Being a freelancer means managing your own business.
This also means that those who have entered the profession must know how to juggle between work and personal life.
One of the most appreciated parts of freelancing is that you can create your own clientele. To be a successful freelance writer, however, you need a lot more than pristine writing skills. In order to maintain a steady flow of work orders coming in, you must have these ten soft skills that will help you shape your future direction.
Spoiler alert: None of them has anything to do with “Grammar rules” or basics of “how to write a blog”.
We are going to assume that you already have that part down.
1. Accounts and Business Management
Accounting is not something that attracts a writer to freelancing, yet is one of the most important aspects if you are to manage your income and finances.
Create professional invoices with several digital invoicing tools dedicated to rationalising your billing and invoicing operation. Keeping accurate records may be painstaking, but it's a payoff in the long run towards developing business acumen. Moreover, these help you measure your progress over a long period of time so that you can understand where you are going wrong periodically and set achievable goals for yourself.
2. Understand Quick Turnarounds
To be a successful freelancer, building credibility with the client is an important factor that is often overlooked. Timeliness of your work, as well as the quality, is critical. It is a central part of phase-1 of any freelancer who wants to build a good reputation and earn the trust of their clients.
You stand to lose out on good money if you spend several days on small copy orders or even the project. You shouldn’t take hours after hours to write a 500-word blog post. By practising writing a good quality 500-word copy in a matter of an hour or so, you are likely to establish a relationship with a satisfied client, who in turn can send another project or client along your way.
Freelance writers and bloggers usually edit their own work and thus should be able to spot obvious errors within minutes, run spell-checks, read for flow and make the piece presentable.
3. Adapting to Different Styles of Content Writing
Different forms of length define the writing, and any freelance writer should be able to adapt to the style. The common styles of writing to master are casual, lifestyle and formal copywriting. Some forms of content would require you to be engaging, humorous and emotional while others require you to be informative and opinionated.
Content writers are jack of all trades. Donning different hats when communicating through textual or visual content is part of the job profile. A brand journalist, for example, is trained towards being concise, fact-driven and a good narrative. Ghostwriters are more focused on creating awareness to win communities as their intent is not to be hard sellers or marketers. On the other hand, product and web writers are more adept at writing for websites and applications, where a little foray into the digital landscape is needed. SEO copywriters are experts at infusing keywords targeted at improving your content to rank well on search engines and generating traffic.
While you have ample freedom in creative writing, you still need to be able to grasp your client’s niche and adhere to SEO copywriting rules as copywriting is mostly sales-based. Writers and bloggers also need to understand the need of the client, comprehend the brief, ask the necessary questions and set expectations beforehand to avoid any unnecessary rework.
4. Being an Editor
Having a meticulous understanding of grammar and spelling can open several good project opportunities for freelancers. From proofreading to cleaning up eBooks, novels and retail descriptions, this necessary skill of grammar can always tip the pay in your favour. Fact-checking and verification of information in written work are more crucial.
A tip is to always hyperlink your claims and cite sources within texts to avoid misinformation.
5. Organisational Skills
When you are your own reporting manager, one of the most fundamental skills to acquire is good time management and organisation.
Being efficient prepares you to be able to tackle projects in a focused manner. A calendar is important. Feed your project deadlines and plot your timelines on your diary or a notepad app on your phone. A to-do list is key as well. A tip is to chart your projects and deadlines at the beginning of the week and then breaking them down to segregate into daily lists.
Labelling, managing and backing up your files tidily is highly recommended. This is because switching between multiple projects at a time can create chaos on your desktop, and this hampers your accounting as well.
6. Open to learning
The world of digital is changing fast. With it, new opportunities for existing skills are arising. Which means adapting to new skills is also necessary. Companies and consumers who are populating the digital realm will always come across hurdles that will need intelligent problem-solving skills. Digital tools like the word documents and spreadsheets have created a blend of science and art.
Continuous learning is the only way to move forward. Your clients will appreciate if you put in the effort to solve even a tiny problem for them by going a little out of the way. This also exhibits integrity in the workplace.
7. Effective communication
“The bedrock of all successful relationships,'' as well as a problem-solving strategy.
Communication allows people to assess any situation, choose strategies and chart the course of action for future developments. Anyone is bound to come across stressful situations where something gets in the way of you closing those thousand words blog. Maintaining clear communication allows the client to understand your situation and buy some more time.
8. A social media presence
Marketing yourself is an essential part of being a freelancer. Your work, if showcased effectively, on a professional website, allows for clients to reach you. Weekly blogs let you demonstrate your writing chops as well as create a thought leadership among your community. You should be able to champion at least one social media channel. These allow you to be consistently present, making it easy for people to contact you for work.
And why not? With so many free photo design tools with pre-existing templates like Canva and Mail Chimp, gathering a few marketing skills along the way will only get you a better pay-off as a communication specialist in the long run.
9. Empathy /Knowing your audience
This often goes without saying and shouldn’t as a lot is at stake if a writer doesn’t have a good grasp of who his or her target audience is. This leaves with a gaping hole where miscommunication is bound to happen. Once the content is written, it is important to step back, put yourself in the shoes of the audience and objectively identify mistakes. Doing this doesn’t just allow you to be error-free from the point of view of ideas but also becomes a source of voice for you as a writer.
Marketers study buyer’s personas and other methods to understand their customers and open a communication channel with their audience. As a communicator, your job comes with the responsibility of empathising with your readers. Even more, empathy allows you to interpret your client's problems better.
10. Being coherent
Being a content writer means having the ability, to sum up the ocean in a cup. If you yourself are unable to put your thought into a sentence, then you can be assured that your reader will not understand the sentence as well.
Asking yourself questions like “Who am I talking to?”, “Is what I say here relevant to my reader?” “How should I convey this piece of information?” allows you to relate to the audience and processes ideas in a much more seamless manner.
A clear subject matter and headline makes it easy for you to decide what you need to say.
Being a freelance writer takes you beyond your computer and an internet connection. An average Indian today earns around 1.8 lakhs per year through content writing, which goes up 10 to 15 times depending on how you manage your work.
Also, India has the world’s largest freelance workforce after the United States. The smallest of habits and attitudes in addition to your professional skills make all the difference in making or breaking a deal.
What are the skills that you have found to have benefitted you with consistent freelance work?