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Freelance Writing Advice – the Good, Bad, and the Ugly

freelance writing adviceFreelance writing advice comes in three flavors – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

How do I know? Simple. In my literally decades of writing I’ve often looked for freelance writing advice. I’ve experienced all three types.

Since I give freelance writing advice I suspect I’ve also given both good and bad advice. I’ve tried to avoid the ugly. I’ve got readers who seem to appreciate and use what I suggest for years at a time. Occasionally I run into a detractor.

The quality of any advice about anything is hard to quantify. So much depends on the motivation of both the advice giver and receiver.

Good freelance writing advice

Good freelance writing advice comes from someone whose been in the business awhile. As a rule of thumb, I’d want to know the advice giver had been successfully working as a freelance writer for at least five years. That’s fairly arbitrary. I’ve certainly learned more and more every year I’ve been writing, but by the end of five years I’d figured out the basics.

People who truly want to learn the game of freelance writing, and are not looking for a get rich quick scheme, are most likely to find advice that works for them. Advice that helps is truly a two way street.

Bad freelance writing advice

It’s a judgement call, but I think any advice giver who insists they have the only way is likely to be giving poor freelance writing advice. For example, I’ve found one person who is positively dogmatic that everyone start their day with a cold shower. Now, I have no doubt this works for this person. That does not make cold showers a good idea for me!

Others insist we must write every day. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s also not the only way to approach writing.

For example, I like to write first thing in the morning. Works for me and has forever. Which doesn’t mean it will work for you.

About the only advice that is always true is to get some writing done, somehow, some way. I’ve said that over and over again, and so have many others.

Ugly freelance writing advice

Scams are where we find most ugly freelance writing advice. Oh, it’s not the only place, but perhaps the most damaging one. The scams involve charging you money, which is NOT to say that all coaches, courses, etc. that cost are scams.

Pay attention to the claims. While it’s possible to write a book in a month or two or three, it’s truly rare to be able to write a good one in that length of time.

Ask for references. If they say no because of privacy concerns, suggest they pass your contact info to a couple of people for the purpose of finding out more. Check the references!

Use Google to double check the person and what they’re offering.

You can also get horrible freelance writing advice in some forums, and from friends and family. You know what I mean – the naysayers who insist it’s impossible to… not only earn a living writing, but doing anything out of the ordinary. Most negative people don’t mean to hurt you. They can damage your outlook regardless of their intention. Listen cautiously. Tell them you don’t want to hear it. Move away from them. Your attitude and your success is up to you.

Pay attention to your intuition! That still, small voice, or persistent thought or the feeling in your gut is there for a reason. Honor it.

Yes, there are a ton of places these days to get good freelance writing advice. This is one of them, but certainly not the only one.

Let us know your favorites in comments.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Thanks, Anne, for providing this fountain of knowledge for us to share.

  • Having read this I believed it was extremely informative. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

  • I find it interesting to read advice from many different sources. I agree that, in general, the giver should have actually been working as a writer for a few years BUT they may have specific advice related to a scenario that someone else might need. In that case, I don’t see the problem with sharing.

    I do believe that nobody should blindly accept all advice given as true, without checking it out for themselves. Even people who are considered to be “gurus” of the industry can sometimes be more talk and less walk…but we all know Anne is NOT one of those people.

    So, please take my advice with a grain of salt and judge for yourself because only you can know whether it helps you or not.

    Thanks, Anne, for providing this fountain of knowledge for us to share.

    Never quit because you don’t know what’s just around the next corner.

    Laurence 🙂

    • Laurence – you may be the first I’ve known who called me a guru… not quite sure what to think. How about thanks. Yes, there are exceptions – someone may indeed have helpful info even, perhaps, before they start to write. I think, however, you know what I mean in a general sense.

      Love your never quit statement… so true.

  • Perfect timing, Anne. The other day I saw a blog post that was something like “Seven Lessons I’ve Learned as a Freelance Writer,” which sounded promising until I realized it was written by someone with only six month’s experience as a freelancer. Seriously? Six months and this person felt qualified to spew advice?

    Honestly, a couple of her points were really good. But most were super generic.

    Call me crazy, but I’d rather listen to advice from established pros like you & Lori than someone who’s been freelancing less time that it’s taken for some of my assignments to make it from being assigned to being paid.

  • Sandra Kenrick

    My worst advice ever received was to write for exposure on large publications. Still waiting for that to somehow translate into dollars. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

    • OMG is that old saw still around? These days it makes far better sense to put samples of your work on your own website and refer to them.

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