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7 Lessons I Learned as an Introvert Freelance Writer

Melanie is a writer who's passionate about sharing inspiring content that sparks curiosity and encourages positive action.

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What I thought freelancing would be

See that picture above? That's me in 2012, the year I decided to change careers and become a writer.

Honestly? I didn't know what to expect when I started. A big part of me imagined freelance writing would be effortless – you know, the way Carrie Bradshaw sits at her desk and the words magically fly onto her screen. Little did I know, there's a lot more to writing, than, well... writing. Especially when you're an introvert.

Writing is only part of it

I wish I'd known this earlier in my career, it would've saved me a ton of anxiety and frustration! When you align with your values, play to your strengths, and create space for decompressing – and doing creative projects that light you up... that's where things really flow and fall into place.

I'm sharing a few things that have helped me in my writing career. Hopefully, some of these tips inspire you to create your own systems and work in a way that feels empowering and energising to you.

“Be messy and complicated and afraid and show up anyway.”

— Glennon Doyle

1) Work with your energy

Lesson one – we don't have an endless supply of creative energy. In fact, very few of us can churn out content (research, write, edit) solidly for eight hours a day, five days a week. It's unrealistic. Introverts work differently – we work with our energy.

It's up to you to find when you're most energised and inspired. Treat that time as sacred writing time and make it stick by creating a few guidelines. For example:

  • Block out writing time on your calendar
  • Put your phone on silent and stick it away in a drawer
  • Turn off notifications and remove distractions

2) Create an inspiring writing environment

Our environments have the power to inspire us. Some people find inspiration sitting in a buzzing coffee shop; others enjoy writing in a co-working space surrounded by fellow creatives and solopreneurs.

Some of us prefer a quiet nook at home, or filling our work space with plants and colorful desk items that make us feel positive and energised. Find what makes you feel excited to write and bring that into your everyday routine.

3) Become a lifelong learner

After 10 years of writing, there's still so much for me to learn. That's because the industry (and the world) is constantly changing. Expanding your skills and continuously learning isn't only personally rewarding, it adds to your credibility as a freelance writer. Here are a few ways to make learning a regular habit:

  • Watch a YouTube video on content marketing tips
  • Listen to a podcast about copywriting, like The Copy Corner
  • Take an online writing course, like Writing With Flair on Udemy
  • Join a writing community – learn from other writers and share your knowledge

Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.

— Brené Brown

4) Save some room to recharge

If you're an empath and an introvert like me, you probably need some time to prepare for meetings – and decompress from them. We need this time to (re)charge our energy so we're able to show up vibrantly and create our best work.

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I like to block out space in my calendar to recharge for a few minutes – here are a few of my favourite things to do:

  • Meditate
  • Stretch or practice yoga
  • Go for a walk
  • Lie down and rest (without any screens nearby)
  • Read a few pages of a book
  • Get some sun and fresh air
  • Chop veggies and make a juice or lunch
  • Hug my cat
  • Annoy my husband

5) Go get your experience

One of my first writing jobs was a contract role at a busy agency. I took a chance and sent my CV to a few local agencies. One of them happened to be days away from placing a job ad – their senior copywriter was going on maternity leave, talk about serendipity! I wasn't planning on working full-day for four months, but I can't tell you how invaluable that agency experience was. It opened a lot of doors.

My advice to you is to look outside the box. Opportunities aren't always what you imagine them to be. Don't pitch where everyone else is – try something different. Decide on the experience you want and go after it, you'll never know unless you try.

6) Don't be a pushover (or people pleaser)

This is a tough one, especially if you're new to freelancing – or if you shy away from conflict. Trust me though, the sooner you advocate for yourself, the less friction you'll have and the more enjoyable your days will be!

TRUST YOUR INTUITION

If you're an introvert, you're probably fairly in tune with your intuition. Use that when pitching for jobs. Notice what feels like red flags (for example, a potential client trying to negotiate a lower rate after you've sent a quote... that's a big no-no).

SET SMART BOUNDARIES

Avoid unpleasant conversations by setting your boundaries from the start. Have a letter of agreement or contract that states your methods of communication and availability or working hours. And please, remember to include a clause about late payments – no one's got energy for that drama.

7) Make connection a mental health priority

Working from home is a dream come true for most of us, but it can be challenging (if not near impossible) to be creative when you're feeling isolated or lonely.

As a freelancer, it's your job to make your mental health a priority. And a big part of that is feeling connected. Or rather, creating connection.

Now this doesn't mean you need to sign up to a co-working space today or spend hours in a coffee shop. It just means we need to make more of an effort to engage with people (we don't live with) on a regular basis.

WAYS TO EASILY CONNECT WITH OTHERS

  • Message or voice note a friend to check in and say hello
  • Drive or walk to the shop – a friendly smile or greeting goes a long way
  • Walk around the mall for a few minutes
  • Have an in-person or virtual co-working day with a freelancing friend

A note on virtual connections: We're social beings so we're wired for connection. And while technology is great for that, it doesn't come close to that feeling we get when we're connecting with people in person. Even if you're shy or feel socially awkward, challenge yourself to spend a few minutes browsing a bookshop or smile at a stranger crossing the road while you wait at an intersection. Those small connections add up too.

This is a world, not a womb. You can look after yourself in this world while looking after your creativity at the same time — just as people have done for ages.

— Elizabeth Gilbert

© 2022 Melanie Chisnall

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