6 Ways to Ease the Pain of Freelance Writing

Freelance writing is stressful – especially if you have bills to pay, hungry kids or pets to feed, and a caffeine habit that needs attention. The sooner you learn how to deal with the stress of freelance writing, the easier your life will be…and the more money you’ll make as a writer. 

These six tips will help you flow through the ups and downs of a writing career — even if you’re not earning a full-time living as a writer yet. If you’re worried about money, read Dealing With Financial Stress as a Writer.

“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold,” says self-help author Douglas Pagels. “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.” 

Picture that: sliding blissfully down your favorite color – especially if you feel frustrated or discouraged. It may seem pointless, but it might increase your creativity and productivity. Finding ways to motivate yourself and relax is the only way to make a living as a freelance writer.  

6 Ways to Make Freelance Writing Easier

1. Remember that writing rejections and failures can be fruitful. I’m still cringing at a mistake I recently made with one of my editors – it was stupid, and it definitely hurt our working relationship. Since my goal is to help other writers, I turned my mistake into a possible article and pitched it to a few writing magazines. Then the other day, I woke up and said, “Article idea? Nay – it’s a brilliant book idea!”  To cope with freelance writing stress, remember that you can use your writing problems. Just stay open to the possibilities, and don’t let writing failures dampen your spirits.

2. Take action towards your writing goals. Writers never know what will work – whether emailing the article pitch to that editor will result in an assignment or snail mailing the novel to the publisher will get a book contract! Taking action helps you cope with the stress of freelancing and writing by giving you control. The more control you have, the less stress you’ll feel. So take action, fellow scribes – even if you think your efforts won’t go anywhere.

3. Avoid the media. Does this sound counterintuitive for freelance writers? Not necessarily. “Eliminate or minimize watching the news and reading newspapers,” says psychologist Joseph Cilona. “It’s important to remember that even respected news sources are not always giving a truly balanced and accurate portrayal of reality.” Heavy news consumption can make it harder for you to maintain a positive outlook, stay motivated, and keep your energy level up. Freelance writers need to find a healthy balance between staying current to find new article ideas, and protecting themselves from a barrage of bad news.

4. Stop fortune telling! “Fortune telling is predicting the future negatively and emotionally reacting as if it is already happening or it is imminent,” says psychologist Elizabeth R. Lombardo. “For example, people are often not worried about the here and now, but rather what they think will happen.” Just because you don’t have an assignment or book contract right now doesn’t mean you won’t have one in a month or a year – or even tomorrow! To reduce freelance writing stress, don’t borrow worries from tomorrow.

5. Try new things in your freelance writing career. If your current strategies for freelance writing – or any type of writing – aren’t working, then shake it up a little! Here’s a great example for freelancers like me, who spend a lot of time pitching editors: “It’s often not worth the time to cold-pitch,” says Lisa Albers, who is a published writer of print and online articles, books, ad copy, and poetry. “I cultivate my existing network and use it to connect.” To make your writing life easier, learn how your colleagues find work — and try their strategies.

6. Cultivate your writers’ network. Here’s how Albers connects with people: “I’m very curious about people and love to ask questions. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how few people are genuinely curious about others.” She periodically asks clients about their business and activities. When she meets new people, she listens to them and tries to ask intelligent, open-ended questions about their work. Albers says, “I make sure my clients know what I’m doing when I’m busy so that when I’m not, they’re more inclined to take advantage of my availability.”

If you are a new freelance writer, read 10 Things You Need to Know About Writing for Magazines.


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3 thoughts on “6 Ways to Ease the Pain of Freelance Writing”

  1. I would also add: Join a writer’s group. I’m part of a women’s workshop group, not based on critique, and sometimes the conversation veers off onto non-writing related topics, but that’s okay. We understand what we’re all going through and that helps us feel like at least a few people understand when we’re stressed about the writing life.

  2. Great wisdom here.

    I’ve turned some mistakes or gaffes on my part into posts and they’ve done real well. I like passing on what I learn so others don’t have to spend time in the bozo pen.

    I could not agree more with decreasing the viewing of news. We are bombarded and so much of the news is based on hateful, negative events. Watching the news makes it very difficult to maintain a positive outlook, and a positive outlook is crucial to moving forward.


    Tumblemoose’s last blog post..Use flash fiction to move your writing forward

  3. In a very Canadian reply, I watch hockey (I’m hooped in the summer!). After spending all day pitching, wondering about potential assignments, worrying about an Editor’s response and plugging away at any given article, I get swept away by hockey stories, teams and players. It’s impossible for me not to get caught up in it all (which can sometimes lead to more stress!), but it gets my mind off of work and my body gets an exercise from jumping up and down. It’s also a good vocal workout 🙂 It’s nice to get out of my “writer/artist” headspace and just cheer on a good, old fashioned hockey game.

    Lori’s last blog post..WestJet Airlines: Low Air Fares in Canada