Top 10 Practices of Successful Freelance Writers

Waking up in the morning without a boss to monitor your every move sounds like a wild idea.

Honestly, it is.

Unless your client requests a specific time within the day that you should be online, you will be working on a chaotic timetable with motivation as your only clock. Such tragedy can lead to procrastination and negligence. Thus, the quality of your work will suffer. Your relationship with your client will tarnish. Everything you’ve worked hard on will vanish in vain.

With both the demand for content writers and the number of individuals trying out the field exploding, you need to leave your bed early in the morning and type away mad.

Or check these 10 practices which you can adopt to become a successful freelance writer:

10. Manage your time.

Actually, find your “time” first.

When is the best hour to write for you? Is it in the morning, afternoon or late evening? Identifying your productive time will help you work at your best. Instead of pushing yourself to work on times you can’t even lift a finger, save your energy for the schedule that works for you. This is what made you jump into the freelance writing in the first place: You are your own time clock.

To help you achieve a habit, you need to prioritize. You can work on the major tasks first before the small ones. You have to say “no” to other things so you can focus on those that truly matter. Also, if things are already difficult to handle, you have to delegate your tasks, from household chores to fixing your website.

Kevin Daum, in an article, shares that he keeps a time log. “I have to focus my time on the highest manner of productivity. That means not leaving things to chance. In order to remove inefficiencies, I first have to know where they are. I’m keeping a log of time spent on my calendar in order to identify inefficient tasks I can delegate or improve. This past year, I logged my writing time with my column and improved my writing efficiency from 3.5 hours per column to less than 2 hours.”

9. Remove your social media tabs.

This is one of the most popular issues that work-from-home individuals are struggling with. They cannot get their faces off Facebook. In fact, even if you read a million posts on productivity, you would still click on the tabs as you try to finish work. Here’s what you can do. After reading this, try to close your social media tabs and focus on your work for at least 30 minutes. Challenge yourself. You can also use social media as your reward when you finish work or half of it at your ideal time.

Remember that these social media networks do not pay you; they earn from you. Although they also produce job opportunities for you, that would not matter if you can’t iron out your schedule and deliver your work on time. So you can forget the zen lists and just take action!

8. Choose your “workplace.”

This is one of your perks as a freelance writer.

You become mobile, portable, free.

Choose an area, inside or outside your house, where you can write comfortably, where you can focus and think. If it is at a corner of your house, make sure you can access everything you need, like papers, printer, or books. You would not want to be distracted by the television or other members of the family when you are working so it is better to place your workstation where your time will be sacred.

If you plan to head to the coffee shop or anywhere, feel free to do so. Just do not forget your essentials: laptop, USB, and notebooks for sudden creative ideas.

7. Have a vision.

Remember that your rates when you are starting as a freelance writer would change as you gain experience, expand your skills, and grow your networks. Hence, it is important to have a road-map:

  • What do you want to accomplish in your first year?
  • How do you see yourself three or five years from now?
  • What are the small steps you have to take in order to arrive at your goals?

You can answer these questions by creating a business plan. Like an entrepreneur, you have to establish both your plan and vision. In a Forbes article, Erika Andersen shares:

A financial plan simply describes the finish line (or the lap marker) and provides sign posts along the way.  A vision, on the other hand, tells you the kind of vehicle you’ll use, how you’ll navigate the course, what you’ll do when you get there. And a mission tells you why you’re making the journey in the first place.

6. Manage your finances wisely.

As a freelance writer, managing your finances can be tricky. The reality, especially for the beginners, is the uncertainty of having no fixed income every month. Hence, it is important to be smart about your finances:

  • Establish an emergency fund. Work on this slowly but surely. Make sure your savings account is equal to your minimum monthly expenses times at least three months; Paul Golden, spokesman for the National Endowment for Financial Education, believes that the amount should increase to six to nine months of expenses especially during recession.
  • Keep your personal and business accounts separate. This way, you can track how much money you are earning from your freelance gigs.
  • Hire an accountant. In a DesignMag article, Steven Snell explained: “Most freelancers aren’t experts at taxes, so it’s usually a good investment to hire an accountant. There are a lot of programs that will help you to do your own taxes, but dealing with business income and expenses can be more complicated than filing taxes as an employee. You’ll definitely save yourself a lot of time by hiring an accountant, and you’ll probably owe less money if you have an accountant that is experienced at working with clients who are self employed, plus you’ll have some help should you get audited.”
  • Get a writer invoice. Communications and Marketing Consultant Allena Tapia fo GardenWall publications presents the following tips:
  1. Your name and mailing address should be right at the very top so that check can reach you very quickly, and so that you’re not fielding an email a week from now asking for it.
  2. Do include a logo for branding purposes (if you have one).
  3. Date the darn invoice! Some companies and publishers have a mandatory waiting period on your invoice- 30 days, even 60 days- and you want the right date on there. Again, this is all about avoiding a delay in payment.
  4. If you do multiple projects for this client, name them! Use some kind of phrasing that denotes this project from the one before it or the one after it. This will limit mix-ups and (you guessed it) get you paid on time.
  5. Make payment instructions clear. If you want a paper check, should it be made out to you or to your business? If you want a Paypal payment, then by all means, include the relevant information.
  6. Some larger companies and publishers will only refer to your invoice by an invoice number. Sometimes they even dictate that number or the conventions of your number.

5. Never take your social life for granted.

The first few months of being a freelance writer are considered the honeymoon phase. You are excited and so engrossed to the idea of being a writer, earning well and getting compliments from your clients left and right. But there will come a time that you will look for the warmth of your family or friends.

Hanging out with them from time to time will allow you to unwind and recharge. You can also get their support, and they might even refer you to their friends and families.

If you are lucky, you might also have relatives or friends who are entrepreneurs themselves. You can invite them over for lunch or dinner. You can exchange tools, ideas or assistance to your respective projects. Hence, socializing for freelance writers is like hitting two birds with one stone: bonding and business opportunities.

4. Grab networking opportunities.

Again, being a freelance writer is like running a business. BJ Marshall, in a Women on Writing article, explained the benefits of networking for your business:

  • Connecting with potential new clients/editors
  • Breaking into a new industry or type of writing
  • Keeping your client list fresh
  • Meeting others who can support your work, such as a great website developer, graphic designer, or photographer
  • Boosting the range of assignments you’re offered

On the other hand, the creative benefits are:

  • Getting new story ideas
  • Connecting with possible sources
  • Spotting trends

3. Never stop learning.

Connect with writing groups, attend writing conventions and webinars, and talk to experienced freelance writers and content creatives. Expose yourselves to the worlds of your clients, not necessarily in their offices but the industry they are in. What makes them busy, unhappy or excited? Is it the furniture industry, the mutual funds, or the new resort in Las Vegas? This will help you discover yourself, your talent, and your capabilities more. This is an investment you will never regret.

2. Welcome feedback

Rejection is just a slice of the pie. Trust me; there are so many other things that will turn your world upside down when you’re in this venture. Your editor might not like your writing style, your salary will get delayed, or other writers will steal your creative ideas or a paragraph in one of your posts. One of the worst things you can experience may be the hurtful comments about your article from readers.

But don’t fret.

No job is perfect. You are not going to be the Rockstar Writer right after smoothly delivering your first article. Successful freelance writers have gone through a lot before they become who they are today.

The technique is to practice your “smelling” skill. You have to choose your battle wisely: know when to accept or ignore a criticism. If a criticism is a correction, a suggestion, or advice, no matter how it painfully kills your ego, welcome it. Use it as your guide and weapon for your next writing assignments.

If you feel like readers or clients are attacking you as a person, let it go. Leave if you have to. Save your energy for more important tasks. Ronald Claiborne, in a , explained why the success of freelance writing begins with the head: “The freelance writer needs dedication, commitment, passion, persistence and the right work ethic just to begin the process of writing. Without a positive mental attitude, the writer will surely succumb to the daily pressures of being a productive writer. Writing requires the freelancer to innovate, create, and produce a product suitable for his or her market.”

1. Take care of yourself.

Here are tips to keep you in shape and capable to fulfill all your freelance dreams for a long time:

a) Do a regular exercise

Studies have proven that regular exercise can help improve our cognitive drinking. You can do sit-ups inside your house. You can also do some walking or jogging around your community. Having a routine like this will keep you away from diseases too, something most freelance writers would not want to happen as they have commitments to fulfill for their clients.

b) Take breaks

Some writers prefer to work continuously so they can finish everything on time. But that does not work all the time because when we push ourselves to work when we are tired, the quality of work will suffer. Take a 15-minute break after every article, a set of paragraphs or first phase of research. Not taking a break might affect your efficiency and ability to generate fresh ideas. Also, breaks will allow your eyes to rest from the computer screen.

c) Get enough sleep.

In a Huffington Post article, Joseph O’Leary cited a study on biological sleep clocks by researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which was published in the July 26 edition of The Journal of Vision. Results showed that “the longer someone is awake while they are sleep-deprived, the slower their work production becomes.” Health issues arise in the long run when writers do not have enough sleep. Sleeping less to work more might not lead to burnout. To accomplish this, you can create a fixed schedule for your sleep.