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5 Must Do Habits For a Successful Freelance Writing Business

Are you earning a living as a freelance writer? If you answered yes then you’re also a business man or woman. It became a business from the moment you started making money from your writing. Whether it was a few dollars or lots of dollars.

You’re now your own boss! That title comes with loads of responsibilities. It can be scary. But if you want to succeed you just have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

I was inspired to write this post because of a comment on my earlier post ‘5 Reasons Why Freelance Writing is Not For You‘.

You can read the comment below:

“Really a fruity post June! I’m a non-native freelance writer from Bangladesh. I kicked off my job only because I love writing. I am now independent, solvent, and yes a free bird!

I really felt this piece of great writing and learned some special points that I badly needed to swallow. I would expect you to write more only for those who quit their jobs to earn their bread through writing. Thanks and have a great time.” ~ From Shah

If like Shah and myself you’ve quit your job to pursue a career in freelance writing, it can be tough. When you’re used to working and getting a regular wage, it’s a shock to your system when you realize that if you don’t write, you won’t get any money. If you want to eat and pay your bills you have to buckle down and write. I’ll say it again, it’s tough but you can do it if that’s the lifestyle you want.

Freelance writing is a business and you must approach it that way. To keep your business running successfully there are work ethics you need to develop and keep up.

  • Adopt a business mindset.
  • Get in the habit of completing paperwork.
  • You’ll need to prepare invoices, do basic bookkeeping, record your income and expenditure and create a spreadsheet with details of your clients.

Apart from meeting deadlines you have to know about marketing. That’s essential if you want to reach new clients. Let the world know you’re there. Using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn  to promote your freelance writing business is an effective marketing method.LinkedIn is a great tool for attracting clients. I’ve recently been approached by a client on LinkedIn. He told me that he liked my profile and would like me to write for him. That’s one client I would have lost if I didn’t have a LinkedIn account.

I’m going to share with you some of the habits you need to develop for a successful freelance writing business.

#1.  Create a vision statement, write it down and display it

A vision statement is a plan of where you intend to be in the future. It’s a picture of your dreams and can also inspire you to achieve your goals. Where do you see yourself in one year or five years time? What would you like to achieve by then?

“The world is changing all around us. To continue to thrive as a business over the next ten years and beyond, we must look ahead, understand the trends and forces that will shape our business in the future and move swiftly to prepare for what’s to come. We must get ready for tomorrow today. That’s what our 2020 Vision is all about. It creates a long-term destination for our business and provides us with a “Roadmap” for winning together with our bottling partners.”

The statement above was taken from CoCola’s website I’ve used it as an example to show you the thinking behind their vision statement.

Why write down and display your vision statement? Because every time you read it you’ll be inspired to achieve what you’ve written down. It will give you the drive to push yourself harder. Your vision will keep you focused and motivated. You can also use it to measure your progress and as an accountability tool. Seeing your dreams written down on paper will help you to turn them into reality.

#2.  Establish a regular routine

Establishing a routine is a road map for consistency. There are various ways to do this. You can create a timetable, an agenda, a written plan, notes or whatever works best for you. I’m used to working by timetables from my teaching days. What’s important is the routine itself.

Ernest Hemingway stuck to a writing routine. He said, “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there.

You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.

When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.”

A good routine to develop is to block out all distractions. While you’re researching, writing or marketing turn off your mobile, don’t go on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or other social media. Another big distraction is the internet. It’s easy to get tempted to surf around like you’re on holiday. It’s a massive time-waster. Oh and yes I mustn’t forget! The TV is another one.

Develop productive routines. Set writing goals to include time for your family, cooking, housework etc. Allocate time for updating your social media accounts and blog. It might be easier to break down big projects into smaller ones. One step at a time. Maybe tackle three to five daily. Or alternate by allocating specific days to complete one or more tasks. The plan is starting a routine and sticking to it.

#3.  Work hard if you want to see results

“If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” ~ William Zinsser

Some writers earn millions while others earn peanuts. Why? Successful writers work hard to get to where they’re at. They put in lots of writing hours and time. In other words, what you sow into your writing is what you’ll reap out of it. If you spend all wasting your time and doing everything apart from writing, you won’t get any results. The trick is to be focused on writing.

It comes back to planning, setting goals and working towards achieving them. But don’t get distracted by other things that doesn’t relate to writing. And don’t let procrastination (my favourite word) hinder your progress.

If you write about subjects you’re familiar with, you’ll be passionate about writing. When you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to give it your best. However, freelance writing is a business. Therefore, in order to earn a living you might have to take on writing projects that bore the pants off you. Give it your best anyway. You’ll definitely see the rewards.

There’s a bonus for taking on new projects that’s out of your comfort zone. You’re adding to your skills and knowledge. Also, your portfolio will shine. It can only get better. So don’t be afraid to work hard and be professional. Your efforts will pay off.

#4.  Consider financial implications

One of the disadvantage of being a freelance writer is kissing goodbye to a regular pay packet. You now have to depend on clients to pay you. But what if they’re late with payments? Or worse still, they disappear and you don’t get paid. What about the lean periods when you can’t get any writing gigs? That’s where spending wisely and saving comes in.

Unless you’ve got a partner who’s bringing in extra money, you might have to live a frugal lifestyle for a while. When you start earning big bucks, you can relax. But always remember that you have to continue thinking about the future and planning ahead financially.

Have you thought about retirement? That’s another necessity of life that you must plan towards. Look at the various pension schemes available and start investing in one. You’re never too young to pay into a pension. In fact, the earlier you start, the more you’ll have when you retire.

You’ll also be responsible for paying your own tax and national insurance contributions from your freelance writing earnings. Save money each month to meet the tax bills. Also keep receipts because you’ll be able to offset them against your tax returns.

Using an online accounts package will help you with bookkeeping. When you’re earning enough, it’s a good idea to employ an accountant. They’ll give you the best financial advice to keep your business flowing smoothly.

#5.  Find time to play

This is the fun part of being your own boss. If you’re clever you can plan your weeks and days to allow time for you to have fun. I know that you need to work hard. But don’t run yourself into the ground.

I can easily get carried away and write from the time I wake up till it’s time to go to bed. That’s bad! I was getting square eyes from staring at the computer screen for long hours. LOL! Seriously though, my quality of life was suffering. There were times when I neglected my family and friends. I wasn’t eating properly and not getting enough sleep. I was turning into a writing hermit.

But I now factor in times for small breaks and a 30 minute lunch break. I enjoy going for walks to the park or around the block in the evenings. At the moment the weather is lovely so it’s fantastic to walk.

What gives you joy and peace? Whatever it is, do it! Finding time to play is vital for keeping your mind fresh. Playing could be exercising, dancing, chilling with friends, listening to music or just watching a good film with a glass of wine and some popcorn. Don’t let writing consume you 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You still have a life apart from tapping away at a keyboard. Enjoy it!

Maintaining these habits will ensure your freelance writing business thrive. There are other things to consider of course. But I just wanted to write about a few of the main ones. Freelance writing can be a lucrative business if you approach it as such, work hard, be focused, be self-disciplined and motivated. But above all, have fun while you earn.

Can you add to this list. What other habits have you developed to grow your freelance writing business? If you found this post useful, please share it with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

June Whittle is a WritersinCharge.com team member, a freelance writer, ghostwriter, copywriter and blogger. She’s passionate about sharing knowledge and inspiring others. To find out more about her check out her main blog MiraculousLadies.com

Category: freelance writing

18 Comments on "5 Must Do Habits For a Successful Freelance Writing Business"

  1. Francesca Nicasio says:

    “…it’s a shock to your system when you realize that if you don’t write, you won’t get any money. If you want to eat and pay your bills you have to buckle down and write. I’ll say it again, it’s tough but you can do it if that’s the lifestyle you want.”

    — Yup, it was definitely a shock to me. I think what you said here is a real, down-to-earth way of putting things into perspective. Many people dream of quitting their job and just typing away at a beach somewhere, and while that’s certainly possible, being a freelance writer–especially at the beginning–takes a lot of work.

    Oh, and I remember your “5 Reasons” post. I could also relate to it!

    • June Whittle says:

      Francesca it was a massive shock to my system as well. I was used to getting a regular wage each month. When I stepped out of my ‘comfort/safe zone’ into the freelance world, I asked myself, “What have I done?”

      Believe me, there’s been times when I wished I could turn back the clock. But to be totally honest, I would only do that for the regular income. And I know that I wouldn’t be happy going backwards.

      Like you said, many people dream of quitting their jobs, sitting on a beach typing away on their laptops. But although that’s achievable, for most of us it will take a lot of hard work to get there. Nothing good comes easily. You have to work for it. And as freelance writers that’s what we have to do, especially in the beginning. 🙂

  2. Daryl says:

    I think a lot of people struggle with freelance writing because they’re so used to being employees and not used to having a business mindset.

    In an employee mindset, you sit down and wait for instructions.
    In a business mindset, you find your own opportunities.

    I think all of the points that you raised are great, and pretty much all of them point to the fact that you have to operate like a business and set your own schedule and motivate yourself if you want to succeed.

    • June Whittle says:

      I agree Daryl! One of the biggest struggles of being a freelance writer is getting your head around the fact that you’re your own boss. You’re self employed and you call the shots! That can be pretty scary! Being a freelance writer doesn’t automatically give you a business mindset. That’s something you have to work towards developing.

      Once you’ve nailed the fact that you’re running a business, the rest should fall into place. However, that’s if motivation is high on the list among the multitude of other things to do. 🙂

  3. The main problem is getting work for freelance writing, my friend was doing this freelancing work but most of the time she gets offers of very low budget campaigns that was the main problem of her, and after lots of experience on Freelance and elance she finally starts getting good work, I think patience and experience is must in Freelance writing or any kind of freelance work!

  4. June Whittle says:

    You do need patience while gaining experience. And I think the more patient you are the more experience you’ll get. Because if you’re determined to become a successful freelance writer/freelancer, you’ll persevere.

    • Kingsley Agu says:

      Hmmmm… June, I love this post and specially what you replied to Nisahant in the comments here.

      This line really got to me – “And I think the more patient you are, the more experience you’ll get. Because if you’re determined to become a successful freelance writer/freelancer, you’ll persevere.”

      Thanks for this encouraging words June.

      • June Whittle says:

        You’re welcome Kingsley.

        Freelance writing is one of those jobs that requires you to master patience. Otherwise you might as well quit!

        But if you want a successful business this should be your mantra, “Winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win!”

  5. Halona Black says:

    Great article! I’ve only been a freelance writer since May and I am still trying to unlearn patterns from my employee mindset. Yes, I now understand that if I am not actively writing, I don’t make any money. So it forces me to think of ways to create e-books and other projects that I can create once and continue to earn income over the long haul. Some of my friends continue to ask, “How’s the writing going???” — expecting me to say that I have quit and gone back to the so-called “safety net” of permanent employment. While I am not making the income I desire yet, I have a strong vision of what I can create with my freelance writing. It’s that vision that pushes me to get up and write even when I’d rather be at the pool.

    • June Whittle says:

      Welcome to the world of freelance writing Halona. Yes, it took me a while as well to realize that no writing equals no money!

      You’ve got the right mind-set about creating information products that will bring in passive income. Good for you!

      I can totally identify to this, “Some of my friends continue to ask, “How’s the writing going???” — expecting me to say that I have quit and gone back to the so-called “safety net” of permanent employment.” That’s where I’m at as well. That’s why it’s good to have a vision to focus on. 🙂

  6. Great informative article! I really enjoy the tips for a successful freelance writing business. I am always hiring freelance workers and their are a lot to choose from but many lack my needs. When you do find a great freelancer make sure to always tip them and treat them great. They are hard to come by.

    • June Whittle says:

      Thanks for your comments Nancy. Some people think writing is easy and you can make easy money churning out lots of articles. But quality is so much more important than quantity.

      Like any other job, You’ll always get lots of workers applying, but only a few will be suitable. Those are the ones that brings quality to your company. And they’re worth their weight in gold. 🙂

  7. Jon Patrick says:

    Great article, June. I’m new to freelancing, having started several blogs over the past few years. As you say, it’s a shock, but it’s also amazingly fulfilling to get that payment you know you earned for a job well done. Much more satisfying than any paycheck from a job.
    And a routine is key! Set aside 1 or 2 periods during the day, when you’ll be left alone, and focus! Write your heart out, and be sure to include time for “beating the bushes” for the next job!

  8. Ajoyo says:

    How can one manage a daily 8-6pm job and maintain a freelance writing career as well?

  9. Tim at IMM says:

    Great post. I don’t have a problem with being tempted by the TV during the day (or most evenings for that matter) but I’m not one of those who can “zone out” and just write for hours, either. I guess I fall more towards the middle (or more towards the end of constantly having to push myself).

  10. Susanna says:

    Thankyou for a nice read! I would like to add: Do your homework. To my experience, a huge proportion of time must be dedicated to research before starting the writing process. The more you know, the more you can leave out:-) Depending on what kind of writing you do, you also have to deal with people to various extent. This takes time. If you for instance do interviews like me, you must always be prepared to plan ahead because of “what if”- factors involved (what if that person can´t see me Tuesday for instance). Always have a plan B! Not that I always follow my own advice…

  11. I quit my job over a year ago to pursue freelance writing full time. At first, all was going well but I was writing for the content mills, earning pittance and losing copyrights to my work. I have since decided to forgo the mills and build a website and start a blog in hopes of attracting clients who are willing to pay more than $10/400 words. I may have cut my nose off to spite my face. So far, I’ve not gained a single client. It’s becoming apparent I may need to market myself outside of the social sites. Any suggestions?

  12. Zippywriter says:

    Thank you for the wonderful practical advice June. Being organised is not just good for business, it also reflects in the writing as well. Thanks for sharing your guidance. Best wishes! 🙂

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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