Why You Need to Let Go Already

A few months ago, I had a mentoring client who was writing articles for about $15 apiece for content mills, who wanted to know how she could earn a living through freelance writing.

I told her that to make more money, she needed to stop writing for $15 an article.

She replied, “If I don’t write for the content mills, nobody will ever see my work.”

Here’s the thing, I told her: The editors who pay well are certainly not scouring the content mills for writers. Even if your writing is great (and I know it is), many of the articles on content mills are poorly written and badly researched, and editors don’t need to sift through all that junk to find a writer when they already have hoardes of good writers coming to them.

My client was skeptical, but I managed to convince her to try sending letters of introduction to some trade magazines.

Ten days later, my mentee e-mailed to let me know that she just landed an assignment for $300 — “That’s like 20 articles for the content mill!” she said.

Many writers are afraid to let go of work that doesn’t quite suit them, whether the assignments don’t pay well, the editors are PITAs, or the work is deathly boring. But in my 14 years’ experience, I’ve found that when you let go of something that isn’t working for you, it makes room for better things to flow in. And flow in they will.

This could be some metaphysical thing about the way energy flows — or it may be the cold, hard fact that when you stop writing for clients that aren’t good for you, you have more time to get out there and market yourself to clients that will be good for you. If you’re spending all your time churning out articles for content mills, you have to work pretty hard and for long hours to make any kind of decent money. That leaves no time to pitch the markets that will pay you well.

I challenge you: Let go of your worst client. You don’t even have to burn bridges — when the client asks you to do an assignment, you can simply tell them that you’re all booked up right now but will get back to them when your schedule opens. Then use the time you’ve saved to work on your writer website, write queries, send letters of introduction, work the social media, or use any of the marketing tactics that will help you attract better work.

If you take this challenge, please report back and let us know how it went! My bet is that you’ll soon find better work and be able to leave the low-paying or PITA clients behind for good. [lf]

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13 comments… add one
  • I agree with everything in the post, but it’s very difficult to simply let go.

    For someone like me, the question is, “What if I’m not good enough?” The fear that keeps me from letting go is that maybe I’m not good enough to land any better writing gigs, so I might as well keep earning something. $15 an article is better than $0.

    Then what do you do?

    • The only way to find out if you’re good enough is to give it a shot and see what the reaction is. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Chances are, you ARE good enough. And if you’re not, don’t worry — those $15 jobs aren’t going anywhere. 🙂

    • April Lunsford

      Anytime that fear is holding you back,it is an opportunity for you to face your fear!When you face your fear you can step out on faith and take a step up on the ladder of success.

  • Thank you Linda for the great information. I totally agree with you, to make way for better you must get rid of some bad. I, like J.J., fear the length of time it might take me to find better writing gigs. I have felt this way for a long time (I’ve been freelancing for five years)and I have found it really hard to let go.

    As of today, I am taking your challenge – well at least partially taking it. I can’t afford to let go of all of my low-paying clients, until I start to see a small trickle of better ones coming in. What I propose to do is cut my low-paying work load in half and spend the extra time looking for better paying clients.

    This way I won’t feel horrible for not bringing in some money and will feel much better when I can cut them all loose and put more food on the table, so to speak.

    Thanks again for the great post!

    • You go! I’m really excited for you…I predict good things. Cutting down the low-paying workload by half is a perfect compromise. Be sure to let us know what happens!

  • Corey Freeman

    I think I’m going to do this. I’m going to go ahead and stop writing for $15/article or $0.03/word. Time to browse your site to learn more. Awesome post!

  • This is exactly what I’m doing with my web design business so that I can transition into my writing! So far I have downsized approximately a quarter of my client list to begin phase one of my transition, and it is AMAZING how refreshed and motivated you feel when you are no longer working on jobs you know aren’t right for you.

  • Kinya

    I know this post is dated, but the information isn’t. You’re absolutely right about letting go. I had to force myself to do it. There’s a certain fear that goes along with adventuring into the unknown.

    Although you know the content mill writing is bad for you, it’s safe. It’s always been there, it’s always available and you’re familiar with it. Letting go of it is like letting go of a security blanket.

    But once you do, it does free you up for so much more. I wish more writers would see that in this case it isn’t a “the grass is always greener” type of situation. It really is greener. It’s greener than you can ever imagine.

    Thanks for helping me to keep going Linda.

    • Thanks for your great comment, Kinya! So true…the grass really IS greener in the pasture where writers are working for decent pay! 🙂

  • I know I’m a little late to this post, but it’s right-on-the-money. The only difference between content mill writers working for a pittance, and highly-paid writers, is marketing and exposure.

    All it takes is believing you are worth more and putting yourself out there to let the world (or your local area) know how good you are. There are always clients out there willing to pay high premiums for quality work. They usually aren’t online-based either.

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