Memorial Day is a day to honor the memory and lives of all those who have sacrificed in service of our country. Despite the intense political divisions in our country these recent years, those men and women who have sworn to fight and uphold the Constitution that gives me the freedom to speak my mind, share my opinions, and sleep safe and sound deserve our utmost respect, support, and gratitude.
Thank you to all those living, deceased, and missing armed forces personnel who have dedicated your time, energy, blood, sweat, tears, and even lives in service of this country I call home.
America has its faults, but I’m only allowed to say so because of the sacrifices made by men and women – including my grandfathers, uncle, and cousins – who served to defend my freedom.
If you work in a creative field, it’s a guarantee that you’ll eventually receive feedback and criticism. Not all criticism is going to be positive and sometimes feedback will make you outright question your career choice.
Most clients provide constructive criticism meant to help you improve your skills or write a piece better. Some won’t bother to comment at all, and will instead simply publish whatever you submitted.
Readers of pieces we write, too, may provide feedback, and often less tactfully than a client would.
Your website serves as your business’s digital identity on the internet. It provides a format for you to list your products and services, a little bit of information about your company and its founders, perhaps an address to your physical storefront, and a means of contact for customers who want to get in touch with you.
If you’ve done any research into becoming a freelance writer, you’ve surely seen the word niche brought up so often that your mind does that weird thing where it starts to look like a made-up word. Before embarking upon this freelance journey, I scoffed at the importance of finding my freelance writing niche.
That was a mistake.
It left me open to being considered a jack-of-all-trades writer. While there’s nothing wrong with a writer who can write about any topic (and I can), there’s far more benefits to specializing in something.
I’ve always loved animals but was never too fond of cats while growing up. When I was really young, I had a severe allergic reaction to my friend Kevin’s cat that caused my throat to close, so while I appreciated cats, it always had to be from afar. Until my family adopted a beagle, Benny, in 2001, the only pets I ever had were guinea pigs and cannibalistic goldfish.
Shortly after my last post about setting goals as a freelance writer, I sold my first article as a freelance writer and acquired my first long-term client. The sense of accomplishment and joy I felt in being paid for the first time as a professional writer made me feel like a kid on Halloween who just filled his candy bucket to the brim with sugary sweets. But that excitement soon gave way and logic took over, posing me with the question: what do I do to stay motivated as a business-owner and a freelancer? I know that losing my momentum would be disastrous for my morale; such is the cost of dealing with constant, resurgent anxiety and depression. The success of my business and freelancing endeavor would, thus, be dependent on keeping the momentum of work and some modicum of achievement flowing.
Setting my earning goals has been the first part to giving myself a framework to work in. Freelancers aren’t accountable to a manager or boss; we are our own bosses. There’s no write-up system, discipline, or threat of being fired if we don’t perform. We simply don’t work, or our business stagnates. Having a framework – even a loose one – to work within gives me some aspect of accountability. “How close am I to my earning goal?” I can ask myself, and track my progress in that way. If I’m far off from the mark, I’d know I’m failing as a freelancer and that it is time to either step it up or quit. And I’m no quitter.
My client was happy with my work and paid me accordingly, then asked me to write another piece. He promised me future work if I can continually deliver the same quality and turn-around, which I fully intend to do so. It’s here that I have to admit I have a personality flaw: I’m horribly afraid of letting down someone who depends on or trusts me. It’s because of this that I’ve lost many opportunities throughout my life, because my confidence wasn’t up to par with being able to wholeheartedly promise to deliver. But my client accepting my first piece proved to me more than anyone that being a professional freelance writeris something I can do and is something I can succeed at.
Yesterday I took some time off from writing to instead continue research and reading behind how to successfully run my freelancing career. Starting off as a freelance writer is difficult, and it can quickly gnaw at your sense of self-worth and happiness if you don’t remind yourself that it takes some time to find success as a freelancer. As someone who’s impatient by nature, this is a fact I have to remind myself of multiple times a day. It’s been getting harder to, however, as without having much in my portfolio, it’s hard to attract potential clients and work, and finances are a very real issue for me right now. But then I realized this has only been my second real week trying to make this work. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and by all accounts, I’m on track to making this career choice work.
One of the resources I’ve turned to a lot in my recent research into freelance writing is Carol Tice’s How to Make a Living Writing. While Carol sells a lot of courses and lessons, most of her free posts are packed full of information for freelance writers of every caliber and has served as a major resource for me. Yesterday, I stumbled upon The Truth About How Much Freelance Writers Make and found the second heading, “What is your earning goal?“, particularly interesting and thought-provoking.
“What is my earning goal?” I asked myself, realizing that coming up with that goal, and milestones before reaching it, would help me to not only realistically pace myself and my freelancing, but give me a goal to aim for. Goals have always helped guide me to success; without them, it’s easy for me to get off-track or depressed with a perceived lack of progress.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Confidence has never been something that has come easily to me, yet there’s no discernible reason why that’s the case. I suspect that my lack of confidence in myself is a result of the depression I deal with on a constant basis. One of the funny effects my depression causes is a weird form of doublethink, in which I have two contradictory thoughts that I both believe: one rational, one irrational. In nearly everything major that I’ve done in life, I’ve excelled and raised the bar for those that followed me, yet in the midst of those experiences, I felt as if I was woefully under-performing. Only in looking back after the fact did I realize I did a job that I could be proud of. The confidence was never there for me when I could have used it.
Two of the past jobs I held were as a merchandiser for a soda company and a bookkeeper at a grocery store. In both of those roles, I did more than was expected of me because I took pride in my work and wanted to succeed. I was never written up, nor did I ever receive a complaint about my work. For all intents and purposes, I should have been confident during the time I held those roles. Looking back, I can’t find any reasons for myself to not have been confident. As a merchandiser, all of the stores on my route were immaculate, with full shelves and product lines, beautiful displays, and neat, organized backstock. As a bookkeeper, I ensured my staff was trained well, maintained 100% accuracy, and passed every audit I was subjected to.
Why did I doubt myself in those roles, then, and in everything I’ve done thus far? Lack of confidence.