10 Best Tips For Aspiring Freelance Writers
So you want to become a freelance writer?
There are many good reasons to become a freelance writer. Freelance writers get to work for themselves, set their own hours and vacation time (and often their fees); they work for who they choose to work for, and they can work wherever they like – from the comfort of their own home to a boat drifting off a Caribbean harbour.
The term “freelancer” is actually medieval, and was first used to describe a free lance (basically a knight) who chose who they wanted to fight for in battle. In essence, they were mercenaries who had no allegiances to anyone, and were free to come and go as they wished. They switched sides often, and enjoyed total freedom.
In more modern times, we don’t think of freelancers as being mercenaries any longer (you don’t have to don a knight costume, don’t worry), but they still enjoy the same amount of freedom to choose who they work for.
I work as a freelance writer, so I know how much of a good life freelance writers have. I am able to balance my work and personal life much better than if I was stuck in a 9-5 job, and I can essentially make as much money or as little as I want each week.
What I also know is that succeeding as a freelance writer takes a lot of effort, skill and passion. It doesn’t come easily. If you want to make it in the competitive freelancing world, here are 10 tips:
While you’re procrastinating, your competitors are racing ahead.
While you’re left with an absolute pile of work at the end of the week because you spent most of it putting things off, your competitors are heading off on a weekend getaway because they knuckled down and got things done.
I know that it can be really easy to procrastinate when you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck in the office. With no one watching over you, it’s tempting to head over to YouTube and watch a few videos instead of cracking on with work.
But if you want to succeed, you absolutely cannot give into procrastination.
It’s like the horror writer Stephen King once said: “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
It’s true. And once you’ve made that start, you won’t look back. Trust me.
Develop A Website
Your competitors all have websites through which they’re building up a strong online presence and getting more work. You need to do the same.
Don’t Get Defensive When Your Work Is Criticised
When I first started out as a freelance writer five years ago, I came from a very academic background. I majored in English Literature at University, and as such my language was very flowery and poetic.
It’s safe to say that it didn’t go down too well with clients who wanted me to use language that was simple and actionable. While I was asking readers to “bask in the effervescence of life” my clients just wanted me to get straight to the point with a simple “call this number for a better life” line.
I’ll be honest – it took me a long time to adapt and change my language to suit different target audiences. At first, I reacted badly when clients criticised me. But I know now that they were just encouraging me to broaden my skill set and do better.
Take on board all criticism, and adapt. You’re not yet the best writer in the world, but if you listen to what clients are telling you, you will eventually become a star.
I read a lot because it makes me a better writer. Exposing yourself to a variety of styles is a great way of improving your own style. You learn more about tone, too, as well as how to engage audiences.
Just like soccer players watch clips of the best soccer players to improve their own game, you should read what the best writers are doing to improve yours.
Create A Strong Cover Letter
Yes, even freelance writers have to have cover letters. You still need to apply for work, after all.
In fact, your cover letter becomes even more important now that you’re a freelance writer. After all, it’s a piece of writing and clients will expect it to be above average. If yours is worse than a cover letter they once read by an unusually poetic plumber, you’re in trouble.
So devote a good amount of time to writing yours.
Have Some Belief
Being a freelancer can be scary at first because you’ve not got the safety net that your friends in regular jobs have. You don’t have a contract, and as such you can never be sure how much money you’re going to be making from one month to the next. You might make X amount this month and Y amount the next.
So, yes, it’s a bit scary. But think of it like this – lots of other writers who you’re just as good as are making a good living out of being a freelance writer. So why can’t you?
Believing in yourself is the first step to making this work. It sounds really simplistic, but if you believe in yourself enough, you will really do it. I know this from experience, as do a heap of other successful freelancers.
Write, Write, Write
What are you doing right now?
Reading this? Oh. Okay.
But once you’re done, get writing.
And keep writing. It’s the only way to hone your craft. Writing should not be just a passion – it should be an obsession.
Develop A Knack For Writing Fast
I’m the kind of writer who can knock out 2,000 words an hour if the brief is right. I’m not saying that to show off, I’m saying it to show you that it’s possible to write quicker than you are doing right now.
Fast writers make more money than slow writers. The math is simple – the more you can do in an hour, the more you can do in a day. Therefore, the more money you will end up with.
The best way to learn how to write faster is to practice typing all the time. But you should also consider making changes to your diet so that you have more energy, discarding any distractions, boosting your mood so that you’re always in the zone, as well as working from somewhere you know you can focus in.
When I first started out as a freelance writer, I didn’t really have any definite goals. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. I just sort of stumbled into it a few years back.
But after a few months of making a decent amount of money, I saw the potential to actually make a living out of this. And I knew that if I was to have any sort of long-term success, I would have to start setting goals.
So I started to set goals. For the next few months I decided that I would double my work load. Then, I doubled my work load again after those few months had ended.
I was always testing the waters to see how much work I could handle, and it turned out that I could handle a lot. Because by working so much more than I was at the beginning, I had learned my craft so that I was writing at double the speed. It all became second nature to me.
One of the reasons you’ll hear about freelance writers making a lot of money is that their skill is very specialist. But also, the freelance writer will usually have already spent a lot of money on books and courses in getting to their current skill level. Their knowledge usually didn’t come for free.
As such, a client is paying for all that expertise. To get that kind of expertise, too, you should consider taking some copy writing courses. You could also buy some books on the topic, too.