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Working Freelance Writers – 5 Tips for Staying Busy Writing

Surviving the freefalls when you’re riding the freelance roller coaster is easier if you treat your writing career like a business — not a hobby. These tips for working freelancers can make the writing life easier, more successful, and more profitable.

Before the tips, a quip:“Any man who keeps working is not a failure,” said Ray Bradbury. “He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.”

Is a writing career your goal? Then stop worrying about whether you’re good enough, smart enough, talented enough! Writing skills can be learned and polished. And, since freelance writing is a business, there are dozens of things working writers can do to keep the gigs rolling in. A fantastic book for everyday business practices for entrepreneurs is Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. And, here are five tips for freelancer writers…

5 Tips for Staying Busy Writing

1. Remember that your writing career is a business – and you are an entrepreneur. If you want to succeed as a working writer, you must take your job seriously. Make sure all correspondence is professional, grammatically correct, and representative of your writing business. Follow through on your promises, and deliver your best work (even if you’re writing for free!). Be your best self on Twitter, Facebook, etc; remember that potential editors, publishers, clients, and readers are privy to your messages. There are so many ways to be a fantastic entrepreneur; if you do half of them, you’ll be ahead of the writer next door.

2. Spend time with working writers…and engage the “m” word. Do you have a mentor? When I first started freelance writing, I took a writer I admired out for lunch. I picked her brains for a couple of hours; when we parted, she invited me to stay in touch and update her on my writing career. I never called her, and I always regretted it. I did email her a few times with freelancing questions, but didn’t pursue an in-person mentoring relationship – which she would’ve been open to. Fellow scribes, don’t pass up opportunities to associate with working writers.

3. Watch what professional freelancers do. I met writer Pamela Clarke, founder of Blonde Dog Media, at a businesswomen’s networking event (there’s a bonus tip for freelancers: meet other working writers). Clarke has more work than she can handle, and has hooked me up with freelance writing gigs. And, she’s showing me how to be a better businesswoman – not, however, by lecturing or boasting! In fact, I daresay she doesn’t know the impact she has. For example, her Blonde Dog Media site is a lesson in effective, clear, simple marketing. Her willingness to connect clients with writers is not only nice, it’s smart business. If you want to take your writing career up a notch, pay attention to professional writers like Clarke.

4. Create a steady stream of quarters, nickles, and dimes. Since freelancing is full of financial ebbs and flows, working writers would do well to create sources of income that require little or no effort. My goal as a writer and blogger is to enjoy several sources of passive income – I want my past writing efforts to keep paying for my overseas vacations! Ways to stabilize your earnings include writing for sites that pay (I love writing for Suite101), selling your own e-books, and monetizing your blog. These writing projects can also improve your writing skills, increase your exposure, and give you something to work on when the freelancing gigs go on hiatus.

5. Figure out what’s most profitable in your writing career (Pareto!). Remember the 80/20 rule or the “Pareto Principle”: 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. Are you wasting time on the 80% of clients/editors/publishers that won’t hire or pay you? Figure out your most profitable and enjoyable sources of work, and nurture those relationships. Keep track of how, when, and why you’re making money writing…and let go of the time-wasters that cost you money.

Do you treat your writing like a career, or a hobby? If you have any thoughts or questions on these tips for working writers, please comment below…


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6 thoughts on “Working Freelance Writers – 5 Tips for Staying Busy Writing”

  1. Hi Kelley,

    I started out on WordPress.com (free), but quickly realized that I wanted to make money writing. So I transferred to WordPress.org (paid), which was super easy.

    It might be good to start on a free platform, because you can do that immediately. Start playing with WordPress, the themes, the plugins, etc. Then, if you think you want to put your blog to work for you, consider paying for a WordPress.org blog.

    I hope this helps! I know there’s alot to learn when you first get started. If you have more questions, let me know. I may point you to articles I’ve already written, because I’ve written a ton of articles for freelancers 🙂

    All good things,

  2. Superb blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any tips? Many thanks!

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comments — I love hearing from you!

    Alternate income sources for freelance writers are not only crucial for financial peace of mind, they also make freelancing more interesting. I think I’d get bored of just freelancing for magazines or just blogging…I like the diversification of magazine writing, writing for Suite101, web writing, etc.
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post ..Setting Money Goals – 6 Tips for Saving $500 a Month =-.

  4. Hi Laurie,
    Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips. I really need to focus on my own blog and also, on networking with other writers and your post has served as a great reminder. Guess am gonna bookmark it and come back to it later as well:-)
    Blessings and best wishes always.
    .-= Prerna´s last blog post ..Finding The Right Coach to Make Work at Home Work {Guest Post} =-.

  5. This site has some wonderful tips for freelance writing. I started freelance writing last year after I lost my job and none of the newspapers where I live would hire another writer. It’s also very important to make sure to find a great place for freelance writing and see which one fits your style the most.

  6. I think that creating alternate income sources is absolutely crucial to our well-being as freelancers. They don’t have to all be focused on the web (heck, a syndicated column certainly fits the bill), but having regular income can make such a major difference in being successful as a freelancer.
    .-= Thursday Bram´s last blog post ..Women, Technology and Blogging: Happy Ada Lovelace Day =-.