How to Tame The Extremes of Freelance Emotions

Life as a freelancer writer doesn’t have to be an emotional rollercoaster

Life as a freelance writer can be an emotional rollercoaster… if you let it.

Yes, there is the elation of landing a story in a big publication like the New York Times or GQ. Then there might be weeks of rejected pitches or hours spent twiddling thumbs while waiting to hear back from an editor—if you hear back at all.

If you’re planning on making a lifelong career out of freelance writing, it’s necessary to level out those yo-yo-ing emotions and approach your work like an adult and a business owner. To help, Mediabistro spoke with a handful of writing and life coaches on how they help their clients get a grip on it.

Have Money in the Bank

For Caitlin Kelly, a freelance writer and writer’s coach, keeping a rainy day fund is crucial for an enjoyable freelance career. “You should have money in the bank, ideally two or three months of what you need to live,” she said. Kelly grew up with two parents who were freelancers. Her father, a documentary filmmaker, and her mother, a writer in film and television, never had vacation pay and had to deal with pitches flopping while supporting a family. “I think if you have money to pay your bills on time,” it makes freelance a lot easier, said Kelly.

Be Proactive

Feeling disappointed when a pitch is rejected is healthy, especially when you realize it is a numbers game, according to Marla Beck, a performance coach for writers who want to reach the next level in their career. “The more places you submit it, the more chance you have of seeing your work in the places you want it to be.” Before her clients pitch to Plan A, Beck encourages them to have a Plan B and Plan C already in mind. “It is taking a more proactive stance,” she said.

Have Multiple Streams of Income

Nick Usborne wears many hats and he suggests his coaching clients, the majority who are freelance writers, do the same. Usborne, who is three decades into a copywriting career, also teaches copywriting for the web, has his coaching business and generates advertising revenue through a coffee blog (side note: he started the blog after he wrote web copy for a coffee company and wanted to continue harnessing his newfound coffee knowledge). “This goes to the center of the new gig economy,” he said. “It’s not like the olden days of a single job.” With multiple income streams, if one disappears, you still have others to fall back on.

Don’t “Should” All Over Yourself

Often writers deal with a pitch rejection by dwelling on what they think other people should have been thinking about them, according to Polly Bennell, a former psychotherapist turned life coach for writers. It might take the form of “That editor should have accepted my pitch” or “If the editor was slightly interested in my book proposal, they should have asked me about it.” When this happens, you make up information that just isn’t true, Bennell said. “You can train yourself out of this [thought pattern] by recognizing it,” she said.

Is Your Inner Seven-Year-Old Having Fun

Many people go freelance in pursuit of a better lifestyle that isn’t all work. However, that can quickly turn into a workday that doesn’t end because there is always something left undone when you are a “solopreneur,” according to Peter Shallard, a former psychotherapist who is now a consultant to entrepreneurs. When clients are in that position, Shallard likes to ask this question: What happened in the last 14 days that your seven-year-old self would have loved? If the answer is nothing, then it is normally a wake-up moment for freelancers and entrepreneurs fighting too hard for success. “Genuine play takes you out of all that and puts you in the present,” Shallard said. “Your emotional state starts to be based on something else other than work.”


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