Freelance Writing Fears: A Writer’s Doubt-Filled Path to Success


Freelance Writing Fears and the Path to Success. Makealivingwriting.comWhat freelance writing fears are holding you back?

If you’ve struggled to get started or you’ve been writing for a while but plagued by self-doubt, you’re not alone.

Every freelance writer, from the newbie to the pro, battles their own freelance writing doubts and fears.

I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. And even after plenty of freelance writing wins, fear is always there waiting to strike, wear you down, fill you with doubt, and bump you off the path to success, if you let it.

That might sound like a lot of gloom and doom. But you can actually turn your freelance writing fears into a catalyst for change.

When I made the switch to looking at fear, doubt, and the journey into the unknown as a freelance writer as an adventure, things started to change.

Want to learn how to use fear to your advantage? Here’s the path to freelance writing success:

Tap into the benefits of fear for freelance writing success

Have you ever felt overwhelmed, excited, and nauseous all at once trying to kickstart your freelance writing career, send a pitch letter, or introduce yourself at an in-person networking event?

That’s fear my friend. And believe it or not, you can use it to your benefit to achieve your freelance writing goals.

So, how do you learn to push past your freelance writing fears, and propel yourself forward? What if you’re not a risk taker, and you like to play it safe?

I’m the same way. But when I decided I was sick of fear holding me back, I found the path to freelance success. Here are some ways to use fear to help you get ahead:

Recognize the difference: Gut instinct vs. fear

The first thing that you need to do is really analyze those feelings that you associate with fear. Try and spot the difference. Is it fear or your gut instinct ringing alarm bells?

I’d like to say I can distinguish freelance writing fears from my gut instincts every time, but sometimes it’s tough when you’re dealing with the unknown.

By “the unknown,” I mean a situation that is new to you, and you don’t readily know the outcome, like when you:

  • Send your first query letter or letter of introduction
  • Attend an in-person networking event
  • Answer the phone for your first client-call
  • Submit your first assignment, and wonder how the editor will respond
  • Post something on social media and link to your writer website/portfolio

Everyone one of these common freelance writing activities can trigger the fear response. Fight or flight? Do you back up and run away? Or do you push forward?

Freelance writer Linda Formichelli puts it this way: Punch fear in the face and do it anyway.

Afraid to start? Stop making excuses

One of the biggest fears freelance writers face is simply the fear to start.  It’s terrifying to put yourself and your writing out there for everyone to see.

Believe me, I know what it’s like. I used every possible excuse in the book:

  • I need to take more classes to get better at writing.
  • Nobody will read what I’ve written.
  • I can’t add anything new to my chosen niche that hasn’t already been published.
  • I don’t know enough about X to get any clients.
  • I don’t have a college degree, so I’ll never land a gig.
  • I’m too young. I’m too old.
  • I don’t know anything about running a business.
  • I’ll never be able to make enough money from freelance writing to quit my day job.
  • I’ve never written a query letter, pitch letter, or letter of introduction before
  • I don’t know anything about blogging, social media, or search engine optimization
  • I’m a fraud or imposter. I don’t really have any experience, and clients are going to find out.

Sound familiar? There’s no end the the excuses you can dream up. And that’s all they are…excuses. Trust me, you have something unique to share that no one else has. No one has traveled your path. Stop being afraid. Stop making excuses. You can do this.

Push past freelance fears with a list of pros and cons

You’re probably rolling your eyes. Make a pros and cons list?

It might be old-fashioned. But trust me, it’s a simple strategy that works. Use it to sort everything out, and get past your freelance writing fears. Here’s how it works:

  • List the benefits (pros) you stand to gain if you pursue a specific freelance opportunity.
  • List the negative aspects (cons) of the same activity.
  • Compare your lists.
  • Then make a decision based on the information.

Stuck on whether you should attend that in-person networking event or pitch your dream client? Make a list of pros and cons. Just seeing a list like this usually helps illuminate the right decision.

Note: I’ve used this tactic a few times with great outcomes when fear threatened to overwhelm me. Think about it like this: “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I send that pitch? They’ll just say no right?”

It’s not as scary as you think.

Take action to get results

You might be afraid to get started, call yourself a freelance writer, or pitch bigger clients to move up and earn more. But if you’re serious about freelance writing success, sometimes you just to jump in and go for it.

Some of my greatest opportunities as a freelance writer have presented this way, and if I’d given in to fear, I wouldn’t be the writer that I am today.

Here’s an example:

One of my first terrific long-term clients came from a job advertisement on Indeed. I talked them into hiring me saying that they wouldn’t regret it, even though I didn’t have the experience.

They hired me. And each time they gave me a different assignment that I’d never done before, I was scared. I wanted to say, “I can’t do it! I don’t know how!”

But I didn’t let that fear stop me. Instead, I dug into each assignment, researched the topic extensively, and ultimate wrote copy the client loved. They client gave me more and more assignments, and it was all because I decided to push past fear and jump in.”

Freelance writing success is on the other side of fear

The more I pushed through fear as a freelance writer, the more I began to see that the rewards outweigh the risks.

If you’re not acknowledging your fear and, then pushing through it, you’re probably missing out on some incredible freelance writing opportunities. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

Take that first step into the unknown, and you’ll be amazed at the doors that open.

What fears are holding you back from freelance success? Leave a comment below, and let’s discuss.

Heather Ritchie writes about security, law enforcement, and the freelance life. She’s also a book connoisseur and likes to try new recipes.

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  1. kian northcote

    Great post, Heather.
    I’m a newbie currently setting up a website and trying to develop enough content so that when I go live with my site I will, ya know, have something to share. But I also think I’m a little afraid of sharing what I already have on Twitter and such like – so I write another blog post and think I’ll share it when I’m ready. Probably not the best strategy! Oh yeah, as someone one who is working on this at the moment, your website looks great.

    • Heather Ritchie

      Thanks, Kian! I love your name by the way. I feel the same way at times when I was starting and still do at times. My brain says people will think what I’ve written is stupid or silly. I’m always surprised at the great responses I get, so I encourage you to share what you’ve written! People are so much more supportive than we think. If you have those butterflies in your stomach about doing something new, then that’s good. JUMP IN! Those can be our best successes, and if something doesn’t work well that’s just added intelligence to help us do things differently the next time. Also, someone great once told me, keep a copy of nice things people have said about your writing somewhere you can refer to it easily. That way when you’re having a bad day you can look back at it and say “Hey, I’ve got this!” I’m sure your work is amazing. Keep on plugging along!

  2. Anita Anderson

    Wow, brilliant post. Even after 18 years of developing sites and content…doubts can ensue. But I’ve learned to take the challenges and let them make me a better web designer / content writer.

    • Heather Ritchie

      Why thank you, Anita! It’s just proof that everyone faces fear at some point in time, even the most experienced freelancers! To grow we must all face new challenges and the fear that comes with the unknown. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be the people that we are today, right?!

  3. Jen

    Great post. Thanks Heather

    • Heather Ritchie

      Thank you very much, Jen!

  4. Maria Veres

    Thanks for the inspiration, Heather. I think we never completely get over being scared. We just learn how to move forward in spite of the fear. Some things that used to terrify me are just part of a normal day’s work now.

    • Heather Ritchie

      It’s amazing how we sometimes don’t give ourselves enough credit, but when we look back 6 months, we realize how much we’ve learned. Thanks, Maria!

  5. Mary

    This is very true. When I started as a freelance writer, I believed I knew nothing. But I kept on reading every blog that offered advice and just jumped in. I didn’t know what to do in my first assignment, but I researched well, joined new groups and online courses and it has been really great. Carol Tice’s blogs and Freelance Den has helped me a lot.

    • Heather Ritchie

      Awesome! I agree that Freelance Den and Carol’s blog were extremely helpful. The best thing to do is to jump in with both feet and if you don’t know it, learn it. There is so much free information out there so everyone should take advantage of it. Research saved me that’s for sure!

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