Becoming a Freelance Writer? 10 Keys to a Busy Writing Career

Becoming a Freelance Writer - Keys to a Busy Writing Career

Want to Become a Freelance Writer for Magazines?

If you’re becoming a freelance writer – or your writing career has stalled – here are the keys to a busy writing career! Some of these freelance writing secrets are from professional writers, and other are based on my own experience.

Before the tips, a quip:

“The best style is the style you don’t notice.” ~ Somerset Maugham.

One of the keys to a busy, successful writing career is finding your style, voice, personality. Who are you as a writer? Maybe this means finding your brand, or branding your image, or bringing your brand home. Maybe your brand isn’t your style — maybe your style is your niche. How you define it is less important than finding your place in this world.

Here are a few tips for finding your place in the freelance writing world…

10 Keys to Becoming a Busy Freelance Writer

The first and most important tip for a busy writing career is to learn how to write. Now that I’m editing writers for my Quips and Tips blogs, I’m learning that there are lots and lots of “writers” who neglect the very foundation of being a good writer: the sentence. It’s not that the sentences are weak — they’re missing commas, periods, and sometimes even proper capitalization!

Honestly, fellow scribes, you need to take a good hard look at your writing if you want to be a freelance writer. Every day, I’m embarrassed and appalled at my past writing — and every day, I rewrite sentences to make my writing stronger. I believe that’s the best way to become a successful writer: constantly edit and revise your own sentences.

Okay, enough! On to the keys to a busy writing career…

Enter writing contests – even if they don’t pay

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I’ve only entered two writing contests. Lost one, and won third prize and $15 on the other. My content entries were light-hearted, humorous essays — way different than the articles I normally write. They were fun and easy to write, and much different than my usual writing assignments. So, if you’re becoming a freelance writer, I encourage you to enter writing contests. Try different writing styles; take a break from your writing niche.

Research different type of writing markets

Busy writers have a wide range of writing gigs: writing resumes, advertising copy, textbooks, student papers (editing), brochures, sales letters, blog posts, technical manuals, speeches, newsletters, etc. If your dream is to become a freelance writer, consider supplementing your income with jobs you wouldn’t normally take, such as writing speeches or brochures. In time, you’ll find your writing niche and be able to focus on what you love to write about.

Approach your writing like a business

This means putting in eight hour days if you’re a full-time freelance writer, or four hour days if you’re part-time. Approaching your writing like a business involves proper invoicing paperwork, meeting deadlines, treating your clients (editors and publishers) professionally, and being easy to work with. If you really want to become a freelance writer, you have to stop treating it like a hobby.

See “rejections” as “business decisions”

Busy freelancers don’t just roll with rejections from editors — they don’t call them rejections! “We think writers should stop placing so much emphasis on ‘rejections,'” write Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell in The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. “They’re not rejections – they’re business decisions. What if your attorney or massage therapist moped around in their bathrobes like writers do whenever they lost a potential client?” Becoming a busy freelance writer means opening your eyes to the fact that writing is a business — not just a dream.

If you’re a Quips and Tips writer, remember that this tip applies to writing for my sites, too! If I reject your article ideas, don’t take it personally. It’s just business.

Visualize water off a duck’s back

To stay persistent and motivated despite rejections from editors and publishers, compare each business decision that involves a “no” to your magazine pitches with how easily water rolls off a duck’s back. (That’s not the most well-written sentence in the world, but you get my point. Be a duck! Shake off those rejections, jump right back in the water, and focus on building a busy writing career!).

Search for different ways to find writers’ markets

I’ve found freelance writing jobs by browsing through the magazine racks at bookstores, searching magazines’ websites for writers’ guidelines and contact information, looking in the library for more obscure or local magazines, and flipping through books such as Writer’s Market. There’s no one “right” path to becoming a freelance writer — each writer must choose his or her own way.

Become a freelance web writer

Get your work out there, whether it’s blogging on your own website, writing for Suite101 or, or submitting articles to websites such as Associated Content. Magazine editors and publishers may assign work on the basis of your online articles, and other writers may include your words in their books or articles. The more articles you write, the more solidly you’ll build a busy writing career.

Find your writing niche

Are you a sports writer? Fiction writer? (that’s a difficult way to earn a living as a freelancer, I must say). Poet? (an even harder way to make money as a freelance writer!). Health writer? Science writer? Once you figure out what type of freelance writer you are, you’ll find yourself quickly recognized as an expert. Plus, when you have a niche that you specialize in, doing your research and locating your sources becomes easier and faster.

Keep learning about becoming a freelance writer

Even if you have a journalism degree and already have a busy writing career, keep reading books Kelly James-Enger’s Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide to Making More Money or Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell’s The Renegade Writer. I always, always have writing books, how to have a successful career books, and blogging books on the go.

Build a busy writing career by being a busy writer!

If you don’t have a writing job and you need a break from pitching article ideas, dig out your old articles and blog posts. The best way to improve your writing skills — which will make you a busy writer — is to edit your past articles, book chapters, poems, essays, etc. Earlier today, I scanned an article I wrote for Woman’s Day – and YUCK! The sentences were choppy, the verbs weak, the exclamation points overwhelming!! Be a busy writer — keep revising your old writing. You’ll cringe…and you’ll learn.

For more tips on becoming a freelance writer, read Need Writing Experience? How to Get Clips and Get Published.

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Fellow scribes, if you have any tips for making money as a freelance writer – or any questions or comments – fire away below!

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7 thoughts on “Becoming a Freelance Writer? 10 Keys to a Busy Writing Career

  • Megan Shannon

    Great tips – I’ve always had luck with freelancing network sites too along with sites like hubpages and squidoo. Of course HubPages and Squidoo I use for simply writing about what I want to provide useful information to others. The web is a great way to get noticed. Thanks for this helpful article.

  • Bani

    great tips, indeed. I’m new to freelancing world, but I really like writing and I think i’ll enjoy doing it… especially because I’m free:D I don’t have a boss who tells me what to do… that’s the greatest part;)

  • Hausboot

    nice tips.. but really, how much money can you make as a freelancer? I mean…i saw on freelancer that per article you get about 1-2-3 dollars, depending… and if the subject you have to write isn’t in your aria of expertise, you’ll have to document about the article, so it might take you about 1-2 hours per article… is it worth?

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Murray ~ I know what you mean! Finding publishers and editors who will publish your writing is the hardest part of becoming a freelance writer…it’s the bane of a writer’s existence. But, it DOES get easier. The more you write and pitch, the more you get published.

    George ~ I used to use the Writer’s Market, but found it too competitive. That is, there were too many other writers pitching the same publications. So, I found other ways to create a busy writing career 🙂

  • George Angus

    Hi Laurie,

    One of the most valuable things for me has been the use of Writer’s Market. I go through and bookmark any page that has a magazine that even remotely fits my interests. From there I’ll spend time deciding on article topics and querying.

    These tips should certainly keep a motivated writer busy for quite a while!


  • Murray Lunn

    One of the things that have helped me greatly was exactly as you had described: finding my writing niche.

    Because I had experience and implemented what I would write about I found it much easier to create articles; it was only then finding a prospect to purchase an article on the topic that was that hard part 🙂