5 Things You DON’T Need to Become a Successful Freelance Writer

    You already know what you need to get started as a freelance writer.

    A computer. A website and a LinkedIn account. Mad writing skills.

    But even more important are the things you don’t need to get started as a freelance writer. Attitudes and perks that will actually keep you from success as you wait until you can claim them all. And wait. And wait.

    Here are the top 5 things you absolutely do not need to make the leap into freelancing.

    1. A command of everything there is to know about freelance writing

    I hate to say this since I teach an e-course and mentor writers, but you can get started right now. Even if your pitches aren’t perfect. Even if you don’t know every single thing about building a writer site. Even if you haven’t read and highlighted the dozen or so freelance writing books you brought home from the library.

    The best way to learn is not to study and to read, but to do.You can learn more from the feedback you get from an editor (or lack of feedback) and your query success/failure rate than you can from reading every book ever published freelance writing.

    When I started out in 1997, I read one book, on how to write a query letter. My first query landed a $500 assignment from a small employment magazine, but breaking into the nationals wasn’t quite as easy. I sent out pitches that make me cringe now to think about them (like “Quik Dri Cheez: Why Advertisers Can’t Spell” to Family Circle), but I learned as I went along and developed relationships with editors in the process.

    Trust that you know enough and just do.

    2. The unwavering support of your friends and family

    Guess what? It doesn’t matter what your friends and family members think of your freelance writing dreams.

    Someone will tell you you’re crazy for eschewing a “safe” 9-5 job in favor of freelancing. Someone will think they can call you at 1 pm every day because you’re “not working.” Someone will tell you that “freelance” is shorthand for “unemployed.”

    It doesn’t matter.

    If everyone needed 100% support and acceptance of their goals, we would have a lot fewer successful writers, artists, dancers, and entrepreneurs out there. The fact is, while it’s nice to have unconditional support from friends and family, it’s not essential to success.

    Set your own boundaries around your goals, get to work, and prove those naysayers wrong.

    3. An aversion to rejection

    Repeat after me: “Rejection is my friend.”

    Form rejections from several editors tells you that you need to tweak your approach. A “nice” rejection (“Not right for us, but please keep pitching”) opens doors to relationships that can later turn into assignments. And rejection accompanied by feedback — which is what launched me into the world of the glossy women’s magazines — is a blessing.

    You will get rejections — and if you don’t, you’re not trying hard enough. I have hundreds to my credit!

    But instead of getting all in a twist at the idea of rejection and never sending anything out as a result, remember that rejection is not about you: It’s a business decision, and one you can learn from.

    4. An abundance of free time

    Does this sound like you? “As soon as I have enough money to quit my job, I’ll have the time to start freelancing.” “When the kids are in school, I can start freelancing.” “I can’t start sending out pitches until I have more time; what if I get an acceptance and don’t have time to do the assignment?”

    The fact is, you can start while you work a 9-5 or stay at home with your baby or have your kids home during summer vacation.

    I’m not saying it’s easy. You may need to get up early, stay up late, or do interviews during your lunch hour. But if you have the motivation, it can be done. I have a friend who works on freelance writing projects from 8 to midnight. I personally started freelancing while working an office job. And I know a single mom who homeschools her kids — and freelances!

    You don’t find time to write — you make it.

    5. Perfection

    I know too many writers who are afraid to send anything out until it’s perfect. They over-research, over-interview, and agonize over every last word.

    But what is perfect? Perfect by whose standard?

    And of course, since there is no such thing as perfect, these writers’ perfectly good work languishes on their hard drives, and therefore stands zero chance at publication. All the while, lesser (but unafraid) writers are getting published left and right, much to the ire of those who strive for perfection.

    You know the expression “Good enough never is”? I’d like to amend that to “Good enough often is.” The imperfect query or article you send out has an infinitely better chance at getting published than the writing you’ll never send out until it’s perfect.

    These five items all point to the same fact: There will never be a “perfect” time to start freelancing, when you have ample free time, all the knowledge you need, unassailable writing skills, zero chance at rejection, and supportive friends and family.

    The freelancers who succeed are those who use what they have when they have it, make the time instead of waiting for it to magically appear, set boundaries — and get moving.

    About the author:

    Linda Formichelli is the author of The Renegade WriterShe has written for more than 130 magazines and is the co-author of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. Get free copies of her e-books at the Renegade Writer blog.

    About the author

      Linda Formichelli

      Linda Formichelli is the author of The Renegade WriterShe has written for more than 130 magazines and is the co-author of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. She is also the author ofHow to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life - While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie.

    • Wow nice article thanks a lot

    • Great advice, especially the one about a writing piece not having to be ‘perfect’. I often find that after revising the revisions, doing several edits in order to perfect the article, I often use the second edit as it is more interesting, effective and not overworked.
      I have a kind of website/blog page, but it’s incomplete. I tried using Word Press but I got tangled up and gave up. The only comments I got were companies trying to plug their own websites by hitch hiking onto mine.
      Your article is making me think I have to get more proactive about my writing and stop making excuses.
      Celia Jones
      [email protected]

      • Thanks, Celia…I’m glad you liked the post! And my challenge to you: Only do two edits and then go with the second one, instead of editing again and again! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that your work will go over just as well.

    • Thank you all for your comments! I’ glad the post resonated with you, and wish you luck with your writing!

    • Sophia M says:

      Totally love this article! I’m a perfectionist at heart and I know it’s my downfall. I have to remind myself every time good is enough.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you for the pep-talk! It seems to have come on the perfect day for me. I was just thinking “ugh.what do I think I’m trying to do!”

      I feel a bit more inspired now knowing that there Ares some things I’ll get better at with experience and some things I don’t need at all!

    • I need to take some of these things to heart; actually, I’ve been working on them. I hate the rejection part, and it doesn’t matter if it’s up front or on the back end. Up front means they don’t really care about us and on the back end, well, I know that every writer’s style isn’t for everyone and I never try to convince someone that I’m right on the back end; I just move on. Taking it personal; now that’s one that probably needs to be addressed. 🙂

    • lovely says:

      Exactly what I needed. Thank you for this great advice.

    • Very Useful information, this is both good reading for, have quite a few good key points and I learn some new stuff from it too.
      Emaan IT International

    • Jevon says:

      Amazing stuff Linda. I really like #3: An aversion to rejection, since I will soon reach the stage of pitching. The quote “You will get rejections — and if you don’t, you’re not trying hard enough” is very memorable. Thanks.

    • Thanks for sharing this. The wonderful thing about freelancing is that you can focus in on your passions and really try to support these things. I’d like to focus on fiction writing, reviews, and grant writing. We’ll see what happens! Thanks for the push.

      • It’s so true — this career is all about passion. You DO sometimes have to do writing you’re less-than-passionate about just to pay the bills, but you’re also free to try to do what you love as much as you can.

    • The idea of just doing it, like nike, that needs to be my focus. Thank for the reminder and the push.


    • Thanks for this. Seriously. I tend to fall victim to the first trap. I over-study and over-think on all the things I may need to start doing something. It’s like when I started my blog. I knew there would never be a perfect time, but I kept putting it off. In the end, I said, “Screw it,” and launched anyway.

      So, thanks.

      • Good for you for launching your blog! I know that taking that first step is the hardest part. Now momentum will keep you going!

    • Debra Dane says:

      Thank you for this – I am just starting to explore freelance writing and you just covered everything I know would hold me back – I am glad I read this now and not in 3 months when i was still trying to learn everything and come up with the perfect pitch!

      • Thanks, I’m glad the post came at the right time for you! Good luck with your new endeavor!

    • Cassie says:

      Great advice! I personally have no excuse. Part-time hours, no kids. The time, I believe they say, is now.

    • “The imperfect query or article you send out has an infinitely better chance at getting published than the writing you’ll never send out until it’s perfect.”

      This is what’s stopping me from sending my first one out.
      Thanks for the reminder!

      • Ara, please get that query out — and start another one! It’s really a numbers game.

      • Karen says:

        Me too, Ara! I think if you’re brave enough to send a potentially imperfect query letter, which is probably not nearly as imperfect as you think it is, out, I can be too! 🙂

    • Thanks so much for this inspiring pep talk — exactly what I needed!

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