June 21, 2021
In this freelance writing advice post, freelance writers share their number-one tip for becoming a successful freelance writer. For many experienced freelancers, it was so hard to choose one piece of advice to dish out since there’s so much freelancers learn after being in this career for a few years.
ICYMI, I interviewed some freelance writer friends for their freelancing advice in several freelance writing blog posts. We covered “What I Wish I Knew about Freelancing 5 Years Ago,” “Freelance Writers’ Definitions of Success” and “Freelance Writers Share Their Summer Goals.” (And don’t forget to check out these freelance faqs if you have burning freelance questions you need answered.)
Here’s the one piece of advice freelance writers would share with freelance beginners.
“I have two number-one tips for freelance writing success and how to get started freelancing: 1.) Be persistent, and 2.) make connections with other writers, especially freelance writers in your niche. When it comes to being persistent, you can never let up, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been freelancing for several years. Be persistent in your pursuit of stories you know are solid (or finding ones that are), marketing yourself to potential clients, and getting the income you want. When it comes to making connections, freelancing can be a lonely business. Getting to know other writers in your niche can help you attract higher-paying freelance clients (via referrals), compare your rate to the average, get new story ideas, and meet some cool people.” – Lauren Bedosky, Freelance Health and Fitness Writer
“Leave the house! As a freelancer with small kids, the days I work I find I’m way more productive outside the house. Hearing every cry (or whine) can be distracting and make you feel guilty that you’re not downstairs helping. Even if my kids are out and I’m working at home I’m more likely to try to multi-task with laundry, cleaning, walking the dog, or something else. Since I’ve been freelancing I make it a point twice a week to either go to a coffee shop or reserve a study room at my local library that acts as my personal office for the day. I crank out twice as much content as I would if I were in my dining room.” – Colleen Travers, Freelance Writer and Editor (Here’s how a freelancer scales her business working 10 hours a week.)
“Don’t be afraid to turn down an assignment, whether you’re too busy, or if the fee is too low. As an assigning editor over the years, I’ve never held it against a writer—and that’s what I remind myself now that I am on the other end of things. Another freelance writing assignment will come along, and it will likely be one you want. “– Melanie Mannarino, Editor, Writer, Content Strategist (Here’s how to pitch an article to a magazine.)
“Diversifying your income as a freelancer is one of my top freelance writing tips. In my past nine years as a freelancer, I have seen countless publications fold, get bought out, switch up staff–the list goes on. One great thing about being a freelancer is that you can be largely immune to the negative effects of an ever-changing industry. However, that’s only possible if you keep your client roster diverse. As a rule, I never let more than 20 percent of my income be tied to any one publisher, publication, or assigning editor. That way, if the company’s freelance budget shifts or the company lays off the staff members with whom I worked, it’s not a huge hit to my bottom line, and I can easily make up that money elsewhere.” – K. Aleisha Fetters, Freelance Writer, Editor, Personal Trainer
“Create a routine and avoid distractions. When you’re working for yourself, it’s easy to come up with excuses to run errands during the day, or take a 10 a.m. yoga class that turns into a stroll to the coffee shop, which morphs into lunch with a friend, etc. Once I started to be stricter with myself about sitting down and churning out content and article pitches on a schedule, I had better luck as a writer. I’ve started to write more on weekends, too, which has turned out to be a great time for me to think creatively. Also, find somewhere you don’t have Wi-Fi!” – Locke Hughes, Freelance Writer (Here’s how beginners can work faster.)
“Convince yourself why you can be a successful freelance writer instead of the opposite. When I was transitioning to full-time freelance I kept using the excuse that watching my son at home and working meant that I’d be earning a lot less. I quickly realized that if I kept thinking that, then I won’t earn up to my full potential. Since then, I write in a journal every week of all the actions I take that prove I can do this and it’s been amazing to see that I’ve surpassed every freelance goal I’ve set for myself.” – Sarah Li Cain, Multimedia Content Creator (What Skills Do You Need to Make Six Figures a Year?)
Don’t accept low-paying assignments.
“Know your worth, and be willing to say no, even if your workload is light. You will kick yourself if you take something that pays below your typical rate–and more work WILL come along. Plus, the more we all demand what we are worth, the better the rates will be for all of us. So don’t ever hesitate to ask for more money and what you are worth–you’ll often get it.” – Brittany Risher, Digital Strategist, Editor, Writer (Psst! Try these 5 tips to make more money freelance writing.)
Set whatever office hours work best for you and stick with them. Your contacts are your most valuable asset. Schedule time to foster these relationships. They are your readers, your clients, and where you might hear of the next great story you’ll write about.” – Brenda Kissko, Freelance Writer
“Be open to challenging yourself by tackling a subject matter you know nothing about and stretching your boundaries. Too often we think we can’t write about something that’s unknown, new or out of our comfort zone; but all you really need are the skills that make you a good writer to begin with: perseverance, good researching skills and creativity (with a bit of confidence thrown in). You can often learn enough about something new to sound like an expert. ‘Fake it till you make it’ really works!” –Sheryl Kraft, Freelance Journalist (Learn how to come up with new article ideas.)
“It takes hard work to get started freelancing! Don’t expect freelancing to be “less work,” even though it gives you the freedom to virtually work whenever you want to. You will likely wind up working longer hours and more often than when you worked full-time for a company—but that’s the beauty of freelancing! If you truly love the work—which you should or otherwise you should be doing something else!—it will instantly feel worthwhile.” – Jenn Sinrich, freelance journalist, writer and content strategist
“I have two number-one tips for how to get started freelancing. One is, if you write for others (e.g., take on freelance writing projects), stay consistent with your marketing plan. Every freelance writer has dry spells, but if you market consistently, these will be less frequent. My #2 number 1 tip is, figure out what works for you as a freelance writer. What I mean by that is, for example, I’m a hybrid freelance writer. I write for myself (self-publishing fiction and non-fiction eBooks), and I write for others (although that’s very infrequent these days). One of the best things I ever did as a freelancer was branch and out and develop my own products and services. It allowed me to raise my freelance writing rates, take on only the projects I wanted to take on, and still keep my income consistent (eventually). Now, I’m not saying this is easy. It took me about three years to make the switch from mostly writing for others to mostly writing for myself. And I took an income cut because I turned down work to work on my own projects (eBooks, ecourse development), which took some time to start earning regularly but it was worth it. One bonus tip I’d add is, embrace a frugal lifestyle and become a prolific saver – no matter what kind of freelancing you do. This will make those dry spells so much less stressful. And, you’ll have other options, like charging what you think you’re worth. This can do wonders for your self-confidence, which means you’ll attract the right kind of clients, which means you’ll be earning more, which means you can save more, which means you’ll have time to develop other streams of income (if you so choose), etc.” – Yuwanda Black, Author, Publisher, InkwellEditorial.com.
Scope of work changes, clients’ needs grow, and work funnels meander. The life of the freelancer is one of incredible freedom but also one of ebbs and flows. If you’re the type to be comfortable with variety (and are even energized by it), this style of working will suit you well.” – Laura Vrcek, Content Brand Journalist, Ghostwriter
My advice to someone who wants to get started freelancing? Simply begin. I’ll walk you through the steps to become a successful freelancer in this Get Paid to Write freelance writing online course.
Find out how much freelancers get paid here.
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