Entrepreneur Interview Series with Toni of Defend The Pen

Defend The Pen Owner

Toni comes to us from Defend The Pen, a site full of resources for freelance writers and journalists

Read the introduction to this series here.

What made you want to start on this venture?

I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid. It started with poems, and then short stories and eventually, I was keeping journals. I’ve always been a writer. It just took me until a few years ago to realize it was something people would REALLY pay me to do.

I’ve been a freelance for four crazy years, and I can’t see myself as anything else but a writer.


How long did it take you to decide to take the first step towards change?

 As long as it did to read the email where I was offered $50 per article. That was my third job offer. I was fired from my first writing gig and at that point, writing for pay was something I was just doing until I could get a real job.

But it was perfectly timed. I was caring for my grandmother, who was dying of cancer. I was the only family member really available to be there for her 24/7, but we needed money. Freelancing allowed me to be able to earn extra money for groceries and later to help with bills.

What were some of the things that hold you back from taking chances or making changes?

 The problem isn’t making changes, except for taking chances. That’s something I need to work on. I need to be more daring about the writing opportunities I go out for. A lot of the times, I start talking myself out of applying for writing jobs before I even get to the end of the job post!

I am a good writer. A damn good writer. I know this and yet at the same time, I DON’T know it when I NEED to know it. I need to silence that inner critic that’s always questioning my audacity to write for others and to be a self-employed person.

What tips do you have for building yourself up when self-doubt and negativity take over?

 When that harsh inner critic starts up, I immediately cut if off. I always challenge those negative thoughts and beliefs with positive thoughts and affirmations.

I don’t think it’s healthy to go through life insulting and putting yourself down. You should always challenge the voice that says, “You’re not good enough. You’re a fraud. You have no business doing this, etc.” Allowing those thoughts to exist unchallenged inside of you is toxic.

The best weapon of all is loving yourself. Allow yourself to exist as an imperfect person. Even when things go wrong or you don’t look the way some think you should look. Love yourself enough to say, “That’s okay! I am me. The best me that I can be, and I will give as much love to others as I’d want others to give to me.”

How do you feel about your success at this point?

 Some days I feel like I’m a great success. Other times, I feel like I’m not exactly where I want to be. I can acknowledge that I’ve accomplished amazing things despite painful circumstances.

I can say that I’ve learned and grown so much and I’m inspired to see where this crazy journey as a writer and blogger will take me.

To be honest, I think every day that I’m truly able to live the life I want to and earn a living as a writer, I’m a success.

What kinds of things lead to feelings of burn out for you? How do you deal with that?

I think it’s very easy for me to get burned out if I take on too much work. For instance, accepting way more freelance writing job offers than I can handle. I might also get discouraged if things continuously don’t go the way I want them to.

What forms of self-care do you find work best for you?

 I meditate, listen to positive affirmations, take some time out for myself to just breathe. I did yoga for a while, but I haven’t done it lately. I need to get back into the swing of things!


When you know the next step to get where you want to be is going to require taking a chance that scares you, how do you prepare yourself to take the leap? Or do you just go for it?

I cry, I pray, I listen to Julie Andrews’ “I Have Confidence” and then I go for it. Perhaps not in that order.

What are you afraid of in relation to this venture? 

 I don’t have anything to be afraid of at this point. I’ve already connected with others, which is exactly what I wanted to do. I said that if at least one person says, “Thanks, this was a big help!” and meant it, then I succeeded. The goal now is to expand the reach of my blog, earn more as a freelancer, and to work towards my travel goals.

What is your favorite positivity practice or quote?

 My favorite quote is the moral to the Tortoise and the Hare: Slow and steady wins the race. It’s a personal mantra, a reminder that I should always treat the outcome of my goals as an inevitability. I don’t need to rush to the finish line; the finish line will always be there for me to cross. What matters is I keep going. If I put one foot in front of the other, I’ll get to the place I intend to be in life.