Month: November 2015

14 Ways to Stop Doubting Yourself and Go After What You Want

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. -Henry David Thoreau (paraphrased)

© eelnosiva / dollarphotoclub

© eelnosiva / dollarphotoclub

Here in the southern United States, there’s a plant called kudzu. Legend has it that kudzu was brought over from Japan to help farmers stop soil erosion.

The problem is that the southern environment is perfect for kudzu, so much so that the vines grow as much as a foot each night during the summer. If it’s not maintained – and in many areas it’s not – kudzu can completely engulf an area of land, covering trees, houses, and anything else in its path.

Doubt is like kudzu.

Doubt is one of the biggest enemies of success. Doubt tells us that we can’t reach our goals, that our dreams are unattainable, that we don’t have what it takes to succeed.

Doubt tells us to settle for a life that’s less than what we desire, to remain complacent even though we’re capable of achieving much more, to bury our talents rather than sharing them with the world.

You can prevent doubt from suffocating your dreams and here are 14 ways to do it.

Let the success of others motivate, not discourage you.

Comparison is the thief of joy, said someone (some attribute the quote to Theodore Roosevelt and others say that is misattributed).

It’s almost impossible not to notice what those around you have accomplished, especially in the social media age. It’s ok to see what people around you are doing, but don’t use it to put yourself down or beat yourself up about where you are in life. Instead, use it as inspiration and motivation to set your own goals and work toward them.

Stop trying not to compare.

I think it’s unreasonable to expect that you’ll never compare yourself to anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with making a simple comparison between what you and the next person has achieved. What matters most is the conclusion you make from that comparison.

You can think to yourself, “Sam has achieved so much more in life than I have. He has such great charisma and charm. I’ll never be able to achieve as much as he has because I’m just too shy.” Or you can think, “It’s amazing that Sam has accomplished so much. I bet I can achieve similar results if I work as hard as he did.”

Don’t get caught up in the (wrong) details.

Focus on the things that matter. I’ve gone through cycles of blog ideas, but I sit on them for so long because I can’t think of the right domain name. I can’t find the right theme. And weeks go by before I can make a decision when those aren’t even the things that make great blogs. It’s the content and the writer that makes a great blog.

Realize the amount of control you have in your success.

Success comes to those who work for it, who are prepared for the opportunities when they come, and who can work through hurdles efficiently.

Sure, things happen in all our lives that can make success – at least our definition of success – more difficult to achieve. How you respond to those events is what will keep you where you are or propel you forward.

You can’t always control the things that happen to you, but you absolutely can control how you respond to it.

Stop worrying about the possibility of failure.

The only way you truly fail is by giving into your self-doubt and not trying at all. Worrying doesn’t prevent failure, it just prevents you from trying.

No matter what you try to achieve, there will be obstacles, roadblocks, and setbacks. Learn from your failures and use the lessons to climb another rung on the ladder to success.

Remember that even the most successful people started somewhere.

We seldom have the opportunity to follow a successful person from the very beginning of their journey. We see them once they’ve already reached success and that vantage point is deceptive.

Some of the biggest websites, mobile apps, and other technology started in a garage. Famous singers got started singing to thin crowds in empty dive bars. Many of the top bloggers started with only their mom reading their blogs. Even real estate mogul Donald Trump started out with a measly $1 million loan from his father.

Recognize that success doesn’t look the same for everyone.

Don’t define success by what another person has achieved. Define success in your own terms and be ok with how you’ve defined success. Your final destination won’t be the same as any other person’s and neither will your journey.

You can certainly borrow from the experiences of others. Learn what worked and didn’t work for them. You’ll have to tailor even those experiences to fit your unique circumstances.

Stop trying to perfect it.

Perfection is unattainable. It doesn’t exist. If you’re trying to get it perfect, you’ll always end up discouraged.

Get started. Continue to improve your process as you go along, but don’t be crippled by a desire to release a perfect product, give the perfect keynote speech, write the perfect blog post. There is no such thing as perfect.

Stop overthinking it.

Negative thoughts can avalanche and paralyze you, leaving you unable to take action on the things you want to accomplish. Stop mulling over every single thing ad nauseum. Make a decision and commit to it. If it doesn’t work out, revise your plan and keep going.

Focus on the things that inspire you.

Think about your goal and dreams, the things you want to accomplish for yourself and for your family. Imagine the results of your hard work…

…a single mother reading something you’ve written and saying that you changed her life

…a small businessman struggling to maintain sales and having his business 180 after consulting with you,

…your kids one day saying how proud they are of how hard you worked to accomplish your goals.

Be inspired and stay inspired.

Remember that no one’s criticism is harsher than your own.

No matter what anyone says about you and what you’re trying to accomplish, nothing they can be any worse than the things you’ve said to yourself when you’re in the bowels of self-doubt.

If you can shake off your own criticism and forge ahead, you can get over anything that anyone else can say about you.

Read positive books, think positive, surround yourself with positive.

Proverbs 23:7 says “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” If you fill your heart (and mind) with negative thoughts of self-doubt, you’ll be a negative, self-doubting person. But if you focus on things that are positive and believe in your ability to achieve, you’ll do that.

For non-Bible believers, a similar quote from Buddha “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” And from the Dalai Lama, “In order to carry a positive action we must develop a positive vision.”

If you do a search for quotes on positive thinking, you’ll see the great writers, thinkers, philosophers, and entrepreneurs repeatedly say focus on the positive.

Think of everything you’ve already accomplished.

Did you finish college? That’s a feat on it’s own. If you graduated high school, you accomplished more than many people. If you got a GED, it shows dedication to a goal that many people would have given up on.

Instead of focusing on what you haven’t achieved, give yourself credit for the things you have accomplished. It takes hard work to reach any goal and to have achieved what may seem like the smallest objectives shows that you have what it takes to do more.

Be The Little Engine That Could.

It’s one of my least favorite children’s books to read  – the sentences are wordy and underpunctuated – but the story of The Little Engine That Could is so motivational, despite it being fiction.

When the toys and dolls needed to get over the hill to the boys and girls and no other engine could or would bother to take them, the little blue engine saved the day by repeating a mantra “I think I can.”

When you’re faced with a task that’s more difficult than you expected or your goals seem so far out of reach, don’t focus on the difficulty, focus on your potential. Believe that you can. Squash the seeds of self-doubt before they have a chance to bloom and work toward the things you want to achieve.

If You’re a New Freelance Writer, You Do Not Want to Make Any of These Mistakes

Having been a freelance writer for almost ten years, I get a lot of questions from people interested in becoming freelance writers.

Whether you want to freelance full-time or use it as a way to make extra money on the side, you have to be sure you’re taking the steps. Mistakes waste your time, cost you money, and can turn you off to freelance writing all together.


1. Not charging enough.

Eager to get their foot in the door, new writers often accept jobs that pay just a few bucks for 500 words or so. Do you realize how much you have to write at this rate to make a livable wage?

I’ll confess that I was guilty of this 9+ years ago when I first started freelancing. When I calculated how many $5/500 word articles I had to write to match the salary I was getting paid, I knew I’d have to make some changes.

I raised my rates slowly over the years. I just regret not raising them high enough fast enough.

2. Letting clients talk you into accepting less.

There are people out there who want to hire freelance writers, but don’t won’t want to pay higher rates. Sometimes it’s because they don’t truly understand the value of quality writing and want to get good writing for cheap. Just walk away; it’s not worth it.

You can sometimes work within a client’s budget by doing less work for the same price. For example, instead of writing six blog posts for $100, negotiate for two or three.

Always have in mind the lowest you’ll accept. That way, when clients want to negotiate with you, you know the price point you can’t accept.

3. Not knowing when to charge by the hour, by the word, or by the project.

There are lots of different ways you can set up your rates and you can use any of these depending on the project.

For example, an hourly rate works well for longer projects that don’t necessarily have a word count or you can’t estimate how long it will take to complete the project. The clients have to agree to pay you for your time and you have to do the work of tracking the time spent on the project.

In most cases, charging by the word or project works.

4. Writing about something you have no experience in.

If you’ve ever taken an English or writing class, you’ve been told to “write what you know.” When you write about something you don’t know about, you end up having to do more research. This, in turn, increases the amount of time you spend on the writing assignment and lowers your hourly rate for that project. Even if you’ll have to do some research, you need to be at least a little familiar with the topic of the writing assignments you focus on.

5. Accepting every job that comes your way.

Again, eager for some work and flattered that people want to hire you, you may be tempted to say “yes” to every prospective client. However, you’ll have to turn down some jobs, particularly if they’re outside your expertise, pay lower than you can accept, or require more time than you have available.

If you feel bad about saying no to a good freelance writing gig, have a few other freelance writers in mind that you can refer the job to. Make sure you’re not sending bad clients or bad writing jobs to other writers.

5. Taking on too many writing jobs at once.

At first, having too many writing jobs sounds like a great problem to have. The more jobs you have, the more money you can make, right? Except that overscheduling yourself makes you more likely to miss deadlines, creating a negative reputation with your clients. Get good at estimating how long it’s going to take you to complete a writing assignment so you can schedule your time appropriately.

6. Not getting clear enough instructions on what your client wants.

You want to complete your assignments with as few rounds of editing as possible, especially if you’re writing short blog posts. (Longer assignments like ebooks may have multiple drafts.)

To reduce the amount of rework you need to do, ask as many questions as you need to upfront so you completely understand what the client wants from you.

7. Choosing the wrong clients.

When you’re first starting out, it can be difficult to select the right clients. You don’t know what you’re looking for yet. But, let me give you some signs that a client is not worth working with:

  • They take too long to email you back.
  • They’re not paying enough for the project.
  • Their preferences are unclear.
  • They email you too much.

8. Doing more than is necessary to make your clients happy.

Customer service is a necessary part of the job. You never want your clients to walk away unpleased with the work that you’ve done for them. However, you shouldn’t jump through hoops to please clients who are insatiable, especially when you’ve agreed on the specifications, clarified their expectations, and made reasonable efforts to do a satisfactory job.

On the other hand, if you have a client who politely asks you to make reasonable changes to the work, it’s probably ok to do the extra work to make this client satisfied. Learn from the experience and know what you can do next time to avoid the additional work.

9. Expanding the work without adjusting your rates.

If a client wants to make project changes that will take more time, you may have to adjust the rates. Don’t agree to a change just to make the client happy.

Think about it, if you take your car for an oil change and then decide you want to have your tires rotated too, the mechanic is going to charge you extra. The same thing goes for your writing jobs.

When clients make requests for additional work, let them know you’re happy to make the adjustments, but also quote them on the increased time and cost.

10. Working with just one client.

If you’re freelancing on the side for some extra money, having just one client may be ok. But serious freelancers who want to grow their writing business cannot do this.

Working for a single client isn’t really freelancing, you’re more like a contract worker. And if this client leaves, you are left with no clients. You’ll have to find another clients – likely several clients – to fill that void. You’re probably a little rusty on your marketing considering you’ve been relying on just one client which means it may be a little harder getting new clients.

Diversify your income among various clients and projects, even some of your own projects.

11. Not taking a deposit.

When you’re a new writer and you don’t have much experience choosing clients, taking at least 50% deposit on your projects should be a rule. You can make exceptions from time to time, but requiring a deposit ensures you get paid for your work.

I don’t make exceptions for new clients or big jobs. However, for a blog or website that hires freelancers often and they have a defined pay schedule, I don’t push for a deposit.

12. Not setting payment terms.

Payment terms don’t have to be complicated. You simply need to state how much you should be paid, by when, and by what method.

Is the payment due upon completion? Do you accept personal checks? Have a written payment plan either posted on your website or included in your communications with prospective clients. Make sure your client agrees to the payment terms before you start work.

13. Not sticking to deadlines.

If you’ve set a firm deadline for a project, stick to it. Don’t be that person who’s habitually asking for extensions and sending work after the date you’ve committed to.

Use a calendar to keep track of your deadlines and take every effort to meet them.

14. Treating freelance writing like a hobby.

Freelance writing isn’t something you can just dabble in here and there and expect to make a serious income. Freelance writing is a real business and you won’t be successful if you don’t treat it like one.

15. Spending your money as you get it.

Financial management is crucial to long-term success as a freelance writer. I collect freelance writing income in a separate account and pay myself monthly like I am my own employee. It’s much easier to track income this way rather than making $200 and $300 deposits here and there.

16. Starting a .wordpress or .blogpsot blog.

Yes, it’s free, but it is one of the worst looks you can have for yourself as a serious freelance writer.

Buy a domain. Get hosting. Find a theme or template – there are plenty of free ones, but you can buy one, too. It will be a $100 investment tops, but the instant credibility you gain from having a hosted blog is worth it.

17. Starting a blog about freelance writing.

Unless you’re establishing yourself as a freelance writing expert to help other freelance writers, your blog shouldn’t be about freelance writing. Your blog should be about whatever you’re an “expert” in, e.g. interior design, personal finance, fitness, etc. If you’re a new freelance writer, chances are you don’t know enough about freelance writing to run a blog.

18. Not updating your portfolio with your latest and greatest work.

Your portfolio is one of the ways clients decide whether they want to work with you. Treat your online portfolio kind of like a resume. As you complete additional work, update your portfolio so it’s a reflection of your growth as a freelance writer. As you add newer work, delete the older work that may not be an accurate representation of your current skillset.

Mistakes Don’t Have to End Your Freelance Career

Mistakes happen. Even people and companies who’ve been in business for decades can make mistakes.

Bookmark this list and read through it every few months as a refresher to make sure you’re making all the right moves to be a successful freelance writer.

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