When you are new to freelance writing, we tend to go a little overboard – reading 400 blog articles and countless eBooks about becoming a freelance content writer. It’s enough for your brain to go into system overload.
Conducting research is important when transitioning into a new field, but when is enough, enough?
Since every personal situation and professional goal is different, I can’t tell you when to stop conducting research, but I can tell you how I recovered from information overload and began building my writer site.
What is Needed to Recover from Information Overload?
The first thing a new freelance writer suffering from information overload needs is a plan. This might mean dedicating a month and a half to researching online freelance careers before you send your first pitch. You might realize, this isn’t the profession for you.
Initially, I considered becoming a virtual assistant. After asking myself some honest questions, I settled on freelance writing.
You might realize, this isn’t the profession for you.
A Sample Plan
To preserve your sanity, began to sift through all of the articles and eBooks you have by theme.
After gaining a solid understanding about freelance writing in general, I decided to focus on content written about freelance writing services. This helped me develop my service list.
Your service offerings can change as you build your freelance writing career, but ask yourself these questions before settling on your final service list:
- What are my writing strengths?
- What can I efficiently and consistently write – providing the best service to future clients?
- In what areas might I need more training prior to offering services?
To answer these questions, the second one in particular, you may need to conduct a bit more research. You’d want to know:
- What’s the current standard?
- Can I meet or exceed that standard?
Be honest with yourself. Some services on my list had to be transferred to a different column because I didn’t feel comfortable offering those services without additional training.
Be honest with yourself.
After you finalize your service list (or whichever theme you started with), you can work through each remaining content area you’ve researched.
To-do lists (Daily/Weekly/Monthly)
Being self-employed means there is no one else directly responsible for setting deadlines for you.
I might be dating myself, but I am from the archaic age of pencil-and-paper planners, so it helps me to write out schedules.
This translates into daily to-do lists, a weekly goal sheet, and a monthly calendar. I need to see the big picture on paper, but I also use iCal for more flexible tasks and to schedule repeat activities.
There are plenty of tasks to complete when you’re getting started. As you read through all the information you find online, keeping a to-do list handy prevents you from having to skim through content you’ve already read.
An Electronic Notes File or Notebook
If you have a creative mind like many freelancers, it’s likely that you have a stream of creative ideas at any given moment – and possibly at most moments – of the day.
I’ve found it helpful to keep a Word document open throughout the day.
In this document, I keep note of which websites I’d like to pitch, which WordPress plug-ins I might want to incorporate, and so on.
Initially, I maintained separate files for different projects, but I have found a singular electronic file or notebook to be more efficient.
As you parse through the information you’ve found, ideas will undoubtedly percolate. Keeping these ideas in one location will help you in the long run.
It’s so easy to absorb information online, especially when you are new to a field and want to put your best foot forward. As a freelance content writer, though, as with most other fields, your craft improves with concentrated effort.
My solution was to write as I learned. I wrote service descriptions and samples of each service I planned to provide, and then posted it all on my writer site. I also wrote a few blog posts.
Your craft improves with concentrated effort.
Your first few blog posts might not be that great. As long as you’re attempting to create quality content, post them anyway.
My current blog is not my first one, but this is the first time I’ve attempted to create useful content with purpose. So the first few posts were a little rocky.
But give it a go while your traffic is low. (Unintentional rhyme, I promise).
Seriously, though, at some point, you will have to write for yourself. As a freelance writer, you’re a business owner, and businesses that consistently post blog content, grow.
By writing blog posts early on, you can smooth out bumps in the road without much embarrassment because not as many people will read your posts now, as in the future.
There are a couple alternatives to creating writing samples or writing blog posts.
- Journal daily to loosen your thoughts and get in the habit of writing daily
- Read a couple blog posts and eBooks, or attend a webinar, and then implement the author’s suggestions before consuming any more information.
- Write guest posts (Guest posting is often more effective than writing for your own blog in the early stages of your business.)
Whichever method you choose, you develop your writing skills as you learn, without getting overwhelmed.
Place Worry on a Shelf
I don’t know about you, but there is a lot going on in my life right now. Enter launching a new career into the mix, and I am certain that you can envision the potential mayhem.
Worrying about how this, that, and the other task, though, will not help you digest information gleaned online.
Just get it done. When you adopt the attitude that, “Somehow, everything will work out,” then somehow, it always does.
Additionally, as you begin to support yourself with your writing, worry will not help you work efficiently.
There are three primary results from worry. Worry clutters the mind, increases heart rates, and causes ulcers, but it does not solve problems.
So when you consider how much information is available on how to become a freelance writer, don’t focus on everything at once. Take it one step at a time.
Worry clutters the mind.
Believe in yourself, focus on the task at hand, and do your best to get it done.
At some point you might realize that you’ve subscribed to too many newsletters.
Writers are readers, so naturally they subscribe to newsletters. But I lost a lot of time reading eBook after eBook and additional article after additional article in various newsletters.
Create a balance for yourself. Select no more than five to seven bloggers and online entrepreneurs to whose newsletters you remain subscribed.
How do you choose? Select:
- A few who have been online for more than five years
- One or two who are making headway in your current and/or desired niche (i.e., freelance writing for businesses, freelance writing for non-profits, etc.), and
- A couple more who write content that resonates with you. (For instance, do they operate their business with integrity? Are their newsletters truly helpful, or are they a little too sales-y? Can you see yourself enrolling in one of their classes in the future? Would you consider collaborating with this person sometime in the future?)
I’m sure you know that it’s important to continually learn about developing your skills as a freelance writer.
But it’s also important to be purposeful about what you are reading, which webinars you attend, and in which freelance writing classes you enroll.
If you need help organizing all of the information you’ve gathered, I created a set of worksheets you can use to sort through the content you’ve gathered. They are free and available as a downloadable PDF file.
How did you recover from information overload as a newbie freelance writer? Please share additional tips and experiences below.