FREELANCING / FEB. 10, 2015
version 3, draft 3

How to Achieve True Success as a Freelance Writer

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Some freelance writers believe that true success lies in being ’discovered’ somehow; that they will only really be regarded as de facto successes in their field once their blog goes mainstream or their novella gets picked up by a bricks-and-mortar publisher.

This isn’t true.

While both of these examples are indeed very appealing, they should not be seen as any kind of benchmark for what is – and isn’t – termed as ’success’ in the world of freelance writing. The real truth is actually very simple: if you can make a consistent and enjoyable income from delivering good quality writing projects on a regular basis then you ARE a successful writer. You don’t need a sponsor or a publishing house to give your work credence; you just need to ensure you’re able to develop a way of working that will allow you to maintain a reliable income, cement a good reputation and engender continued professional growth.

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And following the five steps outlined below will allow you to do exactly that!

#1 Focus on writing

This may sound simplistic and obvious, but you’d be surprised how many freelance writers get sidetracked by the many accoutrements that surround writing. Sure, things like research and pitching have their place and are, in their own way, essential to the cause. However, if you spend more time pitching, publicising, bragging, boasting and procrastinating than you do actually tapping away at your keyboard, then your income will be anything but steady and reliable. Writing has to be your main focus; it has to be, as getting your work published and generating a steady income are the most fundamental foundations for any writing career.

#2 Read when you’re not working

Do you know what football managers do when they aren’t coaching, taking ’bungs’ or giving trite sound bites? They watch football. That’s right, they spend their time away from the game assessing and scrutinising how others in their industry ply their trade. This methodology translates to writing completely. When you’re not writing, read. Absorb anything and everything featuring the written word: books, brochures, comics, magazines, manuals; everything. Whether you realise it or not, your brain will examine each and every sentence it reads and process the information in a way that’ll make it relevant to your own writing. Good football managers watch football to help them determine their own philosophy and plot suitable courses of action. Good writers read to achieve the same results.

#3 Always persevere

Every freelance writer encounters periods of frustration from time to time. Indeed, everything from writer’s block to an ill-briefed project can make writing feel like a real pain in the arse at times. The natural inclination during these periods of relative unproductivity is simply to bin a project off; to draw a line under whatever is going bad and forget about it rather than complete it.

Don’t.

Perseverance is a quality which all good writers need to have. Things don’t (and won’t) always go as you’d like them to – that’s part of the gig. Getting into the habit of calling it quits whenever things start to look a little unfavourable is not an option. If you do that then you will succeed only in developing a bad commercial reputation and/or engendering habits within yourself that are not complimentary to high quality writing. Bear this in mind: C.S. Lewis received over 800 rejections before he sold a single piece of writing; think how different the literary landscape would be if he lacked perseverance...

#4 Get your work ’out there’

Publishing in one form or another is an essential part of any writer’s success. As mentioned before though, this success doesn’t revolve around being published on a grand platform or having your articles redistributed by a reputable imprint. There are dozens of ways to get your work out there from sharing articles on a community forum and maintaining a blog to posting muses on Facebook and self-publishing your very own book. When you get your work out in the public domain for all to see, you will get the fuel all writers need to take them to the next level: feedback. Why is feedback so important? Simple, informed opinion enables you to accomplish the fifth step.

#5 Listen, learn and improve

Michelangelo wasn’t a great painter when he first picked up his brush: it took him years to learn about form, perspective and composition. Michelangelo became a great painter because he took the time to listen to the opinions of his contemporaries and learn from mentors like Bertoldo di Giovanni. He improved because he used the feedback he received to engender continued professional (and personal) growth.

No writer is the ’finished product’ when they first start out. In fact, most writers are unlikely to get anywhere close to being a finished product within the first decade of them picking up a pen with purpose. If you are to enjoy a prolonged period of success as a writer, then it is imperative to listen to what people have to say about your work. If you take the time to find out what readers and fellow wordsmiths like about your writing – what works and what doesn’t – then you will improve your skills and become a better writer with each new article you publish. Improvement leads to a steady upturn in quality, which itself generates – over time – greater interest and appreciation.

Pretty solid ingredients for ’success’, wouldn’t you say..?

See also: The Pros and Cons of Starting Your Freelance Writing Career at Content Mills

Have you achieved success as a freelance writer? Do you agree with the above? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment in the box below.

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