3 Keys To Making Consistent Income As A Freelance Writer
Writing is a lost art in the 21st century, with technology and U.S. public schools being most to blame. Generation Z and young Millennials regularly communicate in digital acronyms and memes. A vast majority of Americans under the age of 30 cannot write in cursive. But the lack of writing skills cannot be blamed on young people.
A 2015 study by the Oakland-based Education Trust found that over 90% of middle school assignments required writing a paragraph or less of content. Quality writing contains good content, good style, and in many cases, good storytelling. Most U.S. school children are not afforded the opportunity to hone their writing skills because the education system simply is no longer set up for that.
The foregoing is important to know for one simple reason: if you are one of those rare individuals who can write, congratulations. Writing has been an in-demand skill in the business world for decades. A 1964 survey in the Harvard Business Review found that the “ability to communicate” in the written form is a prerequisite for promoting anyone to executive levels. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers 50 years later found that 73% of employers favored candidates with strong writing skills.
Good freelance writers are essentially in-demand small business owners who control every aspect of their careers, from schedules to wages. But success is dependent on an organized work station, persistence and strategic expansion.
Set Up Your Home Office
This may seem trivial and even obvious. But an uncomfortable writer is an ineffective one. Companies are well aware that good writers are hard to find and recruit. That’s why many larger firms now have dedicated writers rooms complete with comfortable lounge furniture, standing desks and adjustable lighting. The idea for your home office is to look and feel the part.
Create a comfortable space separate from your bedroom or place you sleep. When you get up in the morning, you want to feel like you’re at work. Invest in a comfortable chair and desk that you don’t mind sitting at for hours at a time. Equipment is also important. You cannot meet a client and pull a 2006 bulky laptop out of your bag and expect to impress them. Further, you need laptops that are fast enough to handle extensive research (i.e. having 20 tabs open in two web browsers simultaneously). A doctor does not use a butter knife for brain surgery and likewise you shouldn’t use an Etch-A-Sketch to create high-quality content.
Writers who are serious about their careers typically have two laptops – one MacBook and a cheaper Windows machine. Some clients want their finished work directly uploaded to their content management systems (CMS). Others want Word, Mac Pages or Google documents. Be prepared for all of this. An extra monitor on your desk also helps stay organized when doing research.
Everyone knows the cliche: it costs five times more to acquire a new client versus keeping an existing one. Client acquisition and client retention are the two most vital aspects of freelance success. Following relevant individuals on LinkedIn and Facebook, along with handing out business cards at seminars and other gatherings of company executives, are the best ways to acquire new clients. But once you have them, keeping them is the key to consistent income.
Quickly resolve any and all problems with regular clients. Offer discounts and free content if you miss a deadline or somehow impede on their business operations with some other mistake. Send emails to regular clients every 2-3 months to remind them of past business and future opportunities. These emails can be as simple as saying Happy Holidays in December or forwarding them a recent blog post you wrote that is relevant to their business.
Regular clients ultimately pay your bills. Treat them as the most important aspect of your freelancing business.
Expand Your Horizons
An effective writer, researcher and storyteller can craft content on essentially any topic and perform any tasks related to the written word. Most of your regular work may be writing blog and social media posts for clients. But don’t limit your client base.
Every serious writer should also be an effective editor and abreast on AP Format. Those with MLA and APA skills can expand their client bases further. Though there are some ethical considerations, there is a large market of college students who pay professional writers to ghostwrite their essays and term papers. Pro se litigation (self-representation in court) is also common; and individuals need professional writers and editors to help draft their court briefs. You should also be well-versed in SEO, particularly Google and Bing search algorithms.
Good writers have endless opportunities in the global online marketplace. Treat your craft as a business and the rest will take care of itself.