We’ve already written quite a bit on the practical side of becoming a freelance writer, from how to get started to building your portfolio and finding writing jobs, so this article is a little different.
What you need to be a writer isn’t just about the qualifications and experience you have, or even the wish to make a career out of writing. It’s also about whether you have the personality traits and the temperament to make a successful living from your writing long term.
While obviously, as a writer, you’d be expected to have good writing skills and creativity, you need more than just those talents if you want to make a living from your writing:
A professional, business mindset
Many people are attracted to writing because it’s creative and fun, and it sounds like a great way to spend time at home with the kids while puttering about doing the odd article. And if that’s what you want to do, and you have the budget to do it, why not? Go for it!
But if you want to make serious money with freelance writing and build a business that more than just pays the bills, that allows you to really live and do the things you want to do, then you need to take it seriously.
You need to decide that you are running a business and be professional. That means setting goals for yourself and your business, having a business plan, using contracts with your clients, setting clear boundaries, and going out there and marketing your socks off to bring in the right kind of work that pays you what you need.
Some people talk about soft skills as if they are somehow less important than the hard, practical skills you need to actually do a job. But imagine a workplace where people didn’t communicate or listen to each other, where no one was flexible and prepared to compromise.
Employers look for soft skills in addition to qualifications and experience because they know they need people who are capable of listening and working well with others. While you might not be aiming to have a ‘conventional’ job, with a boss in an office, you’ll still have clients that you need to work well with, and if your business grows, you may work with other freelancers, or you might even take on some employees of your own.
Either way, you’re going to need to be able to communicate well, listen, understand, adapt, and sometimes compromise what you wanted to do to suit the client or the situation.
You can’t ignore these abilities just because you mostly work by yourself at home or in a coffee shop on a laptop.
Writing can be a complete rush, and some days your fingers will fly over the keyboard. Other days you’ll find it’s like wading through rapidly setting concrete and you just can’t seem to get a word or an idea down. The difference between someone who makes a success of freelance writing and someone who doesn’t is that successful writers keep going.
A professional freelance writer finds ways to deal with those days when the words don’t flow and you need to hunt them down with a club. They switch to a different project to give their brain a break or do some of the less exciting work that goes with running a business, like admin or accounts. They brainstorm the article they’re stuck on and allow themselves to write nonsense for a bit, just to write something, because they know that often, the act of writing will start to get the words moving again.
What they don’t do is quit and decide to do nothing. They find some way to beat the block or they at least do something else to keep their business moving forward.
Most people have the odd hour or even day where they feel like they have nothing to offer and their confidence takes a bit of a nosedive, but if you have poor self-esteem and really don’t think what you do as a writer is valuable to your clients, you’ll struggle to charge what you need.
You might even struggle with the deadly, ‘I don’t know enough, and if I just take this one more course and read this one website on writing and everything to do with it, then I’ll feel confident enough to go out and get clients.’
Reality check: nobody knows everything. Writers who’ve been doing this for twenty or thirty years still don’t know everything, and if you wait until you do, you’ll never get started.
Start anyway, right where you are. Work with what you’ve got and build from there.
And if part of your lack of confidence is down to imposter syndrome, then find out how a famous robot test can help you beat it.
The sun is blazing down, we’ve actually got some summer weather, and all you really want is to go to the beach and drink your alcoholic beverage of choice, but you’ve got a project due for a client in a couple of days and you know your life will be easier if you get it done now.
You’re the boss. It is up to you, and only you know if you can pull off the project anyway to a great standard and have some time on the beach. If you can, great! Enjoy the sun. If not, BICFOK – Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard!
There’s only you can make yourself do that. There’s only you can put your butt in that chair every morning and make yourself do what needs to be done for your business.
If you don’t have the self-discipline to switch off Netflix and get your writing done, you’ll find it incredibly hard to make a living with your writing.
Willingness to learn
However much you think you know all there is to know about your field of expertise, there’s always something new to learn.
Writing itself has changed a great deal just in the last ten years, with new possibilities for jobs that weren’t as plentiful before, like a growth in writing video scripts for Facebook Live or for courses, as well as knowing how to implement SEO techniques in your copy. And some of the jobs that used to pay really don’t any more, like writing product descriptions. You can still get the work, but good luck getting a decent rate for it!
You need to be able to learn from your clients, from the latest trends, and polishing up your skills and learning new ones is always a good idea.
You will get turned down for work. You won’t always get the jobs you apply for, or that guest post spot you really wanted. Your editor might come back with one heck of a critique on your latest post that doesn’t make you feel good at all.
All of those things are pretty standard with a writing life, and you need to be able to literally pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.
If you need to curl up in a ball and stay there for several days every time you get a rejection, perhaps you need to reconsider whether freelance writing is for you.
Still think a writing life is for you? It’s not without its challenges and you do need to be strong mentally, but it is an amazing, creative and satisfying life. Why not try it out with Copify first where you can build up your experience while earning money.
Main image credit: rawpixel.com
Image credits: rawpixel.com, Bich Tran, Pixabay