Write Like the Wind: 5 Tips Successful Freelance Writers Know

by | Feb 25, 2016 | GrammarSpot, Writing Tips | 0 comments

I became a freelancer about nine months ago, and it has been one of the best career decisions of my life. There is a lot I love about this job, like being able to work from the comfort of my own home and not having to commute. I can also pick my own hours, so if I feel like sleeping in and starting work around 10:30 A.M., I can do that. However, it’s very easy to get caught up in being your own boss that you neglect to do any substantial writing, and the amount of money you make suffers. I’ve gotten proficient at writing enough words each day to earn a livable wage with freelancing, and I’m going to share some of those tips so you can all become successful freelance writers.

Set a Minimum Every Day

When I was an English major at UCLA (Go Bruins!), I had a ton of essays to write during my time there. It seemed a little overwhelming at first, but then I developed a system of writing and completing all my essays on time with no stress. Let’s say I had a 10-page essay that was due in two weeks. From the day that project would be assigned, I would force myself to write at least one page a day so that all 10 pages would be easily finished in the 14-day timeframe. If I ended up writing more in a day, that would be great! The point is, I enforced a strict regimen of writing, so all my assignments would be completed by the time they were due, and I wouldn’t get stressed out.

I’ve applied this same principle to freelancing. I know how many words I need to write in a day to make a good wage, and I force myself to write that so my supply of Mountain Dew doesn’t dwindle. You can do the same; it’s very easy once you get the hang of it. If you’re just starting out, you might want to set a low word count goal, such as 2,000 words per day. After you feel comfortable writing that amount each day, bump it up to 2,500 and just keep going higher. You’ll find that soon you’ll be writing a lot more and making more money.

Research Efficiently

Over the course of your freelance career, you will certainly be asked to write about something you know nothing about. Obviously, you don’t want to just make stuff up, but you also don’t want to get bogged down in excessive research. A good rule of thumb to follow is to vary your research based on how much you’re getting paid for the assignment. If it’s relatively low, then the client is likely expecting around five to 10 minutes of research. However, if you’re getting paid quite a bit more, then you should sit down for 20 minutes or more and read through reliable sources.

This begs the question: How do you know you’ve found the right source? If the article you’re reading comes from a “.org” or “.gov,” then that should indicate it’s reliable. Other sites are fine, but check to see if they have a list of references. Here are some signs that a website isn’t good for research:

  • It’s someone’s personal blog.
  • They’re trying to sell you something.
  • It’s written in comic sans.

Don’t Get Distracted

Bored Office Worker

Working at your home means there’s no longer someone looming over your shoulder making sure you get enough work done. Conversely, it also means that you can’t stare at your computer screen for 30 minutes and still get paid for work you didn’t do. You need to stay focused on the task at hand, and that means eliminating any distractions. Doing so can be as simple as putting your phone in a closet so that you’re not constantly checking your Twitter feed. If you need extra help staying focused, there are plenty of apps and downloads that will physically prevent you from opening up anything fun on your phone or computer.

Stay Motivated During Bland Topics

If I had my way, I would put all my time and energy into my velociraptor ninja novella. Unfortunately, dinosaur warriors don’t always pay the bills, and that’s why I freelance. If you have a choice of what you can write, you should try to stick to topics that are of somewhat interest to you. However, you may find that to keep the lights on, you need to write about something kind of “meh,” such as how often to clean your home’s septic tank. You’ll be more likely to constantly check your Facebook when writing these lackluster assignments, so this is when eliminating distractions will come in handy.

If you’re given freedom about what you can write about, with only a keyword to guide you, try to find an angle that interests you. Simply cleaning a septic tank may not be all that fascinating, but there are numerous dangers to not cleaning it out, such as bacteria contaminating the surrounding area. “The Dangers of Not Cleaning Out Your Septic Tank” is genuinely interesting to readers, and you’ll learn something valuable along the way.

Ensure Quality With Quantity

Writing a bunch every day is great, but no one is going to pay you if it’s all incoherent gibberish. You don’t want to sacrifice quality in the pursuit of writing a ton of words every day. What I do the first time I work on something is simply write. I don’t pay any attention to the red squiggly lines that my spellchecker has flagged. Once I’m done, I thoroughly review the content once. This allows me to fix any minor issues and ensure clarity. Giving every assignment a comprehensive proofread allows me to write something quickly while still making sure it’s of high quality.

Try these tips for yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments. Are there any freelance secrets you’d like to share? Let us know! The more successful freelance writers out there, the better.

Mike Bedard
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