There are many reasons people decide to go into freelance writing. Perhaps you have recently graduated college with a degree in English, Journalism, or Creative Writing and are struggling to find a permanent position in your field. Maybe you’ve lost a job and are trying to make some extra money while unemployed. Or perhaps you are a parent and you’d like to make some money from home without the need for childcare. Whatever your reasoning, it is possible to make a sustainable living through freelance writing. However, you need to have the right skills and the right mindset if you are going to be successful in this venture.
TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS
Freelance writers working from home need to be able to manage their time effectively. When you are a freelance writer, you really are your own boss. This is even more true for freelance writing than for most work-from-home positions. In general, once you take on an assignment, your client doesn’t care when you work, so long as the piece gets completed before the deadline. While not having to work on a schedule may seem like heaven, it’s difficult for many people to complete work under those conditions.
In order to be a successful freelance writer, then, you need to be able to sit down and work without anyone else telling you to do so. I generally need to be doing work-related activities more the average 40 hours in order to make enough money each week, but I break it up into chunks throughout the day. For me personally, having a schedule doesn’t work, because I can’t meet my requirements with my family. I set a goal for how many hours a day I will work, and I stay up as late as I need to in order to complete those hours. For many other people, it’s better to work for certain set hours during the day. It doesn’t matter what your method is, but it does matter that you have the ability to manage your time so that you complete all of your work each day.
As a freelance writer, I generally spend more time searching for work than actually doing it. I would say I get about one response for every 10 feelers I send out for freelance writing jobs. Positive responses are probably closer to one out of 25. I spend much of my day searching out advertisements for writers, picking out ones that meet my skills and my pay requirements, and preparing applications and writing samples.
If you want to become a freelance writer, you have to be prepared to send out numerous applications and bids for work. This is especially true early in your career, before you have built up many references or published works that you can show prospective clients. Be ready to deal with lots of rejections and especially be ready to deal with being ignored for most of the freelance writing jobs that you apply for. It’s not a personal rejection; it’s just business. Continue sending out samples and applications whenever you run across an advertisement for a freelance writing job that you would like to have. Eventually, you’ll snag one, and your writing career can blossom from there.
STRONG ENGLISH LANGUAGE SKILLS
This one may seem obvious. If you want to be a freelance writer, you need to have strong skills in spelling, grammar, and language use. While a college English degree is by no means a prerequisite for freelance writing, it is generally a good indication that you have the necessary language skills to be a writer. Success in writing and English classes in school, at whatever level you may have achieved, is also a good sign. Poor spelling and grammar is the quickest way to fail as a freelance writer.
This is another obvious one, but just as vital. If you want to be a freelance writer in today’s web-centric world, you need to have the right technology available. You don’t need a top-of-the-line computer, but you do need something with a modern word processor. If your computer doesn’t have Microsoft Word or Works installed, consider a free program such as OpenOffice/LibreOffice. You need to be able to open and edit documents sent in .doc or .docx format, and be able to save files into at least the .doc format. You also need a relatively current Internet browser; Firefox and Chrome are more secure than Internet Explorer. Finally, you need an Internet connection capable of uploading and downloading fairly large files. If you’re not on broadband, you should get it. Your clients will often want you to be available for contact longer hours than most businesses are open, so you need to have an Internet connection that allows you to check your email constantly.
The biggest key to becoming a successful freelance writer is wanting it. You have to want it badly enough to put up with the constant rejections, long hours, and frequent devaluing of your skills. If you have skills and the desire to do it, however, there’s no reason you won’t succeed in freelance writing. The first step is finding a writing job posting and applying to it. Don’t be shy!