I’ve been doing a lot of reading about what it takes to be a successful freelance writer. I want to to produce great content, keep up with my blog, submit to outside websites, and keep my clients happy all at once. It’s a delicate balance, and as you can see, I’ve neglected my blog while focusing on other things.
I’m sure this balance is different for every person. Not every writer has the same writing style or can work under the same conditions. For instance, I’m writing this at my dining room table while my 3-year-old watches YouTube. That ideal work/life balance teases me, hanging just out of reach.
There’s another delicate tightrope writers walk: Finding the balance between pleasing an audience and staying authentic. In the countless articles I’ve read about freelance writing, I found conflicting opinions. Some say to write from the heart, and the audience will come. Others say to pander to the audience for fear of alienating them (and your paycheck).
I agree and disagree with elements of both approaches. I believe it’s possible to focus on an audience without sacrificing artistic freedom. If you care too much about what people think, your writing will never be authentic. But if you are trying to make a living at writing, you need a captive audience. Personally, I do both.
1. Choose The Audience
Rule number one taught in grade school and high school English classes is to identify and consider the audience. I think this is where people make the crucial mistake. They confuse considering their audience with pleasing their audience. Some writers don’t need to keep their audience happy at all times. They just need to get their attention.
For instance, this blog’s target audience is writers. There’s a good chance that the things I say won’t resonate with some of you. My words are based on my experiences, and I’m sure plenty of writers won’t relate. There are things that work well for me that might send another writer spiraling into mayhem.
I’m a writer who thrives in the midst of organized chaos. For example, I set a 10-minute timer so I could write this post. My first draft was word vomit. Whatever popped into my head made its way onto the page. Not all those words made their way into this published post. But I find that my best work develops when I don’t censor myself in round one.
2. Free Expression
In fact, that’s my second step to finding balance. Once I have established my audience, then I need the freedom to express myself. All my thoughts, feelings, and opinions need to be documented to create a foundation. This is my favorite part of the process. It keeps me honest and keeps my work real and uninhibited.
The editing process is where I become my own worst critic. I try to put myself in my audience’s shoes. In step one, I only had to identify my audience. In step two, I gave myself complete creative freedom. Step three is where I try to strike the balance. I consider what my audience wants to hear in conjunction with the message I wish to convey. This is where I clean up the unnecessary fluff that spilled onto the page. Sometimes I save sections that don’t apply to my intended message and later use them to form new posts. Sometimes I hold onto them for future inspiration. I might even scrap them completely.
Either way, those words have served their purpose. They have helped me to form a coherent piece. No matter what kind of writer you are, you need to find your own balance. Typing on my laptop at the dining room table with Surprise Egg videos playing in the background works for me today. Setting the timer pulls my focus and keeps my mind from drifting to other to-do list items. (Like those dishes in the sink. God help me.)
For these ten minutes, I’m focused on this and this alone. That is my balance.
What’s yours? Use the comment section to tell me what strategies work for you.