Freelancer, are you good enough?

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I recently asked P.S. Jones — freelance writer, owner of P.S. Jones Copy and Design, and the exuberant yet quite sane blogger at Diary of a Mad Freelancer — about the most common question she receives from new freelancers. Today’s guest post is her response.

The most common question I get from new freelancers is how will they know they’re good enough. “Good enough for what?” I usually say. If you’re asking are you good enough to be a writer, you’re asking something that every thoughtful writer asks regularly. We’re a sensitive group, and we spend a lot of time lavishing love on our work because it feels like we gave birth to it.

But the truth is that none of us will ever be too good to get better. Ernest Hemingway reportedly said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” So maybe the question isn’t “Am I good enough to write?” A better way of thinking of it is: “Am I willing to always work to get better?”

On the other hand, if you’re asking are you good enough as a writer to be successful making a living as a freelancer?…Well, that’s a question I can’t answer. Contrary to what you’ve been told since you were a child, talent and success don’t always go hand in hand. In fact, some of the least talented people find success where others don’t. Talent is necessary for a successful career as a writer, but persistence is more valuable.

Writers face more rejection than any butcher, baker or candlestick maker. You’ll be edited, rewritten and rejected over and over again. That’s if you’re fortunate. If you’re not, you won’t even get anyone to read your stuff long enough to critique it. So, if you can’t take the criticism and red ink, you might want to rethink your career path. You won’t last a month in this life.

But if you can take ego out of your work, never stop learning from your missteps and keep coming back for more, you’re probably good enough. In fact, you’re better than most people who want to write for a living, because you’ve got the basics already down. —  P.S. Jones

Photo by D.S. Pruitt.

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  1. says

    You forgot to mention “used and stolen from,” too!

    Nice post. A team of us on a publication for which I currently do some work just had a short discussion about freelancers who submit work and then get mad when the editor asks for corrections or a re-write, and my response to that was exactly what you’ve said here: It’s business, and if someone can’t handle being asked to correct mistakes, perhaps they need another job.

  2. says

    As someone who uses freelance writers (I’m a freelance marketer/designer) I can tell you that my #1 problem was finding an editor/writer that would be consistently available. The people I worked with had a tendency to work really hard for the first month or two and then suddenly drop completely out of existence. I have a great editor now, but the journey was difficult.

  3. Dr. Freelance says

    Thanks for commenting, Brandy. Unfortunately, that was my experience back in my days as a staff editor—very difficult to find people that were able to hang on over the long term. (It was worth treating them like gold when I found them.) In fact, part of the reason I went freelance is that I detected a market hole: business-savvy, reliable freelancers seemed to be in short supply, so I thought “Why not me?”