The One Word That Can Change Your Freelance Writing Career

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This post was originally for my column, “Freelance by Lauren,” on the now defunct DIY Writing: A Writer’s Bucket List.

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You read that right. There’s a magic word floating around  that can make or break your freelance writing career.

Interested?

That one word is… Confidence!

Illustration by Ramiro Roman
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

If you let out a sigh and felt your shoulders slump as you read the answer, you probably need to work on this attribute a bit. And that’s okay. Most of us do! (I’ve been freelancing for a few years now and I still need to give myself the ol’ “pep talk” every once in a while… Or, you know, once a week…)

Women freelancers in particular suffer from these issues.

“We women earn less due to our own fears, lack of money knowledge, and low self-worth.”

~Dianna Huff, CEO of DH Communications.

Well, that doesn’t sound good, does it?

But bleak isn’t my style! (Unless it’s for dark humor purposes). So turn that frown upside-down and let’s get confident!

Smile

No. Seriously. Turn that frown upside-down.

Ever hear the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it?”

When confidence doesn’t come easy, you have to practice. And when you can’t quite feel it on the inside, the next best thing is to look at it from the outside.

Smile when you talk on the phone. Sit up straight at your desk when you write that query. Stay clean, get fully-dressed, and run a brush through your hair every work day — even if you work at home.

Head up, shoulders back: Look the part!

Eventually you’ll start to feel the part as well.

Get the Knowledge You Need

Lack of knowledge getting you down? Go out and get it!

Read books and blogs in your field of interest. Ask fellow freelancers questions. Take a class. Do whatever you have to do.

Often, a lack of “knowledge” is actually just a lack of familiarity.

If you’re not familiar with what to charge for your servces, you’re more likely to undersell yourself. Or, if you’re not familiar with the jargon in your field, you may end up turning down a job that you could’ve done easily! (That happened to me the first time a potential client asked me if I could write an “SEO article”).

The more you study your business, the more comfortable you’ll get. And the more confident!

Start Small

Does sending a query letter to the magazine of your dreams scare the pants off of you? What about the prospect of writing an entire book?

It’s understandable.

How about helping a local business owner polish their website copy? You know the one. The sweet old guy who bought a brownie from you when you got roped into participating in your high school’s bake sale during your sophomore year.

What about helping your best friend edit her Xena: Warrior Princess fan fiction?

Less intimidating, right?

When you start small, you lose a lot of that initial fear.

And you gain some great starter pieces for your portfolio! Talk about confidence-building, am I right?

Stop Fearing Rejection

Ever watch the movie Back to the Future? (If you answered “no” to that question, stop reading this immediately and go watch it. It’s awesome!).

Remember George McFly?

George wanted so badly to be a science-fiction writer, but when someone asked if they could read his stories he said, “No, no. I never let anyone read my stories.”

Why not? “What if they don’t like them? What if they say they’re no good?”

George’s constant refrain was, “I don’t know if I could take that kind of rejection.”

Don’t be George McFly.

Here’s the honest-to-gosh truth about rejection: It happens to everyone.

“The nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”

~Stephen King, On Writing.

Rejection sucks. But rejection also means you tried. And that’s pretty darn amazing.

Often the only difference between a successful writer and a wannabe is having the confidence to try.

Get Support

Connect with fellow freelancers online or in person. Knowing that other people are going through the same thing you are is a real confidence-booster.

On that note: Until you start feeling really confident, you might want to avoid those who oppose your new lifestyle or make you feel crummy about it.

When your confidence is shaky, it can be easy for negativity and naysayers to throw you for a loop — but they can’t do that to you if you don’t let them in.

Write Out Your Fears

The first step to getting over your fears is to address them.

But it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what those fears are when they’re simply rattling around in your head. I like to write them down.

When you write down your fears, you put them outside of yourself. Then you can look at them objectively.

And, in the end, conquer them.

Try It for Yourself!

Write down a list of your biggest freelancing fears, including any “gaps” in your knowledge.

Be aware of your feelings as you write each fear or gap down on paper, but don’t let them overcome you. You can do this. You wouldn’t be here reading articles about freelance writing if you weren’t confident that this was something you wanted.

Oh, and, while you’re at it, write down a nice big list of the skills you do have. Don’t be modest. Brag your heart out and don’t hold back from giving yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

Pick your most pressing fear and the skill you’re most proud of and share them with us in the comments!

Because, you know what?

Getting out there and talking to people is great confidence-building practice too! 😉

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