When you start a new freelance writing gig, are you full of hope? I know I am.
This gig is going to be great. We’re sure of it.
This is the sample that’s going to really take the portfolio up a notch. It’s a game-changer. Exciting!
Then, things start to happen, and often, writers go straight down the emotional drain.
For instance, take this recent comment from a Freelance Writers Den member (I’ve condensed it here):
Recently, I joined a freelance team developing an annual report for a local medical group. This is one of my first copywriting jobs, and I’ve never worked in health care.
The first writer left, and I became the main writer. I had already done a little writing for them, and the project director loved it. So I was feeling good about this promotion.
Now, after producing multiple sections for the report, my confidence has taken a beating.
The project director has rewritten much of what I’ve turned in. I asked her earlier about her changes to see if I could get some feedback and improve, but she assured me the changes mostly reflected political considerations and subtleties of tone.
I need reassurance that this is normal. Is there some way of knowing if the problem is all on my end?
I was thinking this experience might provide a way into future healthcare copywriting gigs, but now I wonder if I’m really cut out for it.
Doubt creeps in, and the next thing you know, you think you don’t have what it takes to be a freelance writer.
Why does this happen? It’s due to a key error that writers seem to be prone to. You can fix it with my QTIP approach.
It’s not about you
Writers have deep-seated fears that we aren’t really talented enough to do this for a living. So if things go wrong, we jump immediately to the conclusion that it’s our shortcoming.
But in my experience, most writers who are trying to do this for a living are perfectly competent wordsmiths.
What we often aren’t is self-confident.
When I read the story above, I immediately thought of many other possible reasons why this writer’s copy is being rewritten. For instance, maybe this manager…
- …is a poor communicator, and knows it. When they see what they haven’t explained, they’re embarrassed to go back to you for rewrites and just do it themselves.
- …has too short of a deadline to go back and forth, so they’re just doing their own rewrites.
- …is a control freak who needs to rewrite everything, just to feel they touched the project.
- …hates the blank page, and researching and interviewing. They really just want you to create that first draft, and then they’re good.
- …needs to leave on vacation ASAP, and doesn’t have time to take you through what they need tweaked
- …isn’t feeling well and isn’t up to explaining what they need.
- …has an evil boss above them who always wants tons of revisions, and your manager wants to shield you from his irrational rage.
- …are jealous that you’re ‘the writer’ and they’re not, and need to prove to themselves they’re talented.
- …thinks rewrites are routine, since they are with most copywriting gigs. They’ve no idea you find this upsetting or stressful.
I could go on and on here, but I think that gives you a strong sense of how many other reasons there could be for the rewrites besides “you’re not a good writer.”
Look at the facts
If you find your confidence sinking during a writing project, consider all the many possible reasons things might not be going as you expected.
Put on your detective hat and consider the facts. In this case:
- After doing a little writing, this writer was hired to do more.
- Another writer had already washed out — it’s a tough crowd.
- Feedback asked for after the rewrites was positive.
Conclusion: This writer is doing great. The client is dysfunctional, but happy. Rewrites are normal, and don’t reflect any lack on the writer’s part. It would be a mistake to extrapolate from this one experience and make any conclusions about whether this copywriting niche is for you or not.
What went wrong? This writer forgot to QTIP.
That stands for Quit Taking It Personally.
Most of what happens in the world of freelance writing is not about you. It’s about your client — their time constraints, their budget, their situation, their personality.
Or, as business owners like to say, “It’s just business.” Not personal.
The decisions your clients make are business decisions, and a million factors go into each decision. Not knowing what’s going on behind the scenes shouldn’t lead you to conclude that you’re the problem.
Ask questions, if your client doesn’t seem happy. Learn all you can, and do the best you can.
Make this change
Beyond that, the key thing to do is reframe how you view your career. Believe in yourself, and don’t be ready to fold your tent and give up if you have a setback.
Think of every client and gig simply as a learning opportunity, or maybe as a crazy adventure. It’ll be easier to get over the lumps and bumps that come your way with that outlook, as opposed to walking around thinking you’re inadequate and just waiting to get busted for it.
When you QTIP, it’s a lot easier to stay confident and keep pitching more clients, no matter how weird any one gig turns out.
How do you view your freelance writing career? Share your outlook in the comments.