If you’re thinking about pursuing a career as a freelance writer, there’s no denying that the marketplace is highly competitive. While we never like to say you’re up against other writers since there’s plenty of work to go around, it can certainly be tough to find steady work if you’re new to the field. In order to secure quality clients for yourself, you need to continuously hone your skills and work on your personal brand. But, where should you invest the little free time you have?
To follow is a breakdown of seven key skills that all freelance writers need to strengthen, and continue improving, in order to find success.
Strong Writing Skills
Obviously, the most important skill a freelance writer needs is the ability to write well. A writer must have excellent grammar and spelling skills and be able to write in a clear, concise, and engaging way that captures readers’ attention. A writer must also be able to tailor their writing style to different audiences and mediums, whether it’s a technical blog post for a SaaS company or an upbeat social media post for a youthful brand.
The good news? You can hone your writing skills both on and off the job.
- Read extensively, especially content that matches the industry/formats you work with.
- Write every day, even when you don’t have paying projects. Post on LinkedIn or start a blog.
- Join a writing group to get feedback on your work. The Society of Writers is filled with seasoned pros willing to offer constructive criticism!
- Take free online writing courses and workshops to improve your skills.
- Always edit your work carefully to ensure it is error-free and flows well.
Research is an essential part of freelance writing as writers must be able to sift through a large amount of information to find reliable sources and extract the most relevant and interesting details. Depending on your personality, research could be one of the highlights of your projects or one of the most boring phases, but you can’t avoid it, so it’s best to get efficient at it.
- Develop good research habits, including organizing your notes and sources.
- Use a variety of sources, including books, articles, and academic journals.
- Take notes and summarize information to help you remember key details.
- Use search engines and other research tools effectively.
- Fact-check your work to ensure accuracy.
Time Management Skills
Freelancers of all kinds have to be self-motivated and able to work independently. The job can be fairly isolating at times, especially for those who work-from-home instead of in a co-working or shared office environment. Freelance writers must also be able to manage their time effectively and meet deadlines, which can grow especially challenging when working on multiple projects for many different clients.
- Set realistic goals and prioritize your work accordingly.
- Use a daily planner or calendar to manage your time effectively.
- Break down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Eliminate distractions to maximize your productivity.
- Practice self-discipline and hold yourself accountable.
- Communicate with clients as soon as you know a deadline may be missed.
It’s easy to underestimate just how much time freelance writers have to spend on non-writing tasks, like marketing themselves to potential clients. Most marketing strategies involve building a website, creating a portfolio, starting a blog, and networking with potential clients on platforms like LinkedIn. Freelancers also need to work on their pitching, selling, and negotiation skills.
- Develop a professional website to showcase your work.
- Create a portfolio that highlights your best writing samples.
- Network with potential clients and other writers.
- Build a strong online presence through social media and other platforms.
- Get comfortable with cold pitching and sales techniques.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Freelance writing often involves working on a variety of topics and projects all at once, and freelancers must be able to adapt their writing style to fit different industries, audiences, and mediums. You’ll also need to implement a variety of requests unique to each client or project, like specific style guides, citation styles, and optimization instructions.
- Be open to new topics and writing styles.
- Keep up with trends and developments in your industry.
- Be willing to take on new challenges and learn new skills.
- Remain flexible and adaptable in your approach to writing.
Understanding a client’s requirements is critical to delivering the content they need and avoiding major revisions down the road. Writers also need to be responsive to feedback and know how to ask for clarification when needed. As you can imagine, exceptional communication skills are a must-have. Clients expect to be kept in the loop and they’re going to want you to tell them as soon as possible when you have questions, suggestions, or scheduling conflicts.
- Develop good listening skills to understand what your clients need.
- Get comfortable communicating via email, Slack, phone, video, etc.
- Set an expectation of how long it will take you to respond to clients.
- Learn how to listen to and incorporate feedback into your work without taking it personally.
Freelance writing is not just about writing. To make freelance writing into a profitable and sustainable income stream, you have to approach it like a business, not a hobby or side gig. You’ll grow much faster if you go out of your way to develop key business skills early on, like learning how to manage your finances, invoice clients, negotiate contracts, and file taxes.
- Negotiate contracts and rates effectively to ensure you are compensated fairly for your work.
- Before writing yourself a paycheck, set aside money for taxes and business expenses.
- Use invoicing and time-tracking software to streamline your business operations.
- Develop a system for managing your taxes and deductible expenses.
- Make sure you’re signing the right contracts and operating legally.
Develop The Skills You Need to Thrive
Take it from me: You don’t need paid courses to succeed as a writer and you certainly don’t need a college degree. However, you do need to be continuously investing your time into developing the aforementioned skills so you can keep your competitive edge sharp. Of course, it can be tough to find reliable and comprehensive information on the web.
If you’re searching for a resource that you can count on to help you develop the skills you need to build a profitable writing business, the Society of Writers can help. Join our Slack channel!