Being a perfectionist and a freelance writer is a double-edged sword. On one hand, paying attention to work quality is a must if you want to stand-out in the freelance world.
Yet, on the other hand, perfectionism can prove detrimental to your career. many freelance writers struggle to get past a perfectionist fueled writer’s block.
Therefore, being a freelance writer, and a perfectionist is a double-edged sword.
The more extra time I used to perfect my writing, the fewer overall improvements I would see in my freelance writing career. Perfectionism is a roadblock to success in the freelance writing world.
On the bright side, perfectionism is one of the best flaws to have as a writer.
Here are 10 commandments of freelance writing for overcoming your perfectionism.
1.) Failure is the Way Forward
Perfectionism often stems from fear of failure. Why are we afraid of doing something that fosters growth.
The more work that we launch into the atmosphere of the writing world, gives us more material to critique ourselves. Different topics, writing styles and stories we learned.
The most successful writers use failure to their advantage. Heck, failure is a prerequisite to being a strong writer.
For example, John Grisham is a lawyer, whose first book was rejected by 27 different publishers.
That sounds awful at face value, yet is it really is 27 critiques and reasons to improve your work. That sounds like a positive version of perfectionism to me.
After the 28th publisher gave it the go-ahead he was well on his way up. He is one of the best selling authors internationally and sold over 250 million copies.
2.) Content is in Demand
“Content is in demand”- Seth Godin, Best Selling Author
Freelance writers struggling with perfectionism are going down a dangerous path. Especially the creatives. Perfectionism holds you and your content back from the world.
A world that needs content! We see examples of how in demand content is every day.
Does this sound familiar? Scrolling through a new video on youtube. Mindlessly refreshing your social media feeds every 10 seconds when you’re bored.
Humans are addicted to content to distract themselves from this ‘boring’ thing we call life. Even though it sounds counter-productive. People are not looking for perfect content. Only content that speaks to them.
Don’t believe me? What the last “perfect” TV show you watched? *Please don’t say Walking Dead*You may have something that comes to mind; However, I’m sure a vast majority may have strong critiques on your “perfect” TV show.
3.) Stop trying to Perfect Blog Pitches
Getting clients is the most difficult task for established writers. Even though it’s supposed to be the easiest part.
As an experienced writer with my own blog and published posts, the lack of clients became demoralizing. I was 3 months in and still hadn’t landed my first client.
I would spend at least 2 hours a day perfecting my sample. Resulting in me only sending up to five pitches per day, which is a gruesome 24 minutes per pitch.
So, instead of giving up, I asked my more experienced friend Bilal what the problem was.? Why aren’t these clients picking up my sales pitches?
Bilal asked, “how many clients do you propose to on a daily basis?”
I responded “5 per day”.
Bilal laughingly retorted “divide that number 10, most companies don’t read guest pitches.”
Then it finally hit me. Fractl Survey suggests that out of 1300 publishers, 18.1% said that they always read pitches. In addition, managers spend an average of 6 to 18 seconds skimming through CVs/Resumes.
Meaning that the objective of managers isn’t to see if your writing is perfect but good enough to do the job.
Perfectionism as a freelance writer means, sending hundreds of pitches. Not multiple terrible ones.
A better strategy is to create more content to establish yourself in the writing world. Getting clients is much easier when they’re fans of your work.
In conclusion, no point in spending hours perfecting a pitch that won’t even get picked up.
4.) Writing Perfectionism and Burnout go Hand in Hand
“Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next…your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be good” – Don Miguel Ruiz
Always do your best is my favorite four life agreements. Knowing that you put in a great deal of effort leaves you satisfied with the result.
On the contrary, the typical Gary Vee, Tai Lopez unrealistic work expectations are not healthy. Perfectionism is mistaken for doing your best, but it’s going past your best. Nobody can be perfect 24/7. Unless you’re a robot that can answer captchas.
Doing your best is working to a point where you are slightly pushing your comfort zone. Think of the infamous mantra of a marathon versus a sprint.
What is burnout? Feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.
Writing every article to perfection leads to burnout, especially when you have a high quota to reach.
Do you know how stand-up comedians like Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Kevin Hart practice their comedy material? Professional comedians go up on stage at least 2-3 times a night.
At face value, this practice seems damn near sociopathic to get up on stage. Making yourself vulnerable, working for approval from random strangers night-in-night-out.
Because of this constantly going up on stage, it helps their nerves. They know that if they bomb(mess-up) on one show, there’s still 2 more left in the night.
Fun fact. when watching a comedians Netflix special, you’re only seeing the top 10% of jokes that they decided to keep.
On another note, perfectionism can be explained with an underlying issue. NBIC Research suggests that academic perfectionism is associated with repeated negative thinking that may lead to burnout.
In this case, it seems that the best way through your perfection is to push through by creating work at such a high rate that it’s impossible to nitpick. Similar to how professional stand-up comedians practice 5 minutes of rough(new) material every day.
How do I avoid burnout?
- Set a date of completion
- Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
- Proofread 3 Times
- Focus on your strengths
- No more than a 2:1 ratio of work, and rest. My personal opinion.
5.) Perfectionism Driven Procrastination
Perfectionist write low quality work overall. When compared to their potential. Setting an unreachable standard lowers quality.
Leading to writers being intimidated before each project. Causing them to procrastinate.
This leads to pushing deadlines too close. Leading to outputting work that doesn’t work well in the first place. Compared to setting realistic goals without psyching yourself out in the first place.
If you haven’t already, check out my free on overcoming procrastination anxiety here.
Getting over the procrastination-perfectionism is all about the mindset. Try adapting a pluralistic mindset.
Don’t let difficult tasks reflect on your ability as a writer. Everybody has certain areas they struggle with.
Avoid basing your worth off of one skill. Humans are a sum of various strengths and weaknesses.
Place your focuses on the writing strengths that you have. Realize that some tasks are going to ask more of you mentally than others.
Accept your weaknesses, and avoid being forced to use them. Fix weakness only when necessary. Improve your strengths as much as possible.
Adopt a growth mindset if you’re procrastinating writing based on fear of failure. Instead of being worried about not being able to complete the task. Focus on what you can possibly improve on this writing assignment.
Are you going to improve your grammar, maybe learn a new writing style, or work on your sourcing. Challenges are not supposed to be overcome with perfection. In contrast, help us learn to better deal with writing obstacles in the future.
6.) Not everybody is going to think it’s great
Many freelance writers go through the approval phase. When somebody critiques/disapproves their work they automatically assume that they’re wrong.
It’s easy to forget that ‘hate’ is a byproduct of success.
The first comments were saying negative things: Ivy League students just use Adderall, They’re better at dealing with procrastination because they have more tutors blah blah blah.
My heart was pumped with anxiety. Literally almost had a panic attack just because of a few internet comments.
However, it became one of my most popular Reddit posts. People were private messaging me, literally saying “Thanks original poster you’re a lifesaver” for the exact same post I wrote.
A true lesson that every writer needs to know. Curating content that strongly connects with people, means that plenty of people are usually going to hate it.
Think of the most popular books, Game of Thrones, Harry-Potters, Hunger-Games. Even though they have a large base of die-hard fans. They even have a larger base of people that ‘hate’ on them for several reasons: nerdy, lame, boring, fake, etc.
7.) Perfectionism Negatively Affects Traffic/Exposure
Writing an engaging article is thrilling. Especially during the bulk of it. Making perfectionism sort of a trap. Because every creative knows, ending a project is more difficult then beginning one.
Working on an article for a perfectionist is similar to getting into the shower. At first, the idea of spraying water over a dry warm body is repulsive.
2 minutes into a shower flips the narrative. Similarly, leaving the warmth of a steamy shower is soo difficult that we prolong it. Washing every single pore on our skin.
Positively impacting as many people as possible is in virtually every writer’s top priorities.
Unfortunately for the perfectionist, quantity increases blog traffic and perfectionism is quantities enemy. The highest traffic blogs have the highest amount of posts. Perfectionism pulls bloggers to only post maybe once every one to two weeks.
This slows progress for those first starting out. After a visitor reads one of your posts for the week. Then look for other posts on your blog they might like.
Beginners often lack enough content to satisfy users. So instead, interested users will come back the next day looking for a fresh post.
Nothing posted on your blog yet? if you’re lucky he’ll come back the second day in a row. Take note, that for every day he visits your page and sees nothing, he is much less likely to constantly visit your page.
Search engines love blogs with lots of content but care a lot less about perfectionist.
Since they use how regularly you update your blog as a key factor in their algorithm. Quantity helps engines know you have a wide variety of helpful content.
Moreover, linking internally to your other blog posts improves the search engine ranking of your blogs. The more content you have equals more blog posts to link to each other.
More blog posts can nearly triple your traffic as well . According to SEO specialist Neil Patel
Why you should focus on quality in plain simple terms:
“The Internet is very similar to a new friend joining a group. Google isn’t going to automatically start sending people your way if you just started writing about a topic.” -Marcello Arrambide
8.) Less Money, in Your Wallet
Dealing with perfectionism equals less money in your wallet. Want to make a living as a freelance writer? Remember how most writers get paid? Per article/post/word, not per “perfection”.
Editors are focused on having a certain amount of posts by certain calendar date. Just as long as it is up to standards. Writing one article per month is fun.
Ramping up posts to at least 5 times per month is recommend. Remember, writing 5 times more article usually means much more than 5* results over time. Success compounds in the content world.
Affiliate Links are better with more posts because they give you more opportunities to advertise products.
The advertisement works similar to affiliates as well. Each blog post a user looks at counts as 1 view. More views equate to a higher return on advertisement revenue.
The writer’s catalog is everything. Successful writers don’t make as much money at the beginning. Because they have less posts to make money from. There is depth to the concept of catalog.
Making a 500$ a week off of 10 blog posts is 50$ a week per post. A pretty difficult tasks. Generating $500 off of 100 blog post equals to making a mere meager $5 per post.
Interested in learning more about the importance of catalog and ownership. Look at the millions being lost by the Beatles, due to them not owning all their music over time.
9.) Perfectionist get Less Bang for their Buck
Parkinson’s law, not to be mistaken with the disease, was founded In 1955, by economist Cyril Northcote Parkinson.
The main principle of Parkinson’s law was made after the first sentence of Parkinson’s The Economist Essay. “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Meaning that we complete tasks based off of the amount of time we have to complete it.
Parkinson’s principle is a groundbreaking concept. One that tells us that if we give ourselves a year to do something then it will be done in a year.
Furthermore, we can improve our efficiency by just completing tasks in a shorter burst of time.
Chronic procrastinators are aware of this. Having ten days, to complete a task, that could be done in 10 hours. Therefore, procrastinating until the 10th day to complete it. When it would’ve been better to have completed it right away.
“Due dates are a social construct” -Stephan Toure
*cough* *cough*. Yes, I quoted myself.
When you spend an extra 1-7 days perfecting an article. Do you honestly believe it takes that much extra effort? Or are you using it as an excuse to stay still in your working process?
Perfecting small details don’t matter in the grand scheme. Quit nitpicking. Nobody is going to care about the itty-bitty details: e.g. Choosing between the words “Scared” or “Frightened”, the font size, the contrast of the picture.
Look, if somebody decides your blog is not worth reading because you chose a Calibri font instead of an Arial font. Do you want them reading your blog in the first place?
The little details won’t matter because good content is in demand.
Limiting time available to complete a task by using Parkinson’s law to your advantage. Allowing you to brush past the smaller details of perfection. Focusing on what matters, creating content.
10.) Perfection not Worth the Price
Opportunity cost is a fundamental economic concept. It basically means the sacrifice you make for something else.
Opportunity cost Explanation
For example, if you take an extra hour of overtime at work. The opportunity cost would be one hour of less sleep.
Getting one hour of work increases your income by a large percentage. getting one less hour of sleep, wouldn’t be that big of a deal in terms of tiredness for most people.
Next, if you were to take 3 hours of extra work, and the opportunity cost would be 3hours extra hours of sleep. The opportunity cost would be huge because losing 3 hours would make you much tired. Possibly causing the worker(you) to consider if those 3 extra hours of overtime are worth a poor sleep schedule.
Now let’s say this worker goes from 3 extra hours of work to 4 extra hours of overtime. Thus giving up 4 hours of sleep. The difference in income would get smaller. He’s only making an extra hour of overtime, yet every hour of sleep he takes away from his schedule is more valuable.
TL;dr Decreasing from 8 to 7 hours of sleep isn’t as bad as decreasing from 6 to 5 hours of sleep.
In addition, going from 3 hours of overtime to 4 hours of overtime at work, isn’t as big of a plus to your income, compared to going from 0 hours to 1 hour. Meaning that the more hours you work, the less value each individual hour is worth.
How does the opportunity cost relate to perfectionism?
Okay, imagine going from spending 30 minutes writing each blog post to 1 hour. There would probably be a significant difference in quality.
Now, compare that to spending 4 hours on a blog post versus 5 hours. The average reader wouldn’t notice that extra polishing.
Another hour could make a larger difference on something else like marketing your blog, or sending pitches to clients, or even sleeping! 1 hour of marketing is way more than 0 hours.
Speaking of sleep, if you’re interested in improving your sleep health check out my free sleep guide.
What’s your best tip to dealing with perfectionism? Meet me in the comments.