From November 2014

Jump Start Your Freelance-Writing Career – Part 2

A week ago we started our paths to a “real” freelance-writing career by finding a quiet writing space, getting all those little to-do items on paper and out of our minds, and scheduling time for them with the commitment of sticking to it.

I hope you’re settling into a new routine, and hopefully you’re seeing some positive results, even if it’s only because you don’t have those to-do thoughts nagging you after our put-it-on-the-page exorcism.
(If you’re still struggling with something, shoot me an email or comment – I’ll probably be able to help since I was likely in your shoes at some point.)

Writing space (a.k.a. “den of zen”)?  Check.

Thorough to-do list of actions that will help grow our career?  Check.

A realistic, organized schedule of the aforementioned list?  Check.

So what else will help us make that proverbial leap from newbie to bona fide author?

  1. Call yourself a writer, because you are one.

Jeff Goins had excellent advice in saying, “Believe you already are what you want to be. Then start doing it.”

If you don’t see yourself as a writer, no one else will, either.

There’s no mandate stating you have to put down 1,000 words every day to be considered a “real writer.”
If you’ve got the dream and can truthfully say you write regularly (regardless of the word count), then you’re a writer. Period.

A little fear can be healthy, because it shows you actually care and are emotionally invested in the way things go. But letting yourself succumb to fear to where you’re completely frozen (i.e. unable to write a single thing, let alone pitch ideas to anyone) will put you on the fast track to defeat and unfulfilled dreams.

Banish fear in whatever way works for you – read a book, meditate, have a friend or spouse give you a pep talk, journal, get sauced on wine (keep it classy), make a date with your therapist… anything! But let it go so it’s not weighing you down.
(Read and re-read this as often as necessary.)

  1. Learn as much as you can from others, and embrace supportive writing communities.

What freelancers do you look up to? Who has your “dream life” now?

Study them, write to them, see what they have to offer.

Google offers a plethora of resources for a motivated researcher, and with all the kind and helpful writers out there who HAVE created a successful writing career, you should have no problem finding more information than you need.
Don’t be lazy when it comes to getting involved with professional writers. And don’t be afraid to approach them, thinking they’ll want nothing to do with you or your un-published naivety.

One awesome thing about writers is that we are all very quick to help other writers and want to see them succeed. Pretty soon, you’ll be one of those successful writers helping the newbies.

  1. Start pitching. Now.

Everyone, absolutely EVERYONE, had to start somewhere.

No one was a brilliant, well-known writer before they went and pitched their first article to someone. All the writers you admire now started out just like you – a little intimidated and uncertain.

As long as you’re getting positive feedback from other writers and you’ve got a good grasp of the building blocks that create a successful freelancing career, take a deep breath and dive in!

This is often the scariest step because it makes the whole thing real, and it’s also the first real chance for rejection.

If you can’t make that first move, I can guarantee your writing career will never make it off the ground.

As frightening as it is, you’ve got to stick your neck out and make yourself vulnerable to have a chance at making your dream come true. The only difference between successful writers and hobby writers is their courage to persevere when faced with putting themselves out there.

  1. Fake it ’til you make it.

Even if you’re not completely confident in what you’re doing at first, sometimes you have to “fake it ’til you make it.”

Carol Tice wrote about a potential client who asked if she was familiar with a specific technological platform. She wasn’t, but instead of shrugging her shoulders and looking amateur, she “just nodded [her] head, acted confident… and went off and quickly figured it out.” She had a “fake it ’til you make it” attitude and it paid off.

I’m not encouraging you to lie or take on something that’s completely out of your league. If someone asks if you have experience with deep-sea bioluminescents and the physiology behind their eerie light, don’t just nod and smile if you just learned what bioluminescence was from watching a show on Discovery years ago.

Use good judgment, but don’t write yourself off, either. Most new writers lean toward insecurity in their abilities, so you’re probably more capable than you think.

So in summary, let’s recap.
At this point you have:

  • your personal writing hidey hole (be it a den, desk in the basement, or box in the attic)
  • a scheduled to-do list
  • your new, shiny title of “writer”
  • a list of people or companies you want to pitch to
  • your fear and inexperienced hog-tied, for use as a step stool

You can do this, so go get ‘em, tiger!
(Imagine my encouraging arm movement with closed fist.)

Whenever you feel discouraged, uncertain, or just plain defeated, please let us know – we’re here to help whether you need a pep talk, guidance, advice, or resources.

And when you do finally make that first pitch and/or land your first assignment, post your success below!

 

Until then, who is on YOUR pitch list?

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Jump Start Your Freelance-Writing Career – Part 1

When starting your freelance-writing career, a lot of time is often wasted trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing.

Endless hours are spent inefficiently, and we all know that’s a death-knell for productivity and growth.

It’s easy to spread yourself thin while getting involved in your target market’s community, commenting on others’ posts, reading everything under the sun on how to succeed, keeping notes and potential blog ideas, staying current in your niche, bulking up your portfolio, studying the art of pitching, and so on and so forth.

It’s exhausting, overwhelming, and leaves you wondering just what it is you think you’re doing.

Thankfully, as someone who has been there, done that, and gotten the tattered T-shirt, I can suggest a few things that might make the confusing journey to a “real” writing career a little less chaotic.

 

  1. First things first – find a writing “den of zen.”

I know it’s been said before, but there’s a good reason why this is number one.

If you’re going to take your writing career (and yourself) seriously, you need a place where you can work without being distracted.

Coming from the lady who tried to wing it in her living room armchair while daughter, husband, dog, and cats milled around, “trying to make do” just won’t cut it.

Find a special writing den for yourself, whether it’s the crawl space in your attic (Kidding… kind of) or a corner at the local coffee shop.

 

  1. Make a prioritized to-do list.

With so many options on where to spend your time, it’s imperative that you make an organized list of what you’d like to do.

Write down everything that is taking your time and attention, like reading and taking notes on others’ blogs, reading books about your craft, working on your website and/or personal blog, practicing pitching, finding potential clients in your niche market, promoting on social media, commenting and being a presence in writing and blog communities, submitting guest blogs, bulking up your portfolio, the actual act of writing itself, ad infinitum.

Get a hold of each thing that is leeching your focus and put it down on paper.

Then take a realistic look at your list and decide how much time you want to give each task.

When you’ve got a general idea of how much time you want to put into things, it’s a lot easier to make a solid plan and schedule things so you’re not neglecting anything else.

This is the best way to put all those “Don’t forget about me – you gotta do this thing rightnowthisminute!” demons to rest so you can focus on one thing at a time and not feel like you’re dropping the ball in other areas.

 

  1. Once you’ve got your to-do list, schedule time for each area and stick to it.

We all know that making a writing date prompts the universe to throw anything and everything in our way.

Despite Murphy’s Law, make a commitment to keep your writing schedule AT ALL COSTS.

This may mean moving things around so that your family is eating take out for dinner instead of the chicken and rice you had planned, or instead of getting the laundry done you have a bigger pile for tomorrow, but so be it.

If you can’t stick to a writing schedule, even a flexible one, you’re not going to be able to commit to regular writing work.

“So stop treating your writing like a hobby and decide to get serious about making things happen.  Otherwise, your writing won’t ever turn into a writing career.“.

Your family will understand, and might even chip in to help out with the dirty laundry. (Haha, I made a funny!)

I hope this gives you a good start to getting some organization and focus in your writing life.

Next week we’ll explore a few more ways you can shed your newbie status on the way to becoming a real pro. Until then, start building those lists!

What will be going on yours?

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