I’m privileged to be able to talk to many, many freelance writers at every stage in building their business. It’s one of my favorite things about working with Wealthy Web Writer.
I get to see the questions that come up and help to field answers. Our members have a lot of smart questions. For freelancers starting out, there are three thoughtful, important questions that come up for almost everyone early in their career.
When do I know I’m ready?
Today, I want to focus on that last question. It’s a big one, hugely important. And once you have the answer to it, it can really make everything else start to fall into place.
Tangibles versus Intangibles
When it comes to getting ready to launch your freelance business, there are tangibles and intangibles.
The tangibles are things that are easy to measure. You likely already have a list in mind of things you think you need to get started. For example, you might need:
A LinkedIn Profile: LinkedIn is a great way to start connecting with other professionals in your niche and to put your name out there as a professional web writer. It gives you a venue to promote yourself and a way for people interested in your services to contact you. It also gives you a place to send people if you don’t yet have a website. Say you have the opportunity to contribute a post to a popular blog in your industry, but you don’t have a website to include in your bio. No problem. You can link to your LinkedIn profile and still get some traction from the article.
A Website: But speaking of websites, the sooner you can set up a website for your professional writing business, the better. It doesn’t have to be intricate. A home page, an About Me page, a Samples page, and a contact page are enough to start with. For good examples, check out Pam Foster’s Pet Copywriter website and Mindy Tyson McHorse’s web-writing website.
A Basic Marketing Plan: Another good thing to have as you’re launching your business is a basic marketing plan. Your marketing plan is something that will change often — plan on that. It’s a good thing, actually. It means you’re testing new marketing and promotion methods and using what works best. A good rule of thumb is to have three to five marketing channels open at a time. That way, your marketing doesn’t overwhelm your schedule, but you’re always doing enough not to fall into a feast-or-famine pattern.
Having a list of things you know you need to be ready to start marketing yourself as a professional web writer is good. It gives you a way to move forward.
The Dreaded What-If Questions
But what happens when all your tangibles are ready … you’re prepped to pull the trigger on your new business … but you’re still not sure?
That’s where the intangibles come in. The biggest intangible of all for freelancers who are just getting started in their writing careers is confidence.
You start to ask yourself, “What if … ”
“What if I choke and blow my deadline?”
“What if I think I know what I’m doing, but I really don’t?”
“What if my client hates my work?”
“What if they love it but it flops when they use it?
“What if they ask me questions I don’t know the answers to?”
You get the idea. What’s happening here is that you’ve taken all the steps you need to in order to get ready to be a web writer, but you haven’t tested yourself, so you don’t really know if you can do what you think you can do. That leads to uncertainty and uncertainty is one of the biggest confidence killers out there … especially if you don’t know how to deal with it.
A Plan to Prove Your Readiness
What you need is a plan to prove to yourself that you’re ready … one that will help you nail down that big intangible: confidence. And, I have a plan you can use. Let’s dig in …
Step One: Reach Out
Web writing (or any writing for that matter) is a skill that you learn by doing. You can study all the structure, strategy, and writing tips you want. Until you start putting words on the page, you won’t really know what you’re capable of. And, the more often you write, the better you’ll get.
So, that’s the place to start. To prove to yourself you’re ready to be a web writer and get paid for your skill, the first thing to do is to reach out to people you know that own a business: family members, friends, and former colleagues make great leads for this kind of work. Ask them to let you do a project for them — a web page, a landing page, some optimization work … whatever you want to focus on that’s the kind of project you want to do.
Step Two: Write Your Heart
Do the assignment. Do it well. Write like your life depends on it. Don’t be worried if you’re slow to start. What matters is whether or not you finish strong.
Revisit what you know about the assignment you’re working on. Then, get the words on the page. Let the assignment rest. Then review it and revise it to make it even stronger.
Step Three: Feedback From Your Client
Now you’ve done a real assignment. Sit down with the person who gave it to you and go over it with them. Find out what they like and what they think could be stronger. Remember, none of their feedback is personal. It all can help you become a stronger writer. Take notes. If needed, revise the assignment again to make it exactly what your client is after.
Step Four: Feedback From Your Peers
The next step to building your confidence and getting ready to land paying clients is to let your peers have a look at your work. You can find a great group on the Wealthy Web Writer Forum willing to give you feedback. Or, if you have writer friends, send your work to them and ask them for an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll come away feeling really good about the things you can do well and with a clear idea of what you can work on to be even better.
Step Five: Leverage the Experience
Going through this process gives you confidence, but it also builds your tangibles. The first tangible you get is automatic. Congratulations, you have a professional sample. That means that one of the dreaded “What if” questions (“What if they ask for samples?”) now has an answer you can be proud of. The next tangible to get is a testimonial from your client. This is something you can add to your website and your marketing materials. You can also ask the writers who peer reviewed you to give you an endorsement on LinkedIn. And, make sure you follow up with your client to find out how your work performed. Being able to point to specific results is powerful when it comes to promoting yourself.
Going through these fives steps is usually enough to build any writer’s confidence. It proves that you can complete an assignment, gives you a good idea of your strengths as a writer, and helps you build your portfolio.
But in case you’re still struggling, here’s a bonus tip for building your confidence (or for helping you tackle other intangibles like discipline, organization, and assertiveness). Enlist the help of a friend or family member you trust. Ask that person to tell you daily that you’re good at what you want to be good at. For example, if it’s confidence you’re lacking, their daily affirmation to you might be “You’re ready to succeed as a web writer.” This sounds a little crazy, I know. But it really works. When it comes to the intangibles, hearing someone you trust tell you every day that you are what you want to be helps you reach that goal faster.
When it comes to web writing, eventually you have to trust that you’re ready, put yourself out there, do your best work, and learn as you go. Just keep in mind that every successful writer out there has done just that.