As a freelance writer, you might think that you’re already pretty decent at all things written communication. You can get your ideas across, have a good vocabulary. And you might even be able to throw in a creative flourish here and there. However, writing for yourself and writing professionally to the needs of others are two different skill sets. Here, we’ll look at what that latter skillset is comprised of.
9 Ways To Make Sure You Have What It Takes To Write At A Professional Standard As A Freelance Writer
The following nine tips will help make sure that as a freelance writer, you always write at a professional standard.
A Freelance Writer Should Have Great Listening Skills
The biggest difference between writing for yourself and writing for someone else is that your intentions with the writing don’t matter as much as theirs. As such, you have to develop keen listening skills to make sure that you understand precisely what your client wants. This might mean simply paying close attention to what they’re saying. But it also might mean asking the right questions to figure out what their needs are in terms of audience, structure, style, tone, and intention behind the piece. It’s never a good idea to go into writing a piece without a clear idea of what the client wants.
Research, research, and research
When you start freelance writing, it’s a good idea to start off in a field that you’re relatively knowledgeable in. Getting an easier start in a niche that you know can help you build confidence and a good reputation. As you start focusing more on making it your primary income, you might want to focus outside of that niche. To that end, it’s important to know what you’re talking about, so you have to get used to researching the topic at hand. This includes using glossaries and 101 guides to get the specific lingo down so you’re not clearly misusing terms that your readers would recognize.
Great word choice
You don’t need to constantly use the biggest and most complex words that you can find to make your writing shine. In fact, that will get your work rejected more often than not. You should, however, work on your vocabulary to make sure that even when you have to restate certain phrases, you can do it in a way that isn’t repetitive. What’s more, expanding your vocabulary allows you to select synonyms for words that might be more thematically or emotionally true to the idea that you’re trying to express. Having three or four words to choose from instead of one is always a win.
Consistent and correct rules
Everyone develops a house style over time. But you shouldn’t let that be an excuse for carrying on writing in ways that just aren’t correct. It’s your responsibility to sharpen your grammar skills. As you keep writing, make sure you’re using pronouns, clauses, and especially punctuation in the correct manner. There are tools that can help you correct your grammar as you’re writing. But it’s important to actually understand those rules, too. As you understand them, then you can construct better sentences from the start, allowing for more variety and consistency in your writing.
Even if you’re not writing specifically for search engine optimization purposes, there’s a good chance you’re going to be writing content that is used on websites. So it should have some level of SEO readiness built-in. If you take on any clients or projects that require you to use keywords, there are keyword density tools you can use to get a hang of how much you should use those specific words within any body of work. No matter what length the piece is.
The ability to dumb down your writing
People might phrase it a little more diplomatically, saying that you have to learn how to adapt your writing to audiences of different levels but to be entirely honest, you just need to know how to dumb down your writing. Too many big or uncommon words and can affect just how readable your content is to the audience at large. There are readability checkers that can help you see what grade level you write at. Great clients will request a specific grade level that they want you to write at, but you have to use your own judgment based on the intended audience.
The ability to structure sentences well as a freelance writer
No matter what level you are writing at, it’s important to make sure that you’re structuring your sentences for readability. Run-on sentences, confusing pronouns, and inconsistent grammar standards can all hinder the ability of the reader to really digest your content. There are online tools that help you ensure you’re avoiding some of the big mistakes that can affect readability beyond your intentional choices. Of course, your audience matters above all else, so for some content, longer sentences and the like are acceptable.
The ability to adapt your writing
The line you have to walk as a professional freelance writer isn’t always very clear. You want to make sure that you’re not going to spend time re-writing a piece that by all original standards fits the client’s needs. After all, that’s almost like working for free. However, you need to be ready to re-write based on misunderstandings and small changes. Sometimes it’s simply to keep otherwise reliable and long-term clients happy. Adapting your writing to their needs (and sometimes what feel like whims) can be essential to client relationships.
Good time organization
Between researching, writing, editing, and re-writing, you need to devote a good deal of time to any one piece. As such, it’s important to quickly develop a sense of how long it takes you to complete any given piece of writing. And from there, figure out how you’re going to make a schedule for it. There are plenty of time management apps that can ensure you put enough time per day into each project, as well as keeping up with other responsibilities like client outreach, replying to support emails, and the other tasks that come with freelancing or running ab business.
If you’re a professional freelance writer, then it’s your professional obligation to keep sharpening the skills mentioned above. There are plenty of tools that can help you keep improving those skills, too, so just keep the tips above in mind.