After having been in the biz for over 20 years, I’ve seen it all. As a freelance writer making 1 cent per word all the way to becoming the Managing Director of Article-Writing.co, I’ve experience both sides of the literal coin. The freelance business is truly not for the faint of heart. It requires hard work, determination, a can-do attitude, and most of all, integrity. Not everyone can succeed as a freelance writer and the main cause is a lack of trying. Here are eight steps to succeeding as a freelance writer.
Step 1: Have integrity, or in other words, do what you say you will do
In my two years as a Managing Editor, I’ve heard the best excuses for why work isn’t completed:
- I was stuck at the airport/on a flight (in other words: the bar)
- I had a medical emergency (studies show that 1 out of every 10 writers has a medical emergency on the day of a deadline)
- My laptop got a virus
- I didn’t realize the deadline was a commitment to getting the work done
- I didn’t open your email because I was busy
- My teenager is sick and needs me to cuddle him
- The instructions were too long so I skipped most of them, including when this was due
- I was up too late last night
- Friends showed up and that was just more fun than this
- My dog is having trouble adjusting to my move
- I got a better offer
While many of these excuses are laughable, the most fun comes when I don’t even get an excuse – the writer just disappears with nary a word of professionalism. Some even apply to us again, forgetting they stiffed us in the first place. One of the easiest ways to succeed as a freelancer is to do what you say you are going to do. Even if the work isn’t quite what you expected, or the pay is lower than you had hoped, just get the work done. If you believe in your writing skills and you do what you commit to, you may soon find yourself getting higher-paying and better assignments. You may even find yourself as the Director of a company. True story. Unfortunately for those who take the path of least resistance and don’t give a manager the courtesy of a respectful decline to their offer, they may find themselves blacklisted from other writing organizations. Another true story.
Step 2: Don’t assume working from home is going to be amazing
Working from home is the dream for many. People imagine sitting in their pajamas all day, working at their leisure while the money rolls in. In actual fact, working from home can be dreadful. Some days I look in the mirror and wonder who that person with the bedhead and yoga pants is. It definitely couldn’t be the person who used to be the fashionista of the office. Most days, I get out of my bed and get into my office chair and some days I don’t leave that chair for 10+ hours, except to grab a granola bar out of the cupboard. Sometimes I catch the eye of someone walking down the sidewalk outside of my window and I wave, just because that’s the extent of my social life while working from home. The office water cooler now amounts to hurried Skype chats and client calls where I relish in the fact that I am speaking to another human being. Got a cough? Feeling under the weather? Guess what? You work from home, so you still get to work. Yay! In order to succeed as a freelancer, you need to ready yourself for the fact that working from home isn’t going to be the walk in the park you assumed it to be. Just admitting that fact gets you even closer to your success.
Step 3: Be so organized that Martha gets tips from you
As a freelance writer, you are responsible for so much more than your friends who stroll into an office job each day. You have bust your butt to get the work, take the time to write high-quality copy and then do all the relevant bookeeping that comes with running your own business. If you aren’t organized, you’ll lose time searching for emails or paperwork and trying to remember instructions you were given. Using spreadsheets and even an old-school planner with a calendar will keep you organized and ready to focus on work. Ryan Velez, Article-Writing’s Health Content Specialist says, “You probably want to focus on creating a proper workspace for yourself. You would be surprised what a difference it makes for your productivity.” This will include not just a desk and a laptop, but a proper desk with a filing system for all the receipts and notes you keep. Jeanine Gordon, Managing Editor at Article-Writing says, “Look around your house and see what areas you can streamline or what systems you can put into place beforehand to make it easier for you when you do start working from home. For example, if you decide ahead of time that Tuesday night is laundry night, and Saturday morning is for cleaning, you won’t have to worry about doing any of those things while you’re trying to work during the weekdays. Get prepped by doing things like setting up a workspace so you’re not just lying on your bed with a laptop. Get some solid systems in place before you start to set yourself up for success as soon as that job comes down the pipeline.”
Step 4: Don’t over-commit, because if you do, we’re back at step 1
One of the biggest mistakes I see freelance writers doing is saying no to nothing. Their minds are filled with thoughts of dollar bills and they graphically remember the work drought they had last summer, where they couldn’t afford their daily Starbucks. But, by saying yes to everything, you put yourself in a position you can’t sustain and rather than impressing your client, you have to come up with one of those many excuses I talked about in step 1. Be honest and manage your time in a way that will help you do the work efficiently and effectively. If you can take on more once that work is done, let your client know and they’ll be grateful for your honesty. Ryan says, “The two biggest things I find are time management and accountability. You need to be able to gauge how long things will take and be accountable to make up the difference if you are wrong.”
Step 5: Commit to the fact that this is your job – and that it is a real job
That little girl on those viral Facebook videos who “tells it like it is” is hilarious. But not during a work day she isn’t. That pile of laundry staring at you from your bedroom floor just nags at your inner core. That friend who invited you out to lunch, because “don’t you just work at home?”. The fact that Costco is so much less busy during the day when everyone else is at work. All of these distractions can get in the way of any freelance writer’s success, but only if you let them. If you commit to the fact that freelance writing is your job and set a schedule for not only working, but for networking and scouting opportunities, no one will be able to stop you. If you have kids, roommates or a partner, they need to know this fact as well and respect it. Ryan says, “Not living alone can make things difficult, but I find it helps to create clearly demarcated boundaries for workspace and other space. When people see that, in time, I think they understand that, and can tell when you are working versus when you are open to talk.”
Jeanine says, “There are so many distractions, and when they spin around in your head it makes you fragmented to the point where you’re not doing anything effectively – work-wise or home wise. Anytime I’m tempted to jump up and “quickly” do something (which is never actually quick), I just jot it down on a pad (sign the school permission slip, call the dentist). Then I can work and can forget about all those distractions that I know will just keep spinning around in my head, taking me away from what I’m trying to do. The beauty and the balance of working remotely is that you can do all these other things while you work, but also that you don’t have to.”
Step 6: Love what you do – that isn’t just a catchphrase
The best way to succeed at anything is to love what you do! Like the Beatles said, “Love is all your need” and I know they meant for your job. Spouses, kids, cats all come a distant second. If you don’t love writing but think it’s a great way to make money while staying home with the kids, I know a great MLM scheme that would be perfect. Being passionate about the written word is an incredibly important factor in your success as a freelance writer. I dream about words. I sometimes read the dictionary (yes, the old school print version) for fun. I mentally correct my friend’s social media posts for punctuation (rogue apostrophes make me crazy!). I love writing and couldn’t imagine living a life without putting pencil to paper (or finger to keyboard). Jeanine says, “You have to be motivated to want to do it because you love the work. If you’re not fully into what you’re doing, then you’ll do anything and everything you can instead of working. Sure, everyone procrastinates, but if you don’t have a passionate and committed mindset you won’t succeed because you won’t see your job as being a top priority in your day.”
Step 7: Have the ability to not crack under pressure (but you can cry… just a little)
Sure, there are times I sob at my desk because I have over 100 emails in my inbox. If yoga has taught me anything, breathing helps. I take a deep breath, rub my dog’s belly for a moment (one of the best perks about working from home) and get on with it. Freelance writing comes with deadlines and obviously those aren’t fun, especially considering the fact that the word actually comprises the word “dead”. On any given day, a writer who works with us could have 10 deadlines. Knowing how to properly manage these, by staying organized and more importantly, staying calm, is the key to success in the freelance world. Give yourself a pep talk and go at it one at a time and before you know it, the day is done, your work is complete, and you can look forward to tomorrow’s deadlines.
Step 8: Don’t overprice your work
*Ducks tomatoes being thrown by professional writers*
When I say I’ve heard it all, I mean it. I’ve been called many names by many people, but one thing that has stuck with me is when writers tell me that we are bringing down the industry by not paying enough. The simple fact of this is that it is not true. Let me paint you a picture. As a freelance writer a HUGE part of your job is to solicit work. Most freelance writers who are not yet well-established probably spend more time soliciting work, networking, and marketing themselves than they do actually writing. All of that time is spent UNPAID and it may actually cost you too, if you are paying for websites and other forms of marketing.
When you work with an agency like Article-Writing, we have done all of that unpaid work for you – the marketing, the sales, the waiting around for clients to choose you for the work. We also deal directly with the clients, so you get clear and simple instructions without having to do the hassle of waiting for clients to call you or trying to decipher what they want. This means you can spend all of your hours doing exactly what you want to be doing – getting paid to write. We couldn’t offer this service to you or our clients if we paid you what the client would have paid you had you found them and got the job yourself. So, when you hear about freelance writers making upwards of $100 an hour to write a 500-word blog post, ask them how many paid hours they actually work. If they say they make 6-figures in a year, that’s probably because they spent many years establishing themselves in the business, much of that time being unpaid. I know, I’ve been there.
Bonus Step: Apply with us!
Are you a freelance writer who is looking for your next great opportunity? Want to join our team of successful writers and editors? We have full-time, part-time and freelance positions available. Send us your qualifications and tell us why you think you would thrive as a member of Article-Writing.co to [email protected]. Not only do you get to work with yours truly (honestly the best perk), you get to learn and grow from our amazing team. We offer fun benefits and a chance to make your dream of becoming a successful freelance writer a reality.
Are you tired of trying to find freelance writers who espouse all of the above qualities and want to steer clear of excuses and writers who go the way of Houdini? We can tackle any content job and we always meet our deadlines! Check out our pricing page for more details or contact us for a quote.
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