simply do not have the time to learn or do their own, I understood what I did was *necessary* and thereafter had no problem asking for money.

    Now, I gotta get something similar going inside myself for the articles and book I’m writing.

    Can I interest you in … 🙂


    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Will —

      You’ve perfectly described my own feelings about writing. When I had a staff job here in Seattle, on payday they’d hand me my check and I’d say, “All this and a paycheck too!” I couldn’t get over that I could actually be paid to do something I found so fun and if not always easy, at least challenging in an exciting way.

      That’s how it feels when you find your right livelihood…it’s easy and fun to you, yet others think it’s amazing how you can do that.

      And I’d be one of those people paying you to go code stuff! Technology makes me cry. Yet for you, it’s a snap.

      That’s the beauty of being humans, and all having different gifts.

  11. Joyce on

    I totally agree with this post; confidence is everything for a successful writer. If you don’t risk rejection, you won’t get acceptance. I know there are other writers who are better than me, but I remind myself that I’m better than I used to be and I’ll be better in the future than I am now. Writing is a continual learning process and nobody has attained perfection. I also remind myself that there are clients that like my writing and others that prefer someone else’s.
    If I am feeling self-doubt, I ask myself why. If there is an area that I don’t feel particularly strong in, I take the steps to learn it. However, if I don’t have any valid fears, I tell myself to give it a try.

    • Carol Tice on

      Love your answer, Joyce.

      As it happens, I was doing a mentoring session yesterday with a writer who confessed she is paralyzed with fear about doing any marketing to build her business.

      I asked her what her fear was…what are you afraid will happen? That you’ll succeed? Fail? Be laughed at?

      And she couldn’t even tell me! Just general anxiety about nothing defined.

      I do feel sometimes, the fear is because we know in our gut we don’t know enough about an area. I keep designing courses like 4-Week Journalism School to try to plug some of those anxiety holes and help writers build confidence to go after the gigs they want.

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