When you first heard — perhaps right here on BAFB — about the burgeoning freelance blogging market, you leaped in with high hopes. You were already counting the income that would pour in from your favorite type of writing.
A couple of months later, the enthusiasm is smothering under a pile of discouragement. Jobs are few, rejections are daily, income is thin. And you’re wondering: “How did I ever get into this? I’m going nowhere. Why not cut my losses and quit?”
Though you may be tempted to think that every other freelance blogger is showered with high-paying work from the start, you’re actually in the majority. Most writers, including blog writers, belong to humanity’s pool of “creative” minds that ricochet from big dreams to big disappointments, taking stories of (extremely rare and often only apparent) overnight success as guarantees, and equating anything less with failure.
Don’t believe it! You may be making more progress than you think.
Created equal but not identical
Contrary to impressions given by many “how-to” articles — even many written by established freelancers — a surge in income and clients isn’t the inevitable quick result of becoming a freelance blogger.
If you’re lucky enough to be a natural entrepreneur or an expert on a high-demand topic, things may work out that way; but many of us need to grow in other areas first.
The one thing all full-time freelance bloggers have in common is good writing skills (okay, some Internet skills are also necessary). Everything else — topic focus, working hours, writing style — is unique to the individual blogger.
So, trying to copy perfectly a successful blogger’s career-building story, on the assumption that their result of $4,000 a month within six months is thus guaranteed to become yours, guarantees only disappointment.
Blame the legendary “butterfly effect”: One flap of a wing (one small difference in attitude or approach) is enough to unleash a chain reaction leading to a tornado (perceived failure of the whole project).
Every blogger needs to work out his or her own best approach, and decide how to measure progress. Obvious progress indicators include a record of guest posts or a growing bank account, but there are many other ways to keep track — even if you feel you’re not getting anywhere yet.
These unconventional progress scales should encourage any first-year freelancer to persist. 🙂
Unconventional progress scale #1: Self-discipline
Is your marketing becoming more focused, and your time management increasingly centered on effectiveness?
Put another way, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 (from 1 for “not at all” to 5 for “definitely”) in response to each of the following:
- I can describe my ideal client in 3 sentences or less, without such weasel words as “anyone” or “everyone.”
- I can describe my blogging “brand” (what I want people to visualize when they hear my name) in 3 sentences or less.
- I have a list of at least 10 bloggers or organizations I would like to post for regularly, and I understand their missions, goals, and needs.
- I have a marketing-heavy daily or weekly work plan, and I stick to it as strictly as if I were paid by the clock.
- I spend at least 15 hours a week networking (online and off) with professionals connected to my preferred blogging topics; and everyone in my larger network understands what I do.
- When I’m on the computer but not working on existing freelance assignments, I spend at least two-thirds of my time on direct communications with prospects and networking contacts. (If at least 75% of the remaining time is spent on your online brand, add one point. If you have no website or fewer than two complete social media profiles, subtract one point.)
Got it? Okay, now take the above quiz again; but answer the questions as you would have three months ago (or at the time you started freelance blogging, if you’ve been at this less than three months).
If your “current” score is higher, pat yourself on the back; you are making progress.
Even if your score is moving the wrong way, or is currently under 18, don’t immediately take that as a sign that you should give up: a reevaluation of priorities may be all you need. A resource I have personally found helpful is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Two key questions from that source: What trade-offs can you make? What do you want to “go big on”?
Unconventional progress scale #2: Attitude
Are you enjoying your work — the actual doing of it — more? Are you living less as a dreamer and more as a passionate realist? And, are you thinking of others rather than emphasizing “I need the money”?
Take the quiz below on the same 1-to-5 scale as the “self-discipline” quiz, again comparing “today” results to “three months ago” results.
- I have a list of positive affirmations and goals that I review daily.
- I feel a powerful sense of satisfaction upon finishing a day’s work.
- I can clearly visualize my clients, and their blog readers, benefitting from my work.
- I understand that my goals will take time to achieve, and I am committed to working toward them patiently and steadily.
- When someone asks what I do, I reply “I’m a freelance blog [or content] writer” with enthusiasm in my voice and a smile on my face.
- I never waste off-work hours worrying about business matters.
Is your current score even one point better than your three-months-ago score? Go celebrate a small victory!
Again, if your score hasn’t improved or is still in the “under 3” range overall, don’t despair. Review your answers carefully, note primary areas for improvement, and take the quiz again in another three months.
Unconventional progress scale #3: Outside encouragement
“Outside” doesn’t mean your immediate friends-and-family circle, which is likely contaminated with “writing is a hobby and freelancing never makes money” attitudes.
Even if you’re blessed with a supportive personal network, they won’t be qualified to judge whether you have the blogging ability the online world needs — or to understand what the work is really like. You need an active network of fellow bloggers, including some who’ve worked long in the field and experienced the struggles and perceived failures of getting started.
If you aren’t already in regular contact with fellow bloggers, go straight to the Community section of this website and sign up; or, if you’re already registered and have been neglecting your membership, join one or two active discussions relevant to your top concerns (preferably discussions not just for beginners).
If you do already have an active blogging network, ask your fellow bloggers to rate you 1–5 on this last quiz. (If you’ve known them long enough, you can ask them to do the three-months-ago version as well.)
- Your writing is accurate, well-researched, and, above all, interesting.
- Your current blog posts compare favorably to earlier samples, and your final versions of posts compare favorably to their earlier drafts.
- Your writing is worthy of guest posting in the top blogs on your topic.
- Your writing has the voice of a blogger, not just “writer” or “article writer,” or, worse, “technical writer.”
- Your publishing record is showing definite growth. (Beginning bloggers, especially, do get “going nowhere” syndrome when they’re actually progressing well. Just because a well-established peer writes 10 guest posts a month doesn’t mean you’re doing poorly with “only” six in your first three months.)
- Your website, marketing plan, and work schedule all look professional.
Remember, a low score does not necessarily confirm “I knew this wasn’t working out.” Refocus and try for three more months.
In that time, you have the advantage of being able to ask for direct advice; more important, you can ask for accountability. Often, all it takes to get onto the forward track is being held responsible for actually carrying out your well-laid plans.
You’ll make it
Finally, if after all that you still have “might as well give up right now” feelings, see the following three questions which simply require a “yes or no” answer each:
- Whenever you do put aside blogging, do you get that “something’s missing” feeling, regardless of your success or income in other areas?
- Do you love to read blogs in multiple categories — those found at random as well as your regular favorites — and find it impossible to imagine life without them?
- Do you invariably get restless in the standard 9-to-5 lifestyle?
If you answered yes to #1, or to #2 and #3, you are probably made to be a blogger — no matter what circumstances and “common sense” seem to be saying.
If you answered yes to #1 and at least one other — you are almost certainly made to be a blogger.
If you answered yes to all three: stop fighting it! Go over the above quizzes one more time, and get back to blogging. 🙂
Take encouragement from the areas where you’re making progress; they bring the promise of eventual success.
Know that what you are learning will grow you a successful blogging business. All you have to do is apply it the right way at the right time and persist through your initial doubts.
Five years from now, you’ll realise all the worrying you’re doing today was unnecessary. You can make it as a freelance blogger. So get moving!