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5 Ways Cancer Kickstarted My Freelancing Career

Don’t wait for the worst-case scenario to do what you love.
Image Credit: Ivan Samkov from Pexels

Have you ever had a dream that you have put off?

You know, the one you think you don’t have time for. The one that feels too big or ambitious. Well, I have wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to read but never thought it was possible. They tell you at school that creative pursuits aren’t feasible in the ‘real’ world, so I gave up my writing dreams for more practical endeavors. 

And then I found a suspicious blip on my shoulder that rocked my world and ultimately changed the course of my life. I was diagnosed with Melanoma just before Christmas and was thrown into a world of PET scans, blood tests, and surgeries. 

Rewind a few months, and I had started dabbling in writing as a small side hustle. I had been brave, put myself out there, and gained a few steady clients. But I was working full-time, homeschooling my kids, and doubting whether I would ever have the opportunity to grow writing as a full-time career. 

Then I was introduced to real fear as I realized that at the age of 32, I might have way less time to do the things that mattered.

5 Things To Consider If You Want to Freelance

Image Credit: Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

1. Use Fear as Motivation

Faced with the possibility of death (slightly dramatic, but in those early stages, your mind goes to dark places), the thought of putting myself out there on the internet wasn’t so bad. I realized that my worst-case scenario of someone not liking my work was nothing compared to not actually being around to do the job.

While recovering from surgery and waiting for biopsy results, I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted my life to look like. We take time for granted, but it is not a given. It sounds cliche, but boy, I realized how true it is. 

How we choose to spend our time matters. Being scared means, you are taking a step in the right direction. Your dreams should scare you. They should push you to be brave and try for more. It took cancer for me to realize that I was tired of playing small and that I could allow myself to dream bigger.

2. A Positive Mindset Makes a Difference

I know that’s probably not what you want to hear. But it’s true.

I fell into a deep, dark hole after my diagnosis, and the spiral of negative thoughts consumed me. It wasn’t until I started to change my attitude and mindset that I could come to terms with what was happening to me. 

When you think positively, you see the world differently. You start to notice opportunities and solutions. It’s like your brain has a new propensity for creativity. The science even backs this up. Being positive literally creates new neural pathways in your brain. How cool is that? We can actually rewire our brains for success.

As a freelance writer, creativity is key. You need to be curious and constantly learning. Let’s be honest; you also need a healthy dose of positivity because it is hard putting your work out into the world and even harder when it is rejected.

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3. Never Be Afraid to Ask For Help

Asking for help is not my strong suit, but I had to during recovery. I needed a support network of people who could give me a pep talk, a hug, or the resources I needed to get strong again.

Freelancing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. There are amazing communities of writers that will offer you the guidance, help, and friendship you need to get started. Everyone was a beginner once, and being a new freelance writer is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Ask for help. Learn from those who have done it, made the mistakes, and are willing to share their wisdom. You will be surprised by how welcoming the freelance writing community is.

4. Your Journey is Your Own

Cancer left an indelible mark on my family in a way that is uniquely ours. It changed everything for us, and I am so grateful for that.

Your freelance journey will not look like someone else’s. Don’t hold yourself to the impossible standards of someone else’s reality. You are setting yourself up for failure by comparing your success to others. You are the only person you should compare yourself with. Not the 6-figure freelancer or the Medium guru, but who you were 6 months ago. 

As long as you are working, learning, and growing, be proud of what you have achieved and celebrate the small wins. 

5. Be Yourself

Life is too short to be anything other than the quirky and unique soul you are. There are a lot of freelance writers out there. But none of them are you. None of them have your lived experiences or unique voice. 

When I was starting out, I hated this advice. But the longer I have been freelancing, the more true it has become. You need to be yourself to stand out in a sea of freelancers. When you begin to show who you are through your writing, the right people find you.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need skills. Some SEO knowledge and good writing are vital, but they don’t mean much if you haven’t sprinkled a little of yourself in as well. Most of the writers I know value connection and authenticity. They are passionate about serving their audience in a way only they can.

Writing offers you the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of people, but if you haven’t used your unique voice, you won’t find your people.

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Be Brave Now. There Might Not Be a Later

My life looks very different now to 6 months ago. I am living my life in 6-month blocks between doctor visits. For now, the cancer is gone, and I intend to live the life I want with the time I have been given.

Freelancing was the dream I never knew I needed. It has pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that I can never go back. Don’t wait for something scary to put things in perspective. 

Make the leap, do the thing, and get busy creating a life that lights you up.

If you want to read more about parenting, homeschooling, or freelancing check out my blog

Caitlin Van Wyk content and copy writer

Hey, I'm Caitlin

Writer and Mom. Coffee, crochet, and creative writing are helping me navigate the chaos of motherhood as I share my knowledge and offer support to busy moms.

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