LENGTH: 4 Minutes (810 words)
Let me tell you, I know a lot about freelance writing.
I’ve been freelancing full time since 1997. I have so many clips, from hundreds of magazines and business clients, that when a prospect asks for samples it takes me forever to figure out which ones would be the most relevant to send. Sometimes I’ll find an article or blog post online, start reading it, and then realize I wrote it.
But a few weeks ago, I was smacked in the face with the fact that I don’t nearly know it all.
Knocked Off My High Horse
I recently went out for tea with a young local writer I had met online. She mentioned that she was about to publish a book of her query letters that landed freelance writing jobs—but when she polled her email subscribers, they warned against using the word “query” in the title. “New writers don’t know what a query is yet, so they won’t be searching for that keyword on Amazon,” they pointed out.
I nearly spit out my English Breakfast. “Wait,” I said. “Diana Burrell and I wrote a book over 10 years ago called The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock, and we always wondered why it didn’t sell as well as our other books. And now I know!”
After we said our goodbyes, I grabbed my phone and called Diana. We were already in the process of updating the book, so we brainstormed a more SEO-friendly title: From Pitch to Published: How to Sell Your Article Ideas to Magazines. (That book will be released on May 2 in print and e-book formats…and the e-book is available for pre-order right now! Here’s where you can check it out.)
So…I’ve been a full-time writer for two decades, and it never occurred to me that the title of one of our best books is completely lame? Wow.
Then, in my Volume Marketing Challenge for Freelance Writers, I’ve been gobsmacked by the resources students were posting that I had never heard of: Apps, marketing techniques, relevant books, and new ideas have been flying around our Slack group and I’m struggling to keep up.
What’s this? Even more I don’t know? Inconceivable!
The Beginner’s Mind
You’ll never know all there is to know about freelance writing. This would be the case even if it weren’t the constantly evolving field it is now. There’s always more to learn.
Understanding this and embracing the beginner’s mind frees you to experiment and figure out what works for you. If certainty is like a rock, stuck in one place forever, then not-knowing is like water, changing and flowing as the situation demands.
The beginner’s mind is how I once ended up with business cards that had the tagline, “My editors think I’m swell.” It’s how a writer we interviewed for From Pitch to Published ended a query with “And if you don’t give me the assignment, I just don’t know what I’ll do”—and sold the article. And it’s how I took my own Volume Marketing Challenge class and learned more than I thought I ever would.
The beginner’s mind is the perfect attitude for a writer—especially in today’s writing environment, when we’re all looking for new ways to land freelance writing jobs.
Instead of looking for the exact right way to do something and then thinking we’ve got it down and doing it that way forever, we’re okay with saying, “This used to work well for me, but it’s not as effective as it used to be. What if I tried this instead?”
Instead of telling other writers something has to be done this way or else, we can understand that every writer, every client, and every situation is different, and what doesn’t work for one may work for another.
Instead of holding off on pitching prospects because we don’t feel we know it all yet, we can approach marketing as a fun experiment.
Every Day Is Day One
Lately I’ve been getting hit with some much-needed reminders that I don’t know it all.
And you know what? It feels amazing!
Imagine how boring your career would be if you knew everything there is to know. There’d be no more learning experiences, no more “ah ha!” moments, no more thrill of the chase as you tried new marketing techniques. Sure, you’d be ultra-successful…but every day would be the same old thing, over and over—kind of like the movie Groundhog Day except that you don’t change and grow.
If you’ve been freelancing for one year, five years, ten years or more and still don’t have it all down cold, don’t bemoan your lack of knowledge.
Take it as a sign that you chose the right career.
P.S. Don’t forget to check out (and pre-order!) From Pitch to Published: How to Sell Your Article Ideas to Magazines.