What's your New Year's Resolution when it comes to being a freelance writer? Are you looking to just break into the business as a casual way to make more side income? Are you looking to take things to the next level? There are many different levels of freelance writing and it makes sense that you would want to continue to improve as a writer. No matter how much experience you have as a freelancer, whether it's ten years or ten days, there are some basic bits of advice that always come in handy. You're either getting much better, or you're getting stale. Don't settle for mediocre or middle of the road. Get your freelancing career started the right way this new year by jump starting yourself with a few good tips to improve your career.
Freelance Writing Tip #1: Always remember the reader first
This should be a top rule for any freelance writer regardless of style or market, but it's absolutely amazing how often this cardinal rule is broken by new and experienced writers alike. It's easy to get caught up in style, flow, format, keywords, and on page optimization among many other things - but where's the reader in all of this?
Whether you want to write content that is search engine friendly to Google's increasingly high standards or simply right copy that sells, you need to remember the reader. Who is the intended audience for this article, book, or assignment? What level of vocabulary is appropriate? What does the reader want to know? Why might they be looking for your information? When you write with the intended audience in mind you are going to produce better work that is far more likely to meet the needs of the audience and your employer.
Always remember the reader. This rule alone can help you take your work from ordinary to exceptional.
Freelance Writing Tip #2: Go back to basics
If in doubt, keep it simple! This goes for grammar, sentence structure, and style. If you don't know whether to use a big fancy word or a simple precise one, usually the precise option is the best choice. While there are a few exceptions, in general freelance writing is not like long academic or college level papers.
Simple but clear sentences are best. Avoid the long run-on sentences, comma splices, and other common mistakes like overusing conjunctions like "and" or "but" as a sentence starter for style sake. Too much just makes it look amateurish. But once in a while slipping one into an article isn't too bad :)
Freelance Writing Tip #3: Solve the problem
Many times an assignment can be summed up simply: solving a problem or offering the solution to a problem. Why are most writing assignments given? Because there's value to be had by offering information. Most of the time that's because it offers a solution of some kind. Whether it's a gossip crazed public wanting to know about past celebrity scandals or someone looking for quailty do-it-yourself articles, they're looking for information that helps them solve that problem.
Don't write plain fluff to try and meet a word count. Put yourself in the shoes of a reader looking for this type of information and ask yourself what it really is you're looking for. Then provide that solution!
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The final three tips to take your freelance writing to the next level...
Freelance writing tip #4: Follow a schedule religiously
Many freelance writers come from an artist's perspective, and as such many of us absolutely hate the idea of a set in stone schedule. One of the biggest complaints many clients have is that even good freelance writers tend to miss deadlines over and over again. Instead of trying to estimate in your head when you'll get a job done or putting out a vague page per day set up, make sure to create an assignment specific schedule and stick with it.
You should know the absolute minimum amount of pages for each client you are going to do per day, and you should have extra hours (if not days) built in for every just in case scenario. If you're a writer who consistly hits on deadline, you'll automatically push yourself into the top 10%. That's sad, but it's true.
Freelance writing tip #5: Don't put yourself on auto pilot
This is a tip that I need to follow myself a lot more often. If you're one of those people who love writing, can put together great sentences naturally, and don't need to put in a lot of conscious effort to write well, then it can be very easy to go on auto pilot. You know your writing is that much better than most your competition's so you just run through page after page.
This isn't the same as getting in a groove. By all means, if you hit a hot streak then run with it! However many good writers mentally check out and fall into the routine of pushing out one page after another without a lot of effort or introspection. Take some time to consciously tackle each page. Not only will small changes make big improvements on the pages themselves, but this practice will make sure you keep improving your own skills page by page instead of resting on your laurels.
Freelance writing tip #6: Stretch your writing limits
Do you think the very best copywriters were born with the ability to sell on the page? Stephen King experienced hundreds of rejections before he was consistently published and went on to become one of the largest selling fiction authors in history. Don't pigeonhole yourself. Just because you only write articles now doesn't mean you wouldn't be great at copywriting, press releases, or more creative projects. Tackle an e-book or try your hand at making batches of articles.
Each style of writing has its own rules and by tackling multiple styles of freelance writing you will learn from each one and become better at all the others as a result.
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Never stop learning!
As a final bit of a bonus tip, one of the best pieces of advice I can give to freelance writers is to never stop learning. While it can seem like an obvious bit of advice in the beginning, when you start earning really good money and start turning down jobs you would have killed for in those early months - it can be easy to rest on your own laurels. You never want to do that. Always push on, always sarge on, and keep on learning and a freelancing career will become a freedom granting reality.