The Problem with Freelance Writing Overnight Success Stories, and How to Grow Slowly

May 19, 2017 Erin Ollila

freelance writing grow slow but a little quicker than a snail

You’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, and what do you see time and time again? Post after post promising overnight success for your freelance writing career if only you follow the path they suggest. These steps usually include buying a course or participating in a workshop to learn a “secret” formula.

Do you buy into it?

I don’t blame you if you do. You’re certainly not alone. Many people purchase courses or hire business coaches without actually knowing what they need to move forward in their business. They figure, “If this person made it big, they can teach me how to make it big, too.” I’m a huge advocate for education and mentoring, but the truth is, the only person that can make success happen is you. You’re the only person who can complete the work. You can buy class after class or cycle through coaches, but until you’re ready to buckle down and work, you’re not going to see the results.

Overnight Success Is a Myth

Overnight success is so intriguing; it’s captivating to read an article of someone who went from nothing to something or hear the story of how one solopreneur went from making $100 a month in her freelance writing career to pulling in over $10,000 the next. It’s all so exciting. But first, let’s consider whether or not you’d even be able to handle immediate notoriety.

Sudden success can be a shock to your system. Let’s pretend for a second that you open your email to find 100 messages from brand new prospects asking you to write everything from sales copy to blog posts to e-books, but there’s a catch (there’s always a catch): It all needs to be completed within the month (if not sooner).

Will you be able to perform?

Checking email on your laptop

Image attribution: Mikayla Mallek

Now, you might think to yourself, “I won’t be able to write all that content, but I can write some, and most likely I can outsource the rest to some of my freelance writing colleagues.” That’s where you’re wrong. While it’s valuable to have a trusted team of potential writers who can fill in for you in a crunch, can you guarantee they’ll be ready in a moment’s notice? Will their quality of work meet or exceed your standards? How much time can you dedicate to editing their work? And how much time can you actually commit to fixing their work?

Another thing the illusion of overnight success doesn’t account for is the fact that it’s often not sustainable. For example, you might notice an online entrepreneur making $60,000 in one launch. That’s great, but how often do you think this person can pull in those large sums? To get to that $60,000, she needs to have an extensive email list (which takes time to build) and then she needs to nurture the heck out of that list. And only a small percentage of those people are actually buying. To sustain five-figure launches, an entrepreneur needs to be offering new content all the time (which also takes time to create) or building an email list up by the hundreds (and thousands) regularly.

Finally, overnight success fails to mention the many failures or years of striving and hustling it took to achieve it. Those 100 emails or that $60,000 launch happened after years of hard work and dedication. What you’re seeing is an end result, not a work in progress.

Want Sustainable Success? Grow Slow

Want to be successful in your writing career? I’ll tell you the secret that everyone else is keeping from you. This is the one guaranteed way to be successful and make the big bucks. You want to know? Okay, lean in real close. Listen carefully, because I’m only going to say it once.

The key to success is sustainable, slow growth.

Yup, you heard that correctly.

“It takes long-term effort to build a long-term sustainable business. The online space in particular is bursting with messages about getting rich quick and fast-cash headlines, but that’s misleading at best and heartbreaking for many who are led to believe that they are failing if they haven’t hit six figures in six weeks,” says Vanessa Matthews, a mindset and business coach. “In my experience having built both offline and online businesses, successful entrepreneurship is about taking imperfect action every day, innovation and flexibility, creativity and dynamism, and a willingness to play the long game if you want results that will last.”

When I think about the dedication that goes into a writing career—and also the business you’re building, because let’s face it, you’re a small business owner—I realize that regularly writing and practicing all the other forms of business “stuff,” such as pitching, revising, promoting my work, and nurturing leads, is what is building the solid foundation that will sustain me throughout my career.

Natalie Goldberg, one of my favorite writers, said, “It is odd that we never question the feasibility of a football team practicing long hours for one game; yet in writing we rarely give ourselves the space for practice.” I challenge you to practice. Practice your writing, practice your business work, and keep practicing.

freelance writing takes practice boy playing basketball

Image attribution: William Stitt

Also, don’t overwhelm yourself. Remember my hypothetical situation about opening your inbox to 100 projects? When you’re growing your business, it’s tempting to want to take on every opportunity that comes your way, especially if the money is good. You need to learn, however, how to run a well-oiled machine of a business. That includes monthly income reports, a written analysis of what’s working and what isn’t, and other writing-related duties, such as pitching, editing, and publicizing your work.

Here’s another way to grow your business with little effort: raise your prices. The freelance writing industry has a major problem—writers are accepting ridiculously low rates, which therefore drives down the market standard. Serious clients know that content costs money, so raise your rates and you’ll begin to grow your bankroll. This will allow you to be pickier about whom you choose to work with, and you’ll feel less anxious about taking on all the work, even if it’s not right for you.

Here’s the bottom line: You want to make it big? Put your nose down, and get to work. Stop downloading freebies that lead to sales pitches and courses you’ll buy and never complete. Quit getting entranced by those success stories you read online. If you’re investing the time and effort to build your business, you won’t have free moments to waste reading about how other people supposedly made it rich quickly.

Do you have any tips for sustainable, slow growth? I’d love to hear where you are on your road to success in the comments!

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Featured image attribution: Anton Atanosov

The post The Problem with Freelance Writing Overnight Success Stories, and How to Grow Slowly appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

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