Freelance writing: Advice and encouragement

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I frequently am asked, sometimes by total stranger, what it is like to be a successful freelance writer. My answer is always the same:

“It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s also the most satisfying.”

Here are the most important bits of advice and encouragement I can offer regarding freelance writing:

First, you need to know that freelance writing is a somewhat complex and unpredictable business, especially when it comes to freelance writing online. One day you can be at the top of the heap, and have to beat potential clients away with a stick. The next day you might be begging former clients for any work whatsoever. In this way, freelance writing is a lot like a roller coaster ride, but with less nausea and more loops.

The good news is that, for the dedicated and talented writer, there will always be work. While the medium may change, for example from print magazines to the Internet, people will always want to read. They will always need information, and the freelance writer is uniquely positioned to deliver that information to the people. Yes, sometimes you’ll need to struggle a bit in order to find work. But it’s out there, you’ve just got to be dedicated about looking. The world will always need writers.

Freelance writing requires a good deal of business sense. The talented writer can only go so far if he can’t figure out how much to charge, how to negotiate a contract, or how to collect payment from clients. You don’t need to be a Wall Street wizard, but you do need to have some degree of business sense. I often recommend that freelance writers take a course on business management from a local university, just to give them that all-important perspective.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that, regardless of what the latest Search Engine Optimization guru or blogging expert tells you, good writing still matters. If you want to be a success as a freelance writer, you have to write well. That is just as true online as it is for print freelancers. While writing well doesn’t guarantee success, writing poorly spells almost certain doom for a freelance writing career.

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