For awhile I’ve been kind of unsure of whether or not I should post the snarky titles I’ve been thinking of. But yesterday I took a chance, and given the response I guess you’re all on the same humor boat that I am. 🙂 So here goes another bit of humor, but tempered with some real advice. Now before you jump to any conclusions given today’s title, hang in there until the end and I think you’ll like what I’m about to say.
I do a lot of stupid things. It’s not because I’m a stupid person. It’s because I have the brain of a squirrel, I’m a creative type, and usually the world inside my head feels like a web browser with at least 2 million tabs open at the same time. If you’re laughing, it’s because you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I also have a lot of habits I want to break. Like procrastinating.
I also know that I tend to periodically – and always at the most inconvenient times – have complete and total writer’s block.
There are things you probably know that you do, as well. For instance, I know that I’m prone to knock over, spill, and drop just about everything I touch. Solution? I don’t use my laptop while it’s charging, I keep my coffee cup behind my computer and slightly to the right, and I always wear black if I’m eating and working at the same time.
For writer’s block? Well, those 2 million tabs have their days where they all work at the same time and I literally have so many ideas I feel like a crazy person. I take that opportunity to get down as many of the ideas as possible on a sheet of paper. When I have days where I can’t think of anything to write…or I want to believe I can’t think of anything…or I’m just being lazy, I have no excuse. I have a list of hundreds of article titles, proposal ideas, and book plots waiting to be written.
My point is, you need to set yourself up for success and help yourself avoid pitfalls. It’s like when I go to the beach to run, say to myself “Ugh! I forgot socks again!” and then open my purse and see socks. I put them in there a week earlier after my last long run, knowing that I always forget my socks.
Making it Actionable: Make a list of all the things you’re prone to do…spill your coffee, forget your portfolio on a client call, be unmotivated to prospect, etc. Then, make a list of all the ways you can hack yourself. Keep your coffee in a spill-free thermos, keep an extra portfolio in your bag, write a note to yourself in front of your desk that says “Get Motivated!”. Whatever it is. If you realize you left something off the list, add it and come up with a hack and start implementing it as soon as possible.
Banishing Writer Demons
Writer demons are tiny little creatures with voices that echo through your brain and make themselves seem bigger. They sound like they make sense, so you believe them, but really they’re just lying little scum bags trying to sabotage your career. Writer demons, my friends, are thoughts. Things like “I’ll never make any money at this,” or “Maybe mom was right, I should have applied at McDonald’s”, or “Nobody’s ever going to buy this book.”
You know what, if that’s what you think, then that’s the life you create for yourself.
But writer demons hate one thing: facts. Okay two things: facts and logic. You’re trying to tell me that you’ll never make any money at freelancing? Or that you honestly think a fast food joint has better career prospects than freelancing? Or that not one single person out of the billions of people on the earth would buy your book?
The negative self-talk that writers, for some reason, are so prone to is just stupid. But unfortunately the power of thought is very, very strong. A lot of people talk about the power of positive thinking like it’s some kumbayah thing that you do at hippie camp where everyone thinks happy thoughts around a campfire.
But the reality is, the power of positive thinking is a real thing.
Unfortunately, so is the power of negative thinking.
What you think is what you believe, and what you believe translates into how you act, and the things you do affect the quality of life you have.
Don’t believe me?
If someone thinks they’re not going to make any money writing, do you think they’re going to pitch a Fortune 500 company about writing work? No.
If someone believes that they’ll never be a successful freelancer, are they going to go all out marketing themselves and tracking down killer, great paying jobs?
When success doesn’t come their way, they use it as a way to back up their negative talk. See, nobody bought my book. See, I never got any good clients.
Well no, genius, because you never went after them!
I wasted the first year of my freelance career doing just about everything wrong and telling you guys about it. Funny, a little sad, but true. I had the negative self talk, too, though. It’s like something every freelancer has to face for some reason.
But I banished my writer demons, and you can, too. Simply put, all it takes is leaving little notes to yourself that tell you how awesome it is to be a freelancer. How thousands of freelancers make six figures a year. How everyone starts at square one, but that doesn’t mean you don’t shoot for the moon. Read stories of successful freelancers every day. Learn about your industry. Keep a picture of a super successful person you admire up where you work and channel that person. (Can you imagine Stephen King being too nervous to ask for a larger advance? Or feel his book won’t sell? Oh, and by the way, did you know he was virtually penniless until “Carrie” became a hit?)
All these things will help you banish those nasty little writer demons and give you the confidence to go for your dreams.
Oh…sitting in the same room of your house every day also lets those little creeps fester. Sometimes getting out and working somewhere else makes a world of difference for your mindset. And social life. And sanity.
I’m finally at that turning point in my career where I’m not making as many “rookie mistakes”, I’ve learned a lot, and I feel like a “real” freelancer. I think my blog has taken a turn from “This is what I’m learning on my journey” posts to “This is what you should know, do, and avoid” posts. And I like that. But it hasn’t been easy. If anything I’ve learned can help you not have to learn it the hard way, that’ll rock. And avoiding writer demons is one thing that wasted a ton of my time and kept me on bidding sites and content mills for entirely too long.
Not Being so Attached to Money
I’m not saying don’t go earn money. So don’t think that’s where this is going. However, the old adage “You have to spend money to make money” is pretty true. That doesn’t mean you have to go spend thousands of dollars or get a loan to be a freelancer. Nor does it mean you should spend money every chance you get. But it does mean that in certain situations, parting with your beloved and hard-earned cash can net you a lot more money in the future.
Here are a few things you should be willing to part with money for.
There’s something about using the internet as a source that can become troublesome. The internet has kind of turned into the same articles written over and over again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that it’s hard to find original sources anymore, and using books as sources can help you write better articles that are more unique and will sell faster (if we’re talking Constant Content), or can help you deliver a more well-researched finished product to your client or editor. My rule is if you can Google the information in five minutes, then it will only take the person reading your article five minutes to figure out where you got your information. Doing some digging makes you stand out.
Yes, you should try your local library. I use mine often. But sometimes I like to really dig into a book, flag it, highlight it, and last I checked the people at the library aren’t to keen on that.
But buy a book? With money? Really? Isn’t that a waste?
Here’s a case in point. I recently purchased a book about traveling through Austin and San Antonio. It cost me $14. I have 15 flags in the book so far (I’m not even a quarter of the way through it), meaning there are 15 article ideas in there. I’ve written one article already and sold it on Constant Content. It earned me about $35.
It doesn’t take long to do the math on that. Parting with money for reference books that can turn into articles means it can turn into even more money. You should do it.
Supplies are so crucial to your business. You spend a lot of time with your supplies. Be it a notebook, pens and pencils, composition books, or anything else it takes you to do your job well and right, you should definitely pay for the good stuff. And, by the way, the good stuff is just the stuff you love to use. I’m really – okay unusually – picky about the type of paper and pens I use. I have a few brands I love. I spend anywhere between 7 to 17 hours a day using this stuff. I want to like it. And, oddly enough, using supplies you love means you’ll spend longer doing your work, work more, and make more money.
Software and Technology
Don’t skimp on software or technology. Whether it’s your mobile phone, a reliable internet connection, or a laptop that actually turns on without causing a fire hazard, you really need these things. Shelling out a little more for them means less dropped calls, less quarters in the swear jar when you try to do your work, happier clients, and a less stressful day. I get that sometimes you have to eat Ramen every night and wear 99 cent lipstick to make ends meet, and that’s just fine. But don’t ever skimp on your technological and connectivity needs.
Stuff That Makes You Look Pro
I’m currently saving up for a direct marketing campaign. I’m probably going to be enjoying soup and Ramen for the next two months. But all my prospective clients will be able to see is a darn good direct marketing campaign that looks like I’m making six figures. The catch? I just might be soon enough. Why? Because high quality copy shows people you can make high quality copy which means they’ll pay you for that high quality copy. Yes, you’re content marketing about content marketing or ad copying about ad copy. Cheeky, eh? But it makes your point, and you need to look good doing it.
Now if you’re sending off some query letters to editors don’t spend $100 on 30 pound paper and gold laced envelopes. Shoot off an email. Call it a day. A professional email. That doesn’t come from firstname.lastname@example.org.
But if you’re trying to land ad copy, corporate, or other high-paying work, look like you’ve already sold high-paying work. Image is everything. Invest in it.
There are a few other things that I part with money on, as well, like educational material and training. After all, if you’re not improving you’re not competing. Marketing is something else I’ll pay for, within reason, if I’ve done my research and it shows I will likely benefit financially from said marketing method. But for the most part these are the things you should invest in.
Bonus if you really want to blow your mind.
In for some shocking stuff? Check this out. It’s the Writer’s Market’s guide to what you should be charging for your work. Yes, I posted it yesterday, too. Because I think it’s that important. I may have cried myself to sleep when I first read this, because I realized how much I was undervaluing my work. But the plus side is, these are real, actual numbers from the real, actual world where – you guessed it – real, actual freelancers work. If this isn’t the incentive you needed to cancel your content mill accounts and start going for the bigger fish, I don’t know what will be. It’s also an anti-venom for writer demon bites. 😉
Hope this information and insight has been helpful to you. Usually I won’t be posting every day, but I thought of these things, felt they were important, wanted to share, and knew I wouldn’t remember tomorrow. 🙂
See, outsmarting myself.
Until next time, happy writing! And, as always, feel free to tell stories, ask questions, or give feedback in the comments!