The Credentials You Need to be a Freelance Writer
If I’ve learned one thing mentoring freelance writers, it’s this: Writers are hung up on qualifications.
I wish I had a dime for every time a writer told me:
“I’ve always wanted to pursue a career as a freelance writer, but given that I lack a journalism degree, I felt unqualified.”
To which I can only say: Hey. Me too. Both on the no-degree front (I’m a college dropout with a degree in nothing), and the feeling inadequate thing, too.
Except I just plunged in and started writing anyway.
That willingness to risk it and expose my writing to the world despite not having traditional reporter credentials paid off in, among other things:
- Appearing in the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal
- Two staff-writing jobs that definitely required a bachelor’s degree
- Winning a national business writing award for the first time in my newsweekly’s 25-year history
- Writing for national magazines and Fortune 500 companies
- Becoming a freelancer and cracking six figures in income
Here’s the secret: Writers never feel legit. We all feel like frauds.
The successful writers just do it anyway.
Recently, I was reminded of this during a very funny presentation at World Domination Summit. Top blogger Darren Rowse of ProBlogger put up a slide explaining his qualifications for starting his blog:
My favorite one has to be where he couldn’t figure out how to even bold text! His point was he had absolutely no business starting a blog. But he wanted to blog, so he started writing anyway.
You see, writing isn’t a career where credentials matter. I wish more writers knew that.
Or not the traditional kind, anyway.
The credentials you need to be a successful freelance writer or blogger aren’t earned in a university. If you have the credentials I list below, you are on your way as a freelance writer and a lot of doors are going to open up to you.
Here are the three credentials you really need:
When you’re told a piece of news, do you find yourself asking questions about it? Wondering what will happen next? Why this thing has happened? And then, do you feel compelled to learn more?
This is an essential for any writer. You need to explore. To ask questions. To know. And to share what you find out with the world through the written word.
That natural curiosity will take you far. I’m always joking that I am the original cat that curiosity killed. And brought back. I drive my family nuts with my questions about everything.
That drive to learn and understand will give you a steady stream of interesting stuff to write about that nobody else has thought to explore.
Let’s face it — you can’t be a writer unless you are willing to put it out there and face rejection. You have to be willing to hear “no” and not crumple up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep.
You have to keep pushing, even though there’s a ton of competition out there. You have to be brave and confident that you have something unique to offer the world in your prose.
You could be a brilliant writer sitting in your back bedroom typing alone. But without the courage to publish, you can’t build a career as a writer.
I recently heard from someone who wanted me to give them some coaching. He announced he had $1 million in the bank and wanted to start freelance writing for something fun to do.
I didn’t even respond, because I know this would-be writer is never going to do this for a living. Why? Because being a freelance writer (or a successful blogger) is hard.
Freelancing and building a blog both require hustle, and if you already have a fortune in the bank and have never felt the drive to write before now, you’re probably not going to bother.
One top blogger told me you’ll only become a successful blogger if you have no other way to feed your family. If you have any other option, you’ll take it. Because writing for a living is tough. You have to want it, bad.
You have to crave that recognition and urgently need the money your writing could bring you. Or you’ll write novels in a garret that are published after you die.
But if you have these three things — curiosity, courage, and hunger — you can write your way to wherever you want to go.
What credentials do you think writers need? Leave a comment and add to my list.