Eileen wrote me this email yesterday, and it was really heartfelt.
“It’s helpful to know that the fear is part of the freelance writing job,” she says. “Like, I guess, I tend to think that if I’m scared I must be doing something wrong.”
Tell me you’ve never felt that way before.
That first day of high school, when you’re shaking with adrenaline that’s half excitement and half, “Where the crap is my locker?”
That first day on the job when you double-check your offer letter to make sure you didn’t hallucinate that congratulatory phone call or your benefits package.
And then… that first day you ask someone to pay you for the words you write for them.
These moments of fear didn’t precede traumatic downward spiral. (Well, at least not for most high schoolers…). These moments also didn’t mean that going to a new school, taking a new job, or taking a freelance client weren’t the right next step for you. It’s just a feeling. And fear isn’t the problem. The problem is how we respond to it.
Fear is not the problem. The problem is how we respond to it.
Freelance writing fear often sends the wrong message
It would be awesome if every good thing we ever did was accompanied by feelings of light-heartedness and certainty that would clearly say to us, “Yes! Do it! This is it!” But that’s not how our guts work.
Fear is really helpful in the jungle when it tells us to hide in the cave and be wary of those scary sounds. But when we’re trying to build a freelance writing business, fear is just a chemical process that comes along with something new.
It’s not foretelling the future.
It’s not a sign you’re doing the wrong thing.
It’s just a feeling — like hunger or sadness or a charley horse– that tells you something big is about to happen.
When we interpret fear as a warning sign that we should stop, we miss out on a lot of great things.
Some of us might not be married.
Some of us might not have children.
Certainly none of us would run freelance writing businesses.
But deep within each of these tough, wonderful, and intimidating-at-first things is a powerful desire that pulls us through the freelance writing fear and toward a new idea.
Don’t try to escape your fear — work with it
Eileen and I both had the same first instinct: run away from the fear. Run away and do something that won’t make those feelings come up. But that’s not a smart move for Eileen, me, or you, because here’s the biggest secret of all:
Successful freelance writers aren’t people who never experience fear. Successful freelance writers are people who understand that fear is a natural byproduct of doing good work — and that confidence is the result of that good work.
Successful freelance writers work side by side with fear to get things done, and at the end of the day they take their fear home with them to dinner.
Successful people aren’t people who never experience fear. Successful people are people who understand that fear is a natural byproduct of doing good work.
If you’re reading this, your story is probably a lot like mine.
You’re a good, solid writer. You know your way around a Word Document and you know that what you do is valuable to your clients. But when you go to pitch, or when you think of writing something for the business world, your throat clinches up a little and you get a bad case of the willies. You just aren’t confident that you’re worth those rates.
Well, some people let those fears stop them. But you and Eileen and me, we’re going to accept those freelance writing fears, scoop them into a little woven basket on our desk, and put on a show for our fear to watch as we try new things, pitch new clients, and turn in draft after draft of our best work.
Put fear in its place
Let’s look at the freelance life with new eyes. The fear you’re feeling isn’t always a sign you shouldn’t be doing this. It’s a sign that there’s something big there if you’re persistent enough to push through your first fluttering doubts.
Keep your eyes out for moments in your freelance journey that cause you to feel fear. Then, don’t run. Look the fear in the face and let it know that you appreciate its input… and that you’ve got some work to do anyway.
P.S. If you’re trying to overcome fears related to breaking into B2B writing, I’ve got just the thing for you: The B2B Booster Shot. If you’re trying to overcome fears about being productive as a freelancer with a chronic illness (or a baby at home, or whatever else you’ve got going on, this post is for you.