With more businesses offering work to freelance writers over the internet, there are more opportunities to write for a living than ever. This has, obviously, made working as a freelance writer very popular and those looking for work need to differentiate themselves from their competition in order to win, and keep, the best writing contracts.
At the Online Learning Academy, we run a course on becoming a freelance writer. Our course teaches you crucial points such as how to find work, how to apply for work and how to do everything you need to do to forge out a career working from home as a freelance writer. To further help you, here are seven tips you should follow to ensure you’re able to work effectively as a freelance writer.
1. Stay on track
When you write for a business, you’re entering into a contract with them. They will agree to pay you an amount for a certain volume of work, and they will set you a deadline for when that work needs to be completed. This deadline isn’t like those deadlines in college or university, where they can be moved if you’re ill or if you’ve been to a particularly great party. These deadlines need to be met or you may not be paid in full.
You may also need to supply a steady stream of content over a particular period, as many businesses require their content to be added regularly to their website. This means you need to stay on track with your work, and not fall behind. You need to be reliable in order to be given repeat work.
2. Follow the brief, to the letter
It may sound obvious, but when you write for a business you need to stick to the brief. Each contract you have will come with a specific brief. This brief will address matters like tone of voice, topics you should cover, topics you need to avoid, third or first person, whether or not mention the client, keywords to use and many more besides.
It’s imperative you stick to the brief or your work could be rejected, and this will mean you have to do it again.
3. Ask questions (to avoid wasting time writing something that isn’t right)
Never be afraid to ask questions – it’s how we learn. Businesses will prefer you ask for clarification on something you’re not sure of instead of rushing on ahead and doing something wrong. There’s no point misunderstanding the brief and writing a dozen 500-word articles that are all wrong and need rewriting. You’ll have wasted your time and that of the business, and you could end up losing the contract just because you didn’t ask the right questions.
It’s not wasting time if you’re clarifying what is required.
4. Never plagiarise – even yourself
This should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: written work should never be plagiarised. With the way the internet works, it’s much easier to spot than it was before the days of the World Wide Web. You can use tools such as Copyscape to check whether or not your work is unique, and you can be sure that the business you’re writing for will check it too. If you submit work copied from the internet, or work that hasn’t been properly rewritten, you’ll be found out.
5. Treat it like a job (give notice of holidays, work regularly)
If you were in full-time employment, you wouldn’t just not turn up for work one day because you fancied a holiday (well, we presume you wouldn’t). This should be the same for a freelance writer. If you write regularly for businesses, you should keep them informed of any holidays you have planned so they can work around you and find someone else to fill in, or let you get ahead to cover your holiday.
If you expect to earn money from being a freelance writer, you need to treat it as a job.
6. Use Google Alerts, RSS feeds and newsletters
Writer’s block isn’t something you can afford as a freelance writer when you have regular content to produce for clients. If you’re writing news-based content, uses services such as Google News to keep a track on what is happening within your clients’ industries. Subscribe to RSS feeds for industry websites and blogs, so you always have the latest information, and add yourself to newsletters for blogs and your clients’ competitors too.
You should set aside time each day to read relevant websites and newsletters. You’ll never know what little titbit of information you’ll read that will spark off an idea for an article or blog. This way, you’ll always have ideas and resources to use for your own writing, and you’ll never be staring at the dreaded blank page for hours at a time.
7. Don’t ditch regular work for better paid jobs
A common problem for businesses using freelance writers is the writer dropping them like the proverbial hot potato when a better paid gig comes along. This isn’t very professional on the part of the writer as it leaves the business in the lurch, causing it a host of problems. While it is important to seek out better paid contracts and to earn the money you’re worth, you can’t let clients down just because something ‘better’ has come along.
Additionally, dropping steady work in place of a one-off better paid contract isn’t good business sense. Never forget your bread and butter work; it’s what pays the bills. It’s hard enough finding regular work as a freelancer without abandoning steady clients out of greed.
If you follow these tips, it will help you to establish yourself as a freelance writer, building your brand and business for years to come.