How to Cope with Criticism as a Freelance Writer

The writing world can be a tough and irksome place. There are several things that freelance writers need to build, and ultimately maintain, their careers. A discerning eye for reputable jobs is, in my opinion, the most important.

Secondly, there needs to be a willingness to constantly adapt to changing house styles/style guides. Thirdly, though criticism is inevitable, a lot more can be accomplished if it’s thought of as a professional learning tool, not as a personal slight.

The software slump…

I vividly remember my first freelance writing gig; it was an SEO article for an apparel company. Working online was still a relatively new concept, and it seemed like website owners everywhere were jumping onto the affiliate marketing bandwagon and looking for content.

After submitting the article (an article that I had carefully researched), it was immediately accepted. It became obvious to me that the software was only looking for backlinks, a certain word count, and keyword density. It didn’t matter at all how well it was written.

So, that initial Internet landscape made it all too easy for writers of varying experience and talent to make money quickly with minimal effort and little-to-no feedback. This was clearly horrible for people who were actually turning to search engines for worthy information.

Time and truth…

What happened next? The inevitable: search engines changed their standards. Writers who had gotten all too comfortable were not only facing perennial competition, but also the prospect of increasingly high standards that are only occasionally reasonable. Criticism, once such an abstract notion, become all too commonplace.

This blog is only ever written in a spirit of honesty. Therefore, I have no problem in stating that most of the time, too much is demanded of freelance writers in comparison to what they are paid. Sure, a job might look lucrative on the surface, but it’s important to always factor in hours/days of research and ridiculously stringent editing processes.

There’s also the fact that amongst would-be employers, the “something for nothing, quickly” attitude is still very much part of the freelancing fabric. Quality just doesn’t work like that. Such a harried atmosphere can only produce windows of stress for both writers and editors, into which criticism can creep.

Money can motivate or mitigate, depending on the circumstances. The wheels of fairness are turning ever so slowly, but as the world shifts more and more to gig economies, it is my hope that freelancing becomes akin to promise, not poverty.

An evolution of empathy?

In a perfect world, clients would tactfully point out something they would like changed, not be confrontational or condescending about it. In my time as a freelance writer, I experienced more of the former than the latter, but only because I learned to look for companies with more of an established/professional Internet presence than startups with lofty goals and little sympathy.

The written word is both a blessing and a hindrance in that people can fantastically misconstrue things. What might seem harsh might actually be an editor really trying to help, albeit perhaps without much tact.

Perspective counts for a lot. Understand that editors usually have someone at least metaphorically looking over their shoulder, too. However, following guidelines and giving 100% to a project should result in a feeling of accomplishment, not adversity. If a project requires a different approach, then the process should always involve open writer-editor dialogue to get the work to an optimal place.

Try to objectively evaluate and separate the reasonable from the irrational. Understand that freelance writing has a lot to do with trial and error. Endeavor to keep a creative, confident mindset. Some jobs are keepers, while others are just stops on the way to other, better opportunities.

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