In December 2011, I quit my job and started blogging for a living. I blogged on a freelance basis for a variety of clients, eventually snagging rates of $150+ per hour.
However, over the past few months I have switched over to a subcontracting business model, where I play a more editorial role, paying other freelancers to write blog content which I then review for quality and send on to clients.
This situation puts me in the unique situation of seeing both sides of the coin. While I know what it’s like to be a freelance blogger, I also know what it’s like to work with freelance bloggers. Becoming a “client” to freelance bloggers has given me a far better understanding of the key characteristics of successful freelancers. Here are the three key lessons I’ve learned.
1. Being a good writer isn’t enough
Let’s start with the obvious: you need to be a good writer to succeed as a freelancer. Nobody will hire you if you can’t produce great content for their blog. But being a great writer is just the price of entry.
You can think of freelance blogging as a fairground where you have to pay to get in but also pay to ride the attractions. You’ll need more than just your entrance ticket to have fun (i.e. get paid a good rate).
What does this mean for you? Most freelance bloggers need to demonstrate a wide range of skills in order to earn the best rates. It’s simply not enough to just be able to write.
For bloggers specifically, you must demonstrate that you can blog. By far the best way to do this is to run your own relatively successful blog. Doing so will give you valuable experience and serve as a source of samples to woo future clients.
Clients often favor active social media accounts as well, as they like to see you sharing their content and giving it an extra boost. This fact just helps to illustrate the basic truth that you can always do well to think of freelancing in terms of what you can do to benefit the client.
2. Little things matter
Clients don’t value your writing in a vacuum; they are paying you for specific services that they believe will increase their bottom line. That makes it an imperative that, as a freelance writer, you present a solution to the client — not a problem.
In my experience, many freelancers don’t appreciate this. While they may offer a solution to some extent, that solution is often riddled with problems that take time to resolve.
The most obvious example of this is a poorly edited post: one that contains typos and grammatical errors. You’d be surprised by how many submissions I have received where the writer simply didn’t bother to proofread.
A client is hiring you so that they don’t have to worry about writing. If they have to go through each article you submit with a fine-tooth comb, it rather defeats the purpose of hiring a writer in the first place. You should always place a premium on quality in your work, because clients don’t want anything less. Taking that extra step to ensure that your article is fully polished may not seem like a big deal, but it makes a huge difference to a client.
Personally speaking, I have only worked with a couple of writers who I simply know I don’t have to check. For the rest, I know that I have to make sure that typos, strangely-worded sentences and grammatical oddities haven’t slipped through the net.
What I would give to receive a piece and know that I could just send it straight onto the client! I would happily pay more for that, but such qualities are extremely rare.
The moral of the story should be obvious: if you focus on providing well-polished posts, you will be in high demand.
I’m not saying that you need to be perfect; everybody has an occasional typo here and there, but you can certainly strive for perfection. If you work to make each blog post you pen as perfect as possible, your clients will be pleased and you will be paid.
3. Poor professional skills can sink you
Here’s the hard truth: how you conduct yourself is absolutely vital to your success. And here’s the sad reality: many freelance writers don’t fully appreciate that fact.
As I’ve said, good writing can only take you so far, after which your momentum will peter out. So let’s put aside the whole writing thing for a moment and just focus on your “professional skills,” by which I mean things like your reliability, organization and communication.
Remember that you should always aim to provide a solution, not a problem. If we consider this fact, it becomes readily apparent that being late on deadlines or failing to respond promptly to emails makes you a problem.
Of course you can’t always be at your client’s beck and call. But you should be responsive to them and you should always deliver on what you promise (acts of God and the like excepted). One of many ways to effectively do this is to learn how to manage your time.
If you can’t get organized, communicate well and remain a reliable writer, clients will become wary. Nobody wants to work with someone who constantly makes excuses and turns in assignments late. Don’t use an existing lack of organizational skills as an excuse — sort it out.
You may read through the above tips and consider them simple. Well, they are — I won’t apologize for that. Nobody ever said that success had to be complicated.
At the end of the day, it’s about doing the simple things right.
If you communicate efficiently, create quality pieces on time and bring more to the table than just a written article, you will be coveted by your existing clients and sought out by prospective clients. When that happens, you’ll know that you stand out.
How have you endeared yourself to your clients?