Becoming a Freelance Writer: The 7 Worst Things That Can Happen
Are you a worrier?
I am. I worry a lot. Usually the 3 a.m. kind, where the little voices in my head — I call them the Naysayer Squad — jolt me awake to tell me I’m not good enough or smart enough to be a professional (and paid) writer.
Too often, as aspiring writers, we let our fears take over. And as well-known author and entrepreneur Tim Ferris says, “It’s very hard to achieve goals if you have the emergency brake on, and the emergency brake is fear.”
Here’s the reality. You are not alone. We all have our 3 a.m. Naysayer Squad. It is a lot easier to become a freelance writer if you get out of your own way. Try to think of fear as a useful tool you can use to provide the clarity you need to move forward.
Confront your fears, say them out loud, and ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that can happen if I become a professional freelance copywriter?
#1. You’ll Die
Probably not. I googled it for you and could not find even one instance of ‘death by copywriting.’ So, assuming you’re safe from imminent demise, what should you expect instead?
Many aspiring copywriters will tell you that writing is a second (or last) chance to leave that dead-end job and to live the life they need. Professional copywriters who get paid to write what they know and love are much more likely to create a new life that’s filled with hope, passion, curiosity, and authenticity.
If death isn’t an option, then you get to choose what your life as a copywriter looks like. With each small success, you’ll develop confidence knowing you’re finally doing what you were meant to do.
#2. You’ll Fail
I’ll let you in on a little secret. This is my third attempt at becoming a professional freelance writer. Each time I ‘failed’ because, just as I started to get a few paid clients, I was lured away by the promise of a steady income, insurance, and a ‘real job.’ Why? I was so afraid of failing as a copywriter, that I chose the safe option. Sound familiar?
You’re likely to have missteps along the way too. But you’ll learn from them. Could you ride a bike the first time you tried? No, but you kept going even when you fell off. As adults, we put too much pressure on getting it right or perfect the first time. Practice being wrong. It’s a great life skill to have.
Don’t focus on all your mistakes; instead, spend 10 minutes at the end of each day reviewing what you did right. You’ll soon see how quickly the rights outnumber the wrongs.
#3. You’ll Be Rejected
Rejection is just another version of failure. Think of them as the identical twins in the Naysayer Squad. No one wants to be told they stink at doing the one thing they want more than anything else. Go back to #2. Rinse and repeat.
To become a freelance writer, you’ll need to get used to rejection. Nobody can bat a thousand. It’s how you handle the rejection that matters. Do you take the no — and instead — ask why? Rejection can be an opportunity to become a better writer. It’s a chance to learn and improve. Remember, there is a huge need for skilled copywriters across all niches. Find your niche and don’t give up.
And if you find yourself falling into writer’s angst, remember the words of Bruce Lee, “Be like water, my friend.” Only I’d change it to, “Be like an M&M, my friend.” That is, be hard on the outside, but soft on the inside. Become resilient to rejection, but don’t ever get so hardened that you lose the empathy and compassion you need to write well.
#4. People Will Think You’re a Fraud
It’s simply not true that everyone writes well. But you do. You’re the one taking classes and studying your craft. And you’re the one getting paid to write that email, blog, article, or website. In fact, the easier it is to do something you love, the more validation you should have that you’re heading in the right direction.
In my experience — having worked with hundreds of clients in a variety of capacities, from writing to strategy to project management — the most prepared person wins.
You may think clients are looking for a great writer, but what they’re really looking for is someone who approaches copywriting as a great professional. Do your research, pay attention to details. Listen. Always stay a step ahead of your clients by thinking about their problems — and how you can solve them. You’ll find that you inevitably know more than they do.
#5. You’ll Read Headlines Out Loud to Your Dog
It’s a little-known fact that dogs love to critique headlines, even if they’re light on Search Engine Optimization experience. That head tilt isn’t because they’re wondering how your headline will affect traffic visiting your website.
Even if you don’t have a pet, reading your writing out loud is one of the best ways to self-edit. Whenever you stumble, you’ll quickly find the awkward or unnecessary phrases to tweak.
It’s also a good reminder that, as writers, we can’t do it alone. Find your writing tribe. Attend an AWAI live event like AWAI’s FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair, Web Copy Intensive, or B2B Intensive. You’ll not only get hands-on writing experience and expert knowledge, you’ll also meet fellow writers who know what you’re going through and make terrific accountability partners.
And if you find yourself reading headlines to inanimate objects, go take a walk. Write in a coffee shop. Start a conversation. Practice telling people you’re a copywriter. You never know where you’ll find clients. I met my most recent client, a VP of Sales and Marketing, over coffee at an Airbnb.
#6. Your Friends and Family Won’t Love You
It’s hard to be loveable if all you do is complain about not having clients — and worse, complain about not knowing what to do, or not doing anything about it. Negative thinking has a way of compounding itself. Surround yourself with support, both physical and mental.
And develop an arsenal of tools and knowledge you need to be successful. The Internet is filled with amazing resources, great articles, and free tools to jump-start your dreams. For example, AWAI gives you free access to publications and articles on wide-ranging topics — expert advice on everything from finding a copywriting niche to getting clients to writing online copy.
Set aside at least 15-30 minutes each day to read something that makes you a smarter writer. An investment in yourself pays off in unexpected ways. Remember, you’re just one client away from becoming a paid freelance writer.
#7. You’ll Succeed
At various times in my writing journey, I’ve been asked by coaches and mentors, “How do you picture success?” I don’t think they were expecting my ‘deer in the headlights’ reaction.
Is it possible you’ve been holding yourself back because you’re afraid of real success? It should be easier to imagine success over failure. Yet, many of us focus on the bad things that could happen instead of picturing what success will look (and feel) like.
Want to make six-figures, working from your home by the beach — shoes optional? How about quitting that 9-to-5 job and making enough money to support your family? How good will that feel? To write the story of your life, you must be able to see it in your mind first.
Like any skill, success is something that needs practice. Celebrate your wins. Recognize what you do well. Express gratitude. Decide who you want to become, not who you are today.
And when you do succeed — because if you persist, you will — pay it forward. Share your expertise, your knowledge, your shortcuts, and your compassion with other aspiring writers. Never forget what it felt like when you first started and how grateful you were for any tip or encouraging word. If you’re ready to become a freelance copywriter, you need a solid foundation. Join AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting and get the proven training to help you break into the copywriting industry.
What is the worst thing you think will happen if you decide to become a freelance writer? Let us know in the comments below so we can help you move beyond it.
Myrna Begnel is a full-time B2B Copywriter and Content Marketer based in Ventura, California. She specializes in digital copy and content creation for industrial, manufacturing, and logistics/supply chain companies. Her website is Artessa Marketing.
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