Freelance life: being afraid of success?


Freelance life: being afraid of success?


This is an interesting thought. [It came to me all of a sudden, and I haven’t been drinking.] As a freelancer – I’ve been completely freelance for almost exactly 8 years now – am I, in some strange way, afraid of success?

This seems a very odd statement. Why would someone who makes a living by succeeding (in getting commissions to write, in getting speaking and judging gigs, in doing day-rate consultancy) be at all afraid of success?

I don’t know, but if I take a step back and look at my career to date, I haven’t pushed as hard as I could have done. I probably haven’t earned the sort of money that someone in my position would normally bring in (not that I am complaining about the decent salary that I earn). I have been very successful (or, at least it seems that way) in building profile and reputation, and in output – but I haven’t been strategic. I have hardly bothered pitching article ideas to editors, I haven’t been systematic and efficient in my networking, and I have no proper plan for what I would like to be doing in 6 months, a year, or five years. I’ve let people come to me, but I haven’t reached out to them. Yet, despite this I have been very busy and have made a good living.

If I were to sit down with myself and have a conversation, I’d give myself a telling off for this lack of planning and strategy. For not making the most of my potential. I would conclude that there is something about being successful that I am afraid of. Why else would I avoid it? I justify this lack of commercial drive to myself using the flimsy argument that I’m like an academic, happy to be playing with ideas and writing about the sorts of things I want to write about, and uninterested in money. This may be true, but am I using it as an excuse?

So, the challenge for 2016 is for me to begin looking to be a bit more commercially savvy, and make more money, horrible though this sounds. I want to do more speaking/lecturing gigs, because I enjoy these – they are of the moment, and I am getting quite good at them. I’m already doing quite a lot of wine judging internationally, but there’s room for more. And I’d like to do more long-form writing for other publications. And I still have room for a good book project this year, something that I really enjoy. I’m going to take my own advice, and I’m not going to be afraid of success.

The picture? Lichens on a rock. Lichens are very interesting: an organism that is a combination of a fungal partner with an algal partner. They only grow when they are drying out or they are getting wet. I guess it’s like that with us humans (although the wet bit is metaphorical not literal).

8 Comments on Freelance life: being afraid of success?
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

8 thoughts on “Freelance life: being afraid of success?

  1. With the greatest respect, if you are a professional writer and you are still giving away large quantities of your writing for free on a blog after 8 years, you are doing it wrong. I take it that you love writing, so that’s why you keep doing it. And that enough of use keep coming back, so the hit rate is high enough.
    Jancis charges a subscription….

  2. …interesting to read, was kind of like reading my own thoughts… living on both feet is my solution for the moment though as I don’t want wine to loose its romantic side so I can enjoy as much as I want it (of course not in terms of volume but in terms of a broad diversity & spectrum of different wine styles & types from numerous regions of the wine world): full-time job in wine marketing, freelance & CEO of, MW student (started by the time I got pregnant) & the most important: mum of a lovely girl who has travelled 13 countries till she has reached her first birthday)

    …but the main thing that should make me worried is the fact when we’ve been to a duty free wine shop at one of the international airports and the little one pointed at a bottle of wine calling it “MAMA” 😉 😛

  3. Philip – how much would you be willing to pay for an annual subscription to wineanorak ? I think I would be happy to pay GBP50.

  4. Jamie, some people are natural salesmen, comfortable on their own trumpet, some are not.
    What is success if not receiving the opportunities to fulfil our own potential ? Communicators want to communicate to everyone, not necessarily to a smaller audience who has to pay. I guess if you were JR you’d me mad not to charge! But we are all different, on different paths at different stages.
    I don’t think its fear of success, you are a success. If we start to market ourselves more there will surely be some rejection, are we ready for that ? You are pushing into a very competitive area, I prefer to make opportunities in a way I am happy with and not be someone I am not. It does not work all the time but do I want to sign up for selling the emperor’s new clothesto be “successful”. No thanks – too many others on that road!

  5. Depends what you mean by success? I’d say you are very successful in the wine world, your reputation is very good (deservedly I hasten to add), your books are well received and certainly feature amongst my preferred reading. How successful is anyone within the wine world to a broader public? Most people would struggle to name a wine critic or writer I suspect unless they take an active interest in the subject, even the Johnsons, Robinsons and Clarkes.
    I understand what you mean though. You are paid for judging, speaking and writing and, for your own sake, you need to maximise that. You contribute to wine, you add to understanding and appreciation of it. There are many who take out and I’d include PR in that even though they help some producers.
    Personally I hope that your blog remains free, a means of attracting readers for your other work. I find enough good writing available for free to guide me around the world of wine without having to pay for it. However, by reading the blog I gathered a loyalty and interest in your other work which I hope repays your fine work on here.

  6. Charging for the blog wasn’t something JG mentioned in his piece; though it’s the first thing people have commented on.
    Which is a good thing I think. It’s one thing to charge for special reports, books and the like; but a blog is by definition a snapshot type of communication which doesn’t really merit charging for. (and have never bought a Tim Atkin paid-for report because they always sound so long. £15 for latest Burgundy report; 205 pages. Needs an editor!)
    Subscribed to JR for first year; thereafter let lapse. Still buy her books, but didn’t see value in the subscription.
    You simply lose the tranche of your readership who aren’t that well off; and in so doing, reduce your ‘reach’. As Alan says, you can find more than enough to get your daily wine “fill” without paying for it.
    Just look at the Times’ figures since they charged for on-line access.

  7. I agree with Damien re charging for the blog – it will cut out a lot of audience and probably a much higher percentage of overseas audience than UK.

    As for being afraid of success – that’s probably very common. I fell into working for myself (it’s not a step that would have even occurred to me!) and haven’t always pushed as hard as I could. I have a couple of regular gigs and use any ‘spare’ time I have to work on other passions. When speccing out my next business move and feeling very nervous about it I realised that actually the worse case scenario would end up costing a bit (not even a scarily large amount) of money AND I would end up with some wine.

    I suspect that sometimes we are naturally fearful (after all, humans love the status quo) before we even analyse the actual costs and risks.

  8. Happy to spend some time helping you think through your options if that would help, Jamie! You probably know me only in my role as a PR, but I’m also a professional and fully qualified business coach! 😉

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