Tropical Breezes, Fruity Drinks,
and My Very Own Hammock:
Finding Success as a Freelancer

Living The Writer’s Life.

We’ve all thought about it, dreamed about it, fantasized about what it would be like. I know I have a mental image of relaxing in a hammock in a tropical breeze while I’m doing “mental” work on my next project. It’s a sweet life — that writer’s life.

But, it takes some work to get there.

That realization, while not unexpected, was still a bit jarring for me. I toddled along for a year or two before really accepting that if I wanted that dream life, it meant I’d have to put in some extra hours in the early years.

For me — and maybe for you — I still struggle between being content with what I have and wanting more. It’s pretty easy to settle into a routine and get comfortable, and then I’ve found I’ve put that idyllic dream on hold without even realizing it. In fact, making progress toward the dream requires regular reality checks to remind myself that even though I’m happy with what I have right now, I could be even happier with a bit more freedom in my schedule and money in my bank account.

Fortunately, I’m enamored with the journey and I’ve learned a lot so far … and I don’t plan on quitting my education anytime soon. Here are just a few things that have stuck with me and made a positive difference in my pursuit of a career that offers us so much freedom. Some of them — maybe all of them — you may have already discovered for yourself, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth revisiting!

The importance of persistence …

It’s been my experience that there’s no more valuable trait for succeeding as a freelancer (or as anything else for that matter) than persistence.

If you persistently study your craft, if you persistently try new ideas, if you persistently make connections and cultivate relationships, and if you persistently market yourself, you are almost guaranteed success.

I once read a story about a gold miner in the 1800s. He searched for years in one area for a rich vein of gold. He gave up … only to hear a few months later that the person who bought his claim struck it rich. If he’d just persisted a little longer, that fortune would have been his.

More than talent … more than connections … more than resources … persistence will keep you in the game. Many people, with the idea that they want to become a freelancer, think that success will be effortless and immediate. They might say they think otherwise, but deep down they suspect that’s how it should be, and they are disappointed — if not devastated — when that’s not the case. If they don’t have persistence, they’ll give up when they realize it’s harder than they thought.

And that’s good, because it clears the field for people who are ready to stick with it.

Mix in a little consistency …

A lot of freelancers fall down when it comes to being consistent — especially in their marketing efforts.

When I was starting out, I’d spend some time researching prospects. I’d find out if they used freelancers and who handled their project assignments. I’d craft a letter and send it with every intention in the world of following up, noting those most interested and then staying in consistent contact.

And then something would come up. I’d break my planned chain of contact points and then I’d feel like I could never contact those prospects again because I’d dropped the ball.

When it comes to consistency, systems are your best friend. Set up autoresponders. Set up alarms. Set up a schedule. Hire a virtual assistant if you get too busy. Set up a marketing process and then take steps each day to follow through on it.

The overlooked value of resilience …

Persistency and consistency are of great value to any freelancer, but in order to maintain both, you need a measure of resilience.

Thomas Edison once said about his work on the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

To succeed as a freelancer, you need that kind of resilience. When you fall down — and you will — you need to get back up and set back out on your chosen path without being bitter or resentful. It takes resilience to do that.

Pick something and see it through …

Information overload is something that I know a lot of freelancers struggle with. There is so, so, so much information out there about being productive, about staying motivated, about increasing your success, about marketing strategies.

It’s very easy to get caught up in every recommendation that comes into your email box because they all sound so promising. But, I’ve found that when I try to tackle too many new ideas at once, I don’t really get a lot accomplished. What I’ve discovered that works for me is to pick one new strategy and implement it for at least four weeks. Then I review and see how it’s been working. If I like it, I keep it, put it on the schedule, and then I look for something new to try in the same way. If I don’t like it, I drop it.

By focusing on just one new thing at a time, I’m more likely to actually implement it and get a real feel for how it works.

Putting it all together …

These are some of the big things I’ve learned so far, and they’ve helped me achieve the success I’ve enjoyed up to this point. I’m not relaxing in that hammock yet, dozing in the warm breeze, while my brain does brilliant work in the background. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not benefiting from being a freelancer.

I don’t set an alarm in the morning. Mid-day showers are totally within my control and no one raises an eyebrow. I can work out on my front porch and watch the neighborhood pass by while I enjoy a brisk Idaho breeze — okay, so it’s not warm and tropical, but it will do. I can home-school my girls, which is important to me for a lot of reasons. I get to work with my husband, which is just cool and amazing. I can sit down for lunch with my family every day. This list goes on, and for every reason on it, I love the writer’s life.

For all those reasons and for all the dreams I’m still looking forward to fulfilling, I don’t have any plans to put my writing career on hold. In fact, I plan to keep ratcheting it up a notch until I can go relax in a hammock and sip a mai tai whenever I want to … even if it’s just in my own backyard.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: June 29, 2010

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