There are as many freelance jobs as there are freelancers. Each one has its own unique set of industry and market skills that a freelancer will need to be successful. However, there are some core traits and skills that all successful freelance writers have in common.
Whether you want to be a blogger, copywriter, content writer, or SEO Google expert, you will need certain freelance writing skills to further your freelance career.
These are often described as ‘hard skills’ and ‘soft skills’.
Understanding Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
So, what exactly is the difference between hard skills vs. soft skills? And why are they so important for a freelance writer?
These are teachable or measurable abilities and skills that are crucial for successfully performing a particular job. These are not to be confused with innate qualities or natural skills that may make someone a better fit for a particular job.
Examples of hard freelancer writing skills include:
- SEO: All freelance writers should have a solid understanding of how to optimize content for search engines. This includes an ability to keep SEO skills updated and in line with current best practices.
- Bookkeeping: As a freelance writer, you’re responsible for billing, collecting payments, and managing taxes. That said, knowledge of how to manage money is a must.
- Computer Knowledge: You’ll run your freelance writing business via computer. An understanding of computers, word-processing software, popular content management platforms, and more is essential.
- Client Outreach: Freelancer writing skills that help you connect with existing and potential clients are non-negotiable. That’s because freelancers are responsible for finding, connecting with, and getting hired by all of their future clients.
- Business Management: As a freelancer, you’ll be responsible for every aspect of running your business, making sure deadlines are met, and ensuring you’re a success. So, basic business management skills are important to have.
- Basic Coding: Many freelance writers do work that requires them to format content for a client’s website, post it to their content management system of choice, or both. This makes basic working knowledge of HTML and CSS, for example, very helpful to have.
- Scheduling: Your success as a writer will depend on your ability to set, maintain, and adjust your schedule on an ongoing basis. This makes it a must to understand professional scheduling and other administrative tasks.
In contrast to hard skills, soft skills are interpersonal qualities that make it easier for a professional to excel at their job.
Desirable soft freelancer writing skills to have:
- Communication: Freelance writers need to be good at more than just the nuts and bolts of writing. They also need to excel at helping clients accomplish their tasks, managing expectations, and keeping team members in the loop.
- Self-Discipline: As a freelancer, you’ll be your own boss. This means you’ll manage your time efficiently, make sure that you meet deadlines, and keep yourself productive.
- Stress Management: When you work for yourself, it’s easy to become overworked, stressed, and potentially burnt out. That said, the ability to monitor and manage stress is a must-have.
- Receptiveness: All freelancers must know how to take criticism with grace and levelheadedness, without seeing it as a personal attack. It’s your job to keep your clients happy, and criticism helps you learn to do that more effectively.
- Responsiveness: Clients need to know that they can count on you to respond to messages and questions in a timely manner. Responsiveness and a willingness to be reachable are a must.
- Professionalism: Freelancers may be in business for themselves, but they’re still professionals, so it’s important to behave accordingly. Professionalism involves striking that perfect balance between formality and friendliness.
- Problem-Solving: Freelance writers run into unexpected situations all the time, and it’s important to know how to be on your feet. Expert problem-solvers are especially well-suited for the freelance writer life.
Writing-Specific Freelance Skills
Individuals who want to further their freelance writing business need different hard and soft skills depending on what services they provide and what specific industries they are focused on working with.
It’s important to note that freelance writers need skills and traits that might not necessarily apply to a graphic designer, video editor, or accountant.
Some of these writer-specific skill sets can include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Content Writing
If you’re going to write content for clients, you need to always be finding ways to strengthen your content writing skills by fully embracing concepts like storytelling, organization, and formatting.
You should also stay up to date on current content writing best practices, as well as SEO and digital marketing. A truly great content writer never turns down a chance to better hone their skills.
2. Proofreading and Editing
As a freelance writer, you should aim to submit your best work every time, and this means proofreading and editing your content before you submit it.
If you don’t already use a trusted proofreading tool like Grammarly, you should definitely start, as such tools offer writers many ways to improve their content quality.
You should also try reading your work aloud to yourself before calling it done. If it doesn’t sound quite right read aloud, then it could likely use some edits to help it flow better and sound more natural.
3. Social Media
Staying up-to-date with the latest best practices for creating social media content allows you to offer this type of service. Social media marketing is an incredibly important part of digital marketing, and this is especially the case in 2023.
Consumers want and expect to have ongoing relationships with the brands they buy from, and social media is the most efficient way to do that.
You’ll need to help your clients leverage it to showcase their brand’s unique personality, engage with their clientele, and offer better customer service.
4. Word Processing
While this may seem like a simple skill to master, being able to type quickly and accurately is an important part of the freelance writer’s job.
Practice makes progress, so simply spending time typing is really the best way to improve your speed, especially over time. But learning and applying best typing practices can help a lot as well.
5. Content Management
Freelance writers should gain experience with content management systems (CMS) like WordPress if they want to offer content management services to their clients.
It’s the best way to ensure content is written and formatted in a way that works well with the client’s system of choice.
However, it’s also a good idea to develop additional skills that make someone better than average at content management.
These include developing an understanding of analytics, polishing one’s communication skills, and staying up to date on current industry trends.
6. Advanced Writing Skills
If you want to be seen as an expert writer, you’ll need to hone advanced freelancer writing skills like tone, voice, concise language, analysis, and flow. Because when you’re writing professional content for clients, it’s not enough simply to be a decent writer.
You need to be capable of writing snappy introductions that capture a reader’s attention right away.
You also have to be able to emulate a company’s brand voice and help the target audience feel as if the content had been written specifically for them.
Grammar skills are necessary for any writer, regardless of industry. Using tools like Grammarly can help you identify your most common grammar issues and learn how to fix them.
Frequent reading is another way to improve your grammar and get better at unlearning bad grammar habits.
However, while any type of reading is helpful and recommended, you also want to make sure to read plenty of the type of content you write for your clients.
Research is another skill that’s necessary regardless of industry. Expand your sources beyond just what pops up on the first page of Google, and work on developing advanced research skills like interviewing.
Always use trustworthy sources when conducting research, and check your facts before including them in your content. Leverage good tools – like BuzzSumo, to name just one – to stay on top of key trends as well.
Most successful freelance writers have a basic understanding of search engine optimization as it pertains to using keywords, developing meta descriptions, and formatting articles for SEO best practices.
But if you’re serious about becoming truly indispensable to your clients, you’ll want to take things up a notch or two. Search engine algorithms change constantly, so the best SEO practices do too.
Thus, learning SEO should be considered an ongoing process, not something you do just once.
Interviewing isn’t just about being able to talk to people. It’s also about getting the information you need to make your article more effective.
Interviewing skills are especially important for freelance writers who write journalistic or comprehensive research pieces.
In fact, all freelance writers can benefit from taking a page out of the expert journalist’s book. Effective interviewers bring to the interview a list of possible questions, as well as notes on how they plan to approach the process
They also know how to make other people feel comfortable and potentially even forget that they’re being interviewed instead of merely speaking with a trusted friend.
Knowing how to format your content so that it’s easy for people to read is a skill that can help you improve the quality and effectiveness of your articles.
People read differently on the web than they do when reading books, newspapers, and similar written material. They’re generally looking for specific information, so they scan web content to find what they need.
The easier you can make it for people to do this, the better. Use headings to organize and break up your writing, and keep paragraphs (and sentences) short.
Add images, bullet lists, tables, videos, and similar elements to add value and help content flow.
Bonus: Another Two Essential Freelance Writing Skills
Storytelling isn’t just an essential skill for creative writers, poets, and novelists. It’s also one of the most important freelancer writing skills for copywriters and content writers.
That’s because it’s not truly the efficiency of a product or service that triggers a consumer to make a purchase. It’s the story behind it that does the convincing – the picture of what that person’s life could be like if they only had this game-changing option in their corner.
2. Digital Marketing
As any experienced freelance writer can tell, most of the projects you’ll tackle will be for some purpose that involves digital marketing.
That said, you need freelancer writing key skills that will help you understand and master how digital marketing works.
Brush up on current practices, and keep your knowledge up to date. Hone your skills and use this knowledge to market your own services.
7 Freelance Writing Niches to Know
Although some freelance writers decide to maintain a “do it all” approach to their writing throughout their careers, many eventually niche down and focus on one or more types of writing moving forward.
Niching down lets you deepen your knowledge of the formats you choose, potentially making you more valuable to potential clients.
It also allows you to spend your work time writing material you’re genuinely passionate about and that best fits your particular set of freelancer writing skills.
Here are some examples of writing niches that are especially popular in 2023 and beyond.
1. Long-Form Content
Today’s information seekers like meaty, in-depth content that digs deeply into the topics they’re searching for, and so does Google.
So, someone with the freelancer writing skills to tackle long-form content effectively is worth their weight in gold.
Although criteria will differ from project to project, long-form content is generally 2,000 words or longer. It’s also extremely well-researched, fully SEO-optimized, and detailed.
Like long-form content for blogs and websites, e-books are wonderful resources for information seekers who really want to explore a particular topic.
They’re also terrific marketing tools for businesses of all types and sizes.
Many companies offer e-books in exchange for contact information as a way to build their email lists and generate leads. Others sell them as valuable products in and of themselves.
3. Email Writing
Electronic mail has been around for a really long time as a communication method, but it’s as popular and widely used today as it ever was.
Email marketing also remains one of the primary ways businesses stay in touch with their customer base.
Email marketing requires written content that’s especially persuasive and plenty of it, so it’s a great focus niche for a writer with the freelancer writing skills for the job.
4. Landing Page Writing
If you’ve got a knack for copywriting and sales writing, then landing page writing would be another solid niche to consider.
Landing pages and sales pages are typically conversion-focused, so the written content on the page needs to be compelling, informative, and persuasive in just the right ways.
However, landing page writing is also a challenging niche, so many freelance writers decide to pursue it after they’ve become highly knowledgeable in one or more topics.
5. Personal Finance Writing
If you’re a whiz at topics like money management and personal finance, then you should definitely consider embracing them as niches.
Everyone wants to know how to make more money and manage the money they already have more efficiently, so there’s a lot of potential work out there for a good finance writer.
The ideal finance writer also has the right personal freelancer writing skills for the topic. You need to be detail-oriented, good at research, and meticulous about checking your facts. However, you also need a knack for making dry or complicated topics approachable.
6. Digital Marketing Writing
In 2023 and beyond, digital marketing will be increasingly important for all businesses, not just those that run e-shops or do business strictly online.
Even customers seeking traditional brick-and-mortar businesses will typically use the internet to evaluate their options before making a choice.
That said, digital marketing is big business these days, and companies that specialize in it need lots of well-written content on the topic. Popular sub-niches in this area include content writing, SEO, social media, and email marketing.
7. SaaS (Software as a Service)
Software as a Service (SaaS) is huge in 2023. However, it’s also the type of product that calls for readable, approachable content capable of explaining a company’s services to prospective customers effectively.
Companies that specialize in SaaS need well-tailored website copy, content for their blogs (especially long-form), and how-to content that’s both thorough and easy to follow.
Therefore, there’s plenty of work for a good SaaS writer, and the companies looking to hire can typically afford to pay well.
Freelance Portfolio: Why You Need One and How to Do It
Every freelance writer needs a portfolio to showcase their best work to potential clients. It’s your proof that you’re the best person for the job, as well as the most effective way to showcase what you can do. Here are some portfolio tips to keep in mind.
Know what to include
A strong standalone writing portfolio – whether it’s hosted on your website or your favorite freelancing platform – shows off a bit of everything you can do. So, when choosing what to include, make sure you select pieces that demonstrate:
- Your diversity as a writer
- Your ability to connect with a target audience
- Your professionalism
- Your unique writing style and focus
Pursue guest writing opportunities
Although some of the writing you do for clients might come attached to a byline, much of it will likely be ghostwritten instead.
So, it’s important to pursue bylines to round out your portfolio, get your name out there, and help increase your visibility.
One popular way to do this is via guest post opportunities, so don’t be afraid to leverage your existing or potential network.
Start a blog
Blogging is a straightforward and effective way to show potential clients what you can do, so if you don’t already have a blog, it’s time to start one.
You can also publish your writing on established platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, or Quora which come complete with built-in audiences.
A freelancer writer’s portfolio should be considered a living thing that needs maintenance to remain effective. That said, it’s important to keep your portfolio up to date.
Prospective clients want to see more than just the best examples of your work. They also want to see samples of what you’ve written lately, so they know you’re still available and active as a writer.
Making Money as a Freelance Writer
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WriterAccess is an incredible platform to showcase your work and build meaningful relationships with reliable clients.
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Whether you want to get better at content writing, blogging, social media, article writing, or some other niche within the freelance writing market, these hard and soft skills are bound to be beneficial to you.
They will help you establish yourself as an expert in your focused area and can help you find more clients and even more writing opportunities.
The important thing to remember is that building these skills takes practice and focus. While you may not become an expert overnight, you can certainly become better at any skill that you put time and effort into.
Sarah Jo has over twelve years of experience writing about a range of topics across academic, professional, business, and creative fields. With a wide range of skills and experience writing content, she enjoys working on a range of projects from creative and fun to serious and professional. Though she can write about nearly anything, Sarah Jo specializes in writing content for the Garden, Personal Finance, Marketing, and Home Living industries.