10 Tips on Succeeding as a Freelance Writer

To help you stay motivated, here are several tips on succeeding as a freelance writer!

First, a quip from a published writer:

“Teach yourself to work in uncertainty.” – Bernard Malamud, author of several novels and short stories – and a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Malamud also said, “I write a book or a short story three times. Once to understand her, the second time to improve her prose, and a third to compel her to say what it still must say.”

Fellow scribes, Malamud knew about working in uncertainty…and about staying hopeful and persevering even when you doubt your work, doubt your abilities, and doubt your future. Take hope in these writing tips for novice and seasoned freelance writers. And – it doesn’t hurt to read books about writing, such as Jenna Glatzer’s Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer (click on the book cover for more information). 

10 Tips on Succeeding as a Freelance Writer

1. Know that it could happen today! A week ago, I received an email from the editor of Health magazine, asking me to write an article for an upcoming issue. This still bowls me over because, though I’ve pitched to this editor several times, I’ve never actually worked with him. I’m still not sure why he chose me to write this article, but boy am I grateful. Even before this, I approached every day knowing that this could be the day I win an assignment or get an encouraging email from an editor. To stay hopeful as a freelance writer, remind yourself that today could be a red-letter day in your professional life.

2. Keep the great authors front and center. You know how many “rags to riches” stories there are out there, how many struggling writers finally got their big break. You’ve heard of JK Rowling and Jack Canfield receiving dozens of rejections of their manuscripts before finally hitting it bit. Find your most inspiring success story, and post a photo, book cover, quotation, or cartoon right next to your computer. This will help you persevere as a freelance writer.

3. Slay the green-eyed monster. About an hour ago, I read that a fellow writer has a 5 page spread in a national magazine; she was approached by the editor to write the feature. I am absolutely GREEN with jealousy. I can’t believe she got that opportunity and I didn’t. Fellow scribes, this is how NOT to behave as a freelance writer. Instead of being jealous, be encouraged that your colleagues are being given writing opportunities by editors. Instead of wishing you were given the assignment instead of that writer (because you could’ve done it better!), take heart in the fact that there ARE enough writing assignments to go around. Trust me. There’s enough room for all of us freelance writers.

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4. Frequent inspirational, informative writing blogs and websites. I visit Writing World fairly regularly, because that website has literally hundreds of useful articles about writing. I like the Absolute Write forums as well. Find a writer’s blog or website that motivates and encourages you to succeed, and visit it every couple of days.

5. Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself as a freelance writer, then who will? To keep believing in yourself, surround yourself with people who believe in and love you. To stay hopeful and persevere as a freelance writer, simply paste the word “Believe” or “Faith” or “Hope.”

6. Keep learning the craft. Read those freelance writing books and magazines, fellow scribes. Even if you’ve been supporting yourself as a writer for a few months or a few years, you need to continually hone your skills. Learning the writing craft helps you stay hopeful as a freelancer because it increases your self-esteem and self-regard.

7. Pick a group, any group. Maybe this is a writers’ forum, or a hiking group, or Alcoholics Anonymous – join any group that makes you feel like you can do this writing life. Find people you trust, on whose shoulders you can slump, and whose spirits you can lift. To stay hopeful and persevere as a freelance writer, plug in to a community of writers, entrepreneurs, or enthusiastic people.

8. Blog or journal when you’re discouraged. If you have a blog, don’t write about how discouraged you are. That’ll just make you feel worse. Instead, blog about the things that inspire you as a writer: acceptance emails, great bits of writing, funny quotations, compliments of your work. If you don’t have a blog, write in your journal. If you do feel discouraged by the writing life, do write that down – but don’t dwell on it.

9. Stick to your writing routine. Whether you write for 15 minutes or 12 hours a day, carve your routine in stone. Don’t give it up because the cat is sick, you’re PMSing, or an editor has slashed your article and you have to stitch it back up again. To persevere and succeed as a writer, you have to stick to your writing routine no matter what.

10. Accept the ups and downs of the writing life. Have you ever noticed that your self-esteem, mood, and relationships have peaks and valleys? So does your freelancing career. Feast or famine. Sometimes life is just crappy, and other times it’s bloody awesome. To stay hopeful as a freelance writer, accept that the writing life is sometimes full of doodies and other times full of butterflies and red wine.

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If you have any quips and tips for succeeding as a freelance writer, fire away below!

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