Is This Irrational Fear Crippling Your Freelance Writing Career?

Carol Tice

Fear slows down your freelance writing progressFreelance writers deal with a lot of fears. We have to push through those to do this type of work.

But there’s something funny about the fears freelance writers have.

Funny peculiar, I mean.

To give you a sense of what I’m talking about, here’s a selection of actual comments I’ve gotten recently from writers:

“I’m getting started and I’m just terrified!”

“Of course, I’m dealing with the fear and the insecurity.”

“That whole fear thing keeps getting in the way.”

“I’m really scared to send this query letter!”

“The big, ugly monster in my head, fear, is my biggest obstacle.”

“I am a hopeful, yet scared-to-death writer…”

“I need to crawl out of the usual dark places and get writing.”

Did you notice what’s odd about all these statements?

They all leave out one key item:

Fear of what?

I think it’s revealing that none of these comments say what the writer is scared of.

They can’t even name or describe this fear. It’s just “the fear” or “I’m scared.”

It’s a big, amorphous blob of undefined terror. And it’s stopping so many writers from living the life they want, where they can pay their bills from writing.

Seeing all these comments together made me wonder what it is about this fear that makes it so hard to describe and name.

Here’s what I think it is:

Really, if you sat down and thought about it, you’d have to admit there is nothing to be legitimately scared of in the world of freelance writing.

Nothing at all.

Why we have fears

Let’s stop a moment and think about the feeling of fear. Why does it exist?

Early humans who acted on their very real, primal fears tended to live.

Fear helped us remember we shouldn’t go to the watering hole at dusk, because that’s when the lions go there.

We fear lions because they could rip our throats out. So we wisely avoid hanging out where the lions are.

It would be stupid to face down this fear and go hang out with the lions. Instead, we listen to this fear and avoid foolish bravery that would get us killed.

This is sane, rational fear that has the concrete purpose of keeping us breathing. And it’s good.

Why fear of writing is crazy

Fear is appropriate to life-threatening situations.

And the thing is, with extremely rare exceptions, your life is generally not put at risk by being a freelance writer.

What’s the worst thing that happens if you send a query and it doesn’t get you an assignment? Nothing happens. You get no answer. The end.

What if your article has a bad error in it and you have to do a correction? A week later, nobody remembers.

What if you fail to earn enough from freelancing and you end up having to move back with your parents, or take a day job for a while until you can save up and write some more?

A little time was lost. You had a setback. You survived it. That’s it.

What’s behind the scary curtain

Let me show you what’s hiding in the dark recesses of your brain’s unnameable freelance-fear chamber.

Here it is: Nothing. There is nothing to be afraid of, because no lives are at risk here.

Fear is inappropriate to the world of freelance writing. You’re taking a primal, life-saving emotion and experiencing it where there is no true danger.

Will you really starve to death if you pursue freelance writing? In any country with public assistance programs, that’s highly unlikely.

Will you be shot by a firing squad for being a bad writer? With the rare exception of writing in dissent of a totalitarian or Communist government, unlikely.

You’re trapped by phantom fears that if you faced them, would dissolve into the air.

You might make mistakes as a writer. Or write something that’s crap now and then. You might get embarrassed sometime.

But you would survive. You live to write another day.

I know because every possible mistake you can make as a writer, I’ve done it.

The real thing to fear

There’s only one fear freelance writers should acknowledge.

It’s the possibility that you’ll let your irrational fears about writing and freelancing keep you from being a successful writer.

You’ll live out your life and you’ll die, without ever realizing your dream of writing professionally.

When you feel those irrational fears creeping up on you, remember that.

No mistake you can make as a freelance writer will ever be worse than how you will feel at the end of your life, if you had the dream of being a writer, but you let fear keep you from it.

Can you name your worst freelance writing fear? Leave a comment, I dare you.

Freelance Writers Den


  1. Lisa Baker

    Oh, I love this! I’m cracking up. Leave it to Carol to put things in perspective! No lions? No firing squad? Then DEAL, people. Suck it up and send the **** query already. πŸ˜‰

    • Carol Tice

      So you don’t have an irrational fear to name for us, Lisa? If not — great!

      • Lisa Baker

        Oh, sorry! Yes. I’m always afraid to send queries. Mostly I think it’s the fear that it’s not good enough yet. And if I just made it a little bit better, then I’d get the sale. There’s a reason why I posted queries for review so much in the Den you finally asked me to stop — the same reason why I signed up for Pitch Clinic the minute you offered it. I never think it’s good enough to send. I’m getting better!…a zillion encouraging reviews from you and Linda will do that… πŸ˜‰

        • Carol Tice

          And likely the yesses you’ve gotten have helped too, right?

  2. Colleen Kelly Mellor

    Then, there’s the fear of success…something I’ve had lately to deal with. They (mags, newspapers) are actually publishing your stuff and paying you for it and you wondered if that would ever seriously happen.

    I personally face another select fear: I write non-fiction and will be releasing a book on my lifetime experiences with the medical industry. Patient Witness alludes to certain doctors and hospitals without naming them, but I recognize I need to be careful here since I don’t wish to invite a lawsuit (I point out some of the totally unacceptable doctor and hospital experiences I suffered). I will also probably self-publish, thus insuring I’m at risk…So, some fears are real, indeed…as opposed to the first one I mentioned (fear of success.)

    • Carol Tice

      Colleen, that is a fear that’s good to have — and you solve it by finding an experienced lawyer in this area to look at your material and make sure you’re in the clear.

      • Colleen Kelly Mellor

        Does such a lawyer have specific name as in “torts lawyer” ?…Is it copyright lawyer? I don’t intend to go to one who says he/she has expertise if that person doesn’t…I guess I need qualify even more by saying “medical expertise.” Thanks Carol….

        • Carol Tice

          Honestly, I’m not sure! I had ethics rules drummed into me as a journalist, so I know where the problem areas are…or worked for publications with a legal team we could use. I would think if you call your state bar assn and describe your issue they could refer you to the right legal specialty.

        • Karen J

          Hi, Colleen ~
          Here’s a resource that may have just the “What Kind of Lawyer?” answers you’re looking for (or at least somewhere to get some direction from…)
          Check out Ash Ambirge’s “Small Business Bodyguard” program – there’s a link at the middle of this page.

          Good luck with your fears! Your book needs to get “out there”!

          Bright Blessings ~

  3. Daryl

    “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself β€” nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror”- FD Roosevelt

    FDR was right – the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!

  4. Jordan Clary

    Carol – This is so true! I honestly can’t name a freelance fear because when I quit my job last June I decided to banish them. But I have faced a fear recently and it kind of relates. I’m 56 and for some bizarre reason decided to learn how to downhill ski even though I’ve never been on skis in my life. It was a beginner hill but it looked huge from the top of that ski lift and I was aware of every vulnerability in my 56-year-old bones. I won’t go over all the falling and bruises but about halfway down the hill made a much sharper incline and I lost control. I just went flying and thought o crap I’m going to die as I flew past other skiers. But somehow I rode it out and eventually skidded to a stop on even ground. As I read this, it occurred to me that’s a lot how freelancing is. You just have to ride out the fears and insecurities and trust that if you do, you’ll find solid ground.

    • Carol Tice

      Love that analogy, Jordan!

      I recently learned to cross-country ski which for me was daring enough! Downhill to me is just crazy. So kudos to you for trying it. πŸ˜‰

  5. Lois J. de Vries

    Carol – Great post. My biggest fear is that I will be attacked for my ideas (has actually happened in my local political career), or that I won’t find “enough” of an audience for them. These seem to me real possibilities. From an intellectual POV, it would make sense to put myself out there in a bigger way and, if there turns out not to be an audience, go do something else, saving both time and angst. But, fear isn’t rational.

  6. Rohi Shetty

    Wow, Carol, another great Sunday special.
    Every word rings so true.

    Even worse, sometimes, we may not even acknowledge our fears of failure and rejection.

    Instead we may rationalize our fears:
    – I’ve no time to write;
    – I’m too tired;
    – my job is a soul-sucker;
    – I don’t know where to start;
    – I’m too old;

    yada, yada, yada.

    As you say, the first step is to ask yourself:

    What’s the worst-case scenario if I do take that first step?

  7. Nancy Nuce

    I am afraid to ask someone to purchase my work. I have this fear because, as a child, I was taught that it is wrong to ask anyone for anything, and I can’t seem to shake this belief.

    I fear being ridiculed. I fear that people will laugh and wonder how in the world I had the nerve to think anyone would want to buy what I create.

    I was also taught the β€œmousetrap” theory – that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. In other words, you don’t need to β€œsell” yourself. If you are good enough, people will come to you. Since no one is beating a path to my door, I assume that I’m not good enough.

    Knowing, intellectually, that these fears are irrational is not enough. I need to find a way to banish them.

    • Colleen Kelly Mellor

      Nancy–Problem with “since no one is beating a path to my door, I assume I’m not good enough”? Today we authors have to keep at it, sending our stuff out to others, trying for publication. Everyone’s out there, today, clamoring to be heard….the good, the not-so-good…the downright awful. Self-pubbing has enabled that. So, know from the git-go you’re going to be out there with a boatload of people, so I don’t think it follows anymore that the ones we wish to hear us will find us. I’m finally getting what I’ve been going after for years. Fortunately, I’m retired and don’t depend on book and article income.

    • Carol Tice

      It’s wrong to ask anyone for anything? Yow. That’s bad. And not just in the writing part of your life, either. This may be something you need to work on with a therapist. I think if you can’t overcome that, it’ll be hard to be a freelance writer. You totally have to ask for gigs, over and over, and set healthy boundaries with clients to not be taken advantage of. That’s the reality of freelancing.

      Better mousetrap isn’t relevant to the world of freelance writing. There is almost no business that doesn’t have to do marketing, especially at first. Once you’ve built a business referrals from clients are realistic, but first is always marketing. Even with a great mousetrap.

      If people laugh…you still live. Take it from me.

  8. Linzi

    Great post Carol, I lived in the fear zone for a long time and it took a major milestone birthday to jolt me into action. I do regret not starting sooner but I’m relieved to be on the road finally and giving it my best shot without fear of regret in old age.

    • Carol Tice

      Good for you, Linzi!

  9. Rachel Beavins Tracy

    My irrational fear is that I’m not yet at a level to earn the business of a particular prospect, and that if I use up my chance to pitch them now, when I think they’re unlikely to hire me, then I won’t be able to pitch them later, when I have more experience. Which is so stupid, because how are you ever going to get experience if you don’t just put yourself out there? Now that I have some good clips under my belt, I’m feeling much less fearful about this.

    I was thinking about the skiing analogy Jordan mentioned. I’m big into downhill skiing, but I didn’t learn until my now-husband taught me, when we moved to Utah (he’s an expert skier and even worked on the ski patrol).

    So many times, I would be at the top of a hill, just freaked out of my gourd. I knew the rewards of getting over those fears. It meant becoming a great skier myself, and the ability to access new and steeper terrain. But my brain would get in the way, effectively paralyzing me. So I developed this little talk I would have with myself.

    “Brain,” I would say in my head, “I know you don’t want to do this, but there’s only one way down. Our body knows how to do this, so I’m going to need to you to just shut up and get out of the way for a minute.”

    The result? I’m now a complete powder hound who’s comfortable in most terrain. I even made it down a chute (which I normally avoid) in the middle of a driving blizzard. Plus I learned I can do pretty much anything I put my mind to, and that it’s mostly about getting out of your own way.

    • Carol Tice

      I can help with this — the secret is, you don’t “use up” your chance to pitch a market!

      Feel free to pitch markets that don’t respond or that turn you down, again and again. The thing is, the editor gets so many pitches they likely don’t remember or connect you to past ones! It’s all a blur.

      Just keep trying them all you like. πŸ˜‰

      • Taylor

        Oh wow this is good to know! I do the same thing. Sit on the ideas for an editor because I don’t want them to say no now and remember to say no to me in the future. Good advice!

        • Carol Tice

          Yeah…they totally don’t remember, trust me. They get 100 pitches A WEEK. 3 months later, they have no idea who you are. Even one month later. So keep pitching!

    • Jane Hendy

      Yep, this is my exact fear: I picture the editor, marketing manager or business owner, eyebrow raised, beneath a speech bubble reading ‘why does she keep on sending me stuff??’ Good to know that it, too, is unfounded!

      I am beginning to get the sense that ‘get over yourself and make contact’ is the way to get clients, and make a living writing.

      • Carol Tice

        Yeah…make a LOT of contacts, actually. πŸ˜‰

  10. Cheryl Rhodes

    You wrote when a writer sends in a query the worst thing that will happen is no response.

    I’m reminded of an old Newhart episode where Bob Newhart’s character was a writer who owned an inn. He’s sent in a manuscript and finally got a letter from the publishing company. The responder was the janitor who said when she was cleaning the office she saw the manuscript in the garbage, pulled it out and read it, and “me no like”.

  11. Lisa

    Thanks for writing about this. Like everyone else, I struggle with fear. I know that it is irrational, but I have to work through every worst case scenario for every step I try to take. I think the biggest fear is of losing the dream of writing. As long as I do nothing, I can keep the dream. Once I fail, I have to move on to something else and I have no idea what that would be.
    I am looking forward to the posts this week.

    Thanks for this and

    • Bob

      Oh that’s so funny. I didn’t read this until after I wrote my comment below. I guess this must be pretty common. Here’s to not doing anything, and keeping the dream alive!

      • Carol Tice

        No, no, no. Here’s to busting that fear and getting to write!

        • Karen J

          “Fail early. Fail often. Fail fast.” πŸ™‚

          The best way to learn is to try something (anything, especially if you’ve been “practicing and learning” a lot already), see if it works, and *if* not, *why* not – and then try something else, a little differently! (That could be as small a change as sending the query to a different editor – all you need to change is the name and address on the letter.)

          • Carol Tice

            Of course it is…but I don’t find that’s what fear-based people do. They keep waiting for the right moment, situation, for a better day to dawn when they’ll feel more comfortable taking a risk. But there is never a better time than now.

          • Karen J

            “Hi, my name is Karen, and I’m afraid to Fail AND afraid to Succeed…”
            I wrote that above, as much for myself, as for anyone else here!

            Knowing that I’m at least not alone in my fears, and that other folks have overcome them, gives me another boost up the hill. Thanks, Carol, for opening this can of worms so we can all get our hands into it!

          • Carol Tice

            But it’s like, if you’re not allowed to fail and not allowed to succeed…what ARE you allowed to do?

            Hopefully that helps people see how ridiculous these mind traps are that we create in our lives.

            It should be OK to fail AND succeed.

            Personally, I feel I am failing so often…it feels like that’s all there is. But it’s so we can learn.

          • Karen J

            Eee-yup! Irrational *and* self-sabotaging, that’s fersure!
            I’ll let you know when I find my key.

    • Carol Tice

      But how would you ever ‘fail’? What would define that?

      As long as you’re alive and breathing and still writing, success is still out there to claim. And so many authors found fame after death, so even that doesn’t define failure.

      Just do it if you want to write. That’s all.

  12. Bob

    Fear of rejection, of the writing not meeting your expectations, of not actually being able to do it. Then the dream is dead. If you never write anything, you can still hold onto the dream, which is better than nothing, though perhaps a little frustrating. I don’t actually have these fears, but I think I could pretty easily. My fear is that I don’t have any expertise in any area, which is why I make everything up. Except this is not a fear, this is a reality.

    • Taylor

      I can completely empathize with this thought. If it’s still a dream or aspiration I can make up excuses for not going for it now outside of my control. If I’m working at it unsuccessfully there is no excuse but my own lack of skill. So scary!

      • Carol Tice

        This is really interesting for me, to see people define the fears. Different from what I thought!

        And as most regular readers here know, I was too stupid to have these kind of fears:

        Hope everyone here is a subscriber…I’ve got some free help coming next week for busting these fears, but it’s only for subscribers.

  13. Taylor

    My fears are…

    that I stink at writing and one is telling me
    that I’m not going to be successful and everyone will laugh (so why start?)
    that I will give up eventually (so why start?)
    that I will have a mental breakdown when I put in 100% effort and can’t become a successful writer

    to name a few.

    That feels good!

  14. Rebecca Klempner

    My two biggest freelancing fears:
    1) Taking on more projects than I can handle at once (then failing to complete them) or types of projects that I’m really not qualified to write.
    2) Hurting someone because of something I wrote, either directly or indirectly.

    It also kills me writing stories and then failing to sell them after a considerable time investment. I’m getting better at this, but it still frustrates me.

  15. Shauna L Bowling

    My biggest fear as a freelance writer is that I may not be successful and will be forced back into corporate America. At the same time, I realize the ball is in my court. As long as I dribble and shoot for the basket, I’ll get better at the game and score more baskets than misses.

    • Carol Tice

      I had a lot of scut jobs in my life — even sold aluminum patio awnings on the phone at one point. I find the specter of having to return to being an executive secretary or whatever highly motivating to do a LOT of marketing!

      • Holly Bowne

        I hear that!!!

  16. Heidi

    The fear of success, the fear of failure, and the fear of facing the ghosts that haunt me all affect my ability to write fluidly….

    • Carol Tice

      Heidi – there are plenty of writing opportunities that don’t involve facing any ghosts from your past. I’ve been writing about business finance for years, for instance. Lots of writing isn’t about you at all.

  17. Gil

    Carol, you’re spot on. Our primitive brain
    (the one we inherited from our ancestors)
    hasn’t gone through ANY updating. It still
    operates under the Fear-or-Flight mode.

    In other words, whatever is new and unfamiliar
    Is deemed by the brain as danger.

    The thought of giving a speach to a group of
    people, or approaching a person who attracts
    you, or as in our case, writing for a living is the
    kind of thought that triggers the Fear-or-Flight
    response. They represent new territories – as
    such, they are treated suspiciously and labeled

    Red flags are raised; emergency channels are
    called up, and an immediate flow of messages
    is directed to our psyche to create the one thing
    that will stop us cold – self-doubt.

    “I’m too young”, “I’m too old”, “I’m…” are the type
    of messages generated by our brain to stop us
    from taking action on the thought which the brain
    deemed to be dangerous to our well being.

    The brain protects our well being, not our inspirations.

    What’s the solution?
    Follow your inner passion (the mind’s voice)
    and ignore the negative chat box (a prehistoric
    alarm system that’s useful ONLY in life-death

  18. Gil

    Quick correction to my comment above:
    The brain doesn’t support your aspirations
    (not inspirations) – it couldn’t care less about
    your goals, your wish list, and your dreams
    as a whole.

    So, stop listening to it.

  19. Natalie Dyke

    Carol, I’d first just like to say thank you for the email as well as this forum to give our feedback and communicate with you and each other who find ourselves in this same boat. Fear itself has become my worst fear of all and every now and again it rears its ugly head. But that knowledge helps me overcome it.

    We owe it to ourselves to follow through with our dreams whatever they may be because the don’t go away and they never die. They either materialize, or hang over our heads until we realize them.

    Whenever my 15 year old has an aspiration whether it be to become a hockey player or a writer I’ve always told him to dream it and we will make it happen. I’ve finally started taking my own advice and it’s been great! It’s very freeing for the soul.

    If we can dare to dream it, then it’s in us to achieve it.

    • Karen J

      Hurray! for makiing it happen, Natalie! … for your son, too!

      • Natalie Dyke

        Thank You Karen! πŸ™‚

    • Carol Tice

      I’m lucky that my dad raised his girls to believe they could do anything they wanted with their lives…he was really ahead of his time. And I tell my kids the same, even though they have some special-needs challenges. When they tell me they want to be a professional diver, or an Air Force Ranger, or a dolphin trainer, or whatever, I say…go for it.

      • Natalie Dyke

        That’s awesome! I feel like kids, adults, all of us are faced with so much negativity from outside sources at times that in the home and from the people closest to us we need only encouragement, belief and faith. There’s no limit to our potential as long as we believe.

        I’m proud of all of us here on this comment section! Fear or no fear we are doing it! And we will make it!

        • Carol Tice

          I’d like to encourage writers everywhere to stop being so reliant on outside encouragement. Lots of great writers never got any. They just…had to write. People today are too obsessed about what others are thinking about them. Stop caring and write your truth.

          • Jawad Khan

            Couldn’t agree more!

          • Karen J

            I’m using those “external validations” as reinforcements for my side of the discussions with my Monsters and Judgey-Judge voices…
            Ideally, I wouldn’t “need” them, but until I reach that Ideal state, I’ll take what I get enjoy it and use it to my advantage…

  20. Karen J

    Thank you for this post Carol! The first step in dealing with any fear is naming it – in detail!
    My “Fear of Success” is based on “then they’ll expect me to Keep Doing It!” and *that* feeds on crappy old self-confidence scripts. Where *they* came from, I don’t know, but it’s probably not all that important just what I mal-interpeted as a kid…
    So happy you’re going to take a whack at those, this week – can’t wait!


  21. Jawad Khan

    Quite honestly, when I was just starting out as a freelance writer around 15 months ago, my biggest fear was whether I was good enough to make a full time living out of this profession or not.

    I had just too many doubters who were convinced that leaving a secure corporate job for a freelance writing career was the biggest mistake I had made (they still fel that way, although I’ve made more money over the last 1 year than my previous job).

    I guess its all about focusing on what is under your control, and ignoring everything else that is out of your circle of influence.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m a fan of focusing on your sphere of control and screening out all else…amazing what you can get done that way.

  22. Judy Haughton-James

    Very good topic Carol! My fear is about getting my outline for an article right. I always want to send the entire article and of course a lot of editors want to see your outline first. I sent an article idea to an editor and she liked the idea and requested an outline. I have not heard a word since then. I joined one of your webinars and got the advice to send manuscripts to more than one market. I decided that too many months had passed so sent the entire article to another paying market that you have listed in a post and it was accepted and published quickly. This has not helped my fear!:) Anyway it also tells me that I need to do more work on sending outlines and not only be comfortable in sending an entire article. In other words learn how to write good outlines and fight the fear! Thanks for bringing this home to me!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Judy —

      Interesting — I’ve never had an editor ask me to send an outline. I send a query letter which usually sketches out the article in a decent amount of detail, and get an assignment from there. Maybe send a fully-fleshed query instead of just an “idea” and you could get over this hump?

      But congrats on sending it more places and getting it published. I don’t recommend endless mooning around waiting for one editor to get back to you. Not a way to earn a living! You have to move on if you don’t get a response.

  23. Katherine Swarts

    I’d say my greatest fear is of making major decisions for myself (vs. having a boss, or family or societal expectations, take responsibility for that). On the freelance circuit, you deprive yourself of the comfort of knowing you can always blame someone else when plans end in utter disaster! (I’m deliberately leaving in the “when” I automatically wrote, rather than changing it to “if,” to emphasize the fear factor.)

    A close second (how do you like THIS for total irrationality) is the fear that I’ve wasted too much time already and HAVE to force success NOW before the last window of opportunity is gone forever–so I waste even more time looking for the perfect program instead of getting in there and DOING something. That’s, I think, closely related to the “losing the dream” fear others have mentioned.

    • Karen J

      Oh, yes, Katherine! “Oh-Oh-Oh! Everything’s all gone to h*ll in a handbasket and It’s All My Faultttt!”
      I so hear that one, in that snarky mean sing-song voice-in-my-head!

    • Karen J

      …. And then another voice comes back with “If only you’d blah blah blah!! Then blah blah blah would never have happened!” Etc. Etc. Etc.
      ~ and I’m sinking into a vicious whirlpool of despair. It usually takes at least one good night’s sleep, and conversation with somebody besides myself, to pull out of that one.

      • Carol Tice

        I think two of the most toxic words in the English language are “if only.” Regret is the world’s biggest waste of time, especially about your writing career.

        Each of us is where we are, and there’s nothing we can do about our portion in life. It’s what you do with what you’ve got that matters.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, that second is a good one, like there’s some sort of mystical time limit for pursuing writing and then it expires? Except…not.

      And trust me, people with what I like to call “whirl and blame syndrome” can find someone else to blame no matter what. If you need that, you’ll still be able to cook up a reason it wasn’t you, so don’t let that hold you back!

  24. Katherine Swarts

    …That “better the frustration of a frozen dream than the despair of real-life failure” thinking is so common that it must have something, though I’m not sure what, to do with the inborn “fear response.”

  25. Vicki Warner

    I think my fear has been similar to others – submitting a query to the same person after being rejected by that person. You think the person might feel you’re some kind of stalker, and that would be awful!

    • Carol Tice

      Unless you’re pitching them three times a month or something, I really think they don’t even notice.

  26. Shannon

    Ok, here goes – I’m totally afraid of interviewing people. It is a totally irrational fear. And yet it pops up – bigger than anything – every time I think of pitching to a resource that mentions expert interviews in its writer guidelines. I hear in my head “but they want you to interview someone, so best to pass.” Sigh. I think it is just that I’ve never done it – I’ve written books, blogged extensively, but have never had to track down experts to interview them and the whole process just seems …. unstructured somehow. I need to read more about interview techniques so I can overcome this fear! Thanks for your post, Carol – I love your blog! πŸ™‚

    • Carol Tice

      Got some resources for you on that here, Shannon:

      That 7 tips one has a link to another tips post as well, so check that out.

      Biggest tip: Just start doing it! Interview a friend for a blog post. Find some charity you could do Q&As for, for their newsletter. The fear is only going to go away by doing it — that’s how you gain interview confidence.

  27. Shannon

    Thank you Carol! πŸ™‚

  28. Alison

    My biggest fear – the one that has me out of breath and physically feeling sick when I sit down and press send on a query – is that after all these years of other people validating my own self-image that I can write well, I actually cannot and I find out that my biggest dream – to write for a living – is actually a hoax and I can’t do it.

    Then, I am afraid, I will have no dreams, and all my hopes will be crushed.

    But I suppose, what is better? To live the dream or to live with a dream?

    • Carol Tice

      You know, my big dream was to be a songwriter. From age 14 all through my 20s.

      But that dream died. I hated hanging around in smoky bars showing my tits trying to get bookers to book my band, and dealing with stoner drummers who would flake out on me.

      I was sad, as I approached 30 and knew the odds of ‘making it’ were getting small.

      And then one day, I discovered article writing, and a new dream is born.

      People need to go out and try their dream and sometimes, get it out of their system so that a new, better dream can arise. We need experience so we can tweak our dreams.

      I still write. But I’m 100% certain I am so much happier in the field I chose than I ever would have been even if I had ended up a big rock star. I think that while songwriting is still really magical to me, the lifestyle of that is horrible and not what I’d want, and it would have destroyed my family.

      Without going out and trying, you never know what other dreams you might be blocking from coming into your life that would be even more amazing.

      • Alison

        Thank you.

        You have a knack for putting it all into perspective. My goals for 2014 include contacting companies (5-10) per week to get my freelance writing business off the ground.

        Who knows what doors this will open, (or windows), but hey, I’m willing to climb in through whatever gap I can and make the best of it. And maybe, living the dream will be even more than I imagined.


  29. D Kendra Francesco

    I realized a long time ago that “fear of success” is why I kept sabotaging myself when I started making money for doing something I liked. But, I didn’t know how to stop doing it to myself.

    Therapy helped me uncovered the underlying fear:
    If I’m successful, no one will love me.

    Through that same therapy, I learned the answer:
    Making my dream come true has nothing to do with anyone else’s love.

    It’s taken constant baby steps since to use what I learned. To change years of poor habits. To get where I am now. To truly get up again when I fall. Still, I wouldn’t trade this painful year of growth for anything.

    The best of all this? I finally stopped checking out (figuratively) whenever I got a (literal) payment check. I accept that people willingly pay for what I know.

    And that’s a huge success for me!

    • Carol Tice

      Awesome – a lot of my readers are stuck in the ‘fear of success’ trap, so appreciate you sharing what helped you!

  30. David Gillaspie

    You hit the big fear right where it counts: The fear of letting fear control you.

    My biggest fear? Working on a project or article, breaking it down and rebuilding it over and over, then looking at with “That’s it?” and feeling I left the most important part out. Getting the feeling right now, but I think the important part is in.

    Loved your return on the songwriting dream. Thanks, Carol.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, it’s a new metric — ROD, Return on Dream. πŸ˜‰

      Funny, I’m working on a feature today and I just was reviewing my outline because I was wondering what I might have left out! I started doing that a while back and it takes away that worry that I left out something good.

      • Karen J

        ROD – Love that, Carol ~ Shout it from the rooftops!

        Because, if you’re holding onto that dream with both hands (so you don’t break it), you can’t Do Anything With It. And of course, then there’s zero-zippo-nada-No Return on it.


  31. ian

    I see your point Carol, the problem is when I go out there I always think maybe this is not good enough or maybe people will laugh at my writing not because they were entertained but because they could not fathom what kind of person writing this crap? I’m afraid that my writing is not good enough. Well, that’s my fear. I know that’s unequal with lions or shooting troops but as you have wrote, it’s irrational but it’s there. So I appreciate this post.

  32. Tanya

    Thank you, Carol, for putting this all in perspective. I saw myself in all of the fears and had to laugh out loud. Of course I won’t die if my query is rejected. LOL Of course, I won’t starve and end up living in my car. And, even if I did, what a great adventure that would be to write about and it would make such a great success story later.

    “This writer was destitute and living out of her car, but never stopped writing. Now she’s making 6 figures and living the American dream.” (That’s the local news reporter in my head reporting about my eventual success story.)

    I think that the only thing I should fear is what you said in your last paragraph:

    “It’s the possibility that you’ll let your irrational fears about writing and freelancing keep you from being a successful writer.
    You’ll live out your life and you’ll die, without ever realizing your dream of writing professionally.”

    Thank you for this kick in the butt! It was well-needed.

    • Carol Tice

      I know — everybody loves a comeback story, eh? So why fear getting down and out. πŸ˜‰

  33. Lorraine Reguly

    Fear of success is probably the worst fear of all since when you are used to a certain lifestyle (ie. one without a lot of extra money), having that extra cash can place a burden on some people. What I’d love to see you do, Carol, is follow up on this topic with a post about how to handle the extra income and possible fame (!) that comes along with it.

    I’ve read all the comments in this this thread and know that this fear is had by several people, including me, and it is one that’s actually rational, too.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, so far I’ve mostly handled it by paying off debts — I adopted kids, have a kid in college, and one who’s just had an exciting $80,000 of advanced medical treatments we were on the hook for $10K of. Excitement for me is paying off a car loan. And somehow, I still can’t seem to get ahead. Maybe after all the kids leave home.

      I am a working class person and have had to work hard all my life and still do…so far the big difference is I can eat out if I feel like it, and I could go see a movie at the nighttime rather than HAVING to see the matinee. Seriously. The glamor really never ends. I can confess I now also buy organic food when possible…no longer think I can’t afford it. So far, changes are pretty small. Not like I’ve bought a mansion or my kids are switching to private school or anything. Not even close.

      Ooh, ooh, I know! I actually bought a new dress recently. It was $79. I love it! It’s got an infinity scarf so you can make a bunch of necklines. This is the stuff that excites me.

      Oh yeah — and when our shower busted, we were finally able to remodel the room. After about 5 years of no upstairs shower. I know, you’re jealous now, right?

      Haven’t really experienced a ton of fame…not like people are recognizing me on the street or anything. That’s going to happen to so few people, where it really affects your life.

      I guess I think worrying about future money and fame that might or might not befall you falls into the category of taking out loans from the future worry bank.

      Do you not have enough current worries, that you need a loan? I try to stay out of worry debt. πŸ˜‰ Easier to do than money debt.

      • Lorraine Reguly

        This is the Carol that more people should see in your posts. The honest-to-goodness gal who struggles like everyone else. Somehow, you seem to have created an impression in my mind (and if in mine, definitely in others’) as someone who personifies greatness in every aspect of your life. You are also very well known (don’t think you’re not) in the freelancing community (a measure of fame!) and get read plenty each month (like 32000 reads?) and have written posts that have nearly had a million hits (watch you write a headline that goes viral). These things tend to make an impression – however untrue – on others, Carol, of you being someone akin to a celebrity. (Shh. I hear you laughing. But you can’t deny you’re enjoying this.)

        Linda likes “busting” things; maybe she can give you a lesson on how to bust these misconceptions some of your readers have.

        Yeah, I don’t often comment, since I read your posts in my inbox. But I speak up when I have something worthwhile to say.

        And you just bought a new dress? Whoa, now I’m jealous! πŸ™‚

        Good point about borrowing worry, though. πŸ˜‰

        Thanks for bringing reality back into my world. Perhaps putting people on pedestals can be another post topic. Intimidation may not be a fear, but it is a real emotion some experience.

        • Carol Tice

          Yeah, something like the very distant 4th cousin of a celebrity. Trust me.

          I wouldn’t say at this point I struggle like any other freelancer…I struggle now more like a small retailer. I’m managing a business with some dozen paid employees at various levels of involvement…sort of a different animal.

          And you’d be surprised how many aspects of your life there are where people — like, say, my kids — could care less about your online wins. As my dad says, that and $1 used to buy you a cup of coffee and doesn’t even do that anymore.

          Sounds like the problem of putting people on pedestals could be a good topic for YOU to blog about. I’m keeping my blog focused on practical tips to help freelance writers earn more…don’t see how that contributes.

    • D Kendra Francesco

      Or, you could write the post. Maybe not now, but put it in the back burner until it’s good and bubbly. πŸ˜‰

  34. Lorraine Reguly

    LOL – maybe I will! I may even use some comments here for inspiration πŸ˜‰
    Fame, freedom, fortune. . . and now FUNNY. Boy, you sure do have it all! (yes, kidding)
    On a more serious note, being a business is what may scare some people, too. The fear of not being able to handle it all is daunting to those who dream of being successful – but I think I’m jumping the gun a bit here since my guest post hasn’t been published yet. (recall the topic)

    FYI, I’m afraid of failure, too. Damn, our fears certainly ARE irrational, aren’t they?

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