I’m about to share with you 7 habits of a highly successful freelance writer. Now, I shouldn’t even have to write these out, because they should just be a given. However, if you follow these 7 criteria religiously, you are going to be HIGH above the rest. Because you’d be so surprised how the majority of people that call themselves freelance writers fail at least one of these criteria.
Now, I’m not writing this to rip on people. I’m writing this post in the hopes that those who think they can’t be a freelance writer or don’t think they can get ahead will know that they certainly can. They just have to have the decency to follow these normal standard behaviors. Seriously, these are easy. Too easy. Most people don’t follow them. So if you do, you can almost guarantee success!
Before I drop my mic…
The 7 Habits of a Highly Successful Freelance Writer
- You’re always on time
- You follow directions
- You’re easy to work with
- You edit your work for errors
- You run a business, not a hobby
- You ask just enough questions
- You know how to write. (Ok, I reeeeally shouldn’t even have to list this, but seriously? You need to have a good handle on spelling, grammar, and flow).
Wow, earth-shattering stuff, right? Let’s dig more into the meat of this.
1. You’re always on time
You would be surprised by how many people don’t hand their work in on time. Like they’re still in college, pulling all-nighters. Or really, not even willing to pull an all-nighter. Just shrugging their shoulders thinking “no big deal.” Handing your work in on time is just a common courtesy and a shred of evidence of your professionalism.
Now, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you’re just terrible at keeping everything straight. Make sure you use Trello or some other project management tool to ensure you don’t miss any deadlines.
2. You follow directions
From the very job application to the way you hand it in, make sure you follow your client’s directions. You have got to read the directions, read them again, and then read them again. Then, read them after you’re done writing again to make sure you’ve hit the mark.
When you apply for writing gigs on sites like Problogger, you need to make sure you read the entire listing. Sometimes, just to weed people who can’t follow directions out, posters will use specific instructions for your application. They’ll ask you to put a certain phrase in your subject line or answer a certain question at the top of your email. They won’t even consider your application unless you follow the exact instructions. And you’d be surprised by how many applications go straight to the trash bin!
3. You’re easy to work with
Whining, stalling, excuses, etc are never going to work. Just be a chill, nice, pleasure-to-work with person. Even when clients piss you off. Doesn’t matter. You still need to be pleasant. The second you turn on the bi+!h switch, you’ll ruin everything. It’s just not worth it. This is your career. Treat everyone with the utmost respect, even if they’re hard to work with. You certainly don’t ever have to work with them again, but while you are, be professional.
4. You edit your work for errors
You learned how to edit your rough drafts in the fourth grade. They didn’t just teach you how to do that because you sucked at writing in 4th grade. They taught it to you as a foundational tool that you need to use for the rest of your life.
After you write a piece, have the decency to look it over for errors, even if you think you’re incapable of them. I recommend checking it over the next day or several hours later so you can come at it with fresh eyes. You might even consider hiring an editor if you need a fresh pair of eyes or you hate editing.
It is not okay to hand in work with errors. That makes your clients look bad, which isn’t fair. Making your clients look bad is going to be a horrible reflection on your own business.
5. You run a business, not a hobby
Even if you’re freelancing on the side, you still need to treat it like a business. The professionals that are hiring you consider you a business. It’s not fair to them if you treat your side gig like a hobby. You need to answer emails immediately, work cooperatively, meet deadlines, and treat the writing you’re doing for them with respect.
6. You ask just enough questions
Ask your clients just enough question. Not too many, that they get the vibe that you require hand-holding. Not too few that you don’t get the information necessary to do a thorough job.
You need to develop a basic client questionnaire that gets to the meat: audience profile, objective of the piece, keywords, etc. Make sure your questionnaire doesn’t take your clients more than a few minutes to complete. When you’re working for a client, you’re taking a big task off their plate. The last thing you want to do is make them feel like they have to do more work. But on the other hand, you want to make sure you have enough information to do a decent job.
You also need to feel a client out a bit. I have several clients that give me very little information and they know I can run with it. There are other clients that would be upset if I didn’t ask enough questions. You’ll know when you meet them. If they’re irritated with your questions, pull back a bit. If they appreciate your questions, then ask away.
7. You know how to write
Like I said, I shouldn’t even have to include this, but there are plenty of writers out there, in the content mills and such, that barely understand the English language, let alone grammar rules and proper mechanics.
It’s sites like Upwork that lump the amazing writers with the terrible ones. It puts everyone on equal ground when they shouldn’t be. The people who don’t know where commas go are considered equal to the ones that studied commas for their master’s thesis. It kills me.
If writing comes naturally to you, and people comment on what a great writer you are, then you’re probably a decent writer. Thing is, most decent writers think they’re nothing special because surely most people can write well. If you think that way, then you’re probably an excellent writer and don’t even know it.
Even if you’re a good writer, you’re still going to get rejected sometimes. It’s important to remain secure in the fact that you’re a good writer. Don’t give up, because it happens to everyone!
Now obviously, there’s way more that goes into being a successful freelance writer than just these criteria, but these things will get you pretty darn far and they’ll put you head and shoulders above so many others out there.
Maybe this post was a little snarky. My intention isn’t to put anyone off, it’s to prepare you for success. It’s really meant to encourage those of you that fit these simple criteria. It’s meant to say: if you are a great writer and treat your writing like a profession, get after it! To only settle for what you’re worth and no less.
If you’re ready to make the leap from corporate to freelance, fill out the box at the top of this post to get your free 7-day course delivered to your inbox. It’s time to become who you were meant to be!
What about you…
Are you a decent writer that always thought everyone could write? Does this list surprise you, that you can be a successful writer just by being a decent human who can write? LOL. #cheeky