5 Proven Tips for Launching a Long-Lasting Writing Career
(From a Highly-Successful Writer Who Was Once in Your Shoes!)
You know that whole “If I’d known then what I know now” concept?
It crosses my mind a lot, especially every time I get ready to tackle a new writing project or network at a conference.
Let’s just say I’ve come a long way since day one!
But I don’t view my past hurdles with regret. The challenges I faced on my way to becoming a professional writer helped shape me into what I am today.
And now I want to pass that hard-won knowledge on to you. I’m going to share my five biggest takeaways from the past several years of growing my writing business. Trust me when I say they’ll accelerate your own writing career in ways you may not have considered.
Writing Career Tip #1: Give Yourself Permission to Move Forward
This first tip is one of the most important pieces of advice you’ll ever hear when it comes to freelance writing.
In fact, you’ve probably heard it before, and you’re bound to hear it again. Mostly because it’s a powerful truth but tough to accept.
And if you actually apply this knowledge to your career, you’ll be in the minority. Here it is:
You’ll never know everything.
I believe “perpetual learning” is what holds a lot of would-be writers back from a successful career. They never take the leap into paid writing because they’re too busy trying to learn everything first.
But there will always be just one more book to read, one more program to finish, or one more blog to subscribe to.
Don’t give yourself a life sentence of studying and never acting. Consider this permission to move forward in your writing career.
When I was green in this business, I wasted a lot of time trying to learn everything before I put myself out there. Then I showed up at a conference on web copywriting and realized — despite my best efforts — there was a whole world of web-writing knowledge I’d never even skimmed. Hadn’t even touched.
Yet, I landed a client at that event. I’ve been landing clients ever since. So now, I learn as I go instead of trying to know everything first.
Bottom line: Don’t hold yourself back based on what you don’t yet know. If you study an AWAI program, you’ll know more than the majority of the copywriters out there. Then, you need to take action.
Writing Career Tip #2: There’s No Such Thing as a “Solo”-preneur
Rebecca Matter, President of AWAI, was the first marketer who made me believe I could carve a solid living out of writing. I pitched a shaky idea, and she ran with it. She — who has a lot of experience in this industry and knows what’s up to snuff — totally granted me access to life as a professional writer.
But that access didn’t start with a paid writing project … it started with the affirmation I could do it.
Which brings me to the second biggest takeaway I want to pass on to you:
You can’t do it alone.
In the freelance writing world, any praise you get is more than complimentary — it’s affirming.
Sometimes that’s all it takes to get the ball rolling in your career — just one tidbit of positive feedback from someone on the inside.
Most writers I know, while eager to embrace the writer's life, move forward with trepidation. Because when you're just starting out, it's hard to put yourself “out there.”
So any kind of positive feedback from a connection inside the industry does much more than make you feel good about yourself. It’s that extra kick in the pants most of us need to take a step forward in our careers. And there’s no way to get that if you’re on your own.
I started freelance writing with a reasonable amount of confidence. But I moved at a turtle’s pace. What made a radical difference for me was connecting with other writers and marketers who helped move me forward.
That’s one of the reasons I return to the same writing conferences year after year.
It’s great to see old friends and hear about their freelancing successes. And it’s terrific to meet new writers and listen to their big career goals (re-energizes me every time).
But the best part (I’m a little embarrassed to say) is being told, “You rock! Your writing is solid. Your ideas are terrific. Any client would kill to have you.”
Doesn’t matter who says it. Could be a fellow writer, a big-name presenter, or a marketer on the hunt for talent. At the end of the day, it’s just nice to connect with someone who understands the industry and affirms my goals.
I also get a lot out of pitching assignments and taking advantage of spec writing opportunities — it’s a way to start a conversation. So never be afraid to send in ideas, or even questions to writing-related groups — and AWAI in particular. There’s no telling who you’ll “meet” or what kind of connection you’ll establish.
Writing Career Tip #3: Why Writing Makes You a Better Person
Here’s the next big takeaway I want to share so you can launch a long-lasting writing career …
Freelance writing paves the way to self-improvement.
That’s because life as a freelance writer is a lot easier once you get good at mastering your life — not just your writing.
Let me put it this way. When I set out to be a freelance writer, I had two objectives: I wanted to write, and I wanted to make a lot of money.
It never occurred to me that in my quest to be a successful writer, I’d also learn how to set goals and follow through. Or that I’d have to figure out time management and reconfigure my lifestyle for optimal health and inspiration. I certainly never anticipated launching multiple businesses based on my own interests.
Maybe these are things you’d do in any other career, or things you do just as a matter of getting through life.
But the difference is, you’ll succeed faster at freelance writing if you start now on self-improvement.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Set goals that go beyond money. Think about what you’ll do with your money once you have it — like pay off your house, travel the world, send your kids to college debt-free, start a charity, etc.
- Take care of your body by eating well and exercising in whatever way is most fun for you. A healthy body fuels a creative mind.
- Sleep. Your brain is your primary writing muscle. Just like an Olympic runner shouldn’t tax his legs by walking all over town before a race, you shouldn’t tax your brain before you tackle a writing project.
- Really focus on time management. Time management isn’t sexy, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be astounded at what you can achieve in a writing career.
- Do things that fuel your passion. A happy writer is a good writer, so doing things that bring you joy is extremely relevant to your success.
I think pursuing my passions — like making pies — also fuels and calms me. Just make sure to find something that inspires your writing.
Writing Career Tip #4: Not Exactly "Too Good to Be True"
Fourth on my list of major takeaways to enhance your freelance writing career:
Writing won’t solve all your problems.
I know a lot of well-intentioned folks who seem to think the opposite — that a writing career will solve all their problems, that it’ll make them rich and handsome and loved and stress-free … and all those other things we’d like handed to us on a platter.
But it won’t.
I call this the “too good to be true” crowd. They ask me things like,
“Is this for real? Because my wife left me recently, and I have a ton of bills piling up, and my car broke down, and I’m late on my rent, and my doctor just told me I have gout.
“But it sounds like you’re saying being a freelance writer can fix all that?”
Uh, no. YOU have to fix your own issues. YOU have to do the work. What freelance writing can give you, once you master the key techniques, is a great income, a very flexible schedule, and the ability to live anywhere in the world. And you get to be in an environment full of successful and motivated people.
The writers and entrepreneurs I’m connected to on Facebook are forever posting stuff about success and inspiration. They regularly share business goals and client success stories. It’s stimulating.
Contrast that with my non-entrepreneurial Facebook friends whose posts pretty much center around what they did last weekend, how they’re winning at different Facebook games, and the weather.
Remember, the successful freelancer’s lifestyle encourages you to master quite a few things beyond writing — like time management, goal-setting, and self-motivation.
Networking with other professional writers can definitely speed up your path to success as a freelancer.
In fact, I find the influence of this “winner crowd” goes a long way in making me want to aim higher.
But, I know I have to do the work … the writer’s life won’t do it for me.
Writing Career Tip #5: This Gig is Easy (Seriously!)
Here’s the final, and really, the BEST piece of advice I want to leave you with:
This gig — writing for a living — is EASY.
Think about it. As a writer, you’ll never have to memorize textbooks full of big words. You don’t have to sit for painful board exams.
You simply learn some fundamental truths about marketing and the psychology of prospects and customers. Then, you practice writing techniques that address those needs. There are several programs to help you do that.
In the end, though, it’s really all about putting pen to paper (or keyboard to screen, whatever) and practicing what you learn.
Many of us hit roadblocks along the way to building a writing income. But most of those roadblocks have to do with things outside of the writing itself.
I’m talking about things like mastering your self-confidence, or managing your time efficiently. Being consistent in your goals and staying accountable to others. Surrounding yourself with inspiring people.
Doing things that bring you joy.
That’s the stuff everybody should be doing no matter what line of work they’re in. At the end of the day, that’s the stuff that translates to truly satisfied living.
The only difference as far as the writer’s life goes, is that you have more time to figure all that stuff out. You don’t have to wait for a midlife crisis, or for retirement. You face those questions on a daily basis.
When I first started, the writing scared me. I always worried I’d put the wrong word up on the screen. That froze me into inaction. The inaction depressed me. The depression tempted me to give up.
If I’d realized how easy the writing side was when I was new to this world, I’d have thrown myself headlong into mastering those other challenges instead of worrying about simple sentences.
Besides, you’ll find that connecting with your writing peers and getting their feedback on your copy is one of the single most effective ways to improve your writing. It goes back to the benefit of not doing this on your own.
Good Luck as You Launch the Writing Career of Your Dreams!
And there you have it — five major takeaways you can use now, today, to get your own writing career up and running. Your experience is bound to be different from mine. You’ll probably even have different takeaways as you go along. But perhaps you can take advantage of my hard-won knowledge.
In any case, I wish you the best of luck as you shape the opportunities in paid writing into a long-term, high-satisfaction career. And, I hope it leads you to the lifestyle you dream of.
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