I hope you didn’t click on this post and get too upset to see that Alexa didn’t write it 🙂 I’m somewhat of a newbie freelance writer, but I’ve been learning a ton since I got started earlier this year.
I work as a professional copywriter at my day job – helping businesses find their voice and establish their brand on the web – and I work as a freelance writer developing content that I am truly passionate about for clients in the evening and on weekends.
As a freelance writer, I’ve been able to secure a great network of clients and double my rate all in just a few short months. It’s been an amazing journey so far and I’m grateful to have learned about the dos and don’ts of this industry early on.
So whether you’re a newbie freelance writer, or a seasoned veteran, these 8 tips will certainly help set you up for success in this field.
1. Write Passionately or Don’t Write at All
It’s no secret that if you want to land jobs as a writer, your work has to stand out and speak for itself. You can have 10 years of experience in the field, but if you’re writing samples suck, you’re not going to get the job.
A lot of freelance writers run their own blog as well and that’s a perfect way to get your writing seen and shared by others. I love having my own blog because it gives me a space to write about topics that I’m truly passionate about and passionate writing = stellar content. If you don’t put your all into your work and post low quality writing, readers and potential clients will easily see that and stray away from your content.
2. Allow Time To Get Creative
When you’re writing for the web, you have to be engaging and unique or else people won’t take the time out of their day to read what you have to say.
Most of my clients give me plenty of room to write creatively and expect me to generate my own topic ideas. At first I thought Hey, I’ve got plenty of ideas so this should be easy. Then it started to overwhelm me. Coming up with topic ideas for your own blog is fine, but if you’re writing 15-20 posts a month and have 5+ clients to generate ideas for, your creative juices can easily run dry.
This is why it’s important to give yourself some downtime to brainstorm topic ideas. Once a week I sit down and jot down topic ideas for each of my clients then I form the best ones into eye-catching headlines. Back when I didn’t organize topic ideas and just went with the flow I would sit down to write and be stuck for at least 30 minutes while I looked around the room in hopes of some inspiration for a topic idea. Talk about a waste of time.
3. Get Organized Now, Or Regret It Later
When you treat your freelance writing hustle like a business (as you should), you’ll want to get organized as soon as possible. Create email folders for each of your clients, organize your topic ideas in a spreadsheet, keep a running calendar of deadlines, and keep track of the pitches you send out so you can know when to follow up with prospects.
Getting organized as soon as you start freelancing will save you a lot of time and stress. While your job is to make your clients’ lives easier by delivering quality content, you also don’t want to run yourself ragged by being all over the place.
4. Be Responsive
Being responsive when someone reaches out to you is a professional trait that will help you stand out among others. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t leave a client or anyone for that matter hanging for more than 24 hours.
I make it a habit to respond much sooner since I check my email several times per day. It’s understandable that life can get busy and hectic, but if you make it a habit to be very responsive it will speed up the process and your client will be grateful to you.
5. Complete Your Work Early Each Time
The use of deadlines drives this industry. You have to meet your deadlines if you want to be a successful freelance writer, there’s just no way around it. To ensure that you meet your deadlines every time, a good rule of thumb is to always set them one day after you expect to complete your work.
If a client sets them for you, try to finish and edit your work a day ahead of time and submit it. Being early is far better than being late and I always live by this technique because I know that sh%* happens. If a heavy storm came in and blew out your power and you had a post due that evening, you would just be out of luck. Procrastinating is so high school so be dependable by planning your workload around your deadlines so that you are never late.
6. Read Your Work Aloud
Writing is one of the hardest things to do flawlessly. I mean that in regards to grammar and spelling. I studied communications and journalism all throughout college and I even took an intensive copyediting course and guess what? I still make typos. We’re all human, it’s going to happen.
But when you make typos and grammatical mistakes consistently when you’re being paid to write a solid piece, it just makes you and the client look bad. The best way to spot typos and poorly structured sentences is to read your writing out loud so you can actually hear it. Computers don’t pick up on everything and this little trick will help you out every time.
7. Accept Criticism and Follow Directions
You need to have thick skin in this business. Accepting criticism (whether it’s constructive or not) is a big part of that. While constructive criticism is definitely more helpful, you can still learn something valuable from others’ complaints and even rejection.
As a freelancer, you have to constantly prove yourself and ensure that clients are receiving value from working with you. When a client has feedback for you it’s important to listen and apply it whether it’s positive or not.
Knowing that my clients are very experienced and have built a successful and profitable business, I try to soak up whatever I can learn from them and it improves the quality of my work.
I recently received an extensive style guide from a new client and I was impressed but slightly overwhelmed with how detailed it was. Nevertheless I embraced the challenge and took the extra time to follow the guide step-by-step and it’s improved my writing greatly.
Following strict directions and accepting criticism will sometimes force you to step out of your comfort zone and that’s when you will really start to improve.
8. Tell the World You Are Looking For Writing Jobs
Part of being a freelance writer is promoting yourself and your services. It’s the best way to get quality jobs. You can spread the word in a number of ways by posting on social media, telling friends and family verbally, and showcasing your skills on your own blog or website if you have one.
Developing a ‘hire me’ page on my blog was the best thing I could have done because now, everyone who comes across my site will know that I’m a freelance writer for hire. My first official client actually approached me before I even started sending out pitches. It was nice to have someone email me about paying me to write instead of having to pitch them about my skills and services.
Overall, it’s not just the writing aspect that helps you succeed, there are plenty of factors that can help you obtain ideal jobs and build your freelancing career.
So freelancers, how are you setting yourselves up for success?
If you’re interested in learning more about freelance writing my friend Elna has just opened a new course. Elna was able to earn up to $300 per post in her first year as a freelance writer. Now she’s teaching new writer’s how to earn their first $1,000 in her new course Writeto$1k.