8 Ways to Build a Better Freelance Writing Career


A successful writing career isn’t (just) about struggle, poverty, and clawing your way up the freelance ladder! Writers can make good money, if they heed good writing advice. These eight ways to build a better freelance writing career will help you find — and keep — your place in the writing world…

Before the tips, a quip:

“The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.” ~ Richard Harding Davis.

That quotation reminds me of something a wise old editor once told me: readers (and publishers) want “the same, but different.” If you’re too different, and you risk alienating readers. If you’re too “been there, done that”, you’re boring! To learn more about improving your writing skills (the cornerstone of a solid freelance writing career), read Keys to Great Writing. And, here are eight ways to build a more successful freelancing career from a variety of writing professionals…

8 Ways to Build a Better Freelance Writing Career

1. Understand who your readers (and your clients) are. “Unless you’re writing a personal journal, you’re writing for readers, editors, publishers, and clients — not yourself. Try to appeal to them. If they don’t care about what you have to say, they won’t read what you write.” – Mark Grabowski, journalism professor.

2. Double check your facts, and be original. “A new issue that is arising is plagiarism. Successful magazine writers need to know that ‘copy and paste’ does not equal writing. That may have gotten them through school, but it won’t keep them employed as writers.” – Cynthia Clampitt, freelance writer and editor.

3. Create a strong outline for your feature article. “Spend extra time to make a great outline. That way, you can go back, fill in sections, and put your brain on “auto-pilot” if needed to get the job done. A great outline lets you split up a magazine feature article into manageable chunks, and gives you a greater sense of accomplishment when you complete sections.” –  Joel Elad, blogger.

4. Record your interviews with experts. “Whenever possible, record your telephone interviews with experts. You can buy a gadget that you attach to your cell phone and computer. Then, you can send the mp3 file to Idictate.com and within 24 hours you’ll have a typed transcript. From there it’s easy to shape and edit a finished piece!” – Peggy Hall, veteran freelance writer. 

5. Don’t chase the publishing or cultural trends. “Write about things you care about and are interested in. Otherwise, your indifference will likely be reflected in your writing.” – Mark Grabowski, journalism professor. If you’ve been hired to write an article or book that you have no interest in, try to find ways to make your writing edgy and quirky! If you can increase your enjoyment levels, you’ll make your readers happy. And that alone can help you build a better freelance writing career.



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6. Unzip your writer’s voice, and get out of the way. “Write like you talk to your friends and family (just leave out the “ums” and “you knows”). It seems to me that a lot of people adopt what they think of as a “writerly” voice when they write. They start using technical jargon, business- or marketing-speak, legalese, academic bloviation, or bureaucratese because they have the misconception that ‘that’s the way everyone does it.’” – Roy Jacobsen.

7. Tell a good story. “When I get nervous or unsure about writing an article, I go back to the basics, and just try to tell a good story. Stories can be edited to make them shorter, or more interviews can be added to fill in details, but getting the main story down is the most important part. If a writer can do that, all else is minor.” – Sylvia Forbes, writer.

8. Be courageous when you write. “My journalism professor told us how it can be easy to get nervous or feel embarrassed when, for instance, you have to move people around for a photograph or re-ask a question if the answer needs clarification.  But you have to remember that you’re there to do your job. People expect you to do it.  If you look and sound confident when, say, you’re positioning the subjects for a photograph, then they will trust you and do as you ask.’” – Mary Beth Kriskey, Copywriter/PR Specialist.

What do you think about these ways to build a better freelance writing career…and do you have any tips to share? I welcome your comments below…






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6 thoughts on “8 Ways to Build a Better Freelance Writing Career

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments! Cute, Allena, about your dog 🙂

    Understanding your client is also important — who can be different than your reader.

    I need to buy a recording device to tape my interviews.
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..The Most Important Job for Writers – Being Sticky, Concrete, Memorable =-.

  • Allena

    Another option is to conduct interviews over speaker phone with just a regular MP3 recorder.The only snafu I’ve ran into is that my dog likes to suddenly go nuts & is very loud. So he is now kicked out of the office!

  • Rebecca

    Thanks for the tips! Understanding the reader is important. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, you may become stuck as a writer. Don’t forget to double check your spelling and punctuation.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog post ..The Case of Pro Blog vs. No Blog =-.

  • Leslie A. Joy

    Really great tips, Laurie. I especially love number 6.

    I think two of the biggest things you can do for a freelancing career are planning and learning-then make sure you never stop planning and learning.