Writing and Publishing

What I’ve Learned as a Commercial Freelance Writer

7 tips to succeed as a freelance writer and not go crazy in the process

As I earn more of my income as a freelance writer, I’ve learned some important lessons in the process:

Say “Yes”: At a former job, I’d quip to my sales staff: “The answer is always, ‘Yes, we can do that. Let me tell you how much it will cost.’” The same applies to a freelancer. Never turn a job down. (And if you’re not all that excited about it, quote more.) While most of my work is content marketing, I’ve also written website content, PowerPoint slides, marketing materials, case studies, whitepapers, outlines for presentations, resumes, and likely a few more things I don’t recall. Each one broadens my confidence, increases my capabilities, and enhances my marketability.

Quote with Care: I tend to underestimate how much time it will take me to do a project. Yes, I know how many words I can write per hour, but there is also research, editing, proofing, and sometimes just thinking. If I’m not careful I overlook the time to complete these other tasks, so I try to quote high. It’s much easier to give clients a discount than to ask for more.

Batching is Best: At first. I tried to spread out my work, doing one item a day. Yet, this is inefficient. It’s better to batch work. For example, I owe one client two pieces a month. I write them both on the same day, back to back. The second piece always writes faster and flows better. Another client wants content every Thursday and a third client every Friday. I’m more effective if I write both on Thursday. Plus that opens up Fridays for other opportunities.

One at a Time: I learned the hard way not to bring on two clients at the same time. Neither receives my focused attention, and it’s easy to confuse projects and preferences. Instead. I complete my first project for one client before I onboard a second one. It’s fair to them and keeps me sane.

Know Your Capabilities: I know how fast I can write, but I’m not as aware of the amount of time it takes to edit a piece and then proof it. But the more work I do, the easier it is to home in on these. I also know the time of day when I write my best and when things take longer, as well as certain seasons to not take on new work.

Collect Fast: For one client I spent almost as much time chasing his payment as I did doing the work. Now I have a credit card on file for each client. I do the work, email it to them, and then charge their card.

End with the Beginning: Most of my work for clients is ongoing. I write content marketing or articles along a specific theme, month after month. Each time I finish one piece, I make a note for the next one, such as a title, outline, thesis statement, the end, or even the opening. Usually, it’s just a one-line prompt. This is when I have the best ideas, and they come quickly. This makes it easy to start the next piece when the time comes. I never want to sit down with a deadline looming and ask myself, “What should I write?”

I’ve been doing commercial freelance writing for a couple of years. This is what I’ve learned so far, and I’m sure I’ll learn more as I move forward.

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Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.