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Why people stay away from freelancing

In today’s tumbling economy, freelancing can be both a risk and an advantage. Being a freelance writer is certainly not the job for people who insist on job security, but it’s also no more insecure that the majority of jobs available. Every business or a profession has its pros and cons, you just have to be smart about it. What many :don’t understand is that themselves solely are the deciding factor and nobody else.

Fear is the mind killer

Still, people stay away from freelancing. The biggest reason they do is because they are afraid.

Looking from a security aspect, in a way, they believe they are making a more logical choice by staying away, even if they are unsure about the final outcome. From the outside, it looks like you’re working for peanuts if you’re working for money at all. The start of a freelancing career is the toughest stage of the job. You may have to work for free (a topic we already covered) which is something people dread immensely. Establishing a name for yourself is a continuous process that has a rough start.

Pure and simple – freelancing looks scary and it terrifies people to the point that they either give up or, more often, don’t want to try in the first place.

The fear manifests in many ways, most notably as a fear of failure. I believe that’s the main reason why people stay away from freelancing. And it’s not just freelancing – the claim stands for any other endeavor or activity. Fear of failure can severely limit one’s progress, almost to a point of a standstill. While I certainly don’t claim to know how to get rid of it, I have seen many attempts that failed at the first step, most of them without actually trying that hard.

The wrong picture about freelancing

It’s because people have the wrong picture about being a freelance writer. I had it, although I went overboard with expectations and the true state of freelancing. For me, it was a dream job that paid you to work from wherever you want whenever you want. Once I got to know things a little bit better, I realized that my perception was slightly off. The job is all that, no doubt. The problem was, I took the nature of the job for granted.

Needless to say, I nearly quit the whole idea of being a professional freelance writer. There’s much to do to prepare yourself for a whole new type of career, including the mental preparation. You will even find yourself in a position where you make up one excuse after another. One day it will be the fear of failure, the day after you’ll convince yourself you are simply not good enough and so on.

That is why I suggest you approach it from a different angle, the way I did.

Setting goals

You need to set goals for yourself, both short and long term. That way you’ll be in complete control and, most importantly, prepared for whatever gets in your way. Being a freelancer is a risky endeavor in the superficial sense of it. But once you scratch the surface, it actually makes much more sense and yields huge benefits. That’s what setting goals are for.

Naturally, having a short term goal is much more important for the beginning of your freelancing career. Setting a reasonable, achievable goal will steer your career in the right direction. These can be anything and you have a wide array of choices.

For instance, the obvious one would be reaching a certain level of income in a certain amount of time. It can also be having a full workload, echoing the 9 to 5 standard, or having enough work to cover XX hours a week. However, it’s important to note that having a goal doesn’t mean you have to blindly follow it. Sometimes, there will be reasons which you haven’t accounted for and the key is to be flexible. You have to learn to work around these obstacles while keeping the core of your goal in sight.

Image: Anthony Wright | Flickr
Image: Anthony Wright | Flickr

Once you accomplish your short-term goals, it’s time to move on to a long-term one. That’s the one you’ll probably strive for a good chunk of your career. It’ll take some time, but that’s okay – you should be in no hurry to get there as long as you are happy with it.

Still, having a long-term goal is best achieved when you look at it as a list of short-term goals, baby steps on the way to where you want to be in the future. I learned this bit of wisdom from my current boss. He reasons that working on a single target for a year or longer, without being able to track your progress, can hurt your motivation and your spirit. I couldn’t agree more because establishing yourself as a viable freelancing option on the market is a continuous process that takes time and effort. In the end, it’s very much worth it.

The goals vary from a person from person, but there are some general themes that occur. These include how to set up a freelance business, how to become a better freelance writer and overcoming the fear of not being good enough. These things take time, especially if you are on your own.

Take the next step

The bottom line is there is no reason to be afraid. Being a freelance writer doesn’t necessarily mean you have to quit your current job. For some, it helps to keep it and do this as a side thing. It can also act as a fallback if the things don’t go according to plan. For others, it works only if they have all the time they want.

Either way, the level of dedication required is the same. The most important thing in this whole process is to understand there will be some changes and a lot of adjustment to both clients and the new career. Take your time, set reasonable goals and put the work in. Those are the three equally important factors in this line of work. While the other two are obvious, setting goals, especially short-term is crucial for your self-esteem. Having goals is the best way to lose the fear because they are easily measurable and trackable. Once you get in the process, soon those fears you had won’t seem nearly as bad as they did before.

Pro tip

Here’s an example of short-term and long-term goals for freelance writers, the one the Journalancer team is currently working on:



  • Design an awesome-looking site
  • Fill it with amazing content that people will find useful and educational, having them coming back for more
  • Create a marketing campaign to promote the content
  • Analyze the content, the traffic and the way the audience interacts with it – see which pieces are doing great and which not. Use this knowledge for future pieces
  • Tweak the content and the marketing strategy to better reflect our goals
  • ???
  • Profit!
Image credit: Shenghung Lin | Flickr

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