How do you define fear? Is that a feeling of dread lurking inside? Is it unpleasant? Is it strong? Is it stressful? Is it brought about by anticipation? Or is it brought by an awareness of danger? Will you take a flight away from fear? Or will you fight fear head on?
Whatever your definition or description of fear is, it is a fact that everyone has fears. Every freelance writer, whether a newbie or a pro, struggles with their own fears and doubts. Experiencing personal losses, and harboring them over time, create these fears and doubts. These fears and doubts, in turn, affect your own confidence.
But you are not alone in this struggle. I, too, have experienced fears and self-doubt (and still do). Even after more than a hundred freelancing projects (and wins), there is fear waiting to strike me down.
Napoleon Hill once said that adversity brings forth an equal or greater benefit. If this applies to fear, then it would be better to use fear to your advantage.
But how? What if you’re not a risk-taker? Most freelance writers, like me, are introverts. What if you like to play safe?
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”— Napoleon Hill
Let me share with you some of the fears I’ve experienced and how I dealt with them.
Fear of Starting
Staring at a blank page or a computer screen for too long is a sign of fear. Your mind keeps on asking how to start, or what to say or write. Then you start to worry that you don’t have enough ideas to start with. Or even doubt that you’ll be interesting to others. These thoughts prevent you from starting.
In order for you to get past this fear, here are some tips:
Stop making excuses.
The thoughts that prevent you from starting become excuses you want to justify by procrastinating. The longer you procrastinate, the longer your list of excuses becomes. So stop. Instead, remind yourself that you have something unique to share that no one else has. No one has traveled your path so stop being afraid.
Remember the Nike tagline “Just do it”? I have that image on my desk to remind me that I should do what I’m supposed to do.
Create a mind map or outline.
On a piece of paper, or on a blank document screen, jot down your thoughts or ideas about the topic you’ll write about. Try to connect them with lines until you can see an outline of what you’re supposed to write. Once you have an outline, you’ll be able to see the flow of thought in your writing.
Try doing a free write by starting with a writing prompt.
If you can’t think of ideas, try asking yourself questions like, “What can I say about…?”. Or fill in the blank like, “Right now, I am…”. The trick here is to write down these thoughts immediately without editing. You’re just starting, so don’t mind the spelling and grammar.
Do some research.
Try to gather enough information about the topic you’re writing. If you feel that you can express your thoughts with this information, you may go ahead and start writing. Be careful not to gather too much information which can overwhelm you.
Fear of Having a Writer’s Block
Writer’s block is a condition when an author is unable to produce a new work or is experiencing a creative slowdown. This is the opposite of the fear of starting; it is the fear of not finishing what you’ve started. Your enthusiasm dwindles affecting your productivity and work ethic.
On another blog, I’ve shared ways how to get rid of writer’s block. Here are some tips:
Change your environment.
You’re already used to your writing space that you already know where the smallest item is hiding and they’re no longer inspiring or conducive to writing. So get up, and take time to clean your desk, shelves, and cabinets. Rearrange the furniture, if you like.
Another way to change your environment is to try walking to the park or to the mall. Sit in a coffee shop and observe people or write. The change in environment may give you the inspiration to start anew.
Take time to do some hobbies that are not writing-related.
Playing a musical instrument, doing some handicrafts, cooking or baking your favorite dish, etc. are just some of the activities not related to writing. Distancing yourself from what you’re writing may help you gain more inspiration to write.
The important thing here is not to let your creative well dry up.
Fear of Famine
Most people think that freelancing as a full-time career may be a famine or a feast. Yes, you can earn a living writing full-time. But when Necessity calls, many of you get anxious about financial concerns. Not only that, others worry about logistics or lack of tools.
In order for you to overcome the fear of famine, here are some tips:
Understand the seasonality of the industry or niche.
There are certain months of the year when you may be unable to get clients. Some companies freeze their hiring process during the last quarter of the year. Be better aware of these seasonal activities within your industry or niche. That’s the reason why I recommend that you have two to three niches to write about.
Create a client goal for yourself.
Decide how many clients you will approach or handle in a month and in a week (This is what I call “client goals“). This way, you’ll be able to secure writing assignments that ensure you’ll not go vacant.
Continue writing on your website or blog, post on social media, and engage with people. Let the public know that you’re a writer and you’re available.
Fear of lacking time
Freelance writing means working at home. And being at home, it is inevitable that life gets in the way. You may see these other responsibilities as stumbling blocks to your success.
In order for you to overcome the fear of lacking time, here are some tips:
Create blocks of time.
We have 24 hours in a day, and 7 to 8 hours of it is spent on sleep. Divide the remaining hours into blocks of time for work and other activities and stick to it.
Inform family members of your writing schedule.
Let your family know that you’re serious with your writing and you’re sticking to your schedule. Tell them you’ll only answer their call if it’s a matter of life and death.
Identify your priorities and focus on one priority at a time.
Every morning, or even the night before, list down your top three priorities. Act on them one priority at a time. A Chinese proverb says “If you’re trying to catch two rabbits, you will never catch either.” The same is true with tasks and priorities.
Fear of Failure
Most of us are aware that it is challenging to break into the publishing industry. And once you’re published, it is also challenging to maintain the momentum. Thus, you may convince yourself that it’s better not to try getting published rather than being rejected.
Another manifestation of fear of failure is the fear of disappointing others, especially a client. Being rejected by prospective clients can hurt your ego. What more if the rejections come consecutively?
Setting a high standard for yourself can be a double-edged sword. It could help you achieve your upper limits but on the other hand, can turn you to be harsh on yourself.
In order for you to overcome the fear of failure, here are some tips:
Realize that you cannot please everyone.
Stop pleasing everybody. Always expect that not all people will love your writing. If you are rejected by an editor, think of it as a rejection of your work, not of you personally.
Have realistic expectations.
Although creating goals is fine to motivate you, make them realistic and attainable.
Make it a habit to touch base.
Connect with clients by asking them for feedback as you work along. This way, you’ll know if they like your writing or not. At the end of your project, ask them for their feedback on the whole project. Then, touch base with them from time to time. Who knows? They may be needing you again.
Fear of Being Called a Fraud
If you consider yourself a writer, you should be writing, right? People expect to see you write and make good. But there is this fear of being discovered as a fraud lurking somewhere in your psyche. It’s called an “impostor syndrome” which propels you to self-doubt. Then it limits your initiative to contribute because you doubt your own worth.
It turns out 70% of people experience impostor feelings at some point in their lives. The impostor syndrome is often felt among these personalities. See if you’re one of these:
- The Perfectionist
- The Expert
- The Natural Genius
- The Soloist
- The Superman
If you need to overcome the feeling of impostor syndrome, here are some tips:
Reminisce about past wins.
Remembering those achievements, whether big or small, gives you a boost and motivation to push forward.
Research the client, his/her business/organization, and its current situation.
Remember that knowledge is power. Knowing about this information may help you gain control of what you’re doing.
Continue learning new things, especially the things that will help you improve yourself or your career.
Fear is stressful that makes you itch to flee or to fight. That flight or fight response is scientifically medical proven. But fear should not be taken negatively. The fear that causes butterflies to flutter in your stomach is the same fear that causes you to run for your life away from danger.
The bottom line: you need to analyze those feelings that you associate with fear. Is it real fear or is it your gut instinct ringing alarm bells? Sometimes it’s tough when you’re dealing with the unknown. By “the unknown,” I mean a situation that is new to you, and you don’t readily know the outcome, like sending a pitch to your prospective client.
So what freelance writing fears are holding you back? Think of the fear and sort it out by listing the pros and cons of taking the writing assignment. If the pros outweigh the cons, then push past the fear and act.