Blog

Who’s in charge here?

No one is going to give you permission to take charge of your freelance writing business. If you want to make a change, YOU have to decide to do it.

Photo by  Jonny Caspari  on  Unsplash

As freelancer writers, when we don’t know what to do we simply wait.

We wait to decide on our niche. We wait to call potential clients. We wait to follow up. We wait to dump the bad client.

At some level, we’ve been programmed to have some intervening authority tap us on the shoulder and say, “You should do this,” or “You should do that.”

When you run your own business, there is no intervening authority because YOU wear all the hats. You decide which direction to go, what projects to work on, and who you want to work with. In theory…

While it seems like freelancing brings so much freedom and the choice to do anything, we soon find out that having so much choice can be overwhelming.

No one is there to tell us if the decisions we’ve made are good or bad. And conversely, once we fall into certain patterns, we’re more likely to stay there even if we don’t like the situation.

So what do we do? Many of us do nothing because we feel stuck and because the change that inevitably comes is likely going to be uncomfortable.

But 2019 is upon us! Let’s all take a look back at 2018 and reflect on those things that worked and those things that didn’t work in our businesses.

Instead of idly standing by and letting our businesses run us, let’s take a stand and aim to change things for the better.

Here are a few examples of some common situations where freelancers get stuck:

The Problem: Waiting to Get Started

Are you waiting to get started with your freelance writing business because you are waiting for that perfect time to jump ship from your full-time job?

Maybe you are waiting to build up some steady client work to replace your full-time income. Maybe you are waiting until your website, logo, and business cards are perfected. Maybe you are waiting because you don’t know where to start.

The Solution

Starting your own business is like planning for your first baby. There is likely never going to be a perfect time. And you’ll soon find out that you actually need a lot less than you think you do.

If you’re on the fence with whether to go full-time freelance, then try and make a start with a part-time schedule to ease the transition. This might take some of the financial pressure off of you so that you are not solely relying on your freelance earnings. If you can’t do that, then a safe bet is to save up at least 6 months of income to hold you over until your freelance business takes off.

If you think that you need all the bells and whistles of a fancy website and logo, forget it. Focusing on this stuff often is a diversion from doing the hard stuff like creating great samples and doing direct client outreach and follow-up. Simple is best - all you really need is an about page, sample page, and contact form. Everything else can come later.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff on your to-do list, then first stop and take a deep breath. Focus on just 1 or 2 essential (and I stress essential and not irrelevant) things that will move you forward each week.

Consider seeking out some outside guidance and support from people that have been there before. This can be a game changer.

Remember, the thing that’s awesome about freelancing is that YOU can call the shots. You can decide where to spend your time and energy. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do that.

The Problem: Not Choosing a Niche

Can’t decide on a niche? This topic sometimes puts newbies in paralysis and experienced writers in a state of second-guessing themselves.

Maybe you feel like you’re putting yourself in a corner and limiting your opportunities for work by saying that you specialize in “X”. Maybe you don’t see how much potential is in a particular field.

Or, maybe you’ve been trying to go too broad and can’t gain any traction. This is equally as bad. Trying to serve everyone usually means that you end up serving no one.

The Solution

I recently wrote about choosing a niche and when it can be a good time to explore your options and when it’s probably time to “niche down.”

In general, I say choose a niche and commit to it for 3-6 months. But remember, it doesn’t have to be a permanent decision, and you don’t have to turn down work that isn’t strictly in your niche.

See if you like a specialization and see if you gain any traction. How do you know whether you’ll like what you’re doing or whether you’ll hit your income goals until you try it? Even the best planners cannot predict the future.

Remember, the thing that’s awesome about freelancing is that YOU decide if and when to change directions. If you don’t end up liking the direction that you are going or you’re not earning what you want, just pivot and try something else. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do that.

The Problem: Not Ditching the Bad Client

Have you ever worked with a client that you truly didn’t like? Maybe it’s not even the client specifically, but maybe it’s the kind of project, a dislike of the project management, or the tight deadlines. There are many reasons certain clients and projects are less than a joy to work with than others.

Both new and seasoned freelance writers fall into this particular trap. They’ll stay in that less than ideal situation because: 1) it is steady money; 2) they don’t have other clients lined up; or 3) “they don’t have enough bandwidth” to take on a new client.

And so that pain-in-the-ass client seems to just stick around because we keep saying yes to their assignments rather than saying no and searching elsewhere.

The Solution

This one really bugs me when I see it happening (over and over again). Let’s keep it real: you can never move on to something better if you don’t create the space to do it. You have to start saying NO in order to make the room for better opportunities.

Read that again if you need to.

So just stop saying yes to that client when you don’t want to. Stop saying yes to the unreasonable deadlines. Stop saying yes to those projects that you hate and make you want to shove sharp pointed objects into your eyes.

If you don’t, you’ll continue to hold yourself hostage in that shitty situation because it’s easier to do that than go through the effort (and discomfort) of finding more suitable projects and/or clients.

Remember, the thing that’s awesome about freelancing is that YOU decide if and when you are available. I know that most of us are people pleasers, but start flexing those “I’m not available muscles” if you need to. You don’t need anyone’s permission (and especially not your client’s) to do that.


In the new year, we’re taking charge of how we run our business here at W&P. We want to help you do the same.

One of our goals is to empower you and help you make more informed decisions in your freelance writing business, so that you are not only doing meaningful work but also work that helps you reach your income goals.

Come join us in our new group coaching program. We’ve both found that nothing moves the needle more than some guided focus, direction, and accountability. We’d love to have you ;)

Jennifer Gregg