The term “freelance writer” means different things to different people. The writing part is what appeals to most and gets them interested in trying to go pro. However, anyone who’s tried to write professionally knows that writing is just one part of what makes a freelancer successful. And in all honesty, it’s not even the biggest part.
Sure, it takes a degree of writing chops to make it as a professional writer. But your chance of success depends on so much more. Here are just some of the areas in which freelance writers must excel, without fail, in order to reach their potential.
Many people are capable of writing well. But it’s those writers who can sell themselves who will find work. It’s not just about writing anymore. It’s about impressing clients and getting paid. The ability to pitch clients, particularly in the face of frequent rejection, is essential.
In the world of freelance writing, time is money. If you’re not working, you’re not getting paid. So if you want to watch The Walking Dead, that’s one hour less you can devote to your freelance career, and that’s one hour during which you won’t make any money. But time management isn’t just about sacrificing your down time. It’s just as important to keep your workload manageable so that you don’t miss deadlines or burn yourself out.
Freelance writing is a notoriously “boom or bust” business. Your income is never guaranteed, and that dream client can bolt at any minute. Learning how to manage an unsteady income is crucial, as is not overspending during a busy period. If you pursue a full-time career in freelancing, you’ll also have the joyful experience of getting your own health insurance and filing quarterly taxes, among other administrative tasks.
A happy client is the best client, and sometimes it takes a little extra to make the client happy. That might mean cranking out an article on short notice, during a time in which you planned to not work. It could also mean making large-scale revisions to an article you thought was great. Even though one of the perks of freelancing is the prospect of being your boss, you still have masters to serve. And if you don’t serve them, you won’t make any money.
Notice how we haven’t even discussed the nuts and bolts of writing yet. Why? Because they hardly matter. If you can’t handle the minutiae of freelancing, it doesn’t matter how well you can write. It’s those writers who go above and beyond in each of these areas that go far in freelancing.
Bryan B is a freelance writer based in Long Island, NY. He loves hot chocolate, but hates waiting for it to be cool enough to drink.