The Keys to Freelance Writing Success

Photo by Daniel Lee, Licensed via Flickr Creative Commons

I’m writing for three new clients this month. My plate is not full yet but I won’t lie, I’m pretty busy. It made me stop and think about how I got here.

After my contract with Crestron Electronics ended (I hate to keep bringing that up, but it really was the start of what I consider “Phase 3” of my freelance writing career and a pretty significant moment in my business), I didn’t have many clients.

I spent about five days diligently searching my favorite sites for writing jobs, and applied for about 10 different gigs that appealed to me. From those efforts, I landed two steady jobs that I absolutely love. None of these articles take a lot of time, since they are all fairly easy to research and not at all technical. (Except for one, which is in the audio visual industry, so it’s still second nature to me.) But they represent steady income and fun work. The third client, if you’re wondering, actually approached me based on content he’d read on other sites.

I know writers who spend day in, day out, applying for gigs and coming up empty. What’s the difference? There are three traits I know I have, which any writer can work to cultivate for a successful freelance writing career, too. I’ll tell you how to use these traits to find more writing work right now.

Skill and/or Talent
This one is easy for any writer to showcase. No freelance writer is going very far without it. Now, skill can be taught while talent comes naturally. Ultimately, knowledge and hard work, taking time to study the craft of writing, can make up for any lack of natural talent. When you apply for jobs, take time to pull out your best, most relevant clips to share – articles that showcase your knowledge and experience in a given field as well as your natural writing talent and, most importantly, your skill with the written word.

It took me 10 job applications to land two jobs. I had to provide writing samples (paid samples) for both. And if I didn’t get such amazing clients my first time around, I would have kept looking for as long as it took. I don’t always get 20% or more of the jobs I apply for – but when I do, I celebrate with Dos Equis. I mean… Yeah, pretty much that’s it. Either decent beer or cheap wine.

In almost 20 years as a freelance writer, I’ve had more ups and downs than I can count. Many years ago, I was promised steady work for a local newspaper, so I quit my part-time job at the bookstore to focus on writing. A week later, the newspaper folded.

More recently, I had one client who maxed me out every month with work, until the company restructured into a cheap content mill and my income was sliced in half. Last year, to recover from this financial blow, I took a full-time contract position, only to see it end unexpectedly.

Through all of these ups and downs, I’ve learned two things:

– It always gets better again.
– You just have to keep going.

Positive Thinking
This brings me to my third point, and one that so many (unsuccessful) business people forget. You have to think positive. And that doesn’t mean being positive that things are going to stay the same, get worse, or flat-out suck. You have to absolutely believe in your heart that things are getting better. And then you have to put in the work to make it happen. Checks will not appear in your mailbox because you are thinking about money, the way the movie The Secret makes it seem. Positive action, positive thoughts, and positive energy work together to bring your beliefs into alignment with reality and create success.

Back in my earliest days of freelancing, I titled my first blog, “Anything That Pays.” This is because I would take virtually any type of writing work to earn an income. (I really did, too. No, you can’t see the clips.)

But one thing I learned from all that writing was how the Law of Attraction works when it comes to being successful. The more you write, the more opportunities you will have to write. Pay scales will rise. It’s a slow and steady climb. But you cannot let up.

I suppose you can think of perseverance and positive thinking as two sides of the same coin. After all, what’s the use of continuing if you don’t really, truly believe things will get better as you progress?

Skill. Perseverance. Positive thinking.

If you apply these three traits in equal quantities, you will achieve freelance writing success.

Photo by Daniel Lee, Licensed via Flickr Creative Commons