Starting Out

How Can You Become A Successful Freelance Writer?

Congratulations! You’ve decided to follow your dream of becoming a freelance writer. You imagine going to your email box each day to find it overflowing with writing gigs. In fact, there are so many, you couldn’t possibly take all of them on.

Money is flowing into your bank account faster than you can keep track of and you’re able to actually save for that house or trip to Fiji you’ve been longing for.

How Can You Become A Successful Freelance Writer?

The reality is many freelance writers struggle to make ends meet when starting out.

If this describes you, then YOU need to be writing this article!

The stark reality, however, is that many freelance writers struggle to make ends meet when they’re starting out.

Chances are you’ve spent way too much time surfing the net about the freelancing lifestyle, you’ve taken numerous online courses, and perhaps you’re still uncertain about the niches you want to focus on and the services you want to offer.

Moreover, as you research other freelancers, this overwhelming feeling of inadequacy sabotages the enthusiasm and drive that compelled you to jump into this lifestyle in the first place.

And if that’s not enough, you discover that there’s much more to freelancing than just writing. There is the dreaded business and marketing side, which make your head spin at the mere thought of it.

Gosh, what did you get yourself into? Perhaps you’re thinking you made a mistake, especially now that the rent’s due.


Here’s What You Need To Do

Before you decide to jump ship, take a good look at yourself to determine whether or not you’ve set yourself up for success.

The truth is, becoming a successful freelance writer requires many of the same steps that have earned you success in other areas of your life.

If you want to be successful, here are eight practices that you need to put into action NOW.

1. Seize a Growth Mindset

We’ve all seen Henry Ford’s quote, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” His words illustrate the two opposing mindsets that set achievers apart from non-achievers.

According to Dr. Carol Dweck Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, people are divided into two camps; those who have a fixed mindset and those who have a growth mindset.

She argues that people who adopt a fixed mindset limit themselves to the skills they possess, while people who embrace the growth mindset believe they can improve their skills over time.

The result: those with the growth mindset achieve more.

Instead of giving up on a task simply because you don’t have the skills, turn the situation around and ask yourself, “Where can I learn the skills to complete xyz task?” Asking yourself a question puts the mind into problem-solving mode and it begins searching for your answer, which in turn spurs your growth.

2. Prioritize Your Writing

You’ve decided to be a writer, but you’ll never make a career out of it if you allow yourself to be distracted by life around you, especially if you’re working from home.

Give your writing the time and respect it deserves.

While it may be challenging, carve out a dedicated writing space, preferably away from people, noise, and the television.

Set hours during which you’ll write and not allow anyone or anything to disturb you.

While it may seem extremely painful, turn off your smartphone and forget about checking email or social media during your office hours.

Finally, leave the laundry, dirty dishes and whatever other household chores need attention until after you complete your writing goals for the day.

3. Set Goals

Goal setting is essential to your personal and professional success.

Think of it as a roadmap taking you from where you are to where you want to be. Without goals, it’s easy to get side-tracked making it truly impossible to measure your progress because there’s no accountability for your time.

Jack Canfield, Success Coach and creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, does a terrific job explaining why goals are important and how to create effective goals.

He believes in SMART goals, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bounded.

First, take a look into the future and determine your long range goals. Perhaps you want to make a certain amount of money by the end of the year or you want to take a trip to Europe.

Whatever you want to attain, write it down.

Then set monthly, weekly and even daily goals that will help you achieve those larger goals.

Most importantly, determine a date by which you want to realize your goals, jot down the steps that will help you realize them, and then take action.

4. Take Action Every Day

No matter how big or small your effort, do at least one thing each day to move yourself a little closer toward success.

So what if your mom’s flying in to visit or your kids have dance and soccer practice. You need to find time to accomplish something each day. Period. If you don’t, you and your business will never grow.

Over time, those small actions will compound and without even realizing it, you will have built a small empire.

5. Be Persistent

There are going to be days when you feel like quitting because success isn’t happening fast enough.

You’re working your tail off night and day and you’re still not seeing any return on investment.

Don’t get discouraged.

For most people, success takes time. As long as you’re taking action each and every day, you’ll eventually get your desired outcome.

It’s a numbers game. The more you do something, the more likely you’ll reach your goal.

If you quit, you’ll never reach your goal.

When you feel like giving up, take a walk or do something that will give your mind and body a break from your regimented schedule.

Relax. Breathe. Let yourself go, but as Winston Churchill suggests, “Never ever, give up.”

6. Stretch Yourself Beyond Your Comfort Zone

It’s really easy to stay inside the box where you feel most comfortable.

But remember the growth mindset that I mentioned earlier? You have to continually move forward, sharpen your skills and stay on top of your game or else you’ll fall behind your competition.

Then, with those new skills, get out there and pitch a story to a publication you once dreamed of writing for and see where it takes you.

7. Celebrate The Small Successes

On the road to success, there will always be peaks and valleys. That’s just life.

But it’s really easy to get stuck in the valleys, and if you stay there long enough, you might find it really difficult to pull yourself out.

That’s why you have to celebrate the small successes along the way.

Don’t wait to reach your ultimate goal before you celebrate. Enjoy that piece of chocolate cake because you stuck to your writing schedule for the entire week. Treat yourself to dinner at your favorite restaurant because you got up two hours earlier each morning for the entire month.

There are lots of small pieces that make up your big success. Embrace them. It will help give you the momentum you need to keep plugging forward.

8. Be Thankful and Give Back

With each small success, give thanks. Appreciate the hard work that got you to where you are. Then, give back.

If a new writer, for instance, needs help, go ahead and lend a hand. A colleague wants feedback on a piece he’s written, volunteer for the job.

When you approach your work with gratitude and generosity, you put yourself into a positive mindset. And much like tithing, your actions will come back to you when you least expect it.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, you control whether or not you’ll become a successful freelance writer. It may take you longer than you want, and you may feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, but don’t give up.

If this is truly what you want, hang in there and follow these eight steps.

See where they lead you. Then, share your success with us.

Rebecca Ford is a Spanish teacher, freelance writer and blogger. She specializes in foreign language education for k-12 and beyond and has two blogs, EnLanguages, which targets Spanish language learners and Genre du Jour, which spotlights the craft of writing. Her other favorite topics are the outdoors, animal welfare, natural horsemanship, the environment, real estate and travel. A Connecticut native, Rebecca currently resides in Tennessee.

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Hey Rebecca! I’ve been researching freelance writing for HOURS today (and every other day of this week), and I was about to be full throttle panic mode when I reached your blog. This made me breathe and shake the tension from my shoulders. I’m excited to get started and I’m definitely saving this in my quick access tabs! xoxo, TiffanyReply to Tiffany
Hi I’m from Memphis but I live in San Antonio. I’ve been writing since I was 9. I’ve given up a bunch of times only to go right back to it. I’m convinced I’m supposed to be a writer in some form. If I made the same money doing what I love as a Customer service representative I’d be happy.Reply to BONNIE
Great tips! A growth mindset is imperative to freelancing and I especially like the idea of posing challenges as questions and how this promotes energy and ultimately action. Well done!Reply to Diane
Rachel Maree What a great post! I especially love the part about giving back. It is so hard as a new writer that it is such a privilege when an established writer helps you out. It also gives you a thrill! Thank you.Reply to Rachel
I love tip #5, Rebecca. I’ve often thought of giving up since I had such poor luck with cold e-mailing to start off with when I first started freelancing. The one thing that’s kept me going through all of this was the thought of leaving my corporate job. That is the light burning my behind, so to speak. I want to be able to live off the income I make from freelance writing since this is my dream job. I couldn’t think of a better business to have since it’s in my dream niche as well. I love what I write for clients and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Now…if only I could get some more income coming in!Reply to Lizzie
Hi Lizzie: Tip #5 is probably the most important of them all. So many people get discouraged, whether they’re writing or pursuing something else, and they just quit. Very few people are lucky enough to write one or two things and then hit it big. For most of us, it takes time to perfect our craft and build a network of followers before we see results. For nearly two decades I have belonged to writers communities online and where I live, and I can confidently say that more than 90% of the writers I know have to supplement their income with a full time job. So you’re not alone. I work a full time job too. You just have to keep moving forward everyday and don’t give up on your dream!Reply to Rebecca