Note: Think you’re missing the credentials or qualifications to be a successful freelance writer? I wrote this post five years ago, and I still see a lot of writers struggle with this. The credentials that really matter have nothing to do with writing, and everything to do with mindset. Enjoy! –Carol.
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 freelance 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.
Do you think lack of qualifications or credentials are holding your back from being a successful freelance writer? Are you thinking about going back to school, taking another course, or talking yourself out of pitching higher-paying clients because you don’t have an impressive resume?
Everyone should be a life-long learner. But you don’t need a degree or credentials to be a successful freelance writer. Here’s what you really need:
Stepped into my Wayback Machine and found this post from 2010 on productivity habits. And you know what? It’s still current. These habits have helped me and many other freelancers move up and earn more. Enjoy!–Carol
Time. We’ve only got so much of it each day. For freelance writers who are also parents, we’ve certainly never got enough of it. Or if you’re working a day job and freelancing on the side, you know you’ve got to use your time wisely.
Whether you have a wide-open schedule or just a few hours a day for freelancing, your productivity habits can have a huge impact on your writing career.
What’s the best way to spend your precious work hours? I’m often asked this question by writers during coaching calls. I had one say, “I wish I could follow you around all day and see how you do it!”
While I don’t think that would be pleasant for either of us (and might reveal an embarrassing amount of screwing off and/or snacking on my part!)…I realized that after a decade of freelancing, I have developed some strong opinions on productivity habits for freelance writers.
Here are what I consider to be the seven most important productivity habits a freelancer should spend their time on, in order of importance:
It’s been nearly 6 years since this post was originally published — and it’s been one of my most popular ever. The need to write strong query letters has only grown in the years since, so I thought it would be a good time to put it out there again. Enjoy!–Carol
I often have freelance writers tell me they don’t think writing a query letter is worth the effort. They get a lot of rejections, and feel it’s basically a crapshoot…and so much easier to sign on to a content-mill dashboard for a guaranteed few bucks’ worth of work.
It’s true that querying isn’t a sure thing. But if you take the time to learn this skill, it can really help you move up and earn big.
I regularly get lucrative assignments off of query letters and guest post pitches, and I continue to believe querying is a vital skill for successful freelancers.
With so many writers turned off of queries, taking the time to learn how to write a compelling query letter is well worth the effort, as it makes you stand out in today’s marketplace. Querying can open doors when you don’t know anyone at a publication or company, and make a connection that could turn into an ongoing relationship.
For instance: I recently sent one query letter that got me $6,000 of assignments. And I’m reproducing it in full below.
I post a lot of tips here on Make a Living Writing for writers looking to earn more. But recently, a look at my Google Analytics revealed a surprising phrase writers commonly search on:
“What is freelance writing?”
This makes me feel I should back up and start at the very beginning. Clearly, I shouldn’t assume every reader knows what this career is about.
Apparently, some folks know that term well enough to search to find out more about it…but they don’t yet know how freelance writing works, exactly.
So let me fill in the blanks today with answers to some of the most basic questions about the world of freelance writing:
Do you regularly scan job boards looking for online writing jobs, but only find low-paying gigs? If so, you might need to get a little choosier about where you look.
If your typical rates are above what the listings offer, it may be time to stop checking the job boards altogether. In general, you’ll do better with proactive prospecting to find your own clients, rather than applying to mass-online-job ads where you compete with hundreds of writers.
But if checking online job ads is still a part of your regular marketing routine, at least be an educated freelancer and target boards that are the best fit for you. We interviewed site owners and researched listings to bring you this inside look at what’s available on 17 top boards: