7 Ways To Keep Your Ego Out of the Freelance Writing Process

If you're making your writing more about you than the client or the audience, it's time to crumple it up and start again.

If you’re making your writing more about you than the client or the audience, it’s time to crumple it up and start again.
Photo by *_Abhi_* (Flickr)

Some of the best advice comes from complete hypocrites. I am definitely a hypocrite with this post. It’s almost inevitable that writers tie their egos to their work, whether it be fiction, adaptation, nonfiction, or just small articles. This post is about how to recognize negative emotions and unrealistic expectations so that you can avoid emotional pitfalls and be the best freelance writer possible.

Don’t expect your work to tell your life’s story.

If you want to write a novel, memoir, script, or essay about your life’s story, do it! But when doing work for clients, the focus needs to be on them. At the end of the day, certain articles or blogs may reflect your writing style and personality, perhaps, but not you as a whole. These articles couldn’t possibly reflect the whole you even if you tried. If you have an agenda, a political stance, or a strong opinion about something, educational articles may not be the best place to put them. Again, if you want to talk about it, do it! Articles for clients are just not the best place for it.

Don’t get emotionally crushed by small mistakes.

If you used “your” instead of “you’re” once in your content, the editor doesn’t hate you, you’re not a failure, and your writing isn’t automatically terrible. One or two small mistakes can happen — we’re all human, writers and editors alike. Instead of crumpling like a used tissue and having your heart broken, simply take more time to proofread on the next assignment. One bad grade is very different than several. Don’t let disappointment impact work on your next assignment. If you react to a small mistake with hysteria, anger, fear, or disappointment, it’s time to step away, calm down, and re-assess. These emotions can definitely get in your way; they’re not helping you.

Keep feedback in mind for future work.

Sometimes writers can get crushed, but sometimes they do the opposite: completely and utterly ignore feedback to save their egos. Treat your ability as your job, not your hobby. If something was pointed out as being a problem, doing it again repeatedly can communicate either a lack of attention to detail or a negative attitude on behalf of the writer. It shows that a writer is not listening or doesn’t care and that communicating mistakes to them is ultimately a waste of time. Read our older post on how to deal with feedback for more tips on this.

Communicate with your editors professionally and clearly.

It’s in correspondence with your editor where the ego is most evident. Blaming, pleading, guilt-tripping, and attempting to manipulate in any way is ineffectual. It also puts editors in a precarious position — they might like you, but they need to maintain professional standards. Use professional language in your correspondence (and don’t forget to quickly proofread messages). If you need to communicate something to the editors, communicate your emotions (if any apply) calmly, link them to a situation, and then recommend a course of action. Step away, and then come back after you’ve cooled down. Read what you wrote again — is the logic sound? Is your request reasonable?

Keep the client in mind always.

What you do is for the client’s benefit. Sometimes, brands might just want something wrong. For example, a client named “Made By You” might want their name written as “MadeByYou.” This may feel wrong, but that’s how they want to represent their brand online. In this case, it’s entirely the client’s call. When writing or optimizing for client pages, always keep in mind the instructions and specific client requests.

Write for the audience, not for you.

The tone of an article is very, very important. It can demand that we step out of our own brains for a second and imagine what it’s like to be a high school student, a professional in a specific field, or a child. In truth, we should be doing that more often, whether or not the tone is unusual. It’s important to mentally gauge if your content will be interesting to the person you’re writing for. An elementary-school child won’t know what “adumbrated” means, and a business professional will know when you’re using jargon poorly.

Don’t tie your ego to an article’s popularity.

A blogger must not look to an article’s popularity as a measure of success — only consider how well it was written. Of course, as with everything, it’s a bit of a balance. Writing frequent articles that get absolutely no media attention sometimes can be a bad thing. However, a writer’s ego should not be linked with how popular they think their work is.

Keeping your ego out of your professional writing can help you produce better content in the long run. Post below if you are a hypocrite about this sometimes (like me)!

Stephanie Nolan, an editor for Online Writing Jobs, is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Since college, she's both edited and written film scripts, press releases, fictional stories, and articles. After gaining professional experience with Public Relations, Human Resources, and Recruitment, she discovered OWJ. With her strong marketing background and love of the written word, she now found a great balance while working with online content.

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Posted in Freelance Writing