Are You Burning Your Most Important Writing Client?

Are You Burning Your Most Important Writing Client?

Reader Comments (55)

  1. Hi Sean, as you know (because I’ve told you often enough) I’ve never believed myself to be a writer despite the fact the I’ve done a lot of writing throughout the years. Having read this I’m given to wonder whether writing for myself might be the key to changing my mind. It’s simply something I don’t do. I’ll give it a try and report back to you.

  2. Excellent post! I agree 100%. Françoise Sagan said it well: ‘I shall live badly if I do not write, I shall write badly if I do not live”.

    Thanks for the Friday morning pat on the back!


  3. Thanks Sean, this post really hit home. I love writing non-fiction, but my dream has always been to write novels. I’ve been putting it off for years, randomly pulling up a draft and working for half an hour only to shelve it for six months.

    It’s hard sometimes when, after writing all day for others, it’s time to write some more for yourself. Your fingers are tired, your back aches and there’s a pile of books on your nightstand just begging to be read.

    I’ve got to start setting aside a certain amount of time to work on my novel each day. Starting slowly–that’s the key. 🙂 Thanks again.

  4. Great post!

    I’ve been thinking along these lines the past few days. I have been so busy writing content for my clients that I forgot why I started writing in the first place. I have been working on some of my own personal writing every day, for at least 1/2 hour.

    I have noticed that copy and articles are flowing much better, now that I have myself back in the mix. The hard part will be staying with it when the really busy times come.

    Thanks for this post. It’s good to get confirmation that in the middle of all the other things competing for attention, that I still need to write for myself to keep from drying up and burning out.


  5. The reason I started my own blog(s) is so that I could write for myself — freely and creatively — however I please. For me, if all I do is write for others, I get burned burned out and writing becomes no fun.

    And when I do write for myself, I find my other writing also become more lively and personal. It’s easier to find words for others.

    Never stop writing for yourself.

  6. Dave: Dude, all you’ve gotta do is get your email voice to the page. It’s already there, just get it from A to B. Seriously. And for the things you want to do with your life, writing is at least part of the mix. You’ve got it in you.

    Christopher: That’s a great quote! And you’re quite welcome.

    Laura: It’s amazing what the consistency of a little each day can amount to. You don’t need a lot, you just need to make it happen. One thing I like to do when I don’t have a lot of time is make my own writing the last thing I touch. That way it stays with me when I’m done with the day. There’s no way I’m going to shut my brain off entirely, but I’d rather have my stuff looping than someone else’s.

    Steve: You absolutely do. Writing for yourself will keep you voice sharp and your rhythm flowing. It’s easy to think we can’t make time for ourselves when our desktops are filled with priority work, but I’ve found giving myself just a little can really help me to give my clients a lot.

    Chris: Well said. Writing is like any other skill. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Writing more can actually help you to write faster, rather than slower. But all words aren’t created equal. Giving to yourself can help you find the juice to give more to the clients who are trusting you with their work.

  7. @Marilyn, I almost sent this one back to Sean saying, “Dude, you can’t out me this way.” OK, I didn’t really, but I kind of felt like it. 🙂 I definitely resemble this remark!

  8. Poch: My pleasure!

    Alan: Bravo to you for getting started. Just make sure you keep going!

    Marilyn and Sonia: Funny, I wrote this post a while ago, and have since become an 800 pound hypocrite, having written NOTHING for myself in the last month. I’m working with someone who is requiring pretty much 100% of my time. I even sent her an email this morning saying, “Hey, I’m totally NOT like publicly bitching, okay.” Cool thing is, this has become a core belief of mine and it’s part of our agreement that once we meet a few deadlines, I’ll get the time to tend my own garden.

    It is so, SO important. Even when the money’s good, the dreams are more important. You can make them go hungry, just make sure you don’t starve them to death. 🙂

  9. Shane: I couldn’t agree more. Sonia’s a helluva writer all over the place. She could get me to read a McDonalds menu.

  10. Thanks. I needed this one today! I spend too much time thinking about the next project, how to keep clients happy, how to balance it all and don’t spend enough time working on what I really love about connecting through my blog and the big picture of what I want my life and career to look like.

    I’m feeling the burn, man. Thanks for reminding me to refocus.

  11. My mantra has been “when I finish X project, then I’ll finish my novel.” But X project moves into Y and then into Z and then I start again at A. I will dust off my manuscript (literally) this weekend and make it my bedtime reading for a few days to get reacquainted and then give equal time in front of the keyboard until it’s ready to submit.
    In that vein, I’ll post a note “It’s all about me” prominently around the house to keep this reminder fresh and keep me on track.
    Thanks for the wake up call.

  12. @Sean & @Shane, pish, you two are making me blush. 🙂 Actually, I’ve been getting more into writing for Remarkable Communication + my personal email list, which is where I can be flaky and kumbaya and use lots of pictures of monkeys and adorable small children.

    And Sean, I did think about your current situation, funny how these things go. 🙂 There’s definitely an ebb and flow to these things.

  13. What a great article, Sean! Thank you for talking about this, and reminding so many of us that WE ARE our most important clients. I’m constantly getting lost in deadlines for others that I forget to submit all of my own, finished and available, fiction and non-fiction to potential markets. And revisions on other stuff are piled… 🙂

    This is common among writers, too. I haven’t got a writing friend to whom this doesn’t happen! Your article is right on target for what writers need to hear–and we need to hear this more frequently, too. Thank you.

  14. …and this is why I love Copyblogger.

    Even when I go back to my own business, with good days and bad, I know that I can come here for some serious motivation to do better every day.

    That is the beauty of blogging. You are keeping yourself on a writing schedule, where you get to share your passion with the rest of the world, no matter what that passion is.

    …and I’m proud to be a part of it…proud to have such a cast of characters to fall back on when times get tough (and boy to they get tough sometimes).

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  15. Susan: Just 500 words a day can help you vent all that stuff. It doesn’t even have to be clean copy. A total brain drain would work, so long as it’s for you. The well in you noggin is bottomless and will always be refilled. Just take the time to lower the bucket at least once a day.

    Jan: You’re totally welcome. I’m that way about pretty much every project, EXCEPT my writing projects. I keep telling myself I’ll start reading and watching movies again as soon as X, Y and Z are off the table. But those things are ghosts of what they used to be. I can’t forget, though, that I became a writer because of the bajillion books and movies that I swallowed without chewing. If I continue to ignore them, my best writer will die a little. Good luck getting reacquainted with your manuscript!

    Sonia: Loved your email newsletter last night! Very personable, and exactly what I’m talking about.

    Trisha: We need to be our own cheerleaders! GO TRISHA!!! 🙂

    Joshua: Thank YOU for being such an active, engaged part of the community. And yes, that’s one of the things I love about blogging most – real or imaginary, there is a schedule set in place. Sticking to it gives us discipline and sharpens our skills. I believe blogging has made me a much better writer than I would’ve been otherwise.

  16. So…this means I can totally take the afternoon to write an essay on the magic of chocolate and cheese dessert pocky instead of getting you that draft I promised?

    I’m new to this writing for clients business but I can so easily relate having been a stay at home mother for so many years. Our worst days were always the ones where I wouldn’t take a few minutes to make sure I fed myself or scheduled in a few breaks during the day where I could relax.

    My kids get a much better mother when I take time to nurture myself and I am sure my clients are better off for me taking the time to nurture my creativity.

  17. I’ll make you a deal. You can turn in the draft a day late if you go out to the garage and start working on fashioning those writer robots we’ve been talking about. You can add the lasers later, right now we just need them to type. Oh, and they need to understand SEO. Maybe we can upload them with Scribe?

  18. Doing that right now, working on fixing the bug that causes them to start every article with “The dictionary defines blank as blank but….”

  19. Tracy: That’s much better than the last bug that had them scraping content and overdoing it with the keyword density.

  20. Excellent reminder, Sean! And I love the post title.

    I recently gave up a problogging job so I could pay more attention to my own blogs. That small “adjustment” has paid off big time, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of my own satisfaction and fulfillment.

    I know other freelance writers have dreams of writing their own novels, short stories or whatever it is — don’t put it on the back burner just because you’re busy with clients. Make time to write for yourself!

    Thanks for the reminder, Sean 🙂

  21. Can we get an Amen? Funny how the inspiring reminder you need appears in your inbox right when you need it. Now, off for a little writing r & r. . .

  22. Completely agree. I think one thing that keeps me sane is the fact that I do write for myself while writing for the client. Writing needs personality, not just dry content you’ll find in a text book. Great reminder!

  23. Agree totally: you should write at least a little bit every day. Even if it’s just creating one sentence that works. Mastering the fundamentals makes you a master of the craft.

  24. Thanks for the important reminder, Sean! I spent over a year writing for clients and neglecting to build up my own assets. I have finally taken the time to start blogging for my own site and really hope my efforts will pay off. At the end of the day, I want to have something to show for all my hard work besides a bunch of copy and content for websites that aren’t mine. I love writing for clients, but I also have to build my own business.

  25. Love this post. I’m a full-time copywriter at an ad agency, and I LOVE writing for clients — not getting to choose your topic or medium adds a necessary element of challenge. But sometimes I get restless and feel like I don’t even know “who I am” anymore because all I am exploring and expressing are my clients’ messages, not my own thoughts.

    So now, whenever I have a random philosophical thought or something else I have the urge to put in words, I do it right then and there. Even if it’s the middle of a work day, I can take a moment to put the rough thought on a scrap of paper or in an email to myself to polish later. It’s not much, but it helps!

    Thanks for bringing up a great point, and also for flattering fellow writers in the process. 🙂

  26. You’re right. Writing takes constant effort, and there are days when you don’t feel like writing. The answer is, “Don’t Write.” Take a day off. Tomorrow you’ll feel more like it, and you’ll be off and writing.

    Don McCobb

  27. Sean,

    What wise words. The copywriting pays the bills but it does not feed my soul.

    But my book project (memoir)? It just seems too huge to comprehend. The 250 words a day thing is great advice. Now if I could just glue the seat of my pants to the chair for one half hour more a day and JUST DO IT.

    I find it amusing that I am always able to do the “buck up” thing to others but rarely am I able to apply it to myself. .

    My very talented daughter finally decided to go back to school in her mid-30s. She kept saying, “But it’ll take 3 years and I’ll be 38 by the time I graduate.”

    And I said to her, “How old will you be in 3 years if you DON’t go back and finish your degree?”

    Kind of stopped her in her tracks. She is now getting ready to start her junior year at Smith College. Yay!

    We do deserve to write for ourselves, too. Thanks for such an eloquent reminder.

  28. I think your advice holds true no matter what line of work writers are in to pay the bills. Whether you’re waiting tables, working in an office, or stuck in retail hell, it’s hard to carve time out.

    But you can’t give up on writing the things you want to write. The things you NEED to write. The things which made you a good writer to begin with.

  29. Shannon: Thanks! And please, come back and visit the post any time. 🙂

    Lexi: I think the title is probably Sonia. If I remember right, mine was burning your best asset. Slightly weaker. 🙂

    Yeah, if you’re a freelance writer, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got a manuscript sitting in the bottom drawer or rarely opened folder. You owe it to yourself, if not the craft, to feed what got you started in the first place.

    Janice: HALLELUJAH!!

    Ralph: Good point. Dry content can serve a purpose, certainly. But it isn’t the type of stuff that gets really passed around. That type of content comes from inside someone, and only by feeding our muse can we tap into that quality, I believe.

    Simon: Yes, there are days when I would settle for a sentence. I have a someday book of children’s rhymes. If I have time for nothing else, I try to at least spit out a limerick. Ends the day with a smile.

    Kathleen: “I want to have something to show for all my hard work besides a bunch of copy and content for websites that aren’t mine. I love writing for clients, but I also have to build my own business.” PERFECT. Couldn’t agree more.

    Camille: I love writing for clients as well. Gives me great practice to jump all over the place, writing different types of this or that. I truly love the word, so I don’t mind hopping genres or specialties. But the one constant is the stuff from my brain. That’s where the magic really is for me.

    Don: I always feel like writing, unless it’s something I HAVE to write, so a day off for me is taking the time to nurse something that’s important to me, or taking the time to articulate something that’s been on my mind. So even though I’m still writing, it does feel like a break. Then the next day, I am a better writer.

    Judy: Awesome back and forth between you and your daughter, and a giant high five as well. You’re right – life’s too short to wonder. Go out, look life in the eye and earn a better future for yourself. Whether that’s money or just waking up to do what you want to do each day, the best way to get there is one day at a time. Even if that just means 250 words. You can do it, I swear. 🙂

    Dave: Couldn’t agree more, so please shoot me three to four thousand words of Available Darkness by the end of the weekend. That would be awesome. 🙂

  30. Very well said..That certainly Inspired me to seriously make an effort to write a successful article.’Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t your right” so I guess I can.Thank you for putting it so well and probably Inspiring so many.
    best regards steve

  31. Lots of smiley faces are good things.

    And even someone who writes a personal blog (ahem, cough) needs to remember that the blogging isn’t gonna get the manuscript finished.

    My daily writing routine keeps me producing blogs to build an audience, producing chapters of a future best-selling book, and typing horribly boring court transcription. It’s all work, but you’d better believe I give the best of my writing every day to my manuscript.

    Good post!

  32. Sean, thanks for the great post. I hear you saying the best thing is to simply enjoy the process and forget the part about selling your fiction.

    While I try to learn about blogging and marketing, my almost finished MG historical novel gathers dust. It’s been bothering me lately, too. Maybe this is a wake-up call to at least get it done and out there, regardless of the outcome.

    I have to echo that I think Sonia could make a McDonald’s menu an interesting read, too.

  33. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. One of the best articles I’ve seen on this topic. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of taking care of the paying work first. In fact, I was supposed to stop working more than an hour ago to get back to my novel…

    One thing I’ve done to encourage personal writing is shift to writing first drafts in longhand, breaking out my favorite fountain pen and crazy ink colors. This makes fiction writing a completely different activity from business writing.

    I’ve even started a blog to help other writers bribe themselves into taking care of their best clients. After all, “when mama’s not happy, no one’s happy.”

    Thanks again for the awesome post, Sean.

  34. That was wonderfully inspiring Sean. Thanks. I love that idea of “the alchemy of writing” and “the steady accumulation of words over time is a remarkable thing”. I’m really starting to see that.

  35. Hi guys,

    You are right to say that you are the most important client. Because as a writer you can burn out so easy by trying to meet deadlines every week.

    Kind regards,


  36. It took me quite some time to enable (force?) myself to do what I had wanted to for a long time. That is, to start a blog. Sure, it may seem like an easy thing to do. To get hosting, a WP theme, and start writing. But there was always something else that was more important.

    I found that taking a little time every day, and I mean only about 30 minutes or so, enabled me to start. And knowing that I have to do it every day, I am able to stay on track.

    Thanks for the article and have a good day!

  37. Thanks for such an incredible post, Sean. I read this the day it came out and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since… Consider me subscribed. 🙂

  38. This is good stuff. Heck yeah, I should be writing for myself and not only for other people. Thank you for this insightful reminder.

  39. Sean, I agree.

    Few steps of initiation build a lot of momentum once started.

    The part that I like the most about writing is it crystallizes my thoughts, and help with clarity. It’s like sharpening my saw.

    Thanks for nice thought.


  40. Hello Sean, I’ve never believed myself to be a real writer despite the fact the I’ve done a lot of writing through the years. Having read this I’m wondering whether writing for myself might be the solution to my frequent bouts of writers block. I am going to try writing for me for a change. I’ll let you know. Thank for for your insightful and inspiring articles. warm regards. Andre’ aka Tranquilpen

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