Most freelance writers don’t see it as such but freelancing is just as entrepreneurial as any other business.
Agreed that freelancing, no matter which skill or expertise it is you trade on, is more like a fancy job you create for yourself. Technically speaking, Freelancing is not exactly like an actual business where you scale up and grow. Freelancing remains more or less a one-person business, albeit with prospects of expanding into a business.
If you’ve ever scratched your head thinking freelancing isn’t working out for you, here are at least six areas for you to ponder on. Hopefully, you’ll realize why you don’t see any gold dust in spite of all the digging you do.
“I make it a point to write an entire blog post for free for at least 3 new clients per week.”
“I have an aggressive guest blogging strategy: I write 5 guest posts in a week, every week. That’s my way of getting my name out for more business, credibility, and to build new relationships.”
“I make sure I place 5 bids each on 3 freelance sites every day.”
“I dedicated two months to my website before I launched it just so it looks great and works well.”
What’s the common thread with each of the above statements? It’s the mindset. It’s the entrepreneurial thinking applied to freelancing as a profession/business. It reeks of guts of steel. These statements are from successful freelance writers who “get it”. For them, writing is one thing; getting new business is totally something else.
They do all they can to get new business. They work hard, they burn the midnight oil to get their skill right; they promote and cross-promote. They slog through “feast and famine” cycles. Successful freelancers don’t give up. They don’t take no for an answer. They don’t settle for anything less than what they deserve, because they want to make a great career out of freelancing.
Chasing the Money
Don’t chase money. Don’t look for money before you deliver work. Forget invoices until you deliver value for your clients. Articles such as How to get paid, not played sometimes create the wrong impression in freelancers’ minds that clients are out there to bleed you dry.
It’s true; we need cash to pay the bills. Yet, making a desperate plea for an advance payment, or chasing clients with invoices even before the date is due for payment will kill your business forever. Once you have the numbers (a voluminous client base), you’ll never have to hound one client for payment.
The key is to work with a variety of clients, create agreeable policies, settle on scope and milestones, and establish payment schedules. After that, the freelancing business will take care of itself. The invoices will be paid eventually. You’ll certainly walk happily to the bank as long as you don’t make a big deal of invoices, compensations, and late payments.
Writer? Err… Really?
There’s something about “freelance writing” that makes the world think, “I can do that; it’s easy.” That creates a low barrier for entry and stiff competition in every niche from scores of people all over the world. You shouldn’t be concerned about other “writers”.
It’s important to get the “writing” part right. Make sure your writing is flawless when it comes to grammar, syntax, spellings, and rhetoric. Be sure to get the tricky punctuation right. No loose syllables, extra words, flowery language, or doubtful diatribe. If you’re still not sure, go read this first.
Get specific. Get to the point. Develop the art of being candid, sharp, and concise. As a freelance writer, your writing skills are going to be taken for granted. Skipping this step isn’t an option. It’s a death call for your business.
It’s Not Just About Skills
Years of experience publishing books, priceless expertise on traditional writing, decades of journalistic experience…some freelance writers have been there and done that. You might be forgiven to think that writers with diverse and rich profiles such as these would find freelance jobs easily.
The news is that they find it hard to land new projects just as hard as rookie freelancers.
It’s not so much about the skill. The way you talk to your clients, your attitude, the kind of work you put in, the relationship you share with your clients, your voice, your own take on life, resourcefulness, your ability to give attention to detail and lot of other such factors seep into your success rate with your projects.
Not only your attitude, but the bunkers you build up before you start firing also matter a lot. You need to do your homework on the hardware you’re going to use (check out PCMag.com or Engadget.com), buy it, and then settle on some sort of scheduling software or content management calendar. You also need to decide whether to have your own domain or use a subdomain on existing blog sites, zero in on a reliable hosting provider after going through the reviews at Whoishostingthis.com or Webhostingtalk.com. You should then go on to set up your profile on one or two social media networks that will complement your content, strategy and strengths.
One-Person Company; Enterprise Style Marketing
One of the major reasons why most freelance writers don’t make it is because marketing doesn’t form the staple for everyday work. For most freelance writers, marketing exists as long as there’s no work on the table. Once a few projects come rolling in, marketing goes out the window. This is fine as long as the projects last but after that, it’s “famine” time again.
If you are a freelance writer, bear in mind that marketing is as important to you as it is for any other business. Spend the first few hours of the day – every single day – to market your services. Do what you have to: bid on freelance job boards, apply to standalone projects, apply to distinct writing/content development opportunities, write your own blog posts, go guest blogging on popular blogs, work on your own projects, participate in social media, contribute on Q & A sites, etc.
It’s a lot to do; but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
That Thing Called Delivery
Ask clients what their biggest peeve on freelancers is and they are likely to come up with one single point, almost as if in chorus: “Not dependable”, “Misses deadlines”, and “Never keeps in touch.”
Communication, dependability, and commitment to schedules are some of the greatest self-proffered gifts writers can develop. The single concept of “delivery on deadline” is so important that it will even make up for lack of perfect writing skills. Since freelance writing caters to commercial projects and because most commercial projects run on tight schedules, promises or delivery outlines that freelance writers provide are etched in stone (at least for the client).
Once you commit to deadlines and have fixed deliverables to work on, there are no more excuses.
It’s because freelance writers don’t take themselves seriously that they lose out on their potential—they aren’t able to charge as much as they’d like, they don’t get respect, and their business sputters and bites the dust before it starts to go anywhere.
Do you see gold? What’s stopping you from mining it? Share your stories with us…
Rohan advises premium clients in the capacity of a search strategy specialist at E2M Solutions and digital user experience consultant at OnlyDesign.org. Catch him on Twitter for a chat on any of these areas.