Five ways to gain confidence as a new freelance writer

Making the decision to venture into freelance writing can be scary. Trying to generate income from your combined love of writing and education seems almost too good to be true. Imagine the scene, or, if you have been there, think back to when you began. You make contacts, perhaps by networking on LinkedIn or joining the major writing associations in your field. You build a beautiful, navigable website that highlights your services and best work. You even send out your first set of e-mail pitches for writing gigs, by far the scariest proposition of the whole process when I first started out. Achieving each of these essential first steps lays a foundation for confidence and self-belief. But the real test of your ability to persevere comes with each passing rejection or criticism. You may feel like giving up on what seems like a dream. Inside, you know that if you persist and keep trying, you will almost certainly land new assignments, which could result in regular clients. But how do you maintain confidence and not feel overwhelmed at the beginning? Here are a handful of strategies that can help you build your writing practice, while maintaining a healthy mindset as you move towards your freelance goals.

Write often. To build any skills set, you must practice. Writing is no exception. The more time you dedicate to developing your writing style, the more confident you will feel with your unique voice. You will also begin seeing trends in what types of pieces you prefer writing. As a new freelancer, you may not understand which markets, clients, and audiences you want to impact through your writing. Establishing a regular writing practice will help you identify interests and areas of knowledge that you could market. Writing each day will also help you overcome writer’s doubt. Success is motivating. You will feel a sense of accomplishment with each finished product. You will improve your basic skills in researching, outlining, and developing a first draft without being hindered by your internal editor. That’s a skills set that causes struggles even for some advanced writers! As you continue through multiple drafts, a regular writing practice will help you learn how to edit, and develop your ability to communicate clearly and concisely. If you do not have a steady flow of clients yet, practice by writing blog posts or longer pieces to include in your portfolio. Practice writing concise pitches that clearly communicate a unique concept you would like to develop for a targeted client. Establish a habit of writing each morning. Setting aside this dedicated time is critical, especially if you are starting your freelance career while still employed full-time.

Build a community. We learn from those with whom we spend the most time. As a writer, you will benefit from building a network of writers, freelancers who understand business, and those who give you positive energy. It has never been easier to access information than now. In fact, you run the risk of information overload with the amount of content available online. Take time to identify virtual and live mentors who provide you with the guidance you need now. Multidisciplinary mentorship also works well, with individual mentors for writing, business, marketing, and niche-specific topics, for example. Choose the mentors and coaches with whom you best resonate. There are many outstanding virtual mentors who offer incredible value to new freelancers. Here are a few to check out for strategic advice- Ed Gandia, High-Income Business Writing, b2blauncher; Lindy Alexander, thefreelancersyear; Janine Kelbach, WriteRN; and Michelle Guillemard, healthwriterhub. These are just a few of the many seasoned freelance writing professionals who offer online content, as well as additional courses and coaching, to help new writers succeed.

In addition to searching for virtual mentors, identify professional associations in your field that can help you achieve your goals. For example, medical and scientific writers may benefit from joining the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). Writing associations like AMWA provide educational webinars, in-depth courses, certification programs, in-person and virtual networking, regular newsletters, and online groups to answer specific questions. These are just a few of the ways that associations can help you grow professionally.

You can also build your community by joining local or virtual writing groups. These groups foster accountability and often provide educational content, ongoing advice as questions and problems arise, and feedback to continuously improve your writing. My first writing group was virtual, and I was a little skeptical about how useful it would be. However, within the first few months, I saw a spike in my productivity and confidence. Each participant shared their weekly struggles and successes. I soon realized that my self-doubt and obstacles were shared among the group. Understanding that others, especially those who are now thriving, have dealt with the same challenges and persevered to meet their goals is reassuring. The online writing group helped me stick to my goals, broaden my writing circle, and learn from others.

Another important consideration for growing and protecting your confidence is your immediate circle of contacts. Not everyone understands the desire to live the life of a freelancer or a writer. Combining the two? Well, you will meet many who won’t understand your decision. Try to minimize time spent with people who drain you of the energy you need to feel strong and self-sufficient. Surround yourself with empowering, positive people who will help keep you grounded and driven in pursuit of your goals.

Understand your goals. Defining 3- to 5-year goals is important for guiding your intentions, but for new freelancers, starting small could be a worthwhile approach. Clarify your top three daily, weekly, and monthly goals. These could be as straightforward as creating a draft homepage for your website, listening to and acting on a podcast, writing a blog post, or submitting 10 new pitches. Make your short-term goals specific, measurable, realistically achievable within the time frame, and relevant to your long-term goals. One approach is to write down your top three goals for the next day each evening. Similarly, spend 15 minutes on Sunday thinking through and writing down your top three weekly goals, which should be broader but still encompass most of your daily goals for that week. Dedicate time for reflection and forward planning during the last few days of each month. The time investment for setting these small goals is minor, and the payoffs are huge.

Know your strengths. One reason new writers often feel discouraged is that they feel they have nothing new to contribute. Take time to reflect and understand your unique background. Consider the following questions. What have you excelled at professionally and personally during the past three years? What degrees, certificates, specialized training, awards, testimonials, or recognition have you received? What or who have you impacted through your work or personal life? Where do you spend your free time and weekends? In what areas do others seek your advice? Going through these questions thoughtfully, and jotting down lists of responses will help you identify themes related to your unique interests and skills. Identifying these strengths will help you understand the value you bring to prospective clients.

Reframe how you view writing. Stop worrying about the end goal; instead, focus on the words. Writing is a process, a lifelong learning process. Once you shift your mindset to embrace writing with a growth, rather than fixed, mindset, you will change your trajectory and start experiencing success. When you adopt a growth mindset as a writer, you seek to learn from each writing experience. You willingly look at feedback as information you need to improve, and you understand that challenges will strengthen you. As a new freelance writer, you know that hard work and persistence are required to gain new clients or publish your work. When your results are not working out, seek help, learn from others and your perceived failures, and redesign your path to achieve your goals. Adopt a positive attitude about writing by viewing it as an opportunity to continuously learn and educate. Reframing what it means to be a writer can open up a world of opportunity, helping you remain mentally tough, so you can keep moving forward.