At the risk of sounding like a Norman Vincent Peale wannabe: If you have a negative attitude towards your job, you probably won’t do very well at it.
I know the writing business is hard, and it’s getting harder all the time. But you can’t discount the fact that there are thousands of magazines and online markets filled with articles that are written by freelancers. Someone is writing those articles…why can’t it be you?
And it’s true that articles are getting shorter, some magazines are going belly-up, and online markets often pay crap. But many writers have adapted. They’re learning to create videos and find photos for their online markets, are diversifying so they don’t rely 100% on magazines, and are finding new, creative ways to market themselves.
Heck, I’ve adapted. Instead of whining that content mills pay one cent per word or national magazines are PITAs or editors often don’t reply to pitches — I worked hard to find a stable of clients that aren’t PITAs, that pay well, and whose editors do respond to pitches. They’re out there. Also, over the years I’ve developed a talent for writing well quickly and being able to switch between projects easily, so I can still make good money by writing more in volume than I used to.
Sometimes I say that anyone who can write can become a freelance writer, but that’s only partly true. Anyone with decent writing skills, good ideas, professionalism, the ability to learn, and a good attitude can be a successful writer. If you’re a fabulous writer and as professional as they come, but you get angry or resentful every time you get a rejection, or when you go through a slow period, or when you see other freelancers seemingly getting all the breaks, you’ll have a hard time being successful.
If you approach your work with a sense or resentment, desperation, or anger, that will come across in your communications with your editors and clients.
So how do you develop a good attitude? Think about everything in your career you’re grateful for. For example: As a freelancer, you get to work where you want, when you want. If you have kids, you get to spend more time with them than if you had a 9-5 job because you can work after hours. You probably love writing (though I know some successful freelancers who don’t…myself included!). You get to interview interesting people on fascinating subjects. Within reason, you control your income. And some say that a bad day at freelancing is better than a good day in a 9-5 cubicle.
I learned this from my life coach Kristin Taliaferro. I told her that I dislike doing interviews, which are a big part of my responsibilities as a writer. She pointed out that resenting interviews could be holding me back, and suggested that one minute before an interview, I consider how grateful I am that these interviews are part of what offers me the opportunity to do a job I like and live a lifestyle I love.
Freelance writing is hard, but all jobs are hard. They’re just hard in different ways. If you want to succeed, quit the kvetching and remind yourself why you wanted to be a freelancer in the first place. [lf]