Just like “Breakfast for Dinner,” sometimes I like to keep things fresh by turning things upside down from time to time. For today’s Friday Fun, I want to introduce you to a handful of websites writers can appreciate.
Have a safe and happy Halloween, friends.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Although you might expect different from me based on my most recent posts here, I’m going to spend today’s installment encouraging you to respect fear.
Fear is a healthy emotion. It’s your psyche’s response to perceiving legitimate threats to your health and safety — a survival response evolved over millions of years. As security expert Gavin deBecker says, it’s a gift that helps you stay safe.
Worry is no gift. It consists of focusing on the things that could go wrong — often to the extent that your worry interferes with your ability to prevent the calamity. Worry distracts you and increases your stress level.
If you re-read the other posts in this series, you’ll come to an inescapable conclusion. What I’ve been describing as “fears” are more accurately described as “worries.” Because they’re worries, they share several traits in common:
- They’re abstract — not direct threats to your life and health, but rather perceived concerns about a theoretical quality of life.
- They’re not happening right now — people worry about the future, not the present.
- They’re generally under your control — fear is about things the world does to you. Worry is about what you do in the world.
If you have a legitimate, present fear about writing for a living — such as a huge monthly debt payment you won’t make without your full-time job — that’s a good reason to put off your plans to become a writer.
If only your worries are standing in the way, that’s no reason not to get started. You’l overcome those worries fastest by watching yourself succeed despite them.
This one gets a little personal.
A freelancer doesn’t fit the usual mold for a western family. You don’t work nine to five. To many, you might not even appear to work. In some relationships, this situation can be fraught with peril.
- Your spouse might have trouble accepting that she goes to work while you stay at home — even if she intellectually understands that you’re working.
- Your family will have trouble not interrupting you while you’re at work.
- Your spouse may not respond well to the perceived instability of freelance work — or to the ebb and flow of getting paid by the job.
- Summers, your children won’t understand why you can’t play with them all day — at least until they’re teenagers and have no use for you anyway.
- Your spouse might ask you to take on more household chores than you can handle while also doing well as a freelancer.
Put more simply, your family can be one of the biggest roadblocks to your success as a freelancer. I’m not a relationship expert — and certainly no expert on your relationship. What advice I have for you consists solely of my experience.
I started freelancing after I sold a reasonably successful small business. For six months, I ramped up my writing career while staying at home. My wife worked her job in the school district. Although she understood intellectually what I was doing, two things bothered her.
- In the beginning, I wasn’t bringing in a lot of money.
- A part of her chafed under the role reversal of me being the “stay at home” spouse.
I ended up taking a more-than-full time job selling insurance*. It kept me out of the house 10 to 12 hours a day, including weekends. My wife was responsible for her job and the house. It was so rough on both of us, to this day we refer to that time as my “stupid, poopy insurance job.”
When I quit, I had two things going for me. I’d found a client who could pay me as much as my wife was making, and my wife had decided she liked having me at home.
Since then, we’ve navigated around respecting my work hours — and found balance between my caring for the house and kids, and making my deadlines.
How about you? What have the freelancers out there done to keep your families happy with your career decision?
*Interesting side note: two years later, I’ve made significantly more money writing about insurance than I ever did selling it.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass through me and over me.
When you’re writing as a hobby, fear of failure means fear of writing poorly and being embarrassed when you share your work.
When you write as a professional, fear of failure means fear that nobody will every buy your work again, that you’ll stop making money, lose your house, have your spouse and kids leave you and wind up destitute in an alley sipping sterno you drained through a used gym sock because it dulls the pain just enough to make it bearable.
That’s a reasonable thing to be afraid of, but for professionals it’s not itself a reasonable fear. It’s almost impossible to not get paid for your work if you know where to look. Non-native English speakers get paid for writing in English. They don’t get paid much, but they get paid.
And so will you.
Fear can get in the way of that. It can make you anxious or depressed so you don’t make your deadlines. It can keep you in your day job, working so hard that you never step out to freelance as a writer. Defeating that fear requires a simple change of your mindset. The question is not
Will I make enough money?
The question is
How hard will I have to work to make the money I need?
If you enter your goal-setting and workday with that in your mind, you’ll get by. Keep submitting articles. Keep searching for jobs. Accept the work that comes your way. Some days, you’ll work a cushy assignment for two hours and make the money you need. Other days, you’ll pull teeth for a ten-hour marathon and barely make your nut.
In both cases, you’ve made it for that day. In every case, you’ll make it for that day. It’s just a matter of disciplining yourself to push through the hard days — and never again fearing that you won’t make enough money.
Because you’ll see to it that you do.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
Halloween is upon us, for some reason a holiday people associate with fear — rather than getting messed up on foreign substances. Kids get sugar high on candy. Teens and young adults get drunk on beer and shots. Adults end up sleep-deprived and running on pure adrenaline. I figure this makes this week as good as any to talk about one of the most common barriers to success for freelancers:
Today I want to focus specifically on fear of rejection. To freelance, especially as a writer, you have to send out countless proposals to potential clients. Some of them will ignore you completely. A few will contact you and give you work. Others will contact you, ask you to spend several hours on a more detailed sample of what you can do….then ignore you completely or send you a form “no thank you” letter. Bottom line: freelance writers get more rejection than acceptance. This is true no matter what kind of freelancing you do. Fear of rejection keeps some writers from ever submitting their work. It keeps others from making the money they could by limiting how many jobs they’re willing to apply for. Fear of rejection is the enemy, and you need to develop the tools to defeat that enemy. According to my sources, there are roughly three hundred and seventy five bajojozillion pages of self-help and sales books that claim to help you overcome this basic fear. I’ve tried much of that advice, and seen how it works in the fields of sales, freelancing and dating. After eliminating the snake-oil and bunk, I can boil the best advice down to one word:
submit your writing
Just do it. It’s easier than asking someone to dance. Less fraught with peril than trying to close a sale. You write that email or letter and send it off. Then you do it again.
- No excuses.
- No procrastinating.
Soon afterward, you’ll begin collecting rejection notes from publications throughout the world. A bit after that, you’ll start getting acceptance notes and money for your writing. The first rejections will sting — heck, I’d be lying if I said they don’t still sting. But they won’t have the power to send you into a deep blue funk after you’ve read your first few dozen.
It’s really that simple. Bite the bullet. Dive into the pool. Rip off the band-aid. The sooner you do it — and the more you keep doing it — the sooner it loses its power to sting.
Thanks for listening.
Writers out there — what’s your most ridiculous/embarrassing/amusing rejection story?