Ten Essential Abilities All Freelance Writers Must Have to Be a Success


Think Freelance writing is all about sitting down and typing out some words? Think again, because there’s a lot more to it than that.

Writing only the ability to use a keyboard. in order to be a successful freelance writer, you’ll need to be able to do more than string words. You’ll need to be able to deal with clients, meet deadlines, run a business and more.

Not sure if you have what you need to make it? Check out this list of:

10 Essential Abilities All Freelance Writers Must Have to Be a Success

1. The Ability to Deal with People – People skills require more than handling customer service (which we’ll discuss more below). Having people skills means you know how to talk to people without talking down to them. It means understanding your clients’ needs and having them understand you in return. It means when your client gives you an assignment, there’s no confusion. It’s being able to soothe with your voice, but also take on a firm tone if the occasion calls for it.

2. The Ability to Handle Criticism – Freelance writers receive constructive criticism on a regular basis. Whether it’s a “thanks, but no thanks” from a magazine editor, or a rewrite request from a client, it’s never anything personal. A thick skin is a must in this business. To let it get you down or make you angry means you don’t have the right temperament for this line of work. Listen to the criticism, take it all into consideration and then let it go…but don’t ever forget. All feedback is good feedback, even if it’s not positive.

3. The Ability to Proofread: Proofreading is a must. If your clients can’t expect clean writing from you every time, they might as well find someone who will do the job right. Everyone forgives the occasional typo, not everyone forgives consistent mistakes. It makes no sense to hire someone who creates extra work.

4.The Ability to Be Creative: Knowing how to type words and not make errors is enough to get by, but is that enough? Creativity is what makes words flow effortlessly. It’s the ability to paint a picture with your words. Creativity is the difference between boring someone to tears and writing a read he can’t put down.

5.The Ability to Rock the Customer Service: Customer service is more than mere people skills. Good customer service is delivering as promised and more. It’s making sure your clients are happy. It’s asking for feedback and following up after a project is complete. It’s saying “thank you for your business” and showing your client you value his service. It’s meeting deadlines and exceeding expectations. It’s knowing that without our clients we’re nothing.

6. The Ability to Talk…and Listen: See customer service and people abilities above. Having a way with words doesn’t only apply to paper, we have to know how to rock it in real life too. Even more important, is the ability to listen. To hear what our clients and readers want and give them what they’re clamoring for.

7. Computer Ability: In the early 90’s a knew of a few writers who wouldn’t go near a computer because they found their typewriters so comforting. There’s no way one can be a writer now and not have computer skills. Writers also need to know more than how to use a word processor, it’s also important to learn how to handle multiple blogging platforms, presentation programs and use the Internet for research and networking.

8. The Ability to Work the Social Media Tools: Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and other groups are useful social media tools, all with the ability to assist freelance writers. Use them to build your business, meet other like-minded people  or share ideas. It would be a mistake for any small business owner not to embrace social media, to do so would be to miss out on important networking opportunities. Everyone you meet is a potential client or knows people who hire freelance writers. There’s no better way to meet other writers, promote your business and learn who is hiring.

9. The Ability to Run a Business: You may not think so, but as a freelance writer you’re also a small business owner. This means you have to know how  to manage your books, use good business sense to set rates and work out projects, handle clients, find work and keep your business afloat. A good freelancer doesn’t only make decisions based on how it will affect him as a person, he should also think about how his decision will affect his business.

10. The Ability to Look into the Future: To be a success you have to get out your crystal ball and look into the future. What is it you hope to see? It’s time to set goals and make predictions. Consider how much you want to earn at the end of 2011 and figure out what you will need to do to obtain that goal. Where do you want to see your business headed one year from now? Five years? Ten? Identify your goals and do whatever it takes to reach those goals.

Tell us about some of the abilities you posess that helped you to become a successful freelance writer…


  1. says

    Excellent post as always, Deb. I think I’m good to go with the first 8. It’s those last 2 that are the tough ones and seem to be holding me back for the moment. That’s changing in 2010. Period.

  2. says

    Not so sure that social media is critical for writers who are not writing for or engaged with the blogosphere. Plenty of writers get business without building it via Facebook, Twitter, or blogging – they’re just in niche fields that don’t require it.

    Other key traits that have helped me:

    Tenacity. I’ve gotten gigs worth many thousands of dollars that took years of cultivation to finally land. WELL worth the longterm investment.

    Persistence. Not quite the same as tenacity; essentially it means consistent marketing; getting your name out there every week; never quitting just because you lost a gig.

    Flexibility. Right now, writing is a numbers game: you need fifty irons on the fire to land two or three gigs at a time. And often good gigs fall through for lack of $. You need to have lots of different possible ways to make money if you don’t want to fall apart every time someone says “oops – thought this would be a great gig, but it turns out we don’t have the cash to make it happen.”

    Personally, I’ve found my versatility to be a great help… I can market myself in many different niches. Not sure if this is a universally good thing, though – am fairly sure that specialists in the right fields make more $ more consistently.



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