26 Aug 2017

Do you REALLY Want to Make a Living as a Freelance Writer?

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Make a Living as a Freelance Writer

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I read an article recently that said that the typical (65% of them) freelance writer makes less than $10,000 per year. That is not making a living by any measure. In fact, anyone making that small of an amount of money must either be working a job or being supported by someone else.

I’m making a very good living as a professional full-time freelance writer, so it occurred to me that I could help by telling you some of the habits that you need to form to change your writing from a hobby to a career that earns you a very good living.

What You Need to do to Make a Living as a Freelance Writer

Put in the time – If you want to make a living a anything, and you want to be a professional, you’d better be willing to put in the time and effort. You absolutely must treat your writing career as a full time, or better yet a more-than-full time, job.

You will not make a living as a freelance writer working 8 hours a week or writing “when you feel like it” or “when you are in the mood”. You have to sit your butt down in the chair and write. Then keep writing regardless of your mood, ignoring so-called writers block, and pushing away all interruptions and temptations. Believe it or not, you have to spend your time writing!

Write fast – To make a living as a freelance writer, you’d better be able to write fast. How fast? At least 2,000 words per day. That’s publishable or salable words, not writing in your journal, not first drafts,not emails and letters, and not social media posts. That’s 2,000 words per day that you can – and do – sell or publish.

Let me put this bluntly – you need to write fast, at least 2,000 words per day, to make a living as a freelance writer. (Of course, more complex writing such as technical articles may require research, which will reduce the number of words per day you can write.)

Does that sound unreachable? To succeed at any job you have to be able to produce. If you work at MacDonald’s, you have to flip a certain number of burgers per hour; at Walmart, you have to stock shelves at a certain rate; and if you are an actor, you must be able to learn, rehearse and perform your lines fast. If you can’t produce  at a good rate in any job, you won’t make it, or at least you won’t get promoted.

Writing is no different. If you want to make a living as a freelancer, you are going to have to write fast, and 2,000 words per day is the absolute minimum.

Write well – Quality is another requirement. In order to make a living, you’d better be able to write well. If you can’t write well, learn. Because if you put out poorly written materials, you won’t get hired or rehired.

If you can’t write well, either find a different vocation or learn to write. Take classes. Attend writing critique groups. Most important, write constantly. Write thousands of words every day. Journal everything. Start a blog and write articles like crazy. Submit to contests. Do as much writing as you can. The more you do, the better you will get.

Spell Correctly – You can’t spell? Really? There’s no excuse for sending out documents with incorrect spelling. Sure, everyone, even the pros, misspell a word now and then, but if you have more than one or two in 10,000 words, you’re not checking your work. Use a spell checker for crying out loud! Learn to proofread your work. And if you still have trouble, send your work to a proofreader before you send it to your clients.

Learn to spell and use a spell check application (most word processors have one built-in) to ensure your spelling is correct.

Understand and use Grammar – Grammar is the main tool of a writer. If you don’t understand grammar, you will have a hard time writing.

Pick out a style guide – I use the Chicago Manual of Style – and use it constantly. Read chapters now and then. Learn grammar.

Professional writers of all types understand and use good grammar.

Be Confident – Are you lacking self confidence? Do you think you are a poor writer?

Let me tell you, the world of freelance writing is very competitive. If you want to make it, you’d better be confident in your abilities. Clients will smell a lack of confidence from a mile away – and that will cost you business.

Get rid of the “weasel words”. Eliminate maybe, should, I think, possibly, perhaps and similar words. Replace them with yes (or no), I will, I can, no problem and so on. If you can’t or don’t want to do something, say so. If the price is too low, tell them with confidence.

Be confident, which is different than arrogance.

If you’re not sure, take a deep breath, calm yourself, and present yourself as a confident writer.

By the way, part of being confident is insisting that you get paid a good rate for your work. If the client can’t or won’t pay your rates, find a new client. You must honestly believe you are worth every penny of what you charge and treat anything less is an insult.

Promote – To make it as a freelancer, you must spend at least 50% of your time promoting. You have to get out there and tell people you are a writer. Use social media, message boards, and anything else that you can find to promote yourself. Afraid of “tooting your own horn?” You’d better get over that fast if you want to make it.

Network – Your best tool for finding work is networking. It’s all about meeting the right people, who will, in turn, introduce you to more people. Networking is amazingly powerful. In fact, I’d say that over 50% of my business comes from my professional network.

But, you say, you are introverted and don’t want to get out with people? Get over it. You must network to make a decent living as a freelancer.

Create and Update your Own Blog – Don’t have a blog? Stop what you are doing and create one immediately. Grab a domain name – your own name if you can – and build a simple WordPress blog.

Why? This is your home on the internet. Your customers will find you through your blog.

Don’t worry very much about making it known to Google or SEO optimized or anything like that. Just create your blog and write articles and pages. Tell people how to contact you. Explain what types of writing you do and list your rates.

If you can, post something, even a short, 200-word article, every day. Do at least one per week.

Put the domain name of your blog on your business cards, your stationary and your invoices. Reference it in your LinkedIn, Facebook and every other profile of yours.

Sure, you won’t get a lot of traffic. That’s not the point. Your customers will look you up, and if you have a blog you’ve create a place where they can find out what you want them to find out.

Be Active on Social Media – You must be active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter at a minimum. Create a business page on Facebook – never use your personal profile for business if you can possibly avoid it.

Post links to the articles on your blog.

Do NOT sell on social media. Give information to establish your credibility. Help people. Ask and answer questions. Post links to resources. By doing this, you will, over time, become the authority for your niche.

Set an Income Goal for the Years, Plan to Meet it, Work to Meet it – This is vital. Decide how much money you are going to make by the end of the year, preferably at the start of the year. Break it down by month and by week. Now figure out what you need to do to make that much money. If during one week your income falls, do something to fix it.

If you don’t set a goal, you won’t have any way to measure your progress and make corrections when you are not succeeding.

Keep an eye on your income. Don’t take for granted that it will go up on it’s own. You have to do something to make it happen.

Avoid Scams – As you can see from this article, there is no easy way to become a professional freelance writer.

Anyone who tells you there is a shortcut is scamming you for your money. There are no shortcuts.

Those who say they have an easy system that will get you clients, teach you writing, or whatever, in 3 days, 3 weeks or even 6 months are only thinking about lining their pockets with your money. Don’t get me wrong, some systems do work. But none of them replace any of the rules I’ve outlined in this article. There are ways to find customers better and faster, there are methods to write more quickly, and so on, but they are not magic wands and don’t replace hard work and good writing skills..

Don’t Whine – Whining is a sign of a lack of confidence in your OWN abilities, and it’s a red flag to customers. Don’t whine. Don’t talk bad about others, even competition. Always be positive and upbeat about your abilities, your customers (past and present), and your work.


In conclusion, I hope this helps you in your journey to make a living as a professional freelance writer. Good luck to you.

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