If you want to learn how to be a freelance writer, what’s your game plan for bad days, self-doubt, and lack of motivation?
How’s your mindset? Optimistic or doomed to fail?
If you’re the latter (even once in a while), those little thoughts that cross your mind when you’re about to hit send, sign a contract, quote a project, or wonder if you can actually make money writing can wreak havoc.
- What if I’m not good enough?
- Should I charge this much?
- Can I really make a living writing?
- I’ll never be as good as her at writing.
When you’re hustling to learn how to be a freelance writer, there’s a good chance you work alone…in isolation…and your thoughts can make or break you.
Ever felt depressed, anxious, or fearful that you’ll fail as a freelance writer? Do those thoughts and limiting beliefs keep you from marketing, being creative, or making more money?
It happens. Just about everyone who’s traveled the path to learn how to be a freelance writer experiences some kind of struggle. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Ready for a mindset makeover for freelance success? Here’s what you need to know.
Create a mindset makeover with freelancer Katherine Tate
Katherine Tate started writing when she was young, picking up freelance assignments at the newspaper where her father worked in Australia. And she was in on SEO writing long before it became a sophisticated system controlled by algorithms influenced by billions of searches.
She’s carved out a successful career as a copywriter, but not without struggling with depression and anxiety. Her own path to learn how to be a freelance writer, helped her develop a mindset shift to keep going, even in the face of uncertainty.
We caught with Katherine on a recent Freelance Writers Den podcast to learn more about how to be a freelance writer, take care of yourself, and make mindset shifts for success.
Q1: Why do writers often struggle with self doubt?
Tate: When we send something off to a client, and then there’s silence, our brain starts to tell us all these stories about what’s going on on the other side. Oh, they hate it. Maybe I charge too much. They’re going to say this, they’re going to say that.
We have all these challenges around confidence, compare ourselves to other writers, and think we’re the only ones who are struggling. And we spend most of our time working alone in isolation.
Q2: How do you interrupt those negative thoughts?
Tate: Learn how to look under the hood and to put yourself back in the drivers seat. When you learn how to do this, you can back into an empowering position and steer the car. If you’re struggling with learning how to be a freelance writer, stop and ask yourself:
- What is it that I’m thinking?
- Are those thoughts causing me to create the life and freelance business that I want?
- What can I do instead?
- How can I think differently about this?
- What’s a more helpful way to approach these challenges that inevitably are going to come up in my freelance life?
It might seem like a waste of time. But these type of questions are very important to figure out how to work with your brain.
Q3: If you’re feeling stuck, how do you move forward?
Tate: You have to be OK with self-acceptance, no matter what you’re feeling. I’m not going to try and force myself to be positive. I’m going to accept it. I have anxiety and that tends to be a default response for me.
Rather than try and push that and pretend that I don’t have it, I accept it. And it allows me to still enjoy my work. At the end of the day, we’re in freelancing because we want to create something for ourselves, for our families. And we should be able to enjoy that despite that challenges that come up.
Q4: What does planning have to do with the freelance mindset?
Create a ‘yes’ list
Write down things you’re going to say ‘yes’ to. These are all the things in your business that you welcome in, you invite, and you’re happy to say yes to.
For example: you’ll only say ‘yes’ to jobs that pay $500 or $1,000. Or you’ll say ‘yes’ to a new client because your communication style clicks.
Create a ‘no’ list
Write down things you’re going to say ‘no’ to. When you’re starting out, it’s really tempting to say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything. Learning to say no and set boundaries helps you to get clear on what’s OK and what’s not OK.
For instance: I no longer work with businesses that I feel are damaging the planet. I don’t work with mining companies. I used to do work for a pesticides company very early on, and I decided that that’s a no for me now.
Set boundaries to shape your ideal freelance life.
Let’s just say you have a boundary that you do not respond to calls or emails after five o’clock.
- What happens if someone violates that?
- What happens if a client is calling you at two in the morning?
- What will you do?
Here’s an example: If someone calls me at three in the morning, I’ll send an email the next day during working hours saying: “I’m unavailable at the time that you called. I am available between these hours. Unfortunately, if you call me out of these hours, I will (explain what you’ll do or what you won’t do)
This exercise really helps you see things in black and white. It gives you a guide to make ‘yes’ and ‘no’ decisions about your freelance writing business.
Q5: You have a bad day writing and feel like a failure, now what?
Tate: Cut yourself some slack. Treat yourself with a little kindness and compassion, which as freelancers, we can be so hard on ourselves. We can be the harshest bosses we’ve ever had.
So give yourself a little compassion, and kindness and love. Try not to resist the feeling. What I always do is I greet the feeling, and I see what’s there. I sit with myself. If you meditate, if you pray, this is a beautiful and perfect time to do this.
- Try this: After you calm your mind, write down all of the things that are on your mind, draw it out or make a list. Or set a time of day when you’re going to stop worrying about stuff or feeling depressed.
It sound silly. But it actually lets you see the lightness and be a bit playful with your thoughts, and go, “Okay, maybe I’m actually choosing this feeling. Maybe I can be a bit silly about this now.” It just lifts that heaviness.
Q6: When you’re frustrated about underestimating time it took to complete a project, how do you refocus?
Tate: Rather than focusing on what didn’t happen, where you fell short, where you think you failed, and what you think you should’ve done, celebrate:
- I’ve got one assignment done.
- I did that today.
- That’s awesome, go me.
Loosen up the expectations you have for yourself. Practice a little self compassion.
Q7: How do you manage Imposter Syndrome as a freelance writer?
You’re on this journey to learn how to be a freelance writer, ask questions, figure things out. And you know you don’t have to have all the answers. This is particularly important if you’re a newbie. No one expects you to have it all figured out.
- Take action.
- Learn from the outcome.
- Build confidence.
The only way you can do this is by testing things out, taking baby steps, and being willing to learn from your mistakes.
Q8: What’s one of the fastest ways create a positive mindset shift?
Tate: Make yourself a little list in a notebook. Or create an email folder or file. Write down testimonials from people who love your work, people who tell you you’re fantastic. It doesn’t even have to be clients. It could be family, friends.
Collect these warm fuzzies throughout your freelance writing career. When you have a knock back like this, go through your notebook or folder. You’ll be reminded that you’re doing OK, that people like what you’re doing. And that can be really helpful.
Freelance success depends on your thoughts, feelings and actions
If you want to be a successful freelance writer, you’re bound to encounter self-doubt, disappointment, fear, and even failure. But with the right mindset, you can keep going, move up, and earn more.
Need help making a mindset shift for freelance success? 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.