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6 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Writing Online

When I started making money writing online, the world was a different place. Here are some of the things I wish I knew then.
White mug withthe word 'begin' sitting on wooden table
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

It was the year Nelson Mandela died. And Margaret Thatcher. The word 'selfie' was Word of the Year, and a new English prince was born.

When I started making money writing online, the world was very different. It was 2013. There was no ChatGPT, no TikTok, and around half the advice online about freelance writing.

Here are some of the things I wish I knew when I started writing online back then...

1. You’re competing against nobody but yourself

Sure, that sounds cute. And. . . inaccurate. Aren’t you actually in direct competition with every writer on the web?

That’s what I thought when I first tried to make a living writing online, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s the thing:

All those ‘successful’ freelance writers you read about on Medium or whatever, are the same as me and you. They’re doing a hard day’s graft just like everybody else.

They have the same access to writing gigs online, the same(ish) resources to work with and the same(ish) doubts, fears and insecurities.

Successful freelance writers just seek out the writing work and complete it to a high standard.

Simple as that. The only person you have to prove yourself to is yourself – the rest will follow as soon as you realise this.

2. Perfectionism is (sort of) OK but being precious holds you back

When I first started getting my writing out there and earning money from it, I was way too precious about my work.

I took any criticisms personally, spent far too long on each piece – and even held back from pitching for writing work.

(Why? Well, in case I was rejected of course.)

Guess what I learned pretty quickly? That is no way to run a freelance writing business.

Being too precious about your writing and being afraid of rejection will hold you back when it comes to making a living as an online writer.

3. You don’t have to accept every offer of work to earn a living as an online writer

When you start out, it’s oh-so tempting to take every offer of writing work that comes your way. It’s in that blurry stage between newbie and when you start to gain experience when this really comes into play.

After you’ve built a bit of a writing portfolio and can prove that you’re a top-quality, reliable online writer, stop accepting every offer of writing work that comes your way.

In fact, I advise turning down freelance writing work as a strategy to growth. You can read more about this in the below article:

What to Charge Your Freelance Writing Clients – Freelance Writers Online
How to work out your hourly rate, how to adapt it per project — plus why and when you should turn down freelance writing work.

4. It’s good to learn about the industry. . . but don’t believe everything you read

Yes, keep up with what’s happening in the world of content marketing and your niche, but don’t believe everything you read.

While some of the self-appointed gurus in the online writing world are genuinely trying to help, others are amplified egos trying to make money and bolster their self-image. (Not me, not me. . . but yeah, sign up to my Pro membership, it will change your life, yada yada.)

All I’m saying is: know who you are and what you’re about. If you don’t agree with something, don’t do it – even if it seems like everybody else is. They’ll have their reasons. Have your own.

5. The sooner you quit the low-paid jobs the better

This is linked to point number 3. Sure, you need to start somewhere, which is why I teach how to build a writing portfolio from scratch from sites like Fiverr. But I can't iterate this enough:

Once you can prove your worth as a quality and reliable online writer, ditch the low-paid writing jobs and start pitching for well-paid work.

6. Confidence breeds confidence

OK when I first started out, if I’d read the words, “confidence breeds confidence” I may have rolled my eyes and moved on.

But here's the thing:

To truly know why and how confidence breeds more confidence, more work, and more money – in any industry – you have to experience and learn this for yourself.

How does this help you at the beginning of your writing career? Forgive me for ending on a triplet of cliches, but here’s what you do:

Fake it until you make it, work hard, and don’t give up when the going gets tough.

Then you’ll see.

It's gonna be great.