My 5 biggest writing fears revealed

Even experienced copywriters have writing fears.

I’m not talking the spider phobia thing or the slightly OCD anxiety I get when I see crooked pictures. I’m talking about my writing fears.

Just because I write all the time, doesn’t mean I tackle the process with a Sean Connery swagger.

As part of my series of posts that open up to you all, I’m putting my biggest writing fears out there. I know I’m not alone. I hope you won’t think badly of me.

Writing Fear #1: Not being taken seriously

When I first started Copywrite Matters, I didn’t think I could be irreverent or funny (some people would say I still can’t be funny, BOOM TISH!). I thought I had to be “professional” and I thought that meant being serious – all the time.

I’ve since learned that being serious all the time is DULL – for everyone.

That doesn’t mean that my writing fear of not being taken seriously has gone. I’ve come to realise that being ‘on brand’ means writing and sharing information about copywriting and marketing, but it also means showing my personality.

The posts I write with my ‘PHUCKIT’ hat on usually get the best response from people. Because they are REAL. I remind myself of that just before I hit ‘publish’.

The lesson for us both: Don’t let the fear of how a small minority might react stop you from publishing something that might make others bind themselves to your tribe. Haters be haters.

Writing Fear #2: Other copywriters might laugh

I’ve been a copywriter for *ahem* a while now and I know I’ll never stop learning. I’m always picking up copywriting techniques from copywriting I see, from copywriters I know and from copywriting I write. And I’m always trying to improve my editing skills to say more in fewer words.

I am confident in my copywriting skills but that doesn’t stop me worrying that another copywriter will see my work and think it’s rubbish. Especially copywriters I really admire.

We’re all plagued with the fear of inadequacy.

The lesson for us both: There are always going to be people who know more. Don’t let that stop you writing, and never stop learning.

I read somewhere that critics thought Shakespeare, Vivaldi and Van Gogh were rubbish and their reputations survived.

Writing Fear #3: Calling myself a writer

I don’t call myself a writer. I’m a marketer and a copywriter.

I admire writers greatly; I just don’t put myself in that category. Why? Because I don’t see myself as a ‘proper’ writer. I don’t write poems or plays, and I certainly don’t have a novel in me… although I might just have a business book in here somewhere.

I still haven’t dealt with this one and I’m not sure I have to.

If I really think about it, I might be worried about the expectations that come with being a ‘writer’. Then again, maybe I’m not.

The lesson for us both: Don’t let labels define you or exclude you.

Writing Fear #4: Not having enough time

Blog posts, social media updates, courses, coaching, ebooks, email marketing, video tutorials, presentations… oh, and billable copywriting for clients. These are just a small number of things I’ve got on the go at any one time.

My background is marketing and I love marketing. Some days I wish I could be my own fulltime marketer. I beat myself up about the list of ‘someday’ ideas I haven’t actioned yet. I see other copywriters doing awesome stuff and I think, Oh I should be doing that too – how do they find time to do that?

To make sure this writing fear doesn’t paralyse my copywriting or my marketing, I remind myself that I can do all these things. I just have to eat that elephant one bite at a time and make time do just that.

I also know I have to lower my expectations in order to be kinder to myself. I can’t be a fulltime marketer for my business and the fulltime copywriter and take care of two very small humans. And time for myself? What about me?

The lesson for us both: We all have the same amount of time. You have to ask yourself WHY you’re in business and then prioritise your time accordingly. Do things that make money but not at the cost of everything else.

Writing Fear #5: That I have a job, not a business

I started Copywrite Matters to ditch 2 hours of commuting and make my life more family friendly. I’m now working harder than I ever did for anyone else! But that’s okay – I’m able to work around my life, and that was the point.

That said, I work IN my business a lot. I know I have created a job for myself and I need to make the next leap to do less and supervise more. To spend my time on more profitable activities and leave the day-to-day stuff alone.

But… that jump is scary. That step makes me feel a bit queasy.

I record a lot of information about how I work. I have checklists and processes on file. I use tools to make my work easier.

I should make time to analyse metrics… I just don’t. Am I being efficient? What about profitable? Are there ways I could be more of everything? I’m sure my reports are telling me where the gold is buried, if only I could read them!

The lesson for us both: Work out what you really want from your business. If you’re happy, that’s okay; but if you want more, you have to make that happen.

Be free, my fears. Be free!

I haven’t written this post to get smoke blown up my bum. I’ve written this post to let you know that no matter how confident someone appears, there is usually a fear cracking the whip somewhere.

I guess it’s how we react to our fear that determines the next step.

Some of these fears are still holding me back. Others, I’m getting better at kicking to the curb while I get on with being awesome (ha! That’s my confident self-talking – all my other selves are under the blanket stroking our favourite bear).

I invite you to get your inner-self out from under the desk and tell me your thoughts. Do we cross over? Do you have any other fears you want to set free? How do you overcome them?


P.S. If you’re really interested in banishing these fears, join my Confident Copywriting group. Mentoring, resources and training so you’re never under-booked or over-priced (to the right clients).

35 Responses

  1. Excellent article, Belinda! I think your ‘other copy writers might laugh one is funny’. We’re all too busy sipping scotch and nursing our broken dreams of being a novelist to watch each other that closely, I reckon. And those that do have too much time on their hands – time that would be far better spent trawling Facebook or G+. Jokes…

    My fears are that I will live a ‘little’ life, with no contribution to our society beyond a few better-written websites and blog posts. I’m fearful that I won’t have a giant adventure and be useful or relevant in the process. I’d like to be useful, beyond my immediate friends and family.

    1. Thanks for coming into my blanket fort Brook!

      Sounds like I should write like no one’s reading – because they aren’t! Right? Except the target audience I mean *cough cough*

      And thanks for sharing your fears. Life fears are another post altogether! But you’ve made me consider how much I compartmentalise my copywriting – and look for meaning outside of it. Your desire for leaving deeper mark on the world also got me thinking. I think I’ve been watching too many TV shows about the universe and see my life as such a small spec. With that perspective I try and make my little life bigger leaving an impression on the people I meet – and let them leave an impression on me. That’s pretty self-centred, I know. It’s a great objective to guide you though and something I shall ponder.

      I love your desire for a big adventure. I am all for those and I guess it’s why we’ve picked up sticks and move OS for a few years (for a few times). If nothing else, I can say “well I didn’t say no.”

      Fancy a cuddle of my teddy bear while you’re here?

      1. I’d love a cuddle, thanks.

        In relation to copy writing, I cope a lot of criticism from my father, who used to be a journalist. He occasionally hands me a compliment, but it’s always wedged within a “concern”. So I guess I have fairly thick skin insofar as my writing is concerned and I recognise that sometimes it’s happening, and sometimes it’s drivel.

        I do worry and are fearful over missing major arguments or points in articles, lest I appear to be a lazy, superficial, or a dilettante. (And we can’t have that!). I can recognise your desire for big adventure too. Working for yourself is certainly not for the faint-hearted!

  2. Great post Belinda and bravo for putting it all out there. I’m scared that I’ll never find a consistent confidence, that I’ll always be on this up-down rollercoaster of ‘I’m good at this, I can do it!’ one day to ‘This is probably never going to work’ on another. I want to be someone and run a business I’d admire if I weren’t me (me looking at me if you know what I mean!) and I’m scared maybe I won’t get there…. I also fear I’m not doing enough and aren’t committed enough to make it all work.

    1. Thanks for coming into the blanket fort Shauna!

      I’m glad I’m not the only one on the roller coaster. What a ride, huh? I feel ok as long as I’m enjoying it while I’m on it.

      I love your line about running a business and being a person that you’d admire. I really like that. I want the same but I’ve never articulated it like that before and my brain just went BOOM as a lot of things connected. So thank you for that.

      I believe that even THINKING about those values means you’re ahead. Some people just don’t. Ever. I also believe that what we’re talking about here are the things that drive us on to be so much better than than mediocre. So even if we feel like we’re behind so we’re so far ahead of the general pack. I might have to stick that up on the wall of the blanket fort.

      Thanks again for coming in. Stay for a serving of imaginary tea and cuddle of the bear.

      1. That was just what I needed to hear on this grey, rainy morning Belinda – thanks! I’m very new at this game – I need to remember that more. Nothing spectacular ever comes overnight (other than a lotto win and I’m still hoping for that one!) There’s some lovely company in this tent, thanks for letting us all in 😉

  3. Hi Belinda, Is there room in your blanket tent for me? I don’t have a problem calling myself a writer but copywriter scares me a little. It’s all a little too ‘Mad Men’ and I worry that I’m not good enough. (Now we’re getting to the crux of the matter.) I get this sneaking suspicion that maybe I’m punching above my weight and can’t really pull clever and pithy off, let alone be funny. There’s still that part of me smarting that my novel was stillborn but I’m smart enough to know matricide was the only sensible option. So I keep writing copy and consider maybe it’s time to think about a new novel. And then I get scared I’ll never write a novel . . . I think we need to find another blanket. This place is getting cramped.

    Great post, my friend.

    1. Of course there is! The blanket fort is actually a TARDIS and it’s freaking massive in here.

      I found myself nodding wildly to your comment – especially about copywriting being all a little too ‘Mad Men’. I’ve never worked in an agency and the idea terrifies me! I try and cover up my fear of not being clever, pithy or funny by saying (loudly) that copywriting should be clear not clever haha! When I read awesome copy and quickly remind myself that it’s an opportunity to learn so I add it to my swipe file for inspiration.

      It’s an ongoing battle between the voices in my head *big sigh* but that’s life!

      I love the fact that you can objectively let your first novel go. I think that’s good for the soul and will let you write the next one. In the regular meditation I’m doing, the guy explains that calmness is like blue sky. It’s *always* there above the clouds. Maybe that’s where your novel is – always there, ready for you to get through the clouds (so you don’t have to worry any more. You just have to be patient 😉

      Thanks for coming into my fort. Stay as long as you like friend!

      1. Well here’s a confession, Belinda. It’s pretty easy to be objective about your novel when you end up hating the characters. It wasn’t the sort of book where you could kill people off but I do appreciate the horror genre a lot more now. Shelving it didn’t seem too onerous. But that’s part of the fear – am I cut out for novel writing? Will my talents extend beyond the blog post? Oh dear, the voices are starting again.

        1. I’m avoiding this whole nest of fear by just saying, I’m not a writer. Case closed. haha.

          But then I suspect I’ll go and write a business book and that will throw all my categories into a jumble again. Never say never right?

          1. Oh, I thought you HAD to write a business book. Someone told me it was a required accessory these days for marketing people. I’m rebelling, feel free to join me.

  4. Belinda, I found you via the internet and have enjoyed your style of writing and your content very much. Showing your personality is what really “sells” you! Please keep on writing because I can learn a lot from you.

  5. I’m terrified of not being taken seriously. I refuse to call myself a copywriter because I’m not a marketer and no matter how much I learn about it, I still don’t feel confident enough to put that label on myself. I’m much happier with “content creator” and even writer, but copywriting scares me to death.

    1. Welcome to the blank fort Dorothy!

      It’s so interesting that you and Sarah feel the weight of the copywriter label while I feel the weight of the writer label. I’m so glad I get the chance to see this through another lens. It makes the labels even more insignificant. Ok, maybe not. I’m still working through the labels 😉

  6. Thanks Belinda. It’s comforting to know that even the Copy Detective has a blanket fort!

    So relieved to find I’m not the only one who’s plagued with the fear of inadequacy.

    I’m just starting out as a copywriter and have a mental image of you, Kate Toon and Glenn Murray looking over my shoulder and critiquing everything I write. I even started writing my website with the unconscious aim of impressing other copywriters- but then had to remind myself you’re not actually my target audience!

    Thanks for your ‘Lesson for us both’ – “There are always going to be people who know more. Don’t let that stop you writing, and never stop learning. ” I’ve written this out and stuck it on my computer screen!

    1. Oh yes, Kym. Oooh yes. I try not to dwell on these feelings for too long but I think it’s important to bring them out into the light lest they spread.

      I imagine Kate Toon and Glenn Murray looking over my shoulder too! And a bunch of other awesome copywriters I chat with regularly. Damn their busy body eyes!! But as Brook (a fantastic copywriter) highlighted, they (and we) are all too busy fostering drinking problems and lamenting our own feelings on inadequacy to really look at what other copywriters are publishing.

      That said, just the thought of them makes me read my copy one more time, looking for improvements to make and words to cut. So whether they’re looking or not, I hope my writing is improving because of them.

      On websites, I’m thinking about rejigging mine and after reading your comment, I realise I was designing it for other copywriters! I had never thought of that before and I’m so glad you said it. They aren’t my target market either! haha

      Thanks for coming into the blanket fort. Feel free to stick around. There’s plenty of space and imaginary tea.

  7. Great advice as always Belinda. I’m not a copywriter but have dabbled in writing on my blog for my Virtual Assistant business. In another life (Gov’t jobs) I’ve done several writing courses so think I have a bit of a feel for it, but always like learning and watching what the ‘specialists’ do. So your Fear #3 is mine! I think it’s important to find your ‘style’ and stick with it. I’ve recently started writing some blog posts for an accountant,just from a couple of ideas from her in the form of dot points. I know nothing about accountancy, but she likes my ‘style’ which reflects hers and is happy, so I’m happy. Would love to know if you offer courses or even webinars so I can learn more. As for Fear #4, I think you need a Virtual Assistant…then you could write all day! 😉 Shauna.

    1. Welcome to the blanket fort Shauna!

      I agree about finding your style but versatility is also important as you have to be able to speak in your clients’ brand voice. When they match up – it makes it super easy. I know my own conversational style of copywriting has attracted many clients because my style fits with theirs.

      It’s funny you should ask about webinars or courses as I’m putting something together this year. In the meantime, I’m rebooting my YouTube tutorials at I’ll be posting once a month!

      Thanks for coming into the blanket fort and all the best with your continued writing. Watch this space for news of my copywriting courses.

      PS I actually have a wonderful VA, who frees up a lot of time for me. The problem is these pesky clients (JOKES 😉

      1. Thanks so much Belinda! Yes agreed about using the clients’ brand voice. That’s a big thing for me as a VA when doing diary and email management and phone calls as well. Glad you have a VA bet she’s a gun!

  8. Know where you’re coming from Belinda! I think the best thing to do is to just keep plugging on – keep writing & ask for feedback from people who know how to advise you to write better, and who won’t have ulterior motives for misleading you.

    1. I agree Tom. I love the community of copywriters and other business owners I connect with on social media. There is no feeling of being in competition with each other. Instead, we all support and share and makes us all better!

      Thanks for stopping into the blanket fort 🙂

  9. I think we have fears because we’re in such a subjective line of work. I don’t think there is one client who, after receiving copy from me has said – “This is perfect, I have not changed a word”. It is always- I changed a bit here, and added some stuff there. And while I am now okay and dismissive of this (they paid me money, it’s theirs to do with what they will), it takes a tiny bite out of me each time they ‘add’ something or ‘change’ something.
    And the delay between sending off a client’s work and them getting back to me saying- I like it? Utter torture!
    In regards to being a writer, this is one of mine too. I am a writer. I have written 13 novels. “But are you published?” Yes, once, self-publishedn and e-book only. “Oh, so you don’t have a book on the shelves? Oh, so a publishing company didn’t take you on? How can you be a writer?”
    I also have written articles, blog posts, websites, newsletters, and other stuff. So, yes, I am a writer, by MY definition. Not by the ‘standard’ definition of other people- oh, why dont you write poetry? Why arent you published? Waah.
    This definition of mine is being challenged again, by people wanting me to show them how to write, to TEACH them how to write.
    But, how am I qualified? I’m not published!

    This is a great article, I relate to it so much. Well done

    1. Hey Matthew and welcome to the blanket fort. Thanks for coming in!

      Ah the sweet agony of waiting for feedback. I’m going through that right now. I suspect the client is just busy but there is a voice in my heart saying, you know she thinks it’s crap don’t you? I’m just trying to keep that voice as quiet as possible. it’s an unproductive little shit.

      You know what I think they sweet spot is? When a client has a few changes to the copy but not heaps. Enough to make you reassess the copy with a critical eye and look for improvements but not so much you have to rewrite the whole thing. The client feels part of the process and our ego is massaged. It’s a WIN-WIN.

      I’m not surprised to learn (from all the comments here) that we all have different definitions of a writer. I remember Valerie Khoo telling me that when she introduced herself as a writer, one of her friends would always add, “oh but she’s just a journalist”. Those kind of friends need a slap, bless them. You’re right to hold true to your definition and give people a big raspberry when they question it.

      Help yourself to imaginary tea (it’s laced with schnapps) and a bear to cuddle 🙂

      1. When I left my 9-5 prison, the first ‘work day’, after the weekend, I built a blanket fort in the lounge and hid. T’was a very scary thing I was doing.
        I am about to face that fear of- justification of being a writer. I’m going to be giving seminars on HOW to write, write articles, write short stories, novels, stuff like that. And I am wondering how long it will take for someone to say- but how can you be an authority if you’re not traditionally published? If you don’t have a whole shelf of your own books?
        The people who are looking at WORKING with me to present are totally confident in my ability to be a writer. it is the people who are going to spend money to see me who will be the more critical. I hope not, but, I can be paranoid, sure.
        I have brought my own Stitch cuddly toy. He is one of my spirit animals 😉

  10. I realize this is a very old post, but I loved reading it. It gave me a giggle because I could actually hear your voice and personality through the words and if that’s not good writing, I don’t know what is. xox

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