If you don’t start, you simply don’t

If you don't start writing, you simply don't write
Posted on September 20, 2010

I realised today that I have been freelancing for a long time. It was startling.

I also realised, in the course of a conversation, that one of the reasons I enjoy it so much stems back to a job that I didn’t particularly like.

My last-ever fulltime job to be precise.

I became a part-timer/freelancer because I never wanted to be miserable five days a week ever again.

Motivation is everything.


How to get started in freelance writing


I was talking to a new friend about how to get started in freelance writing. She is stuck at the procrastination stage. Mostly because she thinks she doesn’t know what to do next.

She has so many ideas, so many things she wants to do – but she’s not doing any of them.

My sage, Obi-Wan advice to her?

Start something.

Pick one thing and have a go at that.

Pitch one story to one publication.

If you do nothing, nothing happens. If you do something, you never know what the result will be.

So start.


Dealing with one of the biggest reasons we don’t start


Still she was worried.

“What are you worried about?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she admitted.

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

“They might say no.”

Yep, they might.

Not really the end of the world when you put it like that.

I promised her that magazine staff are well trained to write polite rejection emails. They always save their hysterical laughter at your off-beam ideas for the office. But you don’t see that, so what do you care?

She managed a laugh at that, which is a great sign for her future freelance career. Seriously, the thin-skinned need not apply.

We narrowed down a couple of options out of her long list of many, and off she went with a short list of tasks. A To Do list (you know how I love those). A start.

I went home to work on my Obi-Wan impersonation.

I did okay with “The Force will be with you, always”, but I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to work “The Sand People are easily startled, but they will be back, and in greater numbers” into my next conversation.

Hmm. Perhaps I’ll focus on finding myself a long, brown cloak. Everybody’s got to start somewhere.


Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here.


  1. Bex Jenkins

    What fantastic advice Allison – today I resolve to do something!

  2. thepowmill

    Your advice is always so clearly expressed and useful . How did you get so wise?

  3. In My House

    My goodness, what a lot of comments this topic has generated. Two of the stories I shot recently were snapped up by the biggest monthly mag in Australia this week and I would not call myself a great writer. As one who used to be on the other side of the email, there are a few tips:
    think about what that particular magazine is looking for, not what YOU think they need;
    write about something you are passionate about and the enthusiasm will shine through.

  4. magicgardencymru

    or even ‘disappoint’. Wouldn’t mind but I’d looked that one up in the bloody dictionary as well.

  5. magicgardencymru

    I’ve been meaning to read this post for days and of course it didn’t disapoint. I’d love to do some freelance writing but I don’t think that I dare! Love reading your blog though : )

  6. angela.morris99

    Following you from the Tuesday Blog Hop and so glad I found you. I too have left the 9-5 monday through friday world to home-school my child. I started a blog because my desire is to write and am now considering freelance writing. I cant wait to follow you 🙂 Come by and check out my page @ http://csahm.webs.com/apps/blog/ if you like us feel free to follow back.

  7. Deer Baby

    Good advice you give, do you.

    I will always be a Padawan to your Obi Wan.

    But I hope you’re more Alec Guinness than Ewan McGregor.

  8. Ron Cooper

    I’m a fulltime freelance writer, so wish you the very best!

    Following you now from Tuesday blog hop from Nimbler Grove. My blog “Inspire” has inspiring messages about family, faith and the human spirit. Please follow back!


  9. allison tait

    Thanks everyone for your Jedi comments. I have been very busy working the ‘sand people’ quote in to my daily conversation.

  10. Design It Chic

    I am now following you thanks to Tuesday Tag-Along, and it would be nice if you could share the love back on my blog;)
    Also don’t forget, if you need any help increasing your blog’s traffic or easy HTML tips, you know where to come!
    Today we have an amazing giveaway: 3 x greeting cards of your choice complete with delivery to the recipient, so come on by to sign in and make your loved ones happy by sending them a cute card just that easy! Happy Tuesday!

  11. katepickle

    ah you are so right…

    I have this notebook filled with all these ideas of things I am going to do… you know.. one day…. But I am not going to accomplish any of them if I don’t start with just one!

  12. Sofia

    Thanks for stopping by my blog…I think I would like a garden with no slugs or snails…yucks!


    From PDX with Love

  13. Jamarah Crafty Creations

    Hi just calling by from your latest follower Via Tuesday Blog hops. Love meeting new bloggers. So good to meet another Aussie on here. Love your post. I have sometimes thought that Freelance writting would be a wonderful thing to be able to do. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. Hope you are having a wonderful week so far.Be sure to check my blog out http://www.jamarahcraftycreations.blogspot.com

  14. WA Editor

    I am completely with you on this one. I have been a magazine editor/journalist in WA for the last 10 years and have always been gainfully employed.

    I am now walking away from a senior management role with a newspaper, because it is not my passion. I am now launching my own business freelance writing, consulting to media, coordinating photo shoots, etc. Wish me luck!

  15. Lily's Laundry Boutique

    new follower. we have a blog hop too. love to see you link up! great blog. wwww.lilyslaundryboutique.blogspot.com

  16. Bronnie and family

    As a freelancer and commissioning editor, off and on for more than 20 years, my advice is this: Just write. If you’re any good, editors will always want your work. And yes, don’t take rejections personally. It’s like modelling, your work may be beautiful, but perhaps they’ve just run a story like that, or they’re after a different look … They’re not rejecting you personally, and you can always try another publication and/or another idea. Good luck to your friend.

  17. savemumsanity.com

    Very timely post for me. I’m back to the grindstone on Monday after 12 months maternity leave. Was a full-time journalist, now a part-time journalist, part-time blogger, full-time mother. Even though I already write for a living, it’s still a daunting prospect to put myself out there. I think blogging has helped me in that respect, but still I sit on my hands. Your advice to your friend inspires me to just do something!

  18. Maxabella

    You’re right – the worst that can happen is they can say no. No isn’t so scary. No we can deal with.

    If I ever felt the need to become a freelancer, I will keep your sage advice to hand. We don’t call you Wise Al for nothing. x

    PS – word verification: motivad. I swear…

  19. Cate P

    Do, or do not, there is no try.
    Or words to that effect.
    Wish I followed them, I’m too scared to even make a to-do list.
    I am The Procrastinator; I’ll get to it eventually.

  20. brismod

    Great advice for your Padawan learners.

  21. Tricia Rose

    We have been self-employed all our careers – I once told my husband I liked lumpy money, not homogenised salary money…frankly now I’d like a bit of both.

    The Obi-Wan is all in the voice, that donnish, reasoned, even tone, although when I made a canopy for the front deck I called it Obi-Wan ~

  22. Gina

    SO true. I struggle with procrastination and am always in need of reminders such as these. Just do something. Anything!

  23. Susan

    Great advice. Just start. And the fact that I can’t actually hear them laughing at me is an important point to remember.

    p.s. Luke, I’m your father.

  24. Rebecca Newman

    Excellent advice (and I love a To Do list). Now I must go off and tackle my own short list of tasks. 😛

  25. Kath

    Help me, Obi-wan, you’re my only hope… and you’re so right: pick one thing and start it.

    Your friend is going to do just fine with a pink-fibro-dwelling Jedi on her side and it’s a bonus that we get the benefit of your advice as well, from reading your blog.

  26. Shauna

    Your blog is on my procrastination circuit. When assignments are due i must do the rounds of facebook, lame facebook games, various message boards (forums), your blog, news sites and whatever else interests me.

  27. Shauna

    Very timely advice as i battle a 3000 word case study about some old dude with type 2 diabetes. It would help if i was interested in this but Im not. So im off to just start and do one section at a time.

  28. Susan @ Reading Upside Down

    If I get you a long, brown cloak, will you wear it to the Aussie Bloggers Conference next year so that all may know that you are the go-to-girl (or Jedi) for sage advice on freelance writing?

    My recent time-to-get-out-of-your-rut pep talk includes kick starting my writing again. I’m working on a book manuscript at the moment (co-authoring a non-fiction book), but once that is finished I have no real idea about what to do next. *sigh* Where’s a lucrative blogging deal when you need one?

    So, should I start searching the interwebz for a long, swirly brown cloak for you? You know I want to. 🙂

  29. Susie Kline

    I want to freelance! Obi Wan, please give me some special words of Obi-ness! lol

    It’s just daunting.

    xo Susie

  30. River

    I’m thinking that next year I might just take some of those short story writing courses to give me an idea of how to write something that people might actually want to read.

  31. anjwritesabout.com

    You do have Jedi-like timing…or perhaps it is just that I am in a strangely similar place in my ‘career’ as your friend.

    Best save the Sand People pep talk for later…magazine eds are surely daunting enough for now! 😉

  32. Seraphim

    Tis true you have often been my only hope. I’ve learned alot about being thicker skinned in this new game. Thank you for helping me. xo

  33. Melbourne Mumma

    Your new friend is very lucky to have you as a friend and mentor 🙂

  34. Lucy

    I do not think I dare hope for this……

  35. Johanna Baker-Dowdell

    Great post. I too have been freelancing a long time and for much the same reason (as well as it being more family friendly), but often struggle with the pull of a regular wage.

  36. Dovic

    You’re just pure specialness you know :).

    Obviously I wasn’t that friend but since procrastination is my middle name, I well coulda been.

    You do good advice xx


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