There’s no big secret to earning money as a freelancer — but there are certain habits of successful writers, which help them earn money writing. Here are ten tips for making money as a writer…tips anyone can do!
Before the tips, a quip:
“In the end, writing skills are mostly absorbed, not learned. Like learning to speak as a native speaker, learning to write well is not just learning a set of rules or techniques,” writes Philip Martin in The New Writer’s Handbook. “It’s a huge, messy body of deep language, inspired by bits of readings, conversations, incidents; it’s affected by how you were taught and where you live and who you want to become.”
But wait, there’s more:
“For every convention, there is another way that may work better. For every rule, there are mavericks who succeed by flaunting it. There is no right or wrong way to write, no ten easy steps.”
There may not be ten easy steps to writing, but there are practical ways to earn a living as a writer. Read on for those tips, and click on The New Writer’s Handbook for more writing advice from Philip Martin.
10 Habits of Successful Writers Who Earn Money Writing
1. Continually improve your writing skills. 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 remember: learning to write well never ends). If your basic writing skills aren’t strong, you’ll struggle to build a successful freelancing career. One way to absorb writing skills is to study high-quality, high-profile articles, books, magazines, blogs, and websites.
2. Find your writing “personality.” By writing personality, I don’t mean style or voice. I mean how you run your freelancing business. Read everything you can about how to be a freelance writer, and find what works for you. For instance, I don’t mail out queries with clips. I only use email. I’m aware that this limits my chances of selling articles — but I’m also making a living as full-time freelance writer. It works for me (but I do wonder what markets I could break into if I snail mailed my queries….).
3. Keep accurate records and spreadsheets. Successful freelance writers are meticulous about they pitched when, which email address they used, who the editor was, what the response was, etc. A characteristic of a successful freelance writer (or any successful entrepreneur) is being organized to a fault. Always update your information right after you pitch ideas or win assignments. Here’s an example of a spreadsheet: A Freelance Writer’s Spreadsheet for Invoices and Payments.
4. Track industry trends. A great habit of a successful freelance writer is to stay up-to-date on the current publishing news, magazine changes, and industry events. Subscribe to at least one writing magazine that offers more than encouragement to writers. Talk to peers – find out what’s going on in the freelancers’ world. And, keep reading current issues of the magazines you want to write for. They change, and successful writers need to be aware of those changes.
5. Watch your mouth! Avoid slandering your editors, publishers, or fellow writers – even if you think they stole your work or criticized your writing skills. Be slow criticize or judge your writing clients, computer software support techies, or fellow writers on forums or discussion boards. This habit of a successful freelance writer — or any entrepreneur — will keep reputations clean and light.
6. Accept edits and rejections gracefully. Editors request changes, kill articles, or sometimes even revamp the whole article in-house. Sometimes, they 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! (I believe that ideas are rarely stolen, and if you think people are stealing from you, you’ll become bitter and suspicious). To earn a living as a successful freelance writer, accept editors’ decisions and requests gracefully.
7. Hone your networking for writers skills. If you want to be a successful writer, connect to other writers and entrepreneurs. You’re a “small business” and you need to learn about marketing, promotion, and best business practices. Networking with other writers and entrepreneurs will give you valuable information, both professionally and personally.
8. Keep your clip file updated. My “clip file” is two lists of online and print articles on my website, The Adventurous Writer; I update it every week. I’ve never sent clips when I pitch articles, but even so I’m earning a living as a full-time freelance writer. The writers’ guidelines on many websites and in books like the Writer’s Market do suggest you send clips…and if you do, make sure they’re either the most recent or the most relevant.
9. Update your resume regularly. If you want to supplement your meager earnings as a freelancer, you might apply for “real” writing jobs or contracts with private or public organizations. If you keep your resume updated, it’ll be easier and quicker to send it out when you need to. Keep adding new clients, memberships in writing or freelancing associations, volunteer work, etc.
10. Take care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, eat nutritious food, and exercise regularly. Deal with your mental, emotional, or spiritual issues – because they can hold you back. If you ignore your personal problems, your professional work will suffer. Earning a living as a full-time freelance writer requires self-discipline and motivation, which means you need to be healthy and grounded.
Do you have any thoughts on these habits of successful writers? I welcome your comments below…