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7 Things You Need to Be a Successful Freelance Writer

successful freelance writerBecoming a successful freelance writer is not complicated. There are, however, certain things that you need if you’re to succeed.

And by the way, by successful I mean earn a decent living from my writing. Your definition of success may be different – it might be enough to see your words in print, or in a particular magazine. How you define success is up to you.

Some ability to write

Successful freelance writing usually means you’ve got some ability to write. That means you can successfully string sentences together in ways that make what you’re writing about clear to your audience. When I look back on those early writings of mine that I got paid for and were published (not always the same thing), I’m often embarrassed. My writing has definitely improved over time – practice does that. Sure, it’s possible to learn this, but it helps if you’ve got some natural talent.

Takeaway: Be wary of aiming for perfection – write and submit, write and submit. There’s no such thing as perfect writing anyway; any idea you have that there is will only get in your way.


A real desire to write

There are far more people in the world who don’t like to write or feel neutral about it than there are those of us who, at some level or another, must write. Yes, there are some who aren’t as driven as most, but if you don’t like to write, exploring other ways of expressing yourself may reveal a whole new approach.

Takeaway: This doesn’t mean you have to love to write every time you’re at the keyboard – but if you keep finding excuses not to write you may want to take another look.

The willingness to market yourself and your writing

Maybe folks coming into freelance writing today are smarter than I was, but I truly didn’t understand that I was also creating a business that needed to be marketed. Although my oldest son commented at the time that I was good at letting people know I write and handing out my business card, I soon discovered I had to market more consistently.

Takeaway: The sooner you treat your writing as a business you must market the better.

A willingness to accept rejection

As a writer, your work will be rejected – most of that happens early in your career. Just because you get rejected doesn’t mean you or your writing isn’t good enough. Most rejections won’t tell you why, a few will. Study those you can learn from and let the rest go and keep writing.

Takeaway: Rejection is unlikely to ever be enjoyable, but it need not be devastating either.

Successful freelance writing requires perseverance

Even if you sell your first writings, you’ll have to be disciplined about your approach and persevere through slow times. While I don’t believe you have to write every single day to be successful, you do have to write often – develop a schedule you can stick to (and to change it when you need to) so you get words on the page time after time after time.

Takeaway: Find ways to stick at it until and unless you decide writing really isn’t for you.

A willingness to make mistakes

If there are any writers who’ve been writing for any length of time who haven’t made mistakes in their writing and about their writing, I don’t know them! Recognizing that a mistake is just that, a mistake and not the end of the world will help you learn more about what you’re doing. In general, you’ll make fewer of them as you mature in your career.

Takeaway: Take responsibility for any mistakes, correct them if possible, let them go.

To read – a lot

When someone tells me they want to write, I ask them what they read. If they tell me they don’t like reading I suggest they consider a different line of work. Reading, anything and everything, exposes us to ideas as well as  to how many ways they can be expressed. If you have a niche or two, read there, or read the genre you intend to write in. Then move out of that bubble and read as widely as possible.

Takeaway: Libraries, book stores, Kindle unlimited and the backs of milk cartons all are to be read. Take advantage of them.

Questions? Ask and I’ll do my best to answer them. What did I leave out? Let us know in comments.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Great roundup, Anne. Nice reminder and reassurance that I’m on the right track. I was just thinking yesterday about how much I love to read. I read to learn, to satisfy curiosity, for joy, for rest – and I know it all feeds into my writing too.

    • Yeah, I sometimes always find time to read… glad you enjoyed the article.

  • I can tick all 7 boxes, which is great. But I have been writing for over 7 years as well so plenty of time to do everything wrong and right. I find the one about finding excuses NOT to write kind of weird. I get paid for everything I write and I try to push through poor health to complete the work and get more work. Sure, there are days when I simply don’t write, but I have a lot of flexibility in the work I do.

  • Sue Chehrenegar

    I have gotten some of my best ideas by reading the literature sent to us by our insurance company. I even got hold of some literature that had been discarded by a member of AAA. Last week I was paid for an article that I wrote, using a fact from that magazine.

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