Many people love the idea of making a living as a freelance writer, but it’s not as easy as some cheap 99 cent Kindle books would make it out to be. Working for yourself is challenging for a wide variety of reasons, and becoming a professional writer only makes things a little harder still. This article isn’t about drumming up work through marketing, but looks at four very specific ways you can quickly improve your skills as a freelance writer. The more skills you have, the more confident you will become in charging those rates that you deserve!
Step 1: Study Different Styles
Do you know the difference between copywriting and blogging? Technical writing versus academic writing? Do you know the formatting that press releases require? While “writing” is just a general umbrella term, it is worth noting that there are many different styles of writing and each one has its own very specific requirements.
Writing good sales copy is an art and a science by itself, and requires understanding how a very specific format works. That is one genre where there is no cheating, there is no getting around the formatting rules. Press releases are strict in that way, as well.
On the other hand there can be many different approaches to web content and blogging depending on what specific voice or style is required.
Step 2: Have Your Reference Books On Hand
While experience is a good thing, there are times where the best possible course of action is to simply go back to basics. This means having some basic books on hand you can always go back to when you find yourself pulling a brain fart about a rare grammar situation, or you just feel like you need a review. A grammar guide is always good, and every writer regardless of focus should have a copy of Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style.”
Depending on the style of writing you dive into the most, your additional reference books might be different. You may have books specifically on writing sales copy, or a journalism book on writing outstanding press releases. Make sure your reference books are ones that help you out.
Step 3: Mind The Big Details
There are some things that should be so obvious that they don’t need to be part of any advice article, and yet so many freelance writers fail to meet these basics that doing so yourself will help you stand out above and beyond over 80% of the freelance writers out there.
These basics or “big details” include simple things like:
– Always be on time and make deadline
– Always use spell and grammar check (I recommend Grammarly in addition to Microsoft Word)
– Always proofread what you write once after spell and grammar check to be sure
– Always respond promptly to communication with the client
Step 4: Challenge Yourself To Grow
Assign yourself homework. If you know you struggle with one type of writing, commit to doing one example of that a week. Write sales letters for your own imaginary products, revise them. Work on producing better technical content. It can be a slow and frustrating process but the act of focusing on producing sheer amounts of good content in styles you’re not comfortable will add up together over time and help you become a stronger writer with more to offer clients in terms of both quantity and quality.
Bonus Advice: Add 50% To Time Estimates
This really focuses on the freelance side of things, but it can help your reputation immensely. Even if you think you can get a job done in four days, quote six. If you think it will take one week, quote 10 days. Not only does this buy you time in case you get sick, there’s an Internet outage, or some type of emergency, but by getting your work done early on a consistent basis you will do what virtually no other freelance provider does.
This will make you stick out for your professionalism, work ethic, and ability to deliver and allow you to charge much more for your work while still getting rave reviews.
There are many different steps you can continue to take to improve as a content provider, and as writer you should always be looking to improve and get even better, but by starting out with these four steps and a little bit of bonus advice, you’ll be surprised just how many options open up for you as a successful freelance writer.