Over a year ago, a blogger friend of mine asked me for advice. She wanted to know how to jumpstart her freelance writing career. Not particularly considering my answer, I shot back, “Have you tried oDesk?” Based on her reaction, you’d think I just flipped the middle finger.
After mulling things over, it occurred to me that recommending oDesk to somebody who has to make thousands of dollars a month to support her family was an insult.
Number one, oDesk is a bidding site and is notorious for cheap rates. Number two, while I honestly believe there still are decent offers at oDesk, one has to spend time looking for them. Just like a needle in a haystack, you know the needle is somewhere in there, but you would have to sift through a good mound of hay to find it.
At that time, I was just starting out myself. I had very limited web writing experience, and oDesk was the only place I knew where to start. I wasn’t aware there were other avenues to land freelance writing gigs, save for bidding sites, job boards and content mills.
Fast forward to today, I consider myself a mid-tier freelancer that has, through sheer will and some level of acceptance, broken away from the penny-per-word stigma attached to freelance writers from oDesk.
So what changed, exactly?
A lot has changed. But mostly, the changes had to do with how I saw things, which validates the saying, “True change happens within, not without.”
I entered the world of online writing with a ton of insecurities. While English was the medium of instruction in schools, I rarely spoke it at home. The fact that I was a published novelist in my home country didn’t help bolster my confidence.
As far as I was concerned, my English wasn’t good enough, which explains why it took me eight months before I sent out my first ever cover letter.
Those eight months, I was tirelessly writing for my no-niche blog, blogging about anything under the sun. When I thought I was coherent enough to be understood, I finally stepped out of my shell.
To date, I’ve already published hundreds of guest posts under my name. But until the employer I considered my mentor decided to let go of me did I finally find confidence in my abilities – not just as a freelance writer but as a marketing professional. For almost two years, he fed me with ideas, marketing strategies, even good words for what he calls my “adequate writing ability.”
The ideas and strategies I embraced wholeheartedly but never the compliment to my writing. In my mind, I wasn’t that good – yet. While that was a “safe” mindset to carry around, it crippled me. Just the idea of approaching a high-traffic blog for a possible guest posting stint immobilized me with fear.
And then, my mentor had to take on a bigger role, and he left me with clients he wouldn’t be able to accommodate. All of a sudden, it was time to man up and prove to the folks he left behind that he wasn’t risking his reputation for nothing.
It was a big step forward, and I’m glad I took it. Since then, I’ve learned to appreciate the value that I provide to my clients and the value they bring back to me as a result, in the form of better pay.
Confidence can’t be drilled into the head hard enough, particularly if the subject isn’t a willing victim. If you can’t believe in yourself, there’s no guarantee that someone else will.
For a while, I never thought of freelance writing as a business. For me, it was a side job, secondary to my full-time job. If it took off, great. If not, well, I wasn’t expecting too much from it anyway.
Ever since I started looking at it as a side business that can potentially liberate me from the 9-to-5 rat race I’m still languishing in, things have taken quite a turn. I’ve learned to:
- Plan to succeed. If you want to ultimately get anywhere, you have to have a game plan. Beware of big plans, however, or a thousand great ideas that can get you overwhelmed in the long run. Start with one big idea and go from there.
- Invest in knowledge. Respect begets respect, sure. In business, if invested properly, money begets money, too. Apart from time, invest in reading materials and courses that can help you better your craft and take your business to the next level.
Changing your perspective for the better is a cheaper alternative to forcing those around you to change.
Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you which side of the bed you’re likely to sleep at night.
Seriously, associating yourself with people who believe you can never financially get anywhere through freelance writing is a risk all its own. Negative people can strip you of your newfound confidence, even the knowledge that there’s more to freelance writing than just a side job.
Until the nonbelievers realize they’re burning up more energy by being the negative entities everybody loves to hate, they’ll complain, wallow in self-pity and do everything to drag you down. If you want to succeed, be with successful people.
The same way misery loves company, success breeds success.
Confidence, or the lack thereof, was my biggest deterrent when I was still starting. While I’m not saying I no longer doubt my abilities (I still do, at times), I’m confident in the belief that if I work hard enough and continually see myself as the half-filled vessel I am, things will fall into place, like they always do.
And if they don’t, which they sometimes do, tomorrow is another day.
What about you? What were the circumstances you had to overcome to become the better blogger/freelance writer that you are today?
Image credit: sakhorn38 | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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