To be a successful freelance writer, there are quite a lot of things you need to know. The thing is, most of this valuable information is what you will learn from actually working as a freelance writer. The most important lessons are the ones that come from experience, but there is something to be said for learning from the experience of others. In my career, I have learned a lot from my experiences. Here are three important lessons I’ve identified for freelance writers.
1. Give a little.
I’m going to be real honest here. This one is kind of tricky. The thing is, sometimes you can get a lot by giving a little extra. The more value you provide your clients, the more they will want to use your service. From time to time, you will also find someone who doesn’t communicate clearly and it costs you extra work. I have had people ask for revisions of my work because of something they didn’t make clear in the firs place. This can be insanely frustrating. It’s tempting to say “not my problem. No revisions.” After all, the responsibility is on the buyer to articulate what they want. You don’t go to a restaurant, order a salad and then complain that it isn’t pasta. However, what I’ve learned is that we have to remember that no matter the work you do, human error happens, and if there was a miscommunication between you and your customer, sometimes you have to take the hit and do a little extra to make things right. This is where it stops being about who’s right and starts being about customer service. It’s important to be willing to budge a little and to give a little more. It’s just as important, however, to know that there are limits on how much you give. This brings us to Lesson Number two.
2. Know when to say no.
The other side of the equation, as I have talked about before is knowing when to say no. There are manipulative people out there who live their lives trying to get something for nothing and really don’t care about you or your work. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are overworking yourself and not earning what you deserve. In addition to the predatory client, there are other reasons you need to be able to say no. You will encounter people who want you to do work that goes against your beliefs or ethics. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. To clarify, I have written for people who have different viewpoints, religious views, and political affiliations. I’m not saying you have to agree with everyone. However, I have also had people approach me to write web-content for “Charity” fundraisers that sent up huge red flags. I know that if I allowed myself to contribute to fraud or anything designed to take advantage of people, I would lose credibility with myself and my writing would suffer. Put simply, if something feels like the wrong move, it probably is, and it’s okay to say no.
3. Work outside the box.
I’m going to contradict what a lot of people tell you about writing or pretty much any creative work. First I’m going to give you an example because I like to do things backwards. I want to tell you about Bob Clark. Bob Clark was a director who is responsible for several well-known movies. He is probably best known for “A Christmas Story.” Outside of directing this beloved holiday film, Clark also directed the raunchy ’80s comedy “Porky’s” and a cult hit zombie movie called “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.” My point in bringing this up is that I believed for a long time, as everyone always tells us, you have to find a niche, pick a thing and do that, but if Bob Clark can give us a holiday classic, a teenage sex comedy, and an island of the undead, why do we think we have to be in a box. As a writer, I wasn’t sure which way to go because I have such a variety of interests. I wasn’t sure what path to take. I realized, however, that writing doesn’t have to be a straight road. You are a writer because you have a passion for writing. If you want to write comic books, romance novels, screenplays, and technical manuals, do all of those things. Stop listening to people who tell you to limit yourself.