How to Have the Mindset of a Successful Freelance Writer

Jan 11, 2021

Written By: Kay Haider

Being a successful freelance writer has never been more achievable than it is today. The gig economy is booming like never before, so it's not surprising that more people than ever are trying their hand at freelance writing. 

According to Small Business Trends, by 2024, 43% of the US workforce will be partially or fully working as freelancers, and by 2027 over 50% will be freelancing to some degree.1

There are a few things that separate the dreamers from the wildly successful freelancers out there though. And almost all of them come back to the right freelancing mindset shifts that need to be made.

So, if you're new on the path to freelance writing success and feel like you're not moving forward...

Or maybe you've been on the path a while, but your business has stumbled, and you don't know why...

Then these crucial freelancing mindset shifts might be what's keeping you stuck.

Employee vs. Business Owner Mindset Shift

This one is easier said than done. We've been conditioned most of our lives to be in a passive student/employee mental state. 

Our school career is a series of detailed assignment outlines and predetermined hours – but that's not a mindset you can keep if you want to be a successful freelance writer.

As business owners and freelance writers, we need to learn how to protect our time when clients treat us like hourly employees and how to handle requests that are outside of quoted project scopes.

So what are the biggest challenges to shifting from an employee mindset to a business owner mindset? I’ve narrowed it down to three things: making sure you and your clients are respecting your time and business, dealing with scope creep, and handling imposter syndrome and perfectionism. 

Let’s break those down a bit, shall we?

1. Respecting Your Time & Business

As an employee, when the boss hands us an assignment, we're expected to do it. Even if it's not a productive use of our time, that's the job. You can't afford to keep that mindset as a freelance writer.

As the boss of your freelance writing business, you have to make the mindset shift that allows you to see each working hour not at a set rate, but as an opportunity to earn more.

For example, consider this...

A 9-5 employee making $15 per hour will make $160 per day. It doesn't matter if they finish 3 projects or 8 projects in a day.

A freelancer making a modest $50 per project will make $150 for 3 projects and might take the rest of the day off. Or they could finish 8 projects and make $400 that day.

That’s some serious motivation to protect your time like a boss! It’s shifting your mindset to see that kind of value in your time that can give you the greatest payment of all – freedom.

2. Dealing With Scope Creep

As a freelance writer, you're going to deal with clients that ask for more than what you originally agreed to. This kind of thing happens mostly when you haven't made the right freelance writing mindset shifts and are acting like an employee instead of a business owner.

Keep in mind that every bit of time you spend going beyond the scope of work you charged for, your margins are getting thinner. It means you're losing profit, and that's not a successful long-term business strategy.

Don't rush it though. You should wow your clients with every interaction and add value to the relationship with every project. You are a business providing services to their business, not their hourly employee.

The best way to avoid scope creep as a freelance writer is to clearly set expectations upfront and in plain written terms. It can be a contract, a detailed email thread, or a PDF you put together and send when onboarding a client. The key is to make sure everyone is crystal clear on where exactly your role as a freelance writer begins and ends.

3. Imposter Syndrome and Perfectionism

As business owners, we no longer have the safety net of making a set amount each day, no matter how much work we do or don't do. We also don't have a company telling us how much our skills and time are worth. 

This is the perfect recipe for freelance writers to be paralyzed by imposter syndrome before they even get going.

Are you suffering from imposter syndrome?

Check out these imposter syndrome symptoms:

  1. Thoughts like "I'm not good enough at writing to be paid for my work."
  2. Procrastinating usually in the form of endless research rabbit holes or jumping from one possible path to the next and never actually trying one.
  3. Perfectionism after writing something and then tweaking it for days, or weeks, until it's perfect. Then just starting all over because it wasn't "good enough.”

The bad news? Everyone deals with imposter syndrome at some point.

The good news? Everyone deals with imposter syndrome at some point, so you're not alone.

Now that we know what it looks like, we can put systems in place to keep it from getting out of hand.

How to Build Confidence as a Freelance Writer

Building confidence, especially as a new freelance writer, takes time. That's why imposter syndrome symptoms seem like such giant monsters when you're just starting out. Building confidence is simple, but much easier said than done.

  1. Learn the foundational skills 
  2. Don't procrastinate by falling down a research rabbit hole though
  3. Practice, practice, and practice some more
  4. Set a deadline so you don't get stuck in a perfectionism loop
  5. Get out there and land writing clients
  6. Learn the imposter syndrome symptoms so they can't hold you back

Don't forget to give yourself a break along the way. Getting burned-out before you even get started means imposter syndrome has won.

So what do you do when symptoms like procrastination and perfectionism are holding you back? 

Use these tips to get unstuck and lift the weight of imposter syndrome symptoms.

Overcome Procrastination Roadblocks 

This happens a lot when you're in the learning phase. You'll spend hours on Pinterest soaking up all the blogs, free advice, and templates. You'll buy all the books and courses you can get your hands on. 

This kind of procrastination is so sneaky. You feel like you're learning and making progress, but you haven't actually gone anywhere. 

It's like trying to walk to your favorite store while you're on a treadmill. Sure, you're working hard and moving, but you're not actually getting any closer to the store.

Overcoming procrastination is hard, but it can be done by setting a few boundaries and goals for yourself.

Try these tips to overcome procrastination:

  1. Give yourself a goal with a deadline. For example, pitching X number of clients every week.
  2. Limit yourself to only buying more education after you've put into practice everything you've already learned – or until you make back the money you invested in education.
  3. Commit to practicing what you've learned for the same amount of time you researched it. For example, if you watch a 15-minute educational video, then commit to applying that knowledge for the next 15 minutes.

With a little self-control and some go-to tricks up your sleeve – you’ll be sure to jump over your procrastination roadblocks.

Beat Perfectionism Everyday

You're finally off the treadmill and lacing up your walking shoes! But your left shoe is just a bit tighter than the other one, so it needs to be fixed, and then the right feels a little loose. And back and forth you go. 

By the time each shoe is perfectly laced, you're exhausted. So you scrap the whole idea and just plunk down with a pint of ice cream. 

Use these tips when you need to beat perfectionism:

  1. Define what each piece needs before starting so you know when it's done.
  2. Limit the number of times you edit a piece.
  3. Use a scheduling software (like CoSchedule) that publishes the article at a specific time, so you have to stop editing before the publish time.

Imposter syndrome symptoms can zap your motivation and are pretty sneaky about how they do it. They take the form of self-doubt, procrastination, and perfectionism disguised as progress. 

Remember these tips to stay productive next time you feel those symptoms start to take over you’ll conquer those perfectionist distractions won’t be able to hold you back.

You Got This!

When you make the necessary freelancing mindset shifts, you'll start acting like a business owner. 

When you're running your business, you have the responsibility to use your time efficiently and make sure clients don't push well beyond the boundaries of your quoted job scope. 

Imposter syndrome symptoms like procrastination and perfectionism can make it hard to get started and even harder to protect your time. But we all deal with these feelings from time to time, so you're not alone.

Set goals, have patience with yourself, and enjoy all the places your new career will take you. You'll be glad you started now and didn't wait until you felt "ready.”

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will” -Suzy Kassem

Real progress happens when you know enough to be scared and then do the thing anyway. You'll be surprised by how often you'll look back at a project and think, "That wasn't so hard!" even though it initially terrified you.

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