Working out what it takes to carve out a successful and satisfying freelance writing career is challenging.
Managing clients, accounting, and setting boundaries are just some of the problems freelance writers face. Additionally, there are an estimated 1.1 billion freelancers worldwide, which is growing yearly.
How can you become a successful freelance writer and stand out from the crowd?
This article will uncover 13 of the best practical writing tips from fellow freelancers.
Best practical freelance writing tips
Whether you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, or a seasoned pro, follow these tips to succeed.
- Network with writers
- Learn how to self-edit
- Perfect your onboarding process
- Get results from your work
- Promote your brand
- Gather testimonials
- Create an outline
- Communicate clearly
- Track your time
- Set your boundaries
- Choose a niche
- Follow brand guidelines
- Source unique quotes
1. Network with writers
Freelance writing can be a lonely way to make a living. Basic human nature makes us crave contact with others.
Don’t allow isolation to creep up on you. Build a supportive network of other freelancers to share ideas, problems, and celebrations.
Networking with other freelance writers also creates opportunities to land new gigs.
Take it from Victoria Pearce, content writer, who said, “The best thing I’ve done is joining Peak Freelance and reaching out to other writers on LinkedIn. Connections are everything for freelancers, and I’ve had great luck making friends and finding potential work by being friendly and putting myself out there.”
Here’s how to build your network:
- Find your people by networking on social media.
- Search for fellow freelance writers and network by commenting on LinkedIn or Twitter posts.
- Build meaningful relationships with other writers through Zoom calls and meetups.
2. Learn how to self-edit
Imagine reading an article where the grammar could’ve been better, the wording could’ve been more precise, and the flow of paragraphs needed to be more apparent.
You’ll likely click off and search for a better read.
That’s where self-editing comes in. It goes beyond simple proofreading and looks at things like format, structure, length, and readability.
That said, self-editing is a tedious task. It takes time, effort, and patience.
Don’t worry too much about your first draft. Just get it out of your head. When you start editing, it’ll shine. So, schedule enough time to edit until you feel good about it.Juliet John, B2B SaaS content writer
Learn how to self-edit your own work and build self-confidence. Create high-quality content and feel self-assured, knowing it’s the best you can do.
3. Perfect your onboarding process
Poor onboarding processes can create problems for you and your client.
Misunderstandings, scope creep, and unpaid invoices add stress and anxiety that you can do without.
Late payments are one of the reasons a quarter of freelancers are currently thinking about leaving their freelance careers.
A straightforward onboarding process ensures your client is the right fit. It shows clients how you work, considering your boundaries and expectations.
Take it from Steven Macdonald, co-founder of Kingspoint, who has worked with 50+ writers and spent more than $100,000 on freelancers, who said, “The job of a writer is to deliver great work and make the process easy for the client. Do those two things consistently, and you’ll keep your clients happy for a very long time.”
Start a client relationship by getting your onboarding process right from the get-go. Make sure clients are the right fit and get paid on time.
4. Get results from your work
Writing endlessly with little understanding of how your writing adds value to readers can be soul-destroying.
Get results from your work by getting to grips with some of the key content marketing metrics, such as:
- Conversion rates
- Shares on social media
When your piece ranks high on search engines, such as Google, your client will generate more visitors to their website–potentially leading to more sales for them and future projects for you!
Clients search for freelance writers that can get results for their work. Prove to them you are worth hiring by demonstrating past results from your hard work.
5. Promote your brand
Set yourself up for success by prioritizing time in your schedule to promote your freelance business.
Marketing yourself will increase personal brand awareness and draw in new clients. Make sure new customers understand what you offer and be the first name that enters their heads when looking for a new freelance writer.
Use social media platforms, such as Twitter, to share that you’re taking on new clients.
Promote your brand and showcase your skills by creating a freelance writer website. Simplify how new clients reach out to you with clear instructions.
Make sure your social media profile is up to date with details about the services you offer (and don’t) and how new clients can contact you.
Finally, create freelance writing samples for pitching to potential clients. Samples demonstrate your freelance writing skills while promoting your personal brand.
Brand promotion is a vital part of all successful businesses. Without it, clients won’t know who you are or forget about you.
Take it from Godwin Oluponmile, SEO copywriter and strategist, who says, “No good business thrives with poor branding strategy. Personal branding in this case of freelance writing involves the rigorous effort of strengthening how potential clients perceive you.”
6. Gather testimonials
Client testimonials are a surefire way to evidence your skills as a freelance writer and land freelance writing gigs. Not only do testimonials showcase your level of expertise, but they also increase your self-confidence.
Demonstrate how your freelance writing skills helped other clients. Ask clients about your time management, organizational, and content writing skills.
Build credibility by:
- Asking clients directly. You don’t get anything these days without asking! Be specific about what aspects of your freelance writing business you want clients to comment on. Otherwise, you may end up with a testimonial that isn’t quite what you expected.
- Using specific quotes from client emails. Have you read something great about your work in a client email? Capture it and use the wording as a testimonial.
- Making use of social media platforms. Recommendations are a built-in feature of LinkedIn. Ask clients to endorse your writing services and highlight them on your profile page.
Make asking for client testimonials a standard part of your off-boarding process. Convince future clients you’re worth hiring.
7. Create an outline
Have you ever stared at a blank page and wondered where to start?
That’s called writer’s block. It’s when you struggle to think about what to write and get stuck in the process.
Avoid writer’s block by creating an outline. Freelance writer, Lizzie Davey, suggests creating an outline for every piece for both you and the client’s benefit.
“You’ll be able to plot out what information you need to research and avoid the dreaded blank page syndrome, and your client will get a sneak peek of what’s coming. This also allows them to add information, suggest a different structure, and make recommendations before you start on the draft.”
And the importance of creating a good outline is reinforced here. “Outlines and the crappy first draft are your best friends,” content writer Kent McDonald says.
“Don’t try to write your articles from start to finish in one sitting. Start with an outline, then come back and write. Then set it aside and come back to do your editing.”
Outlines reduce the frustration of staring at a blank screen and waiting for ideas. Organize your thoughts and stay focused on the task ahead.
8. Communicate clearly
Aside from freelancers needing great writing skills, they also need excellent communication skills.
Freelance writing means working remotely–making faceless communication even more critical. It’s easy to misinterpret what a client has said without non-verbal cues and someone else to confirm your understanding.
Good communication skills give you the confidence to ask questions when you need clarification about the scope of work, such as deliverables or word count.
I think aside from being good writers (obviously!), a good freelance writer needs to be consistent, have good client communication skills, and be curious.Lizzie Davey
Solve freelancing writing challenges, like dealing with demanding clients or negotiating contracts, with strong communication skills.
Excellent communication enables you to consistently meet deadlines, create great content, and build long-lasting relationships with clients.
9. Track your time
Managing your time as a freelance writer can be challenging. Not only are you creating content, but you’re managing projects, keeping up to date with accounts, and networking.
Plus, if you have a full-time job alongside your freelance writing, time time-tracking helps you stay productive with both.
Stay on track with your workload by understanding how long freelance writing tasks take to complete. Check out time-tracking software solutions to tackle scope creep and work taking longer than expected.
“I was highly skeptical about this advice when I first started, but it turns out that I’m rubbish at guessing how long I’ll spend on a task,” said Victoria Pearce, content writer.
“Tracking the time I spend on each project has helped me set rates more appropriately by understanding how much time I’m likely to spend on each deliverable. It also keeps me accountable by reminding me of what I’m supposed to be doing when I get distracted.”
10. Set your boundaries
Increased stress and anxiety can have serious health implications when you’re in charge of your business. In fact, freelancer burnout affects around four in ten small businesses in the UK alone.
Setting clear expectations is a practical freelance writing tip that will allow you to set healthy boundaries with working hours, rest periods, and how you communicate with clients.
“I’m still pretty new as a freelance writer (starting my second year), but have been best served by the same stuff that worked for me for years in corporate life. That means trying to set reasonable expectations, acknowledging when something isn’t going to work ASAP, and being as responsive to people as possible while protecting personal boundaries.”Victoria Pearce
Maintain healthy work-life harmony by taking preventative measures, such as not replying to emails after 5:00 pm.
Set realistic boundaries. Reduce the possibility of burnout by setting healthy parameters as soon as you start your freelance journey and beyond.
11. Choose a niche
Being a “jack of all trades” can devalue any expert knowledge and skills you have in a particular industry. It’s why defining a freelance writing niche is a strategic business decision that can give you the upper hand over freelance generalists.
Freelance writers that are subject matter experts offer customers quality content based on real-life experiences. Plus, they can leverage specialized skills and knowledge to land higher-paying clients.
That’s what has helped Victoria Pearce, who says, “I think it helps to first think about where you do have experience. Everyone comes into this knowing about something. For me, that’s a background in law and HR. I’ve had luck by leveraging my prior expertise to help make up for a still growing portfolio of writing work.”
Alternatively, why not use an existing hobby and look for clients who can benefit from your knowledge? Your strengths will shine through–making freelance writing enjoyable and profitable.
12. Follow brand guidelines
Most businesses have clear brand guidelines (sometimes known as a style guide) outlining things like how to format your article, words to avoid, and tone of voice.
Branding helps businesses connect with customers by having consistent messaging and staying recognizable across their industry.
Use your first draft to write completely neutrally (in your own natural tone it voice) and get all of the info in the best order. Then use the second draft to rewrite the existing content into the client tone of voice. Tend to get a much true-to-brand outcome.”Alice Rowan, Freelance SEO and web copywriter
Writers that understand the importance of following brand guidelines can build client confidence.
Take the initiative and ask new clients if they have brand guidelines. Follow them consistently and help them build brand identity while increasing your chances of getting repeat work.
13. Source unique quotes
Make sure your writing isn’t another regurgitated article that other writers have already produced. Create content that stands out by including expert quotes and up-to-date stats.
Research broadly and gather all the information you can get on the topic. It will make your writing well-detailed.Glory Wejinya, content writer
Reference statistical data using the latest research. Spend time on in-depth research and get your facts right by linking to the most authoritative source and most recent stat.
“Set aside time to gather everything you need before you write,” says Nicola Scoon, freelance content writer. “Check you have access to the right files, find reports and stats to include, and put out a request for expert quotes. When you sit down to write, it’s easier to stay focused and write confidently.”
Use these freelance writing tips to improve your craft
Staying on top of your game as a great freelance writer is tough. It takes hard work, time and not to mention, and patience.
Apply the freelance writing tips we’ve listed here and be confident to apply for freelance writing jobs.
Build great relationships with fellow freelancers– reduce isolation and have support networks to turn to when times are tough.
Ready to take the next step in your freelance career? Join our Slack community and access a private group of freelancers just like you, who are trying to build a successful freelance business.
Freelance writing tips FAQ
How can I be a good freelance writer?
Great freelance writers are always looking for ways to sharpen their skills. Look for courses that improve your craft and apply new learning to your writing.
Keep communication clear. Listen to what clients need and produce content that excites them and wants them to return for more.
Our Creative Class and Freelance Writing Essentials courses help increase your skill set as a freelancer and business owner.
How do I start freelance writing with no experience?
Start building a portfolio. Create writing samples to share with potential clients that demonstrate your writing skills.
Search online for opportunities to guest post or start your own blog and distribute widely.
Start networking with other freelancers. Find out where fellow writers find freelance writing opportunities.
Check out freelance writing job boards to land your first writing gig.
How much do freelance writers make per 1,000 words?
Our freelance writing rates survey shows that freelance writers typically make between $250 and $399 for a 1,500-word blog post.
Similarly, email copywriters can earn around $99-$249 per email, and social media content writers around $14–$35 per hour.
Why is freelance writing so hard?
You need a variety of different skills to have a successful freelance writing career, such as resilience and patience, as well as hard skills like strong writing and research.
Searching for and landing good-paying clients that also respect your boundaries takes effort and self-respect. You need thick skin to tackle the problems you face.
Not only that, freelance writing can be isolating. There are days when you may not feel like writing at all. Extend your support networks by having family, friends, and fellow freelancers to lean on daily.