business of freelancing

How to increase your luck as a freelancer

By May 9, 2018 June 29th, 2019 12 Comments

You know that saying about how you make your own luck? Well, it turns out it’s true. And it’s not through vision boards or manifesting (although I do know people who swear by them), but by applying a few principles that have been scientifically proven. I know this all sounds a bit woo-woo, so let me explain how freelance writers can enhance their luck (and how it’s worked for me). 

How to increase your luck as a freelance writer

The very idea of luck is that things happen by chance rather than from your own actions.

But (and this may be familiar to those who were at the Launceston Freelance Festival because I talked about this a little bit in my presentation), luck is actually much more malleable than we think.

You can, in fact, create your own luck.

So whether you are trawling freelance writing sites in the hope of finding a gig, looking at freelance writing jobs online or pitching editors, there are proven ways to increase your luck. 

Towards the end of last year, I started to take stock of my first year as a full time freelance writer. I had exceeded my expectations in terms of income, relationships with editors and clients and had learnt so much about running a small business.

I kept thinking; I am so lucky.  

I would say it to anyone who would listen. 

I’ve been so lucky this year. Lucky to have been on Twitter at just the right time to see an editor’s callout, lucky to have a freelance friend who recommended me to an editor, lucky to re-establish contact with an editor who then commissioned me and lucky to be able to do what I love. 

But as I was saying how lucky I was I was reminded of this article about the science of luck. If you don’t want to read it all, here’s a quick summary:

UK academic Richard Wiseman studied the lives of 400 people who described themselves as exceptionally lucky or unlucky. Over a 10-year period beginning in 1993 he found that feeling lucky is central to people’s happiness.

But Wiseman also found that we have more control over our own luck than we might think. He identified some basic principles that anyone can use to make their own good fortune.

And I’m going to tell you how I (unwittingly) created my own luck last year. 

Chance opportunities

Wiseman says that lucky people consistently encounter and act upon chance opportunities whereas unlucky people don’t.

He did a simple experiment where he asked people to select whether they considered themselves to be lucky or unlucky. Then he gave both groups a newspaper, asked them to look through and count how many photographs were inside. 

How long do you think each group took?

Unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs.

Lucky people? They were done in mere seconds. 

How is that possible, right?

On the second page of the newspaper was a message (it took up half the page) that said “Stop counting – there are 43 photographs in this newspaper”. 

The unlucky people tended to miss it because they were so busy counting images.

They missed the chance opportunity. 

They were so consumed by the task that they didn’t allow themselves to see what else was happening. 

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through the Telum Media Alert (which I really recommend signing up to if you’re not already) and I saw an editor’s name that I didn’t recognise. Now that’s not uncommon, but I noticed that this editor worked for a publishing house that produces lots of travel content.

After I did a bit of research I realised that most of the publications she edited were cruise related, and well, just thinking about being on the ocean makes me seasick, so it’s not like I thought this was my lucky day. 

But for whatever reason, I thought it may be worth connecting with this editor on LinkedIn. I sent her a quick message with an invitation to connect and she wrote back immediately saying that she was looking for a Victorian food and travel writer who could write a story for one of their publications and asked if I was interested. Of course I said yes.

I spoke to her last week on the phone and she said again how happy she was that I had reached out to her. And I’m happy too! 

I think this example illustrates what Wiseman’s experiment found – that if you are open to chance opportunities and willing to break your normal routine (I would never usually reach out to an editor of cruise magazines), then I think you’ll find luck will be on your side. 

Embrace your inner extrovert

I am not an extrovert by any means. While I love being with people, I feel drained by large groups and lots of talking, and need time alone to recharge (I think I’m probably an ambivert).

Wiseman found that extroverts tended to be luckier than introverts, but all hope is not lost if you prefer the company of your cat to the company of others. 

Extroverts are usually luckier because they tend to meet more people and have a wider social circle.

And you know what else they do?

They keep in contact with the people they meet so good fortune seems to come their way more easily. 

It makes sense. When you want a recommendation for a physiotherapist, hairdresser or any other professional, you’re likely to yes, Google it, but you’re also likely to ask people you know who they would suggest. So if you expand your network and maintain those relationships you’re also likely to be top of mind when an editor or client is looking for a writer.

I found that when I made a conscious decision to get to know more writers and also keep in touch with editors and clients, I got lucky.

I was top of mind when editors needed to assign a story and other freelancers recommended me to friends who were looking for a freelance writing coach simply because I had kept in touch. 

I didn’t do any of this stuff because I thought it would benefit me and my business, but now that I’ve read Wiseman’s research I can really see how you can use these strategies to enhance your own luck.

Science says that you can engineer good luck to a certain extent.

What would it look like if for the next month you started thinking and behaving like a lucky person?

According to the research, acting lucky means:

Being open to new experiences

Breaking your normal routines

Trusting your instincts

Adapting to adversity (I think this is particularly pertinent for freelancers who feel stung by rejections or silence from editors)

Wiseman asked his participants to do this for a month and at the end of the month, 80 per cent said they felt luckier and happier than ever better. 

It’s worth a try, isn’t it?

Do you think of yourself as a lucky person? Could you try any of Wiseman’s strategies to increase your luck as a freelancer?

 

12 Comments

  • Chloe Braithwaite says:

    Great article! And so true. I’ve always found that people who are proactive are the luckiest.

    I’ve always felt a bit weird reaching out to people I don’t know on LinkedIn though. Do you have an example of how you would do so (i.e. what your message to an editor would be)?

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks Chloe 🙂

      So on LinkedIn, I usually send a very short message with my invitation to connect.

      I say something like: "Hi Jo, my name is Lindy and I’m a freelance writer specialising in X [I make sure it links to the area they work in or I say where I’m based]. I’m wondering if you’d like to connect here on LinkedIn?"

      That’s it. With the editor I mentioned in this post I said that I was a freelance travel and food writer based just outside of Melbourne and asked if she would like to connect. Oh, and I said that I had seen her mentioned in the Telum Alert.

  • Claire says:

    What an interesting post. I think of myself as lucky, but I’m definitely an introvert. I have to make myself to go up and talk to people, but I’ve found it easier to do when meeting people in the writing world because I’m quite motivated. I tell myself to stop thinking and just go and do it. I’m definitely a believer that we make can make our own luck to a certain extent. Getting ‘out there’, out of my comfort zone is a part of that. I remember when I first started interviewing people, my partner looked at me in surprise and said, ‘You?!’ But because I wanted to write, I made myself do it, and I really learned so much from some very lovely and friendly people. I CAN speak to strangers! Online as well, I’ve stopped agonising over every sentence, as to whether it will be misunderstood, or offend someone, or seem too pushy, I just press ‘Send’ and get on with the next thing.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      I like that Claire – I think removing the thinking aspect really helps with taking action! It’s amazing the obstacles we can overcome when we are motivated, eh? Good for you.
      And I think I could probably learn from you about not agonising over everything online!

      • Maybe you’re still too young, Lindy ! 😉

        I find that I too have stopped agonizing over a lot of things as I get older. There’s so much I want to do! I just try and do my best, be respectful and clear in what I express-and press ‘send’, just like Claire! I usually get great answers online-or none! -and that’s OK.

        I’ve recently reached out to someone about doing an internship on her farm (at age 46!) and someone else on how to access/convince their publisher. I just roll with my motivation and do not make assumptions about how people might react-as advised in the 4 Toltec agreements.

        2 weeks into the ‘experiment’, I do not know if I feel luckier! I try and learn from every experience, and that’s just as valuable, be it success or failure.

        xoxo

        AL

        • Lindy Alexander says:

          That’s the first time someone has called me young in the last few years Anne-Liesse! 🙂

          I love your philosophy and it’s obviously serving you well – perhaps everything you were already doing meant that you were "lucky" already. I’ll look forward to hearing how you feel in 2 more weeks and if anything has changed.

  • Anne-Liesse Persehaye says:

    Hi Lindy!

    I feel so lucky to have found your blog! I do not regard myself as a lucky person or professional- or unlucky, for that matter!! In fact, it has taken a lot of hard work and networking to get where I am today (I’m an introvert so networking is not the most natural thing to me, except when it’s about meeting people I’m curious about, without having an agenda). I’ll definitely try and to the experiment for a month! Thanks for this post.

    Love from France!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hello Anne-Liesse, thanks as always, for your lovely comment. Yes do try the experiment and check back in next month and let me know how you went!

  • Michaela Fox says:

    LOVE this post. Isn’t that experiment so fascinating?! I feel that as I get older I am becoming less of an extrovert and more of an introvert. Or perhaps I am just exhausted!!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Yes, isn’t it amazing? I was so interested in those findings. It makes total sense. I have read that our level of extroversion/introversion can change throughout our life. So perhaps you are becoming more introverted Michaela, but yes, I reckon extreme tiredness probably plays a big role!

  • What a fascinating post. I loved the study about counting images. This also rings true:
    "Adapting to adversity (I think this is particularly pertinent for freelancers who feel stung by rejections or silence from editors)"

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks so much Louise! I almost couldn’t believe the part about counting the images, but then I remembered the selective attention experiment (do you know that one? with the basketballers? If not, I’ll find it and put a link here).

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