Dealing With Financial Stress as a Freelance Writer

How do you write good magazine articles, books and blog posts when you’re stressed about money? The short answer is that you can’t. Financial stress destroys your creativity, productivity, and energy. These tips for dealing with financial stress as a freelance writer will decrease your anxiety, increase your creativity, and encourage you to keep writing.

“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold,” says best-selling author Douglas Pagels on my article about reducing freelance writing stress (which, unfortunately, doesn’t include tips for dealing with money anxiety). “But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.”

Deciding which rainbow color to slide down doesn’t seem like a practical tip for dealing with financial stress as a freelance writer, does it? But maybe Pagels is onto something. He is, after all, a best-selling author. He makes money writing books, editing articles, and even creating beautiful calendars. And he’s no spring chicken! Maybe Doug Pagels’s secret to being a productive freelance writer is to find the balance between working hard and resting often.

It’s crucial to learn how to deal with financial stress because it affects every part of your life — including your health, relationships, and the future of your freelance writing career. Maybe you’re like me: you’ve always worried about money and working as a freelancer is very stressful. If money anxiety is impacting your ability to find work and sell your articles, then you need to find healthy ways to deal with stress.

4 Ways to Deal With Money Stress for Freelance Writers

When I wrote Overcoming Money Anxiety: 4 Ways to Relax Your Grip I wasn’t thinking of writers dealing with the financial stress of freelancing career. Recently, however, I realized that freelance writers are more prone to anxieties about money and paying the bills than people with a “normal” job! Further, financial stress affects writers right where it hurts: the creativity and productivity zones. This has a direct impact on a writer’s ability to find good ideas, write effective pitches for magazine editors, and even calmly sit down to write an article, book chapter, or blog post.

These four tips — which are actually questions to help you drill down into the root cause of your money anxiety — will help you deal with the financial stress of a freelance writing career. You’ll learn a different, healthier way to look at yourself as a writer. You’ll see your money situation in a different light. And you’ll be a happier, healthier, more productive writer.

If you feel anxious about earning money and paying the bills, you’re not living in abundance. I know what it feels like to live in financial scarcity, fear, and stress. I struggled with a “scarcity mindset” all my life; I always lived in fear of running out of money as a freelance writer. I felt actual physical pain and anxiety when I bought something new. But I have good news! I discovered these tips for coping with financial stress — and if I can do it, so can you. 

These four questions helped me learn how to deal with money anxiety:

  1. Does the unpredictable income cause your financial stress, or did you always worry about money? 
  2. What thoughts come to mind when money anxiety overwhelms you?
  3. How do you write when you’re stressed about getting paid so you can pay the bills?
  4. How will you be a successful freelance writer with an unpredictable income?

When you read my answers below — and if you think about your own past and present experiences with money — you will be one step closer to dealing with financial stress as a writer with an unpredictable income.

1. Does the unpredictable income cause your financial stress, or did you always worry about money?

Dealing With Money Anxiety as a Freelance Writer
Dealing With Financial Stress as a Freelance Writer

The lack of a steady paycheck is an inherently stressful part of working as a freelance writer. However, some writers flow with the financial ups and downs without batting an eye. Other writers (like me) feel anxious even when they have a steady gig and enough money to pay the bills. It’s important to learn whether it’s the unpredictable income that is causing you stress, or if you’re just anxious about money in general. Recently, I discovered why freelancing stresses me out. I asked myself, “What’s your first memory about spending money? How did you learn about money management, credit card and other types of debt, mortgage and rent payments, and using money to enhance your life?” 

I remembered my first experience with money. I was on vacation with my grandmother in Hawaii; I was living with her because my mom was sick in the hospital. We were at a restaurant. After the waiter took our order and walked away, my grandma suddenly turned to me and exclaimed, “Why do you always order the most expensive thing on the menu?” She was obviously upset — and I had no idea she was stressed about finances. I was about 13 years old, and though she had more than enough money. She never seemed anxious about vacations, groceries, or paying the rent. Her words cut straight to my heart, though. I realized how much she sacrificed for me financially, emotionally, socially and practically…and I felt terrible. Ever since then I’ve felt scared and anxious when I spend money. Those are the roots of my financial stress, and they affect my ability to be a successful freelance writer.

2. What thoughts come to mind when money anxiety overwhelms you?

When I feel stressed about finances — especially when I’m between article assignments or have no good book or blog post ideas — I remind myself that my feelings aren’t based on the truth. The bulk of my anxiety about money is caused by something that happened almost 40 years ago. I’m giving the bad money memory more power than it deserves! I had to teach myself to remember the root cause of my financial stress, and remind myself that I have more power and control over my next assignment than I realize. One of the most effective ways to deal with financial stress as a freelance writer is to separate past anxiety from the current situation.

When you’re anxious about money, remember the root cause of your stress. Maybe you had a bad experience with your family and finances when you were young. Maybe your mom was a freelance writer, or your dad an entrepreneur whose business failed. Maybe you’re barely making enough money writing to pay the bills. You’re losing sleep, and you really are worried you won’t make next month’s rent or buy groceries. These are very real concerns — and becoming aware of the root cause of your financial stress will help you think more clearly. Instead of allowing anxiety to overwhelm you, use self-awareness to gain clarity and insight. Knowing the root cause and triggers of your anxiety will help you focus on more productive solutions, such as implementing practical tips for managing an unpredictable cash flow as a freelance writer.

3. How do you write when you’re stressed about getting paid so you can pay the bills?

Part of the problem is that financial stress can actually serve a purpose — especially for freelance writers! Coming up with good ideas, crafting pitches and query letters that sell, writing strong articles, and even researching different markets and writing opportunities is hard work. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on “dealing with financial stress as a freelance writer” than actually writing. Money anxiety can be a distraction that allows you to avoid the pain of sitting down to write. If course you also have very real financial concerns that need attention. But as a freelance writer, you also have a very real responsibility to show up at work every day.

The good news is you can learn all sorts of practical ways to survive when you have no money …  but the bad news is that those practical tips don’t lead to a permanent sense of peace or joy. You can’t permanently deal with financial stress by yourself. Your anxiety will keep coming back because your income will always fluctuate. And even if you find a steady gig, your preexisting money anxiety will rear its ugly head in other ways. That’s the nature of the beast.

4. How will you be a successful freelance writer with an unpredictable income?

You need to stop struggling, trying, and fighting with yourself. Trust me. I fought my money anxiety for almost 50 years, and it never worked. I’m finally learning that the real root problem isn’t that my grandma yelled at me for always ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. The real root problem is that I was relying on money to be my security in an unpredictable world. I thought money in the bank would protect me from homelessness, poverty, and shame. Freelance writing increased my preexisting financial stress by forcing me to live with my fears.

I didn’t and couldn’t deal with financial stress by building a bigger bank account. Even when I was getting article assignments from magazine editors — without even pitching ideas — I was still constantly anxious about money. Finally, I learned that no matter how much money I have, it’ll never be enough to erase my anxiety. I learned that I need something more powerful than me, something bigger than any bank account. I don’t need to be a billionaire (or a successful freelance writer with a permanent gig at the New York Times) to not feel stressed about money. Instead, I need to truly, deeply know and experience the depth, width, and breadth of the love of God.

My financial stress was always caused by my belief that money would keep me safe and secure. This is not true. Yes, money brings luxury and comfort, food and shelter — and regular freelance assignments bring a temporary financial fix. But the only true, everlasting source of safety and security is God. 

When you’re dealing with financial stress as a freelance writer, find practical ways to manage your money. There are dozens of helpful tips for freelancers online. But you need to go a step further if you want true, deep, permanent joy and peace. And that step is into a personal relationship with Jesus.

In peace and passion,


P.S. If you’re stuck for ideas, read 11 Most Popular Types of Magazine Articles – Print & Online.


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