Putting words into writing is not enough if you want to be successful in your freelance career. To grow your brand and business as a writer, you need soft skills.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills refer to people’s abilities to communicate and work well with others. Unlike reading and writing, they are not taught in school but are developed over time through conscious effort and practice.
As a freelance writer, soft skills are essential in acquiring and retaining your clients. Without proper soft skills for writers, it will be difficult to maintain good working relationships.
Let’s look at the top soft skills that you need as a freelance writer — soft skills that further your career.
9 soft skills freelance writers should develop
Here is a quick look before we dive into the details.
Creatives are not always known for being dependable — art cannot be rushed, right? — but if you want to make it in the world of freelance writing, this is one of the most important skills you need to develop. As a professional writer, people need to know that you can hand in quality work on time, every single time.
The short of it: do what you say you will do.
Of course, there will be times when you may not be able to meet a deadline due to unavoidable circumstances. When this happens, make sure you communicate with your client. But more on this later…
2. Time management
The good thing about being a freelance writer is that you have full control over your time. However, this also means that you need to work on your time management skills to meet deadlines. You cannot be dependable if you cannot manage your time wisely.
Time management skills speak of your ability to use make use of time effectively and efficiently. It entails developing other content writer soft skills like planning, prioritization, scheduling, and organizing.
You know very well how easy it is to get distracted when working remotely — which can result in work not being done on time. On the other hand, it is just as easy to forget the line between work and home. Who has worked from 8 AM to 10 PM, forgetting to eat dinner? You know who you are. 🙋🏽♀️
Improving your time management skills is crucial if you want to avoid burnout and achieve work-life balance.
3. Communication Skills
Communication soft skills for content writers entails understanding the needs of your clients. It involves going back and forth to ensure that you will be able to deliver the right results. To do this you need to seek clarifications, convey your thoughts and ideas on the project you are handling, and clearly express your expectations on work arrangements and compensation.
ASK if you are unsure about any instructions or demands. ASK for an extension if you cannot make a deadline. ASK for more responsibilities or projects (but only if you know you have enough time for them!).
But you can’t be the only one asking questions, you also need to be responsive. Answer emails regularly, at the very least once a day during work days. And turn on your email autoresponder if you won’t be available for a few days.
4. Adaptability and Flexibility
Often used interchangeably, adaptability and flexibility are freelance writer soft skills that you need to have if you want to last in this business. Your ability to adapt or adjust as circumstance demands depend on your flexibility or your willingness to change and compromise.
As a content writer, you will handle assignments that cover a wide variety of topics, need to use different styles of writing, and follow specific guidelines outlined for each project. You have to be able to deal with other people (read: your clients) and adjust to their needs and preferences, whether it be communicating via messaging apps, phone calls, emails, or video calls. It also means knowing if a person is more comfortable being informal or wants to keep a strictly professional tone.
If you are working on a retainer basis, you may find yourself having to be even more adaptable and flexible. Your client may ask you for a quicker turnaround time on copy for an email that needs to be sent the next day. Or, you might need to temporarily take on a fellow blogger’s role on short notice. Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and not stick to the plan.
Conscientiousness is often overlooked as one of the top freelance writer soft skills. It is, however, essential if you want to be known for delivering exceptional work.
Conscientiousness does not mean perfectionism but refers to the character of a person who is diligent and meticulous. A conscientious writer pays attention to details and is not satisfied with mediocre work. If you are conscientious, you will not submit work just to tick off your to-do list. Instead, you will take the time to do proper research and double-check and revise your work as needed. You will vet sources to get your facts straight, correct spelling and grammatical errors, properly cite sources and make your work as readable and engaging as possible.
All the above means extra work and you know what they say — “Work smart, not hard” — but who said you can’t work hard and work smart at the same time? So as a freelance writer, you need to get your geek on and learn how to use tools like Grammarly, plagiarism checkers, and various plug-ins that will make your life easier. It’ll help you dot your t’s and cross your i’s without getting a headache.
6. Metacognitive skills
Metacognition is the cornerstone for developing many of the skills you need in life. It refers to a person’s awareness or understanding of their thought process or learning. There are four levels of metacognitive learners:
- Tacit – Learners who are unaware or do not think about how they learn.
- Aware – Learners who are aware of some of the ways they learn but do not dwell on them or actively use their awareness to plan and strategize.
- Strategic – Learners who know how they learn and use this knowledge to strategize and solve problems.
- Reflective – Learners who are not only strategic in their learning and thought process but can also review and adjust the strategies they use on the fly.
As a writer, it is desirable to achieve the strategic or reflective levels since it is at these levels that you can deliberately organize your thoughts in a way that helps you solve problems, make sounder decisions, and even reflect on and monitor your strategies to better fit the current situation or refine them for future success.
Metacognition may seem confusing at first, but if you are good at planning, monitoring, and evaluating your progress in learning and work, then you are probably already using metacognitive practices that have helped you develop these skills.
For example, one of the ways you can help develop your metacognitive skills is something many writers already do anyway – keep a journal or diary. Writing your thoughts down, whether digitally or on paper, requires reflection. As you reflect on your thought process and how it affects your writing, you will learn how to hone your different skills and use them to your advantage even more.
7. The ability to give and receive feedback
There is no one word for it, but the ability to give and receive feedback is an important soft skill for writers. You need to be able to objectively take in feedback from your client. You need to be able to listen to feedback without being offended.
Realistically though, unless you are exceptionally thick-skinned, your ego will probably get hurt cannt. That’s ok, as long as you are able to keep your emotions in check and take the time to process the information you get, you will come out the better for it. Don’t take things personally. Dust yourself off and focus on your growth goals.
You also need to keep in mind that while feedback is useful, it is important to be discerning and not just agree with everything. Ask yourself: Is the person giving constructive criticism or simply being critical? Which of the suggestions given rings true, makes sense, is doable, is vital, and must be acted on immediately?
Integrity is not something you are born with, just like any other soft skill, it is something you develop by practicing it in your daily life.
Always take responsibility for your actions. Published a poorly written post? Didn’t read client guidelines thoroughly? Failed to follow up on a task you delegated to someone? Don’t pass the buck. If you know the buck stops with you, then the more you’ll have to live up to your own standards and work with integrity.
In this day and age where software can scrape content anywhere on the internet and churn out blog posts and website content after another, where content writers do not bother to do anything beyond cursory research and plagiarism has become commonplace, integrity is the soft skill that will set you apart.
As the saying goes, integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
9. Growth Mindset
If you have read this far, then you probably already have a growth mindset. After all, you wouldn’t wade through all the explanations and tips above if you didn’t really want to learn how to improve your soft skills.
You’re on the right track. Don’t lose sight of your goals and keep the fire for learning and bettering yourself, burning.
Remember: Your mindset will largely determine your path as a freelance writer and in life.
How do you develop these soft skills?
|Soft Skills||Super Tips for Developing Your Soft Skills|
|Dependability||Hone your time management skills
Do not over commit
Communicate with your clients
|Time Management||Focus on timelines when planning
Give yourself buffer time when setting deadlines
Use tools to monitor time (e.g. Toggl)
|Communication Skill||Communicate proactively
Be truthful at all times
Answer emails regularly
|Adaptability and Flexibility||Embrace change
Don't be afraid to make mistakes
Learn how to listen to feedback
|Conscientiousness||Keep your workspace organized and tidy
Use tools to self-edit
Develop positive relationships with clients
|Metacognitive Skills||Set goals
Keep a work/writing journal
|The ability to give and receive feedback||Take a step back
Foster a growth mindset
Know that you cannot please everyone
|Integrity||Take responsibility for your actions
Be transparent in your dealings
Do not bad mouth other writers to clients and vice versa
|Growth Mindset||Push yourself out of your comfort zone
Celebrate your achievements - big and small
Find a mentor
Work on your soft skills and be a better freelance writer
Soft skills are crucial in life. As a freelance writer, your soft skills can spell the difference between success and failure.
So while developing them may not be easy, you just need to keep trying. Focus on one skill and make small changes you can realistically practice in your daily life. You will find that just improving one will slowly allow you to grow in other aspects, as they are highly interdependent. Set a goal, make plans, and stick with it.
When it comes to developing soft skills, remember: It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.