In the first part of Secrets of Successful Freelance Writers, we talked about the importance of finding the right work, learning to accurately price writing projects, and releasing your inner project manager. In today’s post, we tackle four more secrets that can help you build the freelance writing business of your dreams so you can make money from home … in your pajamas.
Here we go!
Study your craft.
You will never be done learning about writing. Whether your goal is to write feature articles or marketing copy, there is an infinite collection of resources and references that will help you hone your craft. From traditional books to blogs, online courses to community college courses, mentorships to internships, there are literally hundreds of ways to improve your skills and confidence.
In my case, I leaned heavily towards online sources. I became a voracious blog reader, devouring post after post, storing choice bits in my Evernote files, and putting my new skills to work as quickly as I could (lest I forget them). You can self-educate however you prefer, but don’t ever stop being hungry for more knowledge.
- Do a search for blogs on your particular area of interest. Load a few into a reader (with Google Reader closing in July, I just switched to Feedly and I’m loving it!). Read them regularly.
- A great initial resource for anyone considering life as a freelance writer, Peter Bowerman’s Well-Fed Writer series are a perennial favorite – chock full of great advice and helpful templates.
Create your system.
There’s a reason that the assembly line had such an impact on the industrial revolution. Systems help you replicate and streamline a process so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you tackle a particular task.
In addition to being more efficient, systems give you and your clients a greater sense of confidence. You know how to break a project down so you can get it down. Your clients feel like they are in capable hands when you have a clear and defined plan to get them from Point A to Point B.
Like pricing, expertise with creating systems will come with time and practice; but you can get a good head start by studying other people’s systems and thinking consciously about what works well on your projects.
- Keep a running log of the steps you take to manage a project. After only a few times doing this exercise, you’ll begin to see patterns for what works and what doesn’t.
- Formalize your system by giving each phase a name. Familiarize yourself with the optimal flow for a project and then share that with your client as you work through the process.
Pay attention to the details.
They say don’t sweat the small stuff. When it comes to writing, I disagree. In writing, you’re better off remembering that the devil is in the details.
In a perfect world, we’d each have our own private editor who would proof and polish our work for us before we release it to the client. However, this isn’t a perfect world, so that’s not usually possible. There are, however, two tricks you can use to help improve the quality of your work.
First, build “breathing room” into your development schedule. Too often, we are rushed. We write right up to the deadline and have to send our work out without giving ourselves time to walk away for a little while and then come back with a fresh eye. Whenever possible, make sure to give yourself enough wiggle room to let your copy “set” for twenty-four hours. You’ll be amazed at how many improvements you’ll be able to easily make even after that short a respite.
Second, read your work out loud. There are lots of things that look good on paper, but sound lousy when spoken aloud. Reading your work out loud makes it obvious when a certain word or phrase doesn’t work. Never skip this step.
- To convince yourself of the efficacy of these tactics, go back to a piece you wrote a while ago. First, edit it just on paper and then read it aloud and edit it again.
- Adjust the list of tasks and template schedule you created to include “breathing room.”
Provide over-the-top service.
Finally, nothing strengthens your business like stellar service.
When you engage with clients, try to make the experience fun. Smile even if you’re meeting via conference call (people can hear smiles, you know). Keep a positive and upbeat mood. Be responsive to customer inquiries. Be a true collaborator. Be polite and helpful and respectful. Go the extra mile.
One of the best things you can do for any customer is make her life easier. Whether your clientele is made up of corporate marketing managers or solo entrepreneurs, everyone loves to work with someone who makes the work easy. Find little ways to take things off your customer’s plate. Become an irreplaceable resource.
- Think about the types of customer service experiences that have wowed you. How can you incorporate some of those types of experiences into your own workflow?
- Then think about the worst service experiences you’ve had. How can you ensure that you never make those mistakes with your customers?
So, there you have them – my seven favorite tips for becoming a successful freelance writer. So far, they have served me well. I hope they will do the same for you.
Questions? Lay ‘em on me and I’ll do my best to answer them.
More tips? Don’t just sit there – share!
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of voice and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.
Image Credit: seeveeaar