No one ever said being a freelance writer was easy.
But do you beat yourself up when things don’t go as planned?
Or are you doing things that set you up for failure, increase frustration, and spoil your attitude?
It happens. No matter how talented you are, you’re your own worst enemy when it comes to being a freelance writer.
Believe me. I know what it’s like to wallow in self doubt and negative thoughts. And while I don’t claim to have completely cured my own pessimism, I’ve come a long way on the road to optimism.
If you want to succeed as a freelance writer, you need some mental toughness. You need the ability to wade through disappointment, doubt, and failure, and keep going. It’s part of the gig.
But that won’t happen if you’re plagued by a pessimistic attitude every step of the way.
The solution: Be an optimistic writer. You can learn to develop a positive mindset.
And when you do, it can transform your life and your freelance writing business. Here’s how it’s done:
You may be a pessimistic freelance writer if…
Hello, my name is Katherine, and I am a recovering pessimist. (Let’s hear a virtual, “Hi Katherine.”) I’m also a full-time freelance writer. You may also be a writer and a pessimist if:
- You continue checking content mills and race-to-the-bottom job sites, even though you’ve been reading Make a Living Writing long enough to know better.
- Your marketing is done in fits and starts. You repeatedly send out pitches at a five-a-day rate, only to give up after hearing crickets for two weeks.
- You’ve paid for and completed a dozen writing programs, and you still can’t see where any of them have done any good.
- Of all the voices telling you, “there’s no way to make a living writing,” your own voice is the loudest.
Sound familiar? If you’re nodding your head to any one of these statements, it’s time for a freelance writer intervention to help you shed negative habits and a pessimistic attitude.
1. Know yourself and what works for you
Nothing hurts optimism like working hard and seeing no sign it’s getting you anywhere.
Here’s a little-known reason why that happens:
- The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
- Translation for freelancers: The recipe for failure is copying the style, technique, or approach of what another writer did and expecting identical results.
Some writers pick up $10,000 worth of new business in a month, through direct pitches. Others get the same results with content marketing.
That doesn’t guarantee that everyone who churns out the identical number of pitches or posts will get $10,000 (or even $10) worth of new business in exactly one month.
However you approach prospective clients, they’ll only respond if your heart is in it and your real self shows through.
Tip: Before you finalize your marketing plan, consider:
- Your favorite methods of interpersonal communication: face-to-face, telephone/audiovisual, or writing
- Where others find you likable, competent, and persuasive
- Your favorite writing styles and topics
Use your answers to plan a marketing approach that maximizes your effectiveness. (For help, check the MALW archives on “Earn More from Writing,” “Marketing,” and “Networking.”)
2. Practice an attitude of gratitude
Even if you’re long on bills and short on freelance writing work, harboring a life-stinks attitude will only convince you freelance writing is a dead-end and that no one actually makes a living writing. It’s poisonous thinking. Plus, no writing client wants to hire a grouch.
If you can’t be grateful for your income, be grateful for your talent. Or your family and friends. Or beautiful spring weather. Or adequate food, clean water, and a place to live.
Tip: Keep a journal of your blessings. The more grateful you are, the more good things your life will attract, including freelance writing clients.
3. Work every day whether you feel like it or not
Many freelance writers confuse healthy optimism with blind optimism. Translation: You think your cheery, hopeful, optimistic freelance writer friend is delusional. Sound about right?
Being optimistic doesn’t mean you expect everything to always go your way. (If you try that, a few disappointments as a freelance writer will turn you into a pessimist.) And it doesn’t mean you’ll never have to do anything you don’t enjoy doing.
Work hard, don’t give up
Sometimes, you may not even enjoy the thought of writing. Just ask Carol Tice. Even with years of experience as a freelance writer, she still has rolling-on-the-floor moments of self doubt about her writing skills. Then she gets up and goes back to work.
You can’t expect to get something for nothing
For many people, freelancing-freedom from the accountability of salaried employment-becomes an excuse for not working at all. I should know. I spent my first years after college living with my parents and getting no where vocationally.
Doing nothing as a freelance writer is a negative choice that breeds pessimistic thinking. You need to be working on your business, marketing, meeting client deadlines, writing.
While one full day off a week benefits productivity, working only when you’re “inspired” is a quick road to professional failure and overall bad attitude.
Tip: Set yourself a firm daily work schedule for writing and marketing. For incentive, treat yourself to a reward after sticking to the schedule a full month.
4. Aim high
Are you spending hours sifting through listings for freelance writing jobs that pay $20 per project? That’s another negative habit that can quickly sour your attitude about being a freelance writer.
Maybe you’re not writing for bottom feeders. But if you want to join the $100,000-a-year crowd of six-figure freelancers, you can’t live permanently with mid-paying clients either.
Here’s an optimistic thought: Aim high.
What have you got to lose? Nothing really. Since you want to write for big companies eventually, why not start pitching them now?
Yes, approaching a $10 million-plus corporation is seriously intimidating if you’re new to freelance writing. That’s the pessimist way of thinking.
Here’s how the optimist freelance writer looks at this: Big corporations grow from tiny businesses whose leaders took big chances.
- Why shouldn’t you be good enough for someone who might have started where you are right now? The answer is: You are good enough, you just have to believe it enough to try.
Tip: If you want to boost your writing career and your optimism, don’t wait to reach a “certain experience level” before you start making regular approaches to your dream clients. Now is always the best time to start.
5. Take care of yourself
While good health isn’t an absolute requirement for optimistic living or freelance writing success, it does make it easier.
You probably know the basic rules: sleep enough, eat right, exercise, manage stress in healthy ways.
- But do you care for your mental health by affirming your value, engaging in productive hobbies, and taking time to pamper yourself?
Of course, if you have an actual illness, get professional treatment. And be assured that even chronic pain or emotional imbalance needn’t destroy your career.
Tip. If you’re struggling with self-doubt or poor health while trying to be a freelance writer, read this: “How to Keep Freelance Blogging When You’re Mentally Ill“ by Lauren Tharp. Proof you can still be a successful and optimistic freelance writer, even if you have difficult health problems.
Choose optimism for freelance writing success
Want to be a better freelance writing? Look on the bright side of things. Practice being positive, hopeful, optimistic. If you’re meant to be a freelance writer, you know it deep down. Ignore the pessimistic voices. You can succeed. You will succeed!
Are you an optimistic or pessimistic freelance writer? Let’s discuss in the comment section below.
Katherine Swarts is a freelance health writer and the author of “100 Ways to Live as an Optimist in a Pessimistic World.” When she’s not writing, you’ll find her birdwatching, reading, and drinking coffee.