How an Unpaved Road Led to Freelance Writing Success

Carol Tice

How an Unpaved Road Led to Freelance Writing Success. Makealivingwriting.comAn experience I had on my recent vacation reminded me of what it takes to be a successful freelance writer:

We were visiting a lake in eastern Washington with our three kids plus one tag-along, 10-year-old friend of our middle child’s. We wanted to spend our last day hiking in the nearby mountains.

We had only sketchy, Chamber-of-Commerce maps to rely upon, but they seemed to show the turnoff to where we wanted to hike. I had a detailed trail map for when we reached a hiking trailhead known as Chaos Corner, so named because five different trails departed from the same point.

We drove out of the little lake town and found the turnoff. We passed farms, cows, and rolling hills.

Soon we came to a sign that said, “End of county road.”

The pavement soon ended and beyond lay a one-lane, dirt road. We began to climb higher and higher. Brown scrubby hills gave way to piney woods.

At some points, the road seemed a little sketchy and hung uncomfortably near the edge of a ravine. What would happen if another car came toward us?

“This doesn’t seem like the right way,” said my husband.

“It feels right to me,” I said. “Let’s keep going.”

We wound up and up. My husband started looking for a place to turn around. The kids were starting to get antsy. “This isn’t the way to the trail!” said my daughter.

Hubby found a spot and started to pull over. I let out a small, whimpering sound. I felt strongly that if we turned back at this point, we wouldn’t end up getting to do any hiking.

“OK, a little farther,” he said. Soon we neared the top of a mountainside. We pressed on, thinking we could get our bearings from the lookout.

And at the top was a small parking area, and a National Park signboard.

It said: “Chaos Corner.”

I leapt from the car before the dust had settled, arms raised. “Victory! I just knew this was here!” I cried.

We chose a trail and hiked in fields of wild white yarrow, purple asters, and yellow-blooming yucca, and took another trail back, overlooking mountains on mountains on mountains, back to far-off peaks still snow-capped. It was the perfect ending to our trip.

Freelance writing is like this.

When you decide to strike out on your own, you’re off the map of traditional career paths, cubicles, bosses, and predictable pay.

Sometimes, it may be a little scary.

The road could take unexpected turns, or not be very well-marked.

Maybe, like me, you’re a college dropout. At first, you have only sketchy ideas of how to do this and have to feel your way along. You might have to work twice as hard as everyone else to get there.

There may be a few wrong turns along the way.

Others will tell you to give up.

When you “arrive,” you’ll find only a new set of decisions to make among many possible paths. What type of writing should be your specialty. How to spend your marketing time.

It may take longer than you expect, and look different than you imagined. But if you believe you’ve made the right choice and follow your gut instincts about which is the right road, you will end up where you’re trying to go.

And it will be beautiful.

What’s your road to freelance writing success like? Leave a comment and describe your trip.

Join my freelance writer community


  1. ntathu

    Life is full of unpredictabilities n being self employed sure has its ups n down. Yet as you so eloquently explored, state, the journey is worth the rainbow. Thx for this timely reminder. Peace

  2. Carrie Schmeck

    Perfect post to end my week.

    I am still on that questionably windy road, pretty sure I’m going in the right direction, wondering if I’m really, truly going to find “it.”

    It’s all about faith, isn’t it? Thanks, Carol.

    • Carol Tice

      Just remember, when you find it…it’s chaos! And more decisions to make.

      I had an interesting experience yesterday — I had to take the commuter boat back from a Seattle client meeting. It made me flash back to 6 years ago, when I had to do that 5 days a week. What a grind. So grateful I don’t have to do that anymore. That’s the part that makes it all really worth it.

  3. Ahlam

    Carol – I think this post is not only about writing, it’s about any journey you make the decision to take. Personally, I’m at that point with my freelancing — do I continue forward seeking success or do I cave and go for a traditional job? It’s been a frustrating few months, some successes and some failures – but right now it doesn’t seem sustainable. :/

    • Carol Tice

      I wish we had your participation in Freelance Writers Den, Ahlam — I know a lot of the resources in there could help you even out the ups and downs and get to a more reliable income stream from freelancing.

  4. Julie Hanahan

    Thanks so much for posting this. It is well timed for me, as I’m getting started but really doubting myself. I really appreciate the imagery and encouragement you just sent to my inbox!

  5. Amy Parmenter

    Carol!! This is so absolutely hysterical to me because I just had the exact same experience on my vacation (except mine was to a nude beach so I don’t think I’ll be posting about it.) I found directions online, but they seemed vague. (go to the dirt path, then turn left…) But at some point it became less about the destination and just as much about the journey – the challenge of setting out on a path and being committed to your destination, even when you yourself have doubts. And, yes, this is very much like freelance writing — and probably like life for anyone who takes an unmarked path.

    There were definitely moments when I thought we weren’t going to find it but the directions said ‘walk 15 or 20 minutes’ and I was just hoping we’d find it before either one of us made the decision to give up. And, like you, I was absolutely tickled when we DID find it! It was such a victory, as you said.

    Anyway, so glad we are both enjoying the journey and our successes!

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Amy —

      Thanks for sharing your story. Hope you didn’t get sunburned!

  6. LPogue

    Being a writer has been a dream of mine since I first started to read when I was about 5 years old. I’m finally trying to make that dream come true. Your article rings so true. It’s when you think you’re almost lost, that things start to work out. Thanks!

  7. Karen

    My journey? A few false starts. A few wrong turns. At least one hike that was too long to complete. A couple of pairs of boots that just didn’t fit quite right, that I persevered with any way and saw it through to the end of the trail – sore but still satisfied. The realization that if I was going to make the journey sustainable I needed to invest in the right gear, some motivated travel partners and a really clear map. Then the realization that I had to draw my map myself and be prepared to keep adjusting it. Finally, I’ve settled into the journey and realized it’s a life-long one. There are lots of sideroads I may or may not take, and if I take the wrong one I’ll double back, learn from the experience and press on. It’s onwards and upwards from here, dealing with the rough bits of the trail as well as the smooth. Oh.. and most days the view is great 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Right on.

  8. Linda Hamilton

    You have a great way of expressing the feelings of so many in a few words. As I’ve followed you, I’ve realized where I’m hitting roadblocks, that freelancing is what I want to do, and while I was thrown into it through a job layoff it is actually what I wanted to do anyway. With that choice comes the realization that work life as I’ve known it will and has changed. Knowing how you endured your trials, learned your trade and have become successful is encouraging and makes the pathway a little easier to accept. I’m at the point where I’ve got to turn around my writing to create an income. I know what I need to do to get a faster income, but the freelancing will take time. Yet, I’ve pursued this path long enough I know my way around some things and with your insight I’m gaining on the unknowns.

    I love reading your blogs; they are the boost I need or the kick in the pants to get me motivated. Based on other comments I see that too. And you’re right, when I see the daily commute traffic I rejoice that I’m no longer driving two hours daily to and from a job I didn’t like and was so stressful it was hurting my health. I face a new set of challenges as a freelancer, but I WANT to be here and when I get going, facing the trials and tribulations are worth it. Thank you for sharing. You’ve inspired me on how to write my blogs, and how to get my freelance business going. I truly appreciate you.

    • Carol Tice

      I see your a Freelance Writers Den member…hopefully you’re eating your way through all the e-courses. Ask your questions on the forums — I’m loving the helpfulness of the community in there.

  9. Judy Sizemore

    Carol, I can’t thank you enough for your unselfish desire to help the little, unknown writer. I’m on a journey these days, professionallly and spiritually. Knowing there really are talented, caring people out there makes it just that little bit easier. I’ve been following your writing for a couple of years now, and I am always uplifted, encouraged and comforted – plus I usually learn something too!

    So thank you from someone who appreciates you more than you will ever know.

    • Carol Tice

      Gosh, cut it out you guys!

  10. Kathy Lynn Hall

    This is an absolutely wonderful story, that I can relate to as a writer, but also as someone who had the same experience with family and husband while chugging up a hil near Santa Barbara to find a cave with ancient Native American art.

    We also MADE IT! Thanks for this. I really needed it.

  11. Joshua Monen

    Great analogy Carol. I’m a backpacker so I loved this article. For me I’m learning how important it is to improve my skills (read a compass) so I can go more places as a writer. If I understand how to plot a course with my compass then I don’t have to rely on traditional maps and I am free to blaze my own trail.

    • Carol Tice

      Love it — thanks for building on my analogy!

  12. Ollin Morales

    Loved this one Carol. One of my favorites. Just signed up for the writer’s den. Can’t wait!

    • Carol Tice

      Excited to have your participation over there, Ollin!

  13. Alice

    So how do you know that you are on a path that leads to “Chaos Corner” or that you are on a path that leads nowhere? Sometimes it’s smart to just turn back early, because you are on the wrong road. But I have a hard time distinguishing between a road with a destination and a road that goes nowhere.

    • Carol Tice

      My point of view is…you know.

      Or as Nathan Hangen said to me…don’t give up until it pays off. If you commit to keep going until you get there, you’re never on the wrong road.

  14. John Soares

    Carol, I love the interweaving hiking and freelance writing. I’ve done a lot of exploring in the outdoors, and most of the time perseverance and following my intuition takes me to beautiful places.

  15. Gip

    This is a beutiful post. So many of your posts are promotional, so I was beginning to wonder if it was time to unsubscribe. But I just wrote a blog post to put up Tuesday about the beauty of creativity, and your post hits me in the right spot tonight. You did a great job wih this one, and I’m hanging around a while longer.


    • Carol Tice

      Hi Gip —

      Well, I have launched a membership community in my free time, so guess I do mention it. 🙂

      But I almost never write a post that is just a sales pitch as many sites do — I know a lot of sites where at least one post a week is basically just, “Hey, buy this from me, OK?”

      I might include a pitch at the end of a post, but I try to deliver useful information in every post that’s helpful whether or not you’re going to buy anything from me. I assume most readers never will, and that the main point is to provide something useful to help people earn more, each post.

      Glad you’re sticking around!

  16. Stephanie

    This truly expresses where I’m at!

    I have one voice telling me just get a job and another telling me you are on the right path. The first one shuts up when an opportunity presents itself. Or when I do look for a job, apply and get no response-because 12 trillion people have applied! Not easy but I’m still moving forward.

  17. Krissy Brady, Writer

    Amazing post, as usual! Personally, I’m loving the twists and turns and unpredictability. I had a 9-5 job that I was at for only 2 weeks, because I was already miserable. It helped me to realize that this is really what I’m meant to do, and others may not understand, but I don’t need them to. 🙂 And guaranteed, when I do reach my destination, that’s when their support will come flying in, lol! It’s ironic, really.

  18. Ali's writer blog

    Yeah, I felt the same when I started my career as a freelance writer a little while ago. There were times when I just wanted to run away and never come back while there were times that made my blood gushing through my veins with vehemence like never before, because of a lucrative contract or just flattering feedback from a client. But at the end of the day, it is fun to be a freelancer, be your own boss, work when & where you want – I love to be a freelance writer 🙂

Related Posts

A Look Inside Den 2x Success Stories

The Freelance Writers Den is the online community where freelance writers learn how to grow their income -- fast. Inside the community, there are two levels: The Freelance Writers Den is for freelancers who are just getting started, learning the basics, and giving...