Guest post by Marysia Wójcik
Six months ago, I traded in my steady salaried job with benefits to start freelancing full time as a writer and editor. I gave notice at work, said goodbye to my colleagues, and outfitted my new standing desk with a small plant and some office supplies.
I’d always wanted to do something like this, and I figured that giving myself a fresh slate would give me the energy and motivation to make the most of this opportunity.
But at the same time, I didn’t feel ready. Despite my experience as a writer, despite knowing that writing more is the best way to hone my skills and that pitching more is the best way to find new clients, I just couldn’t bring myself to start.
For the first few months of really running my own business, rather than writing or finding clients in earnest, I spent my days reading about how to be a freelance writer. I joined all the Facebook groups. Found all the podcasts and webinars and free email courses available.
I was in a rabbit hole of false productivity, where one useful-looking article led me to another and another and another until I’d realize it was 8 pm, I had thirty tabs open that I still wanted to get through, and I hadn’t actually done anything to advance my business.
It’s not that learning is unimportant. Studying others’ successes and failures is a critical part of staying current in an always-evolving economy. But at this point, I was spending hours reading through half-helpful advice, which usually sounded exactly like the last three articles I’d seen, on the off-chance that I would find… I’m not sure what, exactly. That one life-changing tip? A quick fix? The permission to believe in myself?
At the same time, I didn’t want to miss out in case that next article would give me a groundbreaking idea, or that latest Facebook conversation would lead me to my ideal client.
It’s the same fear that comes up when minimizing or decluttering your home. Sure, I already have a perfectly good garlic press, but what if I’m in a life-or-death situation one day where I need this old rusted-out one? What if this one tip actually will bring me the confidence I need and make my business take off?
The only real fix was acting on the knowledge that freelancing is a numbers game. That the more people I reached out to, the more places I pitched, the more ideas I generated and wrote about, the better my chances of success.
I had to stop asking for someone else to give me permission, to pat me on the head and tell me I was good enough. This, of course, is an ongoing journey, and I can’t say I’m anywhere near the finish line yet.
But I have implemented one tool that is helping me out in the meantime ‒ a set of confidence training wheels if you will.
I created a For Later folder in my browser’s bookmarks bar. If I catch myself opening tab after tab seeking an ever-elusive answer to a question I’m not even asking, I just put it into this folder. It’s now full of sites that don’t fit my current niche but I might want to pitch in the future, free but dubious-looking webinars that promise a 10X revenue increase, copywriting courses, and DIY projects I’ll honestly never attempt.
When I know I’ve saved the piece for later, I’m less tempted to read it right now when I should be doing one of a million other things instead. I don’t have to worry that I’ll lose the information ‒ because I won’t. It’s right there in that folder. Without the immediacy of not wanting to miss out, I don’t have that need to read the article right now.
Will I ever actually go back to those resources?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But without the immediate terror of missing out on something important, I can turn my attention back to what I’m supposed to be doing.
There are a lot of interesting-looking pieces saved, sure, and I don’t want to lose them just yet.
But for now, I’ve got more important things to do.