It’s Not Working Because You Haven’t Tried

Hello again! I apologize for the long absence, but if you’ve noticed the gardening blog I put up recently you’ll know why I’ve been a little preoccupied. It’s addictive, that gardening stuff. But having veggies in my backyard (soon) will make the work all worth it. However, I’m back on track (hopefully) to keep up this blog and keep writing for all of you lovely people. 🙂 

Today’s post might seem like it has an odd title. But let me explain. I hear so many people tell me “I tried freelancing but it just didn’t work for me.” Or perhaps it’s a more specific complaint like “I tried Constant Content but I never made any money.” While I’m sure it’s possible, even statistically probable, that some people will try freelance writing and not make it, I have a hard time believing that every single person I’ve heard this from really failed. In order to fail, you see, you actually have to try. And sometimes even if you think you’ve tried, you really haven’t. 

I’ve been freelancing for over a year now (officially) and while that’s not a long time in the industry, it’s just enough time to screw up a lot and figure a lot of things out. One thing I’ve figured out at long last is that trying looks different than most freelancers think it does. 

Let me explain. 

When I ask most people who claim they “didn’t make it” or writing “didn’t work” what exactly they did, I get one of the following responses. 

  • Well I submitted two or three articles to Constant Content but it never panned out. 
  • I submitted several query letters but never heard anything back. 
  • I tried it for 30 days or so and just couldn’t make any money. 
  • I worked on Yahoo! Voices for awhile and never made anything. 
  • Textbroker just doesn’t pay enough. 

Almost always I will get some variation of these answers. None of these people actually tried. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for a minute that they didn’t work. Or that they didn’t really want it. But their version of trying is not even scratching the surface of what you really have to do in order to see if something works, in freelancing or anything involving sales. (I hate to break it to you, but you are selling.) 

If you submit one, five, even 10 query letters and give up, you haven’t tried. If all you’ve ever done is write for Textbroker, it’s a nice start and is good for quick cash, but you haven’t really tried. If you submit a few articles here, a few articles there, and a few marketing emails over there you haven’t tried. 

This is what freelancers tend to do. We sit back and we go “Let me see if Constant Content works!” So we submit one, two, maybe five articles and wait. We wait for them to get approved, then we obsessively check to see how many hits the articles have gotten, we wait and see how things go, we wait and see if anyone purchases…..etc. Then we’re shocked when we make one sale or no sales and made a whopping $20 for the month. 

New freelancers tend to do the same thing when it comes to query letters or Kindle books or anything it is they want to do. They dabble, they sit back, and they wait. Then they wonder why they’re broke. 

Let me ask you something. If you were going to set up a retail business and you wanted to sell jewelry, and you opened your doors with 20 items on the counter and nothing else in the store, posted one flyer, and waited, do you think you’d be successful? No. Even if you got people in the door, you don’t have enough there to make ends meet. 

Most people would agree that this hypothetical business owner is ridiculous if he or she thinks that’s going to cut it in retail. But then most new or semi-new freelancers do the equivalent of the exact same thing in their writing business. 

I know because I was one of them for the longest time. But finally I figured out that trying doesn’t involve waiting. At all. Trying involves doing something full on as though you couldn’t fail, as though your life depended on it, as though putting a roof over your head was reliant upon you going full force in whatever it is you’re trying out. 

Measuring results is necessary. Sitting and waiting for results is inexcusable. 

I finally figured this out with online retail. I have a retail shop and a handmade shop, and I’d put 60 items up and wait for them to sell to “see if it worked” before really adding a lot of items. That doesn’t work. You have to stock that shop to the brim as though you’re expecting to sell out on day one in order to get anything going. 

Writing is the same way. 

So what does trying look like? 

Let’s say you set aside a 30-day period to try Constant Content. Writing one or two articles at first to see how the process works is understandable. But after that, if I were you, I’d be posting as many articles per day as humanly possible. If you’re relying on Constant Content for a good portion of your monthly income you should never have less than 2 or 3 articles in review. Ever. If my articles in review tally ever drops to zero I know I’m not doing my job. 

So what if you’re querying? If you’re querying I suggest you put out 10-15 queries a day. Not overall. I know several professional freelancers who put out that many per day just in the morning, and as you get better at them you’ll be able to do that, too. 

If you’re cold calling (oh, the humanity, I know) you’d best be putting out no less than 50 calls a day. 

Get the point? 

Ready for one more shocker? 

If you’re doing this full time you should be employing several “tries” at once. So for me right now I’m doing Kindle, Constant Content, email marketing, and querying. I also work a part-time job at a school as an instructional assistant that I recently picked up, so I have less hours in the day to work, but I’m still making it happen. Because if you really want to make something happen you have to go full force. 

Now. If you’ve gone full on for 3 months and you’re not seeing anything, change course. But fail fast. Don’t sit around and wait and mope and analyze, just scratch it and move on. 

Trying, however, never stands still. Everything you do today is going to improve your bank account a month or two months from now. And while that seems like a long way off, once you get the productivity train rolling you’ll start to see that having a pipeline of work that pays you that far out is a non-issue because you’ll always have money coming in. It’s the working then waiting routine that will land you with an empty paycheck and a rough month later on. 

So if you’ve fallen into the waiting trap and have felt discouraged because you thought writing didn’t work out for you, never fear. Jump in, go all out, and get that productivity train rolling. I’m sure you’ll find that you get a lot more back. 

Think of writing like gardening. 🙂 If you only plant a few seeds and then sit back to see if they grow food you’ll be hungry. But if you plant a ton of seeds, keep planting them at various intervals throughout the spring, and tend them like they’ll all grow, you’ll end up with quite a harvest. The same goes for your work. 

I’d be interested to know how this approach works for you, or if you’ve already come to this realization and have already seen success by going all out. 

Tell us your stories below. 

Until next time, happy writing!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sara says:

    Great article! I too have been a freelance writer for over a year. I agree that the hardest part is to get going and stop waiting. I’m still not making the money that I want to be, but I’m going to start trying harder! Regardless, how long did it take you to become self-sustaining? Also, what do you use to measure your results?

    Thank you!

    1. courtneyherz says:

      Hi Sara!
      Thanks for the comment! Actually I just recently got to a point where I’m starting to see results that will set me up as being self-sustaining. I spent the majority of my first year as a freelancer on places like Elance, Textbroker, and so on. But only recently did I start to figure out that going after the big fish, even if it takes longer to get paid, and relentlessly pursuing whatever avenue you’re looking at is the only way to make it.

      I spent a lot of time refreshing pages seeing if my articles had been accepted, or if I had received responses from queries, etc. And finally I realized that only doing a little bit and then waiting is exactly why I was broke all the time. Haha.

      Once I started just going to town I started seeing results, and that’s only been in the last month or so. But I’m projecting that I’ll be making a very comfortable income from writing alone within 4-6 months.

      As for how I measure my results I’m a spreadsheet junkie! I think spreadsheets are amazing. I’m actually trying to get a screenshot video to work so I can post a video blog showing exactly how I track everything. So I’ll set that up and get it posted in the next week. 🙂

      Keep at it and you’ll see results! Owning your own business as a freelancer comes with a huge learning curve, so as long as you’re learning – even if it’s learning what not to do – you’re on your way. 🙂

      Thanks again!

      Courtney

  2. Sara says:

    Thank you for the advice! I wish you the best in your freelance journey. 🙂

    Sara

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