9 Experts Share Top Tips for Freelance Writing Success

freelance-writing-successAre you starting a new freelance writing business or trying to get ahead with your current one?

We’ve rounded up some experts to answer: What’s your top tip for running a successful freelance writing business?

Enjoy and happy freelancing!

Demian Farnworth, The CopyBot:

Avoid isolation. Arrange to get out of the house two or three times a week to work. Do lunch at least once a week. Video skype or Hangout at least with one person a day.

Miranda Miller:

Networking and professional development are incredibly important, especially when you’re working alone and often specializing in one or two areas. It’s helpful to keep up with what’s going on in the writing industry, what new tools you should be learning, copyright issue, etc. It’s just as helpful to socialize with and get to know other writers, too. I get great referrals from other writers and pass on a lot, too – we probably all get offers that just aren’t a great fit for us. Conferences, online groups and networks, and smaller events are fantastic tools for learning, developing your skills and expanding your network. Freelancing is like any business; you have to invest in it (and yourself!) to succeed and grow.

Glenn Murray, Divine Write:

Don’t undervalue yourself just because clients do. When you’re starting out, it’s tough. You’ll have very few contacts, and the reality is you’ll do almost any jobs that come your way. At almost any price. But don’t believe that’s what you SHOULD be earning. You’re better than that.

This is particularly pertinent right now. Everyone’s on the content marketing bandwagon, so they’re all after someone who can write them lots of quality copy. Trouble is, they don’t value it highly enough. They accept that they have to pay the big dollars for TV, radio and print advertising, but for some reason, they think the web is a free lunch. So they want to pay peanuts. But we all know what you get when you pay peanuts …

There’ll be times when you have to take peanuts. The important thing is that you never believe you’re a monkey.

There’s a lot of money out there, and a lot of good work for copywriters. If your invoices don’t reflect your skills, keep believing in yourself, and keep pushing.

John Carlo Sola, Millenniafy:

Key is getting organized. Lots of opportunities in this regard for any business. But with Freelance Writing, the biggest challenge in process flow is in making sure fulfillment does not go through too many unnecessary steps. You’d rather be doing more lead generation for your business rather than emailing back and forth to confirm and explain writing briefs, etc.

What do you need to get this part of the your business system squared? A task management software and a work tracker.

For task management, I use Asana. This is where I define who does which task and is also where assignees upload documents.

For work tracking, I personally use spreadsheets in Google Drive. It works very much like Excel and it allows for real-time collaboration with everyone in my team–editors, writers, project managers, and designers. Column headers I use, among others, are Task Code, Working Title, Research Links, Word Count, Task Owner, and Notes/Remarks.

Heather Mueller, Mueller Writing:

If you want to be seen as an expert, you must stay up-to-date on your craft and your industry. Take a course, earn a certification, join a membership-based program, invest in materials that will help improve your writing. It can be tough to part with hard-earned income when there’s no employer to cover the cost of professional development, but it pays off ten-fold when you impress a great prospect and land a dream client.

Ilise Benun, Marketing Mentor:

Don’t Go It Alone. As a freelancer, you are essentially on your own, especially if you work from home. That’s why it’s essential to build a network of resources, partners, collaborators and mentors, to bounce ideas off of, get help from or sometimes just to vent!

Kevin Carlton, Write Online:

Remember that a smaller amount of work that pays well is infinitely preferable to a larger amount that pays badly.

So stay away from content mills and job-bidding sites. Instead focus on clients that understand the freelance writing market and appreciate the value of your work.

By following this approach, you’ll have more time on your hands to market to bigger and better-paying clients.

You’ll also free up time to develop your business, such as setting up a writer website. These days, you can’t expect to look professional without one.

Adam Barone:

As a freelance copywriter, you must find a way to put yourself in the position to deliver spectacularly. Aim to exceed your clients’ expectations. They’re not just hiring you to write something they could have done if they had the time. They’re hiring you to bring out the stories that elevate the value of their products/services and to connect to an audience with those stories. Mind fiercely the quality of your own product. Make sure you have a clear understanding of expectations, what you’re writing about, who the audience is, and get an idea of the market landscape and what competitors are saying. Write and then edit until you can edit no more. Quality is so important because delivering quality of a memorable quality is what gets people to recommend you to their colleagues, and that is one of the best ways to grow your practice.

Heather Lloyd-Martin, SuccessWorks:

My biggest tip is to make sure the business part of your business is tight and wired. That means having a good contract (not one you download from a site), setting aside money for taxes, understanding your target audience, figuring out how much you need to make, etc.

I’ve seen many super-talented copywriters leave the freelance life because they weren’t making any money. They didn’t charge enough to live on, their client work was sporadic and taxes ate up what they did make. Instead of hiring help (like working with a smart accountant,) they decided to do things on their own. That’s when bad things can happen – like getting stuck with a 10K tax bill, having to rewrite a page 10 times because there was no contract in place and slicing rates just to get money in the door.

If you know you’re not good with business stuff, it pays to hire a coach or consultant who can help. Or, you can take a class – you just need to make sure that you follow the advice given and go through all the steps. The point of being a freelance writer (and being self-employed) isn’t to work 12+ hour days. The point is to have a business and life you love AND makes you more than enough money.

Photo thanks to Stephen McCulloch

4 replies
  1. Mahesh Raj Mohan says:

    Lots of great stuff in this post. In-person networking was vital for me in the beginning, and creating connections with like-minded individuals is helping me a lot right now.

    If you work on print and web projects early in your career, they make good pieces for your portfolio.

  2. Tracy Mallette says:

    Thanks for the kudos, Miranda, and for participating in the post! I’m happy the post helped expand your network! We writers have to stick together! :)

    Thanks for adding to the conversation, Mahesh. I’m glad that you like the post!


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