Stop Doing This Now to Explode Your Freelance Writing Income

Carol Tice

freelance writer belittles herselfToday I’ve got a question: How’s your freelance marketing going?

Not so good?

I talk to a lot of writers who, when you press them, finally admit they’re not doing any marketing at all.

What’s happening is, writers go to market their services…but then they don’t. Something stops them.

Something inside their heads.

Talking yourself out of it

It seems that when many writers sit down to make a marketing plan and start sending those query letters or letters of introduction or making those cold calls — or whatever you do — a bunch of toxic thoughts crop up.

I’ve seen a real epidemic of these negative ideas from Freelance Writers Den members lately. For instance, one writer targeting universities for copywriting work wrote:

“I get ready to call, but then I assume they all have grad students or interns or a marketing staff.”

Or this one, from an experienced freelance writer whose income has been stymied by her lack of marketing:

“I talk myself out of looking for clients because I figure ‘no one will hire me,’ or ‘the market has changed.'”

Another writer commented:

“I just can’t imagine why a company would both hire and PAY me.”

Finally, here’s an email I got this week:

“Pay rates at my established clients have gone down… Companies I used to work with no longer do newsletters, annual reports, etc., or they’ve taken them in house. Other companies only want to work via content mills. Everyone wants work done well for rock-bottom rates. I’ve always been able to make a living wage as a freelancer. Now I question if this is a sustainable career after all.”

It’s enough to get you feeling depressed and hopeless, hm?

But you can snap out of this — and you need to, to grow your freelance writing income. To do it, I’ve got one big tip for you today:

Stay in reality

The important thing about those first three thoughts above is that they do not represent reality. They’re just things you’re saying to yourself — that clients don’t need you, that you don’t merit compensation. That freelancing is a mirage, and couldn’t possibly be real. These are ideas that exist only in your head.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics would not be projecting that freelance workers will outnumber people with jobs by 2020 if there was no living in this.

Also, in the case of that last one, beware of extrapolating that your very limited personal experience accurately represents what’s going on in the vast freelance marketplace. Your few clients who don’t pay freelancers well anymore are not “everyone.”

Yes, the marketplace evolves. Clients who once paid freelancers well decide to go another direction — I had one $95-an-hour client decide to fire my editor and go with a multimedia agency for content instead, for instance.

But there’s always another side to that coin. Meanwhile, two other businesses decide they’ve had it with what they’re getting for cheapo rates and gets serious about commissioning truly quality content at professional rates.

I know, because my Den “Share Your Success” forum is full every week of stories of how writers at all career stages are getting raises, finding better clients, and earning more. Freelance writing is a real career, people. Not just for established writers like me, but for new freelancers, too. You can earn a living at this.

Of course, it’s easier to have a pity party about how your existing clients are no longer great than it is to make 100 cold calls, eh?

And that’s what this sort of negative self-talk is all about — finding an excuse to avoid marketing. It’s easier to insist there are no good-paying clients than to haul your butt to a networking event or conference and put in the shoe leather to find them.

Meanwhile, out in the real world, every survey done of companies reveals that they love using freelancers and forecast they will use more freelancers in future. There’s also evidence that freelance rates are rising.

There’s one other thing to take to heart here:

Clients need you

I don’t care if you are fresh out of college or you’ve been writing for 20 years. No matter where you’re at in your freelance writing career, there are clients who would love to have your help and are happy to pay for it.

When editors get together, do you know what they talk about? How they wish they could find more reliable, talented, responsible writers with fresh voices and ideas.

Remember, the vast majority of freelance writing gigs will never be advertised. They’re hidden. So you can’t conclude anything about the market by reading Craigslist ads or checking the Elance listings.

Instead, envision a magazine editor slumped over her desk, wishing she had time to grow her stable of good writers. A small business owner overwhelmed with the 24/7 demands of keeping his business alive, looking over his rudimentary website or abandoned blog in despair. These clients are waiting for you to reach out and show them the solution is a freelance writer.

They’re waiting for you to get in touch.

Stop the self-sabotage

Here’s the key thing to do: When you’re tempted to spin a bunch of gloomy webs that keep you stuck where you are, just stop doing that. Right away.

There’s a simple truth in freelancing: Marketing leads to good clients. Not marketing leads to starving.

If you can stop sabotaging your marketing efforts, your income can grow exponentially. I’ve seen writer after writer dig into marketing and report back a year later that their income has doubled, tripled, or more.

Suddenly, you have your pick amongst the prospects you’ve attracted, instead of scrabbling desperately for whatever crumb a low-paying client tosses your way. More leads mean you can say “no” to losers and keep only the great clients, which also results in better income.

Take your foot off the brake

Imagine you’re in a car and you’re standing on the brake hard, all while saying, “I think cars no longer go. I can’t seem to get anywhere! Guess it’s time to give up and go back to using a horse-and-buggy.”

This is the scenario negative-thinking freelance writers are trapped in. You’ve got to take your foot off the brake and put it on the gas to get down the road. Suddenly, you discover cars work just great.

I’ve yet to meet a writer who does consistent, effective marketing who doesn’t get better clients. So stop the internal monologue that’s keeping you from getting out there to meet the clients who need you.

Are you marketing? Leave a comment and tell us what you’re doing to find good clients.

Get Great Freelance Clients


  1. Karla McNeese

    Launched my portfolio site today, joined LinkedIn, and I’m thumbing through sites trying to decide who to send queries to and what to pitch them. I overanalyze too much. I need to jump and let the net appear already.

  2. Pete Boyle

    Thank you for this Carol.

    Exactly what was needed today!

    I’ve been having something of a crisis when it’s come to my client sourcing methods, especially due to the responses, or lack thereof, I’ve been receiving.
    Reading the above has helped put me back into my usual state of mind and stop questioning myself.

    I’m going to hold on to the below quote when I’m starting to wonder if freelancing is a ll i hoped it would be!
    “No matter where you’re at in your freelance writing career, there are clients who would love to have your help and are happy to pay for it.”

    Thanks again!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad I could help! If you’re not getting responses, you might want to learn more about effective queries or letters of introduction (not sure if you’re pitching companies or publications). We have a forum in Freelance Writers Den where we review and help people improve their queries. Also coming up in a month or two is my Pitch Clinic class with Linda Formichelli — you can get on the waitlist to get the details on the next session of that here:

    • Pete Boyle

      Thanks Carol!

      The Pitch Clinic sounds very interesting. I may just have to get on that waiting list!

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, that IS a great post! What an excuse-buster.

  3. Peggy Carouthers

    I’ve been talking myself out of plenty of LOIs and cold calls recently, but I just sat down and worked at it yesterday. After I finished the first, it was easier to do more, and I sent out three LOIs for the week already. The nice thing is that once you do the first LOI, it isn’t so scary anymore. I think that these tips are really valuable to newbies who are struggling to get started. The hardest part is sending the first one.

    • Carol Tice

      “After I finished the first, it was easier to do more.” EXACTLY. Doing leads to confidence. (And results!)

      Sitting around thinking negative thoughts about how there might not really be a freelance market out there doesn’t.

  4. Pooja


    Can I just say I LOVED the analogy of how some writers are trying to drive with brakes on? Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

    Thank you!


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