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8 Freelance Writing Habits That Will Get You More Work

Want to get more work as a writer? Need clips and experience? Don’t miss these freelance writing habits – they work.

The first two habits I describe are what got me the writing gig I’m starting today – a blogging job for which I’m charging “an arm and a leg” per word (when I’m too busy for more work, I overcharge. Often clients say “OMG! No way.” This time they said “Okay.” Mental notes: Tread carefully. Establish pay rates in writing. Get paid before writing too many posts).

Here’s a quip that could be the first freelance writing habit:

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.” ~ Pearl S Buck (via @Quotes4Writers).

If you’re a writer who actually wants to earn a living, you can’t wait for the Muse. You must write. Not only that – you must be a productive writer.

8 Most Important Freelance Writing Habits

The best productivity tip I know is to meet half my writing goals for the day before I check my email or do anything on the ‘net. This tip is from The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated by Timothy Ferriss – I love that book.

And, here are a few freelance writing habits that will keep you drowning in work…

Stay connected to successful freelance writers

I write monthly articles for BC Women’s Hospital; that job came from a fellow freelancer here in Vancouver. And, the job I’m starting today is from her as well. She’s too busy (in fact, she’s in Africa on a writing gig as we speak), she’s very well-established because she’s worked as a freelance writer for over 20 years, she knows my track record, and she passes my name to clients who want to hire her. I met her at a businesswomen’s meeting – we just happened to sit down beside each other. Lucky me!

Try to work with other freelancers – not just know them

The reason my freelancing friend gets me gigs is because she and I have worked together. More specifically, I wrote articles for her when she was the temporary communications coordinator at a health organization. That’s why she recommends me to potential clients – she knows that I deliver well-written articles on time, I’m professional and easy to work with, and I know the “rules” of getting published as a freelance writer.

Don’t just accept edits and rejections – learn from them

Editors request changes, kill articles, or sometimes even revamp the whole article in-house. Sometimes editors reject article pitches or book proposals with a stilted form letter — or sometimes you’ll see your idea plastered on the cover of their magazine a couple months after you pitched it! A freelance writing habit that will get you far is to accept and learn from editors’ decisions and requests.

Take initiative – try to find answers before asking your editor or client

Here’s one of my pet peeves as the “Quips and Tips” editor: new freelance writers ask me how to create an invoice, what’s in an invoice, how to send an invoice, etc. Instead of asking your editor or client about things that are standard — and a freelancer’s invoice contains standard information! — find out yourself. Google “freelance writer’s invoice.” Figure things out for yourself – your editor will love you for it.

Find your “freelance business personality”

How do you run your freelance writing business? Read everything you can about working as a freelance writer, and experiment until you find what works for you. For instance, I have never e-mailed clips with my query letters. And I only use email – I don’t bother sending paper queries to editors or literary agents. Reading The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell gave me the confidence I needed to do things my way.

Keep accurate records and spreadsheets

A freelance writing habit to start early is to be meticulous about who you pitched when, which email address you used, who the editor was, what the response was, etc. Be extremely organized and detail-oriented. Always update your information right after you pitch ideas or win assignments.

Watch your mouth

Never, ever slander your editors, publishers, or fellow writers – even if you think they stole your work or criticized your writing skills. Be slow to criticize or judge your clients, editors, publishers, or fellow writers on forums or discussion boards.

Remember that your writing can always be improved

You don’t need to be a “natural” writer, nor do you need a journalism degree to earn a living as a freelance writer. But, you need to realistically assess whether your writing skills need work – and what you need to work on. If your basic writing skills aren’t strong, you’ll struggle to establish a regular client base. To improve your writing skills, don’t just read well-written articles, books, magazines, and blogs — notice what works and why.

If you found this article helpful, you’ll probably also want to read Becoming a Freelance Writer? 10 Keys to a Busy Writing Career.

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These freelance writing habits work for me….what works for you? Comments welcome below!

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7 thoughts on “8 Freelance Writing Habits That Will Get You More Work”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments!

    Delena ~ yes, networking is possible anywhere — not just in person at freelance writing conferences, meetings, etc. Networking online can be just as (or more) beneficial for freelancers.

    Richard ~ being organized and professional are SO important to freelancing successfully. Organization is key.

    Dan ~ the only way to be a freelance writer is to DO it. I started by working in an office part-time, and freelancing part-time. After eight months, I quit the office job to freelance full-time! It started as a habit and turned into a career….

    Anuj ~ good luck with your blog! Keep writing – don’t give up.

    Annette ~ I’m glad you found the Four Hour Workweek as helpful as I did 🙂

    All good things,

  2. Delena Silverfox

    I’m only just beginning to get into the freelance writing world, and it’s a little overwhelming. Small, slow steps is how I manage, though, and make sure that I’ve mastered one thing before going on to the next.

    Aside from online, I’m not sure how to meet other freelance writers, but that’s okay. Going to conferences, meetings, or other gatherings isn’t possible right now. But networking is possible anywhere, right?


  3. As a freelancer, business owner, I’ve learned that time management, preparation, organisation and being accountable to yourself (even with some tough love) is the only way to success.

  4. I want to do freelance writing, but I always feel lack of time to write in my own blog, because, beside being a blogger, I’m also a worker in office government.

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Annette ~ right! Your comment reminded me that Ferris said that we take as much time as we have to complete tasks. That is, if we have all day to write 200 words, then it’ll take all day to write 200 words. But if we have 15 minutes, we’ll write those words in 15 minutes. We take as much time as we have.

    Anuj ~ I’m glad you just started your blog! Good luck with it 🙂