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Let’s Stop Telling Writers What They Can’t Do.

What didn’t work for you might be another writer’s path to success


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Tosin Sanusi

3 years ago | 4 min read

Photo credit: Gabby K on Pexels

I never thought my childhood dream was possible

It had been years since I had written anything apart from a college assignment. I thought I wanted to be a social worker because it was the closest thing to a job I could be passionate about.

All along, I felt guilty and purposeless for abandoning my writing, a hobby I dedicated most of my time to as a child. I was depressed and directionless, wishing I had chosen a writing major.

I knew that my family wouldn't be supportive of this choice. So, I pretended I was fine with abandoning my dream in favor of a career I was truly not suited for in the name of ‘security’.

The freelancing formula

One day, as I watched YouTube in my sweaty depression bed, a video about freelance writing popped up in my recommendations. I clicked on it. Dare to dream, right? I thought.

A woman named Jorden Roper told an inspiring story about her journey to financial freedom. As a college drop-out who lost her dead-end job and recently got diagnosed with skin cancer, her life was in shambles.

With pure strength of will, strategy, and persistence, she was able to rise up and is now a high-paid, sought-after blogger, copywriter, and business owner.

She sells courses to help aspiring freelance writers accomplish their goals— one of which I seriously considered buying.

She was the first writing guru to plant the seed of desire in my head. After weeks of watching her in between classes, work, and my personal life, I had decided that eventually, somehow, I would pursue my writing passion and turn it into a career.

She told me that all I needed to do to launch a successful freelance writing career was adjust my mindset (I agree with this one), start a website (this one too kinda), choose a profitable niche (eh), and master the art of cold emailing(bleh).

She framed her method as though it was the only way to get paid as a freelance writer and unfortunately, I sucked at everything she swore by. Wow. I won’t be able to make money from the one thing I’m even remotely good at. I thought.

For a long while, because I found it difficult to follow Jorden Roper’s formula, I put my dream of becoming a freelance writer on the back burner and went back to being a depressed college student, an exhausted dietary aide, and an unenthusiastic recreational leader. This is just life I told myself Better get used to it.

I had failed to do my research and see that I had so many options as a new freelance writer. I wouldn't discover just how many opportunities were out there waiting for me if I hadn’t blocked out the confusing sales pitches of writing experts who instead of telling me what I could do, constantly told me what I couldn’t.

All I needed to do was keep writing, keep improving, put myself out there, and do what felt right for me.

The truth

I want to start by saying how grateful I am for writers who manage to find success in their field and instead of hoarding secrets, strive to teach beginners how to pursue the career of their dreams.

Without the work of Jorden Roper and people like her, I would have never believed that it was possible to earn a living from writing and I think believing is the most important part of achieving success. It’s a powerful driving force. However, I wish that more ‘writing gurus’ were straightforward about the wide array of possibilities that comes with a writing career.

There are so many different outcomes that are possible and so many routes towards success in freelance writing. I think we do a disservice to writers when we tell them there’s only one way to make it like cold pitching or scouring job boards.

From my own experience and several accounts I’ve read over the past two years, trying to crack the freelance writing code, I’ve discovered that word of mouth, optimizing LinkedIn, and self-publishing are completely viable ways to create opportunities for new writers.

For years, I thought that to be successful, I needed to pitch my ass off every day, keep my eyes glued on ProBlogger, pick a very specific niche, and never write about myself (because apparently, no one cares about me).

My best clients came to me through LinkedIn when I finally put myself out there and I’ve never landed anything by cold pitching (I suck at pitching really hard) or applying to jobs on job boards.

My niche is very broad and my clients tend to be quite different from one another. This is ideal for me as it adds variety to my workdays and keeps me interested. So, niching down wasn’t nearly as essential in my case as I was led to believe it would be.

I always write about myself. Here, my most successful posts are very personal.

I fear that telling writers not to write about themselves might disconnect them from their work with the goal of appealing to a bigger audience because supposedly, nobody cares about them enough to read about their boring old perspective.

The truth is that someone out there will be able to relate to your opinion, experiences, or feelings. I don’t find it helpful to tell writers not to write about themselves especially when they self-publish on platforms like this one.

That way, the possibility to share a profound connection with an audience is decreased.

I get it. Catchy articles like ‘3 things you should NEVER write about’ or ‘The fool-proof way to land clients this month’ are attention-grabbing. However, I find them quite limiting to new writers who need to be reminded that nothing is impossible.

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