4 Skills A Modern Freelance Writer Needs to Succeed

March, 10, 2020 by Guest Contributor author workhoppers

Leaving a full-time job with benefits can be a very big deal, particularly if you’re heading into the nebulous world of freelancing. Rest assured, working for yourself carries with it a great deal of freedom and opportunity – but it’s a lot trickier than many imagine it to be. In fact, it’s probably more difficult and more complex today than at any other point in modern history, given the full range of skills a freelancer now needs to maximize his or her earnings potential. This isn’t meant to scare you off, though – just prepare you! Below, I will cover the 4 core skills a freelance writer needs to master, aside from pure writing ability, in order to succeed in today’s competitive landscape.

Text Find Freelance writing jobs with purple typewriter

A Freelance Writer needs to have strong Negotiating Skills

With so many freelance sites and clients out there today, it’s vital to understand how to establish (and fight for) your worth. Working for yourself means you don’t have a company structure to advocate for you in negotiating a contract, or appeasing an unhappy client. And that means it’s up to you to figure out the necessary tact to earn a fair contract for each job, and make sure that contract is adequately fulfilled if and when you complete the work. An article we posted at WorkHoppers this past October gave some more specific negotiating tips for freelancers, such as showing a concern for the client’s interest, and not rushing the process. But the process can always be a little different. Ultimately the most important thing is to remember to advocate for yourself – establish your value, agree to it, and earn it accordingly. And if you can’t, with any given client, it’s typically best to walk away as soon as you can.

Two women freelancers sitting at a white table on laptop negotiating


A Freelance Writer must have Knowledge of SEO & Marketing

Not too long ago, the average freelance writer was typically only asked to produce content suitable for whatever website or project it was to be a part of. Now, however, a far greater focus by responsible site operators and business owners on SEO-driven content marketing is necessitating a fundamental understanding of these concepts among writers. Digital marketing professionals point to robust content, link quality, and relevance to Google searches as some of the vital components of successful digital outreach – which is to say they comprise the driving force behind the most successful web content. Now, it’s certainly ordinary for someone hiring freelancers to simply assign content according to SEO needs, which means expertise isn’t always entirely necessary. However, a freelance writer with a knowledge of and handle on these concepts can gain a real advantage over others.

SEO spelled out in colorful letters on a white background

Sharp Self-Editing skills are key

While some content platforms and larger companies have editing staff in place to help check and correct writers’ work, freelancers are often expected to submit content that’s more or less ready to publish. So, before submitting a piece, a freelance writer has to use his or her own sharp eyes to spot and correct errors, and even make larger adjustments – which can be hard to do where your own work is concerned. One easy trick to employ is to read your work out loud as suggested by tech contributor Kate Kiefer Lee in Forbes. Because the mouth has to move slower than the mind, you can often catch errors reading aloud that you may miss simply as you write, or read silently. Alternatively, you can also exchange editing duties with any fellow freelancers you may know. You may both benefit from letting fresh eyes look over your work before you submit it to clients.

Freelance writers sitting at wood table with paper and pencil editing work.


Focus is your friend

Some misnomers for this skill are time management and self-motivation. Yet the real skill is being able to set and maintain your focus for a certain period of time. You need to be able to block out distractions and go to work on something without getting distracted – which can be very easy when you’re working for yourself. If you can successfully maintain focus, you’ll be able to work on any freelance project with the same diligence as a paid employee in a more structured environment. The difference is that in this case greater focus can actually directly improve your job, allowing you to complete more projects more regularly.

The word focus written on a woman's fist.

There are a lot of skills required to freelance, and different projects require different, more specific skills. Master the above though, and you’ll be in a position to work well regardless of the exact job at hand.

Janie Bronson Freelance Writer

Written by Jennifer Birch a freelance writer and editor. The bulk of her work consists of a variety of blog contributions on the subjects of business, entrepreneurism, finance, and technology.


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