The biggest obstacle to your freelance writing success is that wrinkly grey blob between your ears (yer brain!). But you can work on mindset shifts to transform that obstacle.
Our brains are hardwired to not do new things because new things can be dangerous. And when you’re starting out as a freelance writer, almost everything is new.
Your subconscious mind is trying to keep you safe, but it’s actually not helpful when you want to learn something new or change a habit. Your brain is very skilled at convincing you to stop doing a new thing. So YOU need to become skilled at convincing yourself not to listen.
What I’ve noticed, with very few exceptions, is that beginning freelance writers who quit before getting clients do so due to mindset, not because they truly can’t make it.
Here are 4 myths we writers tell ourselves and the mindset shifts you can make to deflect them.
Myth 1. This isn’t working yet so it’s not for me.
Don’t expect your first few attempts at writing to succeed. You’re human and you’re learning. Trial and error is the name of the game, not perfection.
Getting feedback from other writers is extremely valuable, especially in the beginning, but people don’t like getting feedback. Why? Because if their writing is “not good,” then feedback will be too scary. Well, of course your writing will need improvement when you begin. But that’s not a moral failure. It’s just a coach telling a newbie how to kick the ball faster.
If getting feedback from a colleague is too scary, then you’re never going to make it.
When you’re getting feedback from a colleague, there’s nothing on the line. Whereas when you have a client, your entire paycheck is on the line. Fellow writers were once new themselves. They’ve been there! Ask for feedback, and don’t give up when you realize your writing needs improvement.
Mindset Shifts 1. The writers who succeed are the ones who are making connections, asking questions, looking for resources to troubleshoot, and not just expecting their first few attempts to succeed.
Myth 2. It’s already been written, why would anybody want it again?
Well. I guess no one has written a tragic love story since “Romeo and Juliet“? I kid, of course, but that’s pretty much the idea. Just because there’s already 500 billion blog posts about student loans on the internet doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write one.
Clients have sites that need content. They can’t steal content from others. They need new content. So they hire you to write it. Yes, you may be writing the 500 billionth and one blog post about student loans on the internet, but it has your unique spin, and it’s on your client’s site.
Unless you’re dipping into content strategy for a client, you’re not there to judge what they want you to write about on their site. Their readers want to find content on that information as a part of your client’s expertise. Go ahead and write it for them.
Mindset Shifts 2. Plagiarizing is bad; writing new content on subjects that have already been written about is perfectly fine. Clients will pay you money to do this.
Myth 3. Why would anyone hire me?
They won’t if you don’t try. That’s the simple answer. But if you keep putting yourself out there, and your writing is decent (and keeps improving due to feedback!), there are many reasons why someone would hire you.
Perhaps your rates are lower as a beginning writer, and the client has a small budget. Maybe there’s something in your background that lends itself to the topic you’d be writing on. You could be a good listener, or have a rapport with someone you’ve connected with. It’s possible that a client needs a writer right now, and sees your information.
There are lots of reasons why someone would hire you–to focus only on the reasons someone would not hire you is to do yourself a major disservice. So stop doing that. And you can use Bob Newhart’s voice from this comedy sketch to tell yourself to stop: ashleygainer.com/stop
Mindset Shifts 3. There are better AND worse writers than you, but your client needs a writer to reliably produce their content right now, and you can do it for them.
Myth 4. This has to be beautiful prose.
You don’t have to write beautiful, elegant, thought-provoking, flowery prose. This isn’t academia or literature. You DO need to be clear, precise, and accurate in your writing for the web. You should reflect the values of your client in your copy.
Readers don’t come for the next great American novel, condensed into a thousand words, on somebody’s website. You’re just trying to write something that explains how to do this thing. Your writing is going to feel more like what you would see in the newspaper. It’s not about being brilliant and beautiful. It’s about being useful, helpful, and engaging.
We make it more difficult than it has to be. Your job is to make it feel conversational and as easy to read as possible. You want clear, concise, easy to understand, and effective in terms of explaining, maybe tapping into some emotion. Relinquish the lofty expectations.
Mindset Shifts 4. Your writing for the internet should be useful, helpful, and engaging. It doesn’t have to be gripping prose.
A great place to meet other writers is in my free Facebook group, The Ink Well Guild with Ashley Gainer. We’re a bunch of writers, both experienced and new, and we’ve been where you are now. Find us at theinkwellguild.com.