Only, Just, Sorry: Eradicating Confidence-Busting Vocabulary from Your Emails, Conversations and LIFE.
Being a freelancer is hard. I've been a full-time freelance writer for about 7 months now and it seriously blows sometimes! But it's the perfect job for me. I love writing, I love organizing information, I love working hard and I get bored easily.
I've been a teacher, an office worker, a barista, a nanny, workshop organizer and an in-house copywriter. I've held countless odd jobs as a teenager and throughout my twenties. I've always known how to run a good side hustle, but being full-time writer is a 24/7 hustle—some days I want to cry because I don't know if I'll be able to pay all my bills next month.
Just a Writer?
Like any freelancer, I only get paid if I can keep finding new clients. Being a freelance writer means juggling the many components of running a business on your own. If you drop a ball, for one second, it's all on you. There is no guaranteed paycheck every two weeks. I'm paying out the nose for health insurance, I spend more hours on my computer than I ever imagined possible, and I'm working two part-time seasonal jobs on the side to make sure that I stay afloat during lean periods. I am making money writing, and yet I still fumble every time somebody asks me what I do for work.
Too many times, I've told people "I'm just a freelance writer" or "I'm only a copywriter," instead of simply owning my profession and saying, "I AM A COPYWRITER and I also do design work." Modifying our language to downplay our abilities is a confidence issue that plagues a lot of writers, and a lot of professional women.
When my confidence is floundering, one thing I find somewhat helpful is to glare at myself in the mirror, or or lock eyes with my roommate's cat, and say, "Most people suck at their jobs and nobody actually knows what they're doing most of the time." It's helpful to remind yourself that everybody is struggling in one way or another and it isn't useful to use apologetic language regarding your career (or anything, really) when no apology is necessary.
Sorry, Not Sorry
The phenomenon of women preemptively saying "sorry" when no apology is needed has been written about frequently in the past couple of years. Amy Schumer produced a viral skit about it, we've seen several op-eds on the topic, and programmers have even created a Gmail plugin that eradicates wimpy language from your business emails.
Three of the biggest culprits: only, just and sorry. These are three pesky words that you should weed out of your emails, elevator pitches, networking conversations and day-to-day life as a writer. Sorry, just and only do have their moments as social conversation smoothers and writing enhancers in certain situations—but you shouldn’t introduce your livelihood alongside them!
Have Confidence in What You Do
Stop saying that you're just a writer or only a freelancer. If you're writing, you're a writer. Whether you're a good writer or a bad writer is irrelevant—you're trying to make a living from writing! You're working for yourself! It's hard work. Don't knock yourself down for trying. You're going to get enough rejections from publications and potential clients—root for yourself and have confidence in your abilities as much as possible. Stating what you do is not bragging.
This type of self-deprecation is not isolated to freelance writers. People do it all the time when they’re introducing themselves to others. I’ve heard friends say ‘I’m just a teacher,” “I’m just graphic designer,” and even “I’m just a nurse.” NO. JUST STOP. Your shit is just as important and necessary as anyone else’s! You don’t need to feel nervous or inferior.
At the end of the day, it’s a just a job.