Grow Your Writing Income Next Year by Making This Key Change Now

Carol Tice

Plant in dried cracked mudAs the year winds down, do your thoughts turn to your writing goals for the coming year? I know mine do.

Now’s the time to lay the groundwork to earn more in the months ahead.

But it’s also a busy time for many of us — there’s shopping, travel, vacationing, kids at home, visiting, decorating the house, and more.

Still, there’s one change you can begin making right now that I promise you will set the stage for a more lucrative freelance New Year. This will take a minute a day, tops.

It involves taking quick action to eliminate the single biggest problem freelance writers face.

Do you know where that massive stumbling block is located? Well, go to a mirror and take a look at your head.

In my experience, the top problem freelance writers face is right there, between your ears.

Here’s what needs to be different

The biggest thing that needs to change to grow your writing income is your attitude.

We fill our heads with “that’s too hard” and “I’m scared” thoughts, and then we don’t get paying gigs.

So this coming week, focus on changing how you view yourself as a freelance writer. Pop out that negative self-talk tape you’re playing, and write a new one to use for 2015. Yes, I do recommend you physically write it down.

Depending on what you’re struggling with, your attitude change might include:

Whatever aspect of your attitude needs adjusting, now’s the time to start thinking differently. It takes time to change our thought patterns — and its not easy.

Give yourself a few weeks to build your confidence now. Repeat your new attitude statements daily, and you’ll roll into 2015 ready to go after better-paying gigs.

What’s your new, improved attitude for next year? Leave a comment and share it.

Freelance Writers Den


  1. Shahrukh

    Simple and precise, you were right on target carol. This is one article i will keep on my favorites list for sure. I appreciate this ‘kick in the back’, many writers including me need it.

    Thanks again for behaving like a mother to all of us. I’ve been procrastinating for some time but now i am aiming to change for sure.

  2. Dwayne Phillips

    Changing your writing attitude can make a big difference. This may sound like petty little advice that you give to a ten-year-old kid, but it isn’t. The most good that comes from writer’s groups and writing seminars and such is that someone reads something they wrote and instead of people laughing they say something like, “I liked that. Read some more of your writing.” The thought hits the previously scorned writer that s/he isn’t a (fill in the blank with a terrible word). There are actually people who enjoy the writer’s words. The writer’s attitude changes, and with it the entire outlook on life.

    • Carol Tice

      The attitude is everything. All the thoughts like “I don’t know enough to…X” or “I’m not ready to write X” messages writers give themselves are the principal problem. “I can’t do X because the economy is bad/I live in a small town/I’m too old/too young/not sure if my writing is good enough…”

      This is the #1 problem writers have in earning a living.

  3. Michele

    Thanks for the article! I am already planning my goals because I need to be successful.

  4. Otiti

    My new attitude is that I can make a living solely from copywriting. I’ve been dabbling in it for half the year, and now I’m ready to explore it full-time. I’m also reminding myself that I have all I need to figure it out at this point and I don’t have to know every single step beforehand. It’s enough to do some groundwork, be intentional about my work, and just put myself out there. Every gig is valuable experiential learning, and every word I write reaffirms that I CAN do this.

    • Carol Tice

      What I’ve learned is *nothing* will happen without that basic belief — that you CAN do it. That’s what needs to change, for so many writers.

  5. Michelle

    This post ties in nicely with my goals for 2015 – to break out of writing for what are basically content mills and use my skills to earn the income (and respect) I deserve. I love that you included a step-by-step process to make it happen. I knew what I wanted to do, but didn’t have an exact plan for how I was going to execute it. The steps you’ve given are great.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, it’s really just one step — change your self-talk and your self-concept. This is one of those careers where if you think you can do it, you can.

  6. Homjong

    Thank you so much for your inspiring article. I find this right article at right time. I’ve really stuck up in my assignments since signing up in writers bureau course. I can’t find any good idea to write on, or don’t find enough content to fill the required word length.I think I need to take article writing course to boost up confidence. Please keep on guiding newbies like me.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Homjong — if you want to learn about article writing, I teach an Article Writing Masterclass that’s starting in January — feel free to check that out. We cover developing story ideas, conducting interviews, finding reliable research data, and much more. You’ll never be stuck without story ideas after you take our trainings.

  7. Marte Cliff

    Perfect advice for those who want to write and haven’t found the courage.

  8. Williesha

    Finally found a planning system I’m happy about. Will go back and re-read the posts you linked. Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      So…what’s the planning system you’re happy with? I think my planning system is…sitting down with myself twice a year to review what I’m doing, who I’m writing for, and who I should drop, and what types of clients I want to pursue. That’s about it. 😉

  9. Penny Hawes

    What needs to be different? I need to pull a Nike and “Just do it”.

    I wondered if I could get published in national horse magazines – so I pitched some and got published. I love to blog, but hardly ever did it because I was afraid of not doing it “right”. Then Carol asked me to write a guest post for Make a Living Writing. Surprise – it came out pretty well.

    Never entered a writing competition, but I was really interested in Jon Morrow’s Serious Bloggers Only Best Post of 2014 Competition; so I sent in a post – and won Highly Commended (3rd Place) in Most Personality Category. Jon said “you could imagine it as the opening monologue from a one-woman off-Broadway play.” (I swear I’m going to get that tattooed somewhere…)

    I hit a lot of milestones in 2014, but financially, I’m still missing my mark. So, I’m focusing more on marketing, with concrete action goals over which I have control (i.e. “I will send XX number of LOIs or queries”, not “I will get published in O Magazine).

    With my eye on my goals and my fingers on the keyboard, bring on 2015!

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds good Penny — and glad to find you here! Hope you’re feeling better.

  10. Eva

    Well said.

  11. Karen J

    Oh, I agree, Michelle!
    Best of luck to you with your clarified goals for 2015. 🙂

  12. Karen J

    Carol ~ I agree with Michelle – seeing the micro-steps you’ve listed are certainly key to me getting my head around “change your attitude”.

    And those steps apply for anyone participating in any aspect of Life, not only writing-for-pay.
    Thank you, and Bright Holiday Blessings (of all flavors) to you and yours!

    • Carol Tice

      Good point! If you’re playing negative self-talk tapes in any aspect of your life…time to swap them out. I don’t know why writers tend to do this to themselves…but New Year’s resolution: Let’s all stop it!

  13. Rob S

    YEP! I just wrote a blog about 2 pre-Christmas writing assignments. The first was in 2008, when I made about $800 in December. The second was this year, when I made nearly $6000. It took an equal amount of effort. The difference was getting out of bidding sites and learning how much you really should be asking for your work.

    • Carol Tice

      Love that story, Rob! The right type of clients really make such a huge difference to your income.

  14. Marissa Richardson

    I agree Carol. For the past few months, I’ve been so busy putting my website together that I haven’t been writing much. Now that my website is pretty much done and I’m looking to guest post, I find it hard to get the courage to pitch again.

    What do you do when the submission requirements are pretty steep? Do you have an arsenal of blogs/websites you pitch to so that the long-term publications are off set by income from quicker published posts? I don’t have a set up like that yet. I’m open to suggestions though. Thanks for the helpful post.


    • Carol Tice

      Marissa, I’ve almost always had a stable of ongoing work from clients — for instance, I blogged for Entrepreneur for over 3 years, and have now been with Forbes for nearly as long. I had one insurance consultancy I wrote for for 2.5 years, every month.

      Be thinking about what sorts of clients you could pitch who would have ongoing work for you. That’s another great key mindset change to make for the New Year. Everything you pitch shouldn’t be one-off work. It’s hard to build your income that way.

      As far as pitching, when I get in pitch mode I try to send out many queries in a blast, so that hopefully at least one of them pays off.

      When “submission requirements are pretty steep”…I just send my query anyway. 😉

  15. Nicole

    Thank you for this! I often worried that without an MFA, or English degree, that I’m unqualified to write for businesses (even though I’ve had great results, and almost all of my clients are referral-based).

    I’m definitely going to sit down and write out my 2015 writing goals as you suggested. Thanks again, and have a very cozy Holiday!

    • Carol Tice

      Nicole, you may know I have no degree whatsoever — I dropped out of college after 2 years to be a starving songwriter. And…I was a staff writer for a business journal for nearly 7 years!

      This whole “I’m unqualified” problem…there is only one qualification for freelance writing: You can do the writing. It’s on the page, or it isn’t. Nobody cares how you learned it, they just want to read your clips and see if they like how you write. That’s it.

      And by the way, I’ve edited the work of some of those MFA grads, and many couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag. That’s why degrees aren’t that valuable — what they teach in those programs isn’t all that relevant to paid nonfiction freelance writing, anyway.

  16. Bonnie Nicholls

    I learned so much this year, my first year of full-time freelancing. And it’s only made me stronger, which helps my attitude. I think everything Carol said I would experience as a new freelancer has happened and it hasn’t killed me. This will fuel what I do next year:

    * Send more LOIs to companies that I think I’m a good fit for.
    * Always use some type of letter of agreement.
    * Don’t work for pennies. Work for places where I either feel valued or I’m learning something new (the second one is the only reason I will work for slightly less)
    * Feel the fear and do it anyway.
    * Listen to my gut.

    The other day, I learned about a neighbor who does erotic light fixtures. I thought there’s got to be a story in there, but for whom? My husband said, “Maxim?” Nah, there’s no way they’d take a story from me. But wait. Why not? That’s part of the battle. You just have to give it a shot. Because eventually, someone will say yes.

    • Carol Tice

      I love your attitude, Bonnie! Maybe you should email me a headline and pitch me a ‘how I survived my first year as a freelance writer’ post for the blog here?

      And…erotic light fixtures? Definitely pitch that around! There are lighting trade-pubs, too. 😉

  17. Dawn Roberts

    Thanks for this advice, your articles are always helpful because they give real practical tips that work. Much appreciated Carol.



  18. Karen J

    LOL, Carol: “…grads [who] can’t write their way out of a paper bag”!
    The American higher education system is not really set up anymore for “educating” so much as “training”: creating more cogs, rather than independent thinkers and doers. (rant hat off, now)

    Thank you for constantly counter-educating them (us)!

    • Carol Tice

      I’d say it’s not even training — appears to be an ivory-tower exercise in the writing programs, that only leads to teaching, not doing.

  19. Katherine Swarts

    Thanks!! I had already decided to make that specific mindset change: no more applying for one-time jobs until I get a couple of solid “ongoing” clients.

    I think one of the biggest problems faced by writers–most of us are perfectionists at heart, which is a help when proofreading but makes us overly vulnerable to beating ourselves up–is that when we’re still in the low-income stage, we hate to leave ANY possibility unapplied to. Some writers have in fact gotten off to a running start through the “cold-call blitz” approach; but to others, it can mean getting more concerned with getting out as many pitches as possible than making any one pitch worth reading–or even becoming one of those queries that editors hold up as bad examples cf.

  20. Willi Morris

    I work with a really super lady named Amber McCue with NiceOps. She encourages yearly plans but also break down goals for every 90 days. Makes the process less overwhelming and open for flexibility.

  21. Christy

    Changing your attitude and self-perception is the key to success. I recommend the book “Fish” by Stephen C Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen to inspire the positive change.

  22. Gina Horkey

    Attitude is huge! As I start 2015 off as a full-time freelancer mine needs to be on point. Thanks for the friendly reminder!

  23. Kinya

    “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

    I love this saying. It shows just how your thinking and attitude can impact you directly.

    I took your J-School class this year to learn new skills. It has opened so many new doors for me. I’m so grateful to both you and Linda for the classes you hold for writers like me. They give us the skills we need to keep going in this ever-changing career.

    Writers, I was once where you are now. I doubted myself. But then, someone said to me “What have you got to lose by trying it? Will you be any worse off than you are now?” That’s been my philosophy ever since then.

    You can do it. Don’t hold yourself back. You deserve the best.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for sharing how much J-School helped you, Kinya! I love that saying you led off with. So true!

      One of my favorite Dear Abby columns ever was from a man who wrote in to say he’d always wanted to be a doctor, but now he was 50, so he’d be nearly 60 when he got out of medical school. He felt like there was no point trying it now because it was ‘too late.’

      Abby’s reply: “And how old will you be in 7 years if you *don’t* go to medical school?”

      Exactly. This is your one life. Why not go for it?

  24. Karen J

    Yes! Yes! Carol – “And how old will you be then if you *don’t* try it?”
    My favorite Dear Abby story, too!

    Cheers to all, for delightful Winter Holidays of your choice!

  25. Katherine Swarts

    One attitude issue that’s closely related to the “#1 problem,” and which I still struggle with, is the “entitlement” syndrome which is always searching for some expert to tell you *exactly* to do it–personal guidance complete with a 100% guarantee of a clear and obvious path to success. This syndrome is common among those who fear uncertainty and personal responsibility, and who are unwilling to accept that no path to success is without its stumbles and setbacks, or that the law of individual uniqueness precludes any path to success that involves following somebody else’s instructions–or copying anyone else–to perfection.

    Common symptoms of entitlement syndrome include:

    -Giving up within a few weeks when a widely recommended system fails to “work” (i. e., show obvious profit and progress) immediately.

    -Spending more time reading self-help books, attending business seminars, participating in work-oriented social-media discussions, etc., than in marketing and related essentials.

    -Feelings of bitterness, whether openly expressed or kept locked inside, toward others who “won’t give you the help you need” and toward life/fate/God for not making you the type of person for whom things “work.”

    -An unwillingness to believe in, or even know, yourself because you don’t “look like” [in background or obvious talents] the people who come to your mind with the word “success.”

    If you catch yourself exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s time for a self-evaluation that focuses on your good points!

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, those are a whole mess of toxic thoughts there, Katherine!

      But this is why I so often find myself answering, “That depends” when people ask me how they can be a successful freelance writer. This is a career where success is relative, and is highly individualized based on what you know, and what types of writing you want to do, and how aggressively you’re willing to market yourself.

      It’s definitely a trial-and-error process. This is what’s different from having a job. Serial entrepreneurs talk a lot about failing forward, and failing fast, so they can quickly iterate and find what works for them. Freelancers need the same attitude.

      This isn’t a career someone can hand you on a plate — you have to go out and hack your own path through the brush. Yes, I can give you some directions, and maybe steer you away from some known swampy areas. But ultimately, it’s your machete.

  26. Karen J

    I think nearly *everyone* has an inclination toward the negative self-talk, no matter what life-niches they hang out in!

  27. Karen J

    There’s a world of difference between “knowing that your brain needs a clear step-by-step, rather than just general platitudes” and “expecting that you’ll never fail because you followed somebody’s step-by-step”.

    Making the unwarranted leap from one to the next (because I (one), I must also (two), there, is a good example of the negative self-talk (or other-talk) that trips us up so easily.

  28. Nathan Ambrose

    Hi Carol.

    This is exactly what I needed!

    Although I know what I’m capable of, I’ve always held myself back. Lately, I’ve taken time to step back and re-evaluate everything, from my objectives to the articles that I want to write. And now, even as I rebuild my website, I’m doubting myself for no valid reason.

    But as with every step of progress in life, it’s down to me to just face reality and deal with it. This has been a good reminder for me to stay focused.

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve bookmarked this!


  29. Jerry Nelson

    Great tips! I’ve been using these for years for one simple reason — THEY WORK!


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