Freelance Writing Tip #33: The Danger of Over-Inflating Ego

One of the things that is extremely challenging to do is to assess just “how good” your writing abilities are. It can be next to impossible, especially since gaging our efforts is a double-edged sword. On the one side, we want to feel good about what we do, because it helps keeps us motivated to write. On the other, we don’t want to over-analyze our writing because we’ll end up putting down our pens and stop writing altogether.

It’s necessary to find a balance between the two extremes for several reasons, but the biggest one is this: If your ego is over-inflated, you can really damage your career. Risks include:

  • Alienating fans
  • Disputes with editors
  • Late or non-existent payments
  • Exclusions from future contracts or work
  • Bad customer experiences
  • These are just a few of the reasons why you have to manage not only your writing, but the resiliency of your personality and your ego. Remember that you are selling yourself as an independent contractor, and any time you fall into one of the common traps that many authors seem to do–you are limiting the amount of income you could potentially make.

    Freelance Writing Tip #32: Use Competition to Your Advantage

    Out of all the networking activities that you can do, the hardest concept to deal with is the green monster. I’m talking about jealousy, of course, that destructive force that can sabotage your career and take down other talented people right along with it.

    While there is healthy and unhealthy competition, a lot of times what jealousy boils down to is not necessarily whether or not you’re jealous–but how you react to different situations.

    For example, say you have a fellow writer who perhaps isn’t as experienced as you are, or doesn’t have as many publications as you do. For whatever reason, you are on an unlucky streak, unable to get anything published–or written–for weeks. Then, your comrade-in-words announces they’ve signed “the” deal, the one you’ve been waiting for.

    It is absolutely normal to feel jealous of other people who advance their creative careers. There is a lot of competition in the creative fields, and it has become increasingly difficult to break into those areas successfully. In order to devote yourself to a creative industry, you have to be passionate and dedicated about what you’re doing–something that can take a toll on relationships with other people.

    You can turn your jealousy around by channeling that negative energy into something positive. Instead of calling your fellow peers a host of slurs, congratulate them on their success and motivate yourself through their “wins.” Remember, the more time you spend ranting about someone else’s work–the less time you have to think critically and be smart about your own efforts.

    Overcoming jealousy is essential to networking and, unfortunately, since this is a basic human emotion, some people will get over it and some people won’t. What does that mean for you? It means that if someone shuts you off because they’re acting like they are in the 6th grade, you deal with that situation in your own way, and then find other writers to network with.

    Writing is competitive, yes, but careers are wholly unpredictable and hard to plan. You may think you’re on the path to becoming the next Neil Gaiman, when in fact your book may never see the light of day. On the flip side, you could be the next J.K. Rowling, even with a delay in your career. Because of that, it not only pays to be nice, it is essential that you understand which of your writing peers support you and which ones don’t. Having a basic comprehension of the people around you gives you the opportunity to tap into a support and resource network, something that can exist outside of the competition.

    Freelance Writing Tip #31: Use Technology Wisely for Online Networking

    In a previous post, I talked about how it’s necessary to avoid flame wars and advised you to exercise diplomacy with editors.

    While it is true, you do have to be careful about what you post, you also need to be concerned with how you publish your thoughts, emails, etc. online.

    What was I talking about here? Emails, IMs, blogs, vlogs and forum posts. When you throw yourself out there on the web, you open yourself up to criticism–especially if you are a writer. It’s essential that you realize this, because every word you type could be read by a potential employer and many do research you online as part of the hiring process.

    The most common complaint that I hear publishers, editors, and colleagues talking about is this: “Why would I hire someone to write for me who can’t spell?” While Human Resource departments have the luxury of screening employees out based on a resume, many freelance writing jobs do not require one. I’ve been hired for quite a few assignments based on networking alone.

    Over the years I have run into several writers who rely on the fact that “someone else will edit their work.” Those writers have yet to be published or, if they were, they quickly developed a reputation as a “hack” writer and were not invited for subsequent assignments. As a manager for a book line, I’ve also received resumes and emails from several people asking for work. Of those resumes and emails, almost a full quarter of them had misspelled submissions, poor grammar, and horrid typing.

    While the idea about improving online communications may sound fairly high-brow to some, try to think about it another way. If you are a writer, words are the tools of your trade and sentences are your building blocks. If you can’t find the right words to put a grammatically correct sentence together in an email, why would someone pay you for your finished work?

    So avoid l33tspeak, typing in all caps, fumbling around on the keyboard, and bad punctuation–represent yourself well so your potential client has no reason not to hire you.

    Freelancing 101: What does it mean to be a freelancer?

    For a few months now, I’ve been talking about several topics that range from building a freelance writing business to writing motivation to writing employment. As someone was kind enough to point out, I haven’t devoted any efforts to address what freelancing is, why people are drawn to it, and how hard it can be.

    A freelancer, as defined on Dictionary.com is “A person who sells services to employers without a long-term commitment to any of them.” For those of you who enjoy word etymology, according to Wikipedia, the term free lance came from “Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) in his well-known historical romance Ivanhoe to describe a “medieval mercenary warrior.”

    Freelancers tend to work by a “project basis,” rather than on a long term or contractual employment period. Typically, freelancers work for themselves as independent contracts who receive 1099s for their efforts at the end of the calendar year. Some people freelance on a part-time basis; others full-time.

    The appeal of being a freelancer? Well, sometimes it allows a writer, artist or other creative type to begin building a portfolio in their spare time while they maintain an unrelated day job. It can offer an opportunity for additional funds, the freedom to keep your own hours, and the ability to work from home.

    While there is a huge attraction to the idea that you could go into business for yourself, there is also a downside. First, it’s hard work. You have to find your own leads, come up with a writer’s resume and writer’s portfolio, track your income and expenses, figure out how to manage your time, and promote yourself. The easiest way to explain what freelance writing is like, is to compare it to a full time job.

    In a full time job, you have a steady flow of work, a regular paycheck, benefits, and the ability to work with other people. As a freelancer, you have none of that and often keep longer hours to build a reputation. No deposits at an exact date and time, no health insurance benefits, no company. While many people, websites, and movies romanticize a writer’s life–it can be that exact moment of bliss as they describe, but you have to write every day simply, because you aren’t writing for yourself.

    So that’s it, in a nutshell, what freelancing is all about. Whether people are drawn to it for the ability to live a free lifestyle or not–many freelance writers take the good with the bad simply because, like me, they love to write.

    Freelance Writing Tip #30: Write What You’re Comfortable With

    Many paranormal romances, sexy magazines, and romantic comedies delve into some pretty explicit scenes. Horror fiction can include gory details or social taboos. Religious articles require the author to have faith; and writing manuals can get pretty boring, really quick.

    Even if you find (or get offered) a freelance writing assignment, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should feel obligated to take the assignment. Sometimes, you may want to decline the assignment based on what you’re comfortable writing.

    The drawback to making those kinds of decisions, is that when you’re just starting out as a freelance writer you have a different set of decisions to make than if you were an established writer. When you’re “established,” you have a reputation to protect. When you’re not–you’re trying to get one. Picking and choosing projects is not a luxury many new freelance authors have, but at some point you’ll understand you need to establish guidelines for what you will and will not write.

    As a general rule, if you’re not sure about the assignment, re-read the fine print in your contract to ensure that nothing will happen to you legally if you were to bail on the project early. Sometimes, you’ll only create more problems by being indecisive than if you were on board, especially if your departure screws up a publication’s project development.

    Regardless of what you decide to do for your career, don’t be afraid to say “no” to work you don’t want to write—even if it pays.

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