There’s a big difference between writing for yourself and writing for a living. When your writing pays the bills, your success depends on far more than your ability to follow basic grammar and composition. There are a lot of amazing writers who end up broke, and a lot of so-so writers who just knew how to play the game well. Here are some tips on how to be a successful freelance writer.
Master different ‘voices’
Advertising copy is very different from magazine writing (and if you scan the hundreds of magazine titles, you’ll notice that their tone and slant are quite distinct). You can’t afford to be a one-trick pony. Learn how to write for different mediums and publications: brochures, community newsletters, websites, scripts, speeches, etc. Keep an idea file, with samples for each type, and study how the writer tackles the task. Accept as many writing jobs as you can—volunteer, if you have to—so your skills and portfolio become as diverse as the opportunities that are available.
Learn how to think like a client
Good writers can dissect a client’s request: what’s the communication goal? what’s the brand positioning? What are the key messages? What format will best serve this goal? What are the guidelines (maximum number of words, etc). Since not all clients will be able to tell you what they want, you need to be able to ask the right questions—to avoid time-consuming rewrites, and frustrating a client who will dismiss you as incompetent because you ‘can’t seem to get it right.’
Simplify the job
We hate to say this, but freelance writing is all about production: accepting the most number of jobs, for the most amount of pay. You will end up burnt out and broke if you spend too much time on one project.
Over the years you will also create simple templates for particular writing jobs. Of course, you need to adjust them to your client’s needs—and do expect some editing along the way—but these templates can help you break through writer’s block and eliminate the guesswork of, ‘Hmm, how do I organize the material and my thoughts?’
Create an online portfolio. Keep all samples of your work, and scan them so you can email them at a moment’s notice. Collect testimonials from satisfied customers, and build a reputation for yourself. No m matter how annoying a client is, don’t burn bridges. Remember, happy customers become your best salespeople: they recommend you to other clients, or can serve as referrals.
Photo from freelance.smworth.com