Before I started freelance writing a year ago, I was worried about pitching perfectly and writing error-free pieces for my first drafts. I would spend countless hours scrolling listicles with titles like “What Not to Do When Pitching” and stressing myself out so much that I would never hit send on those emails. Although the ideas were there and the passion for writing was fervent, I still felt underprepared to pitch to publications.
Now, a year later, I can send anywhere from three to 20 pitches in a week and feel confident in my ability to convey the purpose of my story and how I plan on unfolding the work. But the challenge I’ve had to overcome isn't sending the perfect pitch or DMing editors with the right amount of exclamation points on Twitter.
The biggest obstacle was convincing myself that my work deserved a chance in the vast world of freelancing.
As a Black female journalist, I’m aware that my demographic is underrepresented in this field. This is why, when my supervisor for my first editorial internship with a magazine was a Black woman, I felt blessed to work under her leadership. Out of all the wisdom she instilled in me on reporting and writing, the most valuable piece of advice I keep at the forefront of my mind as a freelancer is believing in the quality of my work and believing that I deserve a chance.
Although I spent so much time researching before freelancing, I hadn’t read anywhere about believing in yourself and silencing thoughts of imposter syndrome. But as I dive deeper into the field, part of me wishes I had come across that advice first.
Whether you’re a photographer, makeup artist, writer or actor, thoughts of inadequacy can pop up, even if you are “successful” in your field. The weight of these feelings of inadequacy can be exhausting and even worse, prevent you from doing what you love. Here are three tips I wish I had come across before leaping into the marvelous world of freelancing.
Being Yourself Already Makes Your Work Authentic
If I had a dime for every time I threw out an idea because I thought it was too unoriginal, I could settle into early retirement. The idea that we have to come up with an idea or concept that has never been thought of before is quite asinine.
The sentiment is nice in theory, but the pressure that comes with that desire is overwhelming. One of the most important things I’ve realized when it comes to creative expression is that there’s a major difference between authenticity and originality. Although I may not be the first person to ever write on a topic, my worldviews and opinions on the matter make it authentic and subsequently unique. Don’t allow the pressure to create something that’s never been done before to keep you from even starting. Take the picture. Sing the song. Dance the dance. The concept could’ve been done one hundred years ago, but it hasn’t yet been done by you.
Stay in Your Lane
The saying “comparison is the thief of joy,” couldn’t be more true when it comes to freelancing. There are moments when I want to tailor my work to whatever is working for someone else. But I’m often humbly reminded that what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for the next. By staying in my lane and keeping my eyes on my prize, I can silence these thoughts of comparison and conformity. Don’t be a chameleon.
By comparing your work to the person in the lane next to you, you’re taking your eyes off the road and heading for a major crash and burnout. It’s tiring to constantly try and adapt your work to look like someone else’s. Additionally, you rob yourself of the joy of creative expression and end up more like a machine simply putting out work with little enjoyment. It’s important to remember your why and hang on tight to it so that when the inevitable road bumps come along, your why will still be the destination even if your freelance journey looks different from someone else’s.
Be Your Own Motivational Speaker
I’m grateful to have friends and family in my life that can encourage me at times when I feel down. But the simple reality is that I’m not always going to have a cheerleading team in my ear at all hours of the day. Learning to be a self-motivator and encourager is a valuable trait that I’ve had to pick up in the past year as a freelancer.
The bottom line is that in life there are going to be “nos.” In the world of freelancing, there are definitely going to be “nos.” Feelings of disappointment and frustration are what make us human, but it’s important not to let the “nos” keep us down. Separating yourself from your work can help you to not feel the weight of being turned down so harshly. At first, if my pitches got rejected I would feel like I was being rejected. But the biggest motivation I can give myself when things don’t go the way I hoped that they would is to remind myself that what I achieve as a freelancer isn’t a reflection of my worth and value as a human being.
It’s easier said than done, but the quicker you figure out how to separate your job title from your actual identity as a human, the healthier you can function in your line of work. If you have to cheesily set reminders on your phone with motivational quotes to pop up throughout the day, so be it. Be your biggest cheerleader.