Surviving Your First of many Freelance Writing Gigs W/O Losing Your Mind

So, I’ve told you what I learned from my first freelance writing gig, and I’ve told you how I landed it. Now I want to give you some tips to survive yours.  You can also apply these tips to future freelance writing gigs.

Here’s the scenario: All that pitching has paid off and now you’ve finally gotten your first freelance writing gig. You sit down to write the ultimate article. The one that will blow your client away. Your palms are sweating and your eye is twitching (no? maybe that’s just me).

Nobody tells you that landing the freelance writing gig is actually the easier part of the process. As scary as it is to start a freelance writing career, writing your first paid piece might be the scariest thing you ever do. Your skills are being tested and your confidence is likely shaken.

But, good news…once you get paid for the freelance writing gig and get a nod of approval for your work, you will have the confidence to apply for other freelance writing gigs. 

Here are some steps you can take to survive your first of many  freelance writing gigs and keep your sanity:

Write Your Outline Immediately

I’m serious about this one. The second you get your writing assignment, providing you already have a topic, sit down and draft that outline. You won’t have research yet, but come up with your own ideas. This will change, of course, but having a rough outline will help guide your research and thoughts in a way that makes sense later.

Break the Assignment into Chunks

Most people will give you a few days or even more than a week to complete an assignment. Don’t wait until the day before it’s due to begin or you will make yourself crazy.

Break it into small tasks so that you don’t experience overwhelm. For example: Outline, research, draft, proofread.

Take mental breaks in between writing. For your first assignment, you may even want to break the tasks up by day. But if you feel you have momentum and want to finish, at least take a 5 minute break to do something not writing or reading related in between. Getting up to unload the dishwasher or folding a load of laundry will give you a brief hiatus and help with feeling overwhelm.

Use Whatever Support System You Have in Place

Hopefully, at this point you have hired a coach or joined a freelance writer’s group of some kind.

As I’ve said before, hiring a coach was the number 1 best thing I did to jumpstart my career. Be sure you find one that offers email access on top of the scheduled calls or meetings.

Having an expert available to answer questions if they should arise during a freelance writing assignment is an invaluable asset and combats fear probably more than anything else you can do.

Have Someone Else Proofread your Work

Even the best writers usually need another set of eyes on their work when they’re done. There are several ways you can do this:

If you know someone who is good with grammar, ask him or her to look over it.

If you are a part of a freelance writing community, ask if anyone there would be willing to give your article a look and some honest feedback. If you are willing to be helpful in the group, you will be surprised at the willingness of others to support you.

You may be able to work out a deal with your coach, such as instead of a call that week, maybe she wouldn’t mind proofing your article for you. If she is successful, her feedback will help you the most.

If you still don’t know who to ask, drop me a line. Seriously. No strings. I’m a great proofreader and don’t mind helping out a fellow freelance writer.

Sleep on it Before You Hit “Send”

If your deadline allows, don’t send your final draft until you’ve had at least a few hours to walk away from it and then re-read it. You will be amazed at how much different that article will look the next day. There may be a couple of important points you want to add or something that doesn’t really need to be in there. It’s much easier to be objective about your own work when you’ve had some time apart.

There you have it. Your first article can be nerve-wracking and it helps to hear from someone who’s been there.

You may not have to follow these tips when you’re a little more seasoned, but trust me, the first time you have a paid assignment, you will want some direction and some feedback.

Good luck! May this be the start of many successful freelance writing gigs.

You’re up! Do you have any tips for first time writers or questions you want answered?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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11 thoughts on “Surviving Your First of many Freelance Writing Gigs W/O Losing Your Mind

  1. Cheri,

    Great post and congrats on your first paid piece! You did it 🙂 The tips you mentioned are great. I use all those steps in my writing process and it’s helped me a lot. One thing I can mention is have a system in place for checking your work.
    For me that’s a first edit, having Grammarly check it, Copyscape it (just in case), someone else proofread it and then one final read before I submit my piece. Having a system in place helps your productivity and it’s always nice to have those measures in place for your writing!

    • Great advice, Elna…I hadn’t thought of using Copyscape first! And Grammarly is also a great tool. Thanks for chiming in! 🙂

  2. Hi Cheri,

    What an awesome blog post! I’ll get this shared out momentarily.

    I really like the point about proofreading. I am lucky that my wife is also a freelancer… many times, we’ll switch seats for a moment throughout the day and review each other’s work.

    Super helpful.

    I’m also a big fan of sleeping on my writing. (Literally) I like to give it a night and then read one more time in the morning with fresh eyes. I almost always end up making a few more changes.

    Keep up the great work! 🙂

    Brent

  3. Hi Cheri,

    Thanks for this great post! I recently completed my first paid gig and things were hectic for sure. It’s super important to have a process in place when writing and I will definitely use some of your tips! 🙂

    • Hi Lenka!

      Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I think the first paid gig is the most stressful. I had to really take time to de-stress afterwards!

  4. Hi Cheri,

    Thanks for sharing this post. I think sleeping on it is a GREAT idea. I’m the type of person who works super hard and pour everything into a project to the point where I can barely look at it when I’m done (so I use my SO to help proofread too, as you suggested!) So, it’s REALLY helpful to sleep on it before I hit send.

    • Hi Lisa!

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I know what you mean…putting my work away and sleeping on it before sending it off has saved me more than once! Your mind is in a different mode and it’s easier to catch things you missed while you were still in creative mode.

  5. I think these are great ideas for when you’re first getting started. As your business grows, however, you’ll have to speed things up. I often crank out 4-5 articles per day, so no sleeping on it for me. But I love your dedication; you wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve worked with who didn’t care if they got it right or not! Or did it at all, in some cases. One thing I’ve discovered is that if a) you’re a good writer and b) you’re reliable, you’re already way ahead of the crowd. You would think that those characteristics are just the price of entry, but so many people either write crappy stuff or miss deadlines that editors/clients are impressed by someone who does it right.

    As an aside…your comment about outlining reminds me of the importance of figuring out what works for you. I NEVER outline. Seriously…even when I had to turn in outlines for papers in high school and college, I’d write the paper first, then make the outline from the paper. The actual process of writing is how I think through things; for me, it just doesn’t work the other way. Find your own formula for success, and don’t worry about how anybody else does it!

  6. Hi! You are so right about finding what works for you and about having to speed up your process.

    This was literally how I coped with the anxiety of writing my first article, but I’ve since, as you’ve said, found different processes. For most of my short articles, I don’t outline either! So I totally get what you mean!

    Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope to hear from you again!