Freelance Writing For Beginners
People are always asking us “what tips do you have when it comes to freelance writing for beginners?” The answer is, there are lots of things you need to figure out, but learning from everything you do is the best way to put yourself on that path to success.
We find that everything we do is an opportunity. Whether that be an opportunity for a story, for professional improvement, or for getting a writing job, everyday events can help you achieve your goals if you look at them in the right way.
When you’re a freelance writer, you’ve always got to have your eyes open and your business on your mind because you never know what opportunities might come your way. To help you with this endeavor, we’ve put together 7 ways to learn from everything you do, so you can cut your learning curve and jump to the front of the line for freelance writing jobs.
1. Treat the Business Like Your Baby
When you have a baby, your whole life suddenly revolves around one tiny being. Somehow, everything you do seems to relate back to one little person and you’d do anything to see it succeed. In order to make a success of your freelance writing business, you’re going to have to treat it with the same reverence as you would a baby!
Everything you do throughout your day can relate back to your writing so long as you’re taking note of what’s happening in your life. Perhaps you’re writing about a recent slump in the stock market. If you are aware of everything you see throughout the day, the chances are, you are going to see some evidence of the effects of the slump. The stories are right there, you just need to connect them back to your writing.
One key characteristic of humans is that they are innately interested in the stories of other human beings. If you can relate your day-to-day stories back to your niche then you’re going to have some great content without having to do too much hard work.
“Character-driven stories with emotional content result in the better understanding of the key points a speaker wishes to make and enable better recall of these points weeks later” Paul J. Zak – Harvard Review
The problem is, we are generally not trained to investigate what goes on in our day to day lives. We are lost in routines and on the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much benefit in questioning what is going on. We don’t ask ourselves “what”, “why”, “who”, and “how” often enough, but as a writer, you have to learn to question everything.
When a baby is born, we are suddenly given a look at life through a new prism. Our life becomes dedicated to aiding the survival of another human being and we see everyday events differently. Well, congratulations, because you’ve just had a baby and it’s a beautiful baby freelance writing career!
When it comes to freelance writing for beginners who are struggling to think of content ideas, this is always my number one suggestion. No matter where you go, or what you are doing, always be ready to discover the next story.
2. Be Your Own Analyst
There’s a reason big businesses spend huge amounts of money on business analysts; because analysis works! When I was waiting tables in Australia, the restaurant manager would always say “information is power.” I thought it a bit grandiose at the time for a waiting job, but I discovered it’s true no matter what you do.
Freelance writing for beginners isn’t the easiest thing in the world. You’re starting out in a new field, against more experienced and more established writers. However, there is a way to quickly jump the ladder and learning to be your own analyst is going to be key to that.
You might not be the king of your niche just yet, but one thing you can be is the most on the ball challenger out there. This means knowing everything there is to know about your niche, what’s working well in your niche, and how you’re performing.
In our article on Harnessing Your Self-Discipline to Boost Productivity, we recommended setting aside some time on Sundays to plan out the week ahead. Well, why not go a step further and extend that time to run some analysis?
You can do this however you like, but these are four simple categories I like to break my analysis into:
- How did my performance last week lead to me achieving my goals?
- What did I do well?
- How could I do better?
- What were the key developments in my niche?
Clearly, I don’t sit around plugging numbers into algorithms, but nevertheless, the more you know, the quicker your learning curve is going to be. Tiny details are what separate the best from the also-rans and if you don’t take the time to look back at what you’re doing, it can be difficult to spot the details you are getting wrong.
Freelance writing is a one-man business, so you’re not going to be employing teams of analysts to go over your data. Instead, you’ve got to be your own business analyst (as well as boss, workhorse, and coffee maker.)
3. Become a Critical Thinker
Critical thinker – it seems to be every teacher and professors’ favorite phrase. My university felt it was such an important thing that they made it part of their motto. I didn’t really start to appreciate it until I got into freelance writing though.
When it comes to freelance writing for beginners, one thing that can be very difficult to do is to stand out. If you go and look on something like Upwork (we’d recommend Writing Jobs Online as a better place to start), you’re going to see tons and tons of other writers all trying to do the same thing.
One way to put yourself ahead of the competition is by becoming an excellent critical thinker. So what is this elusive critical thinking you ask! Well, I like to think of it as what critical thinkers do, and Skills You Need put it nicely when they say, “critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value.”
Working on your critical thinking skills is something you can practice at any point and they’re bound to help you in your writing. Wabisabi Learning lists the 7 traits of critical thinkers as:
Curiosity – Critical thinkers always want to know why. They are eager to learn about all subjects and if there’s something they don’t know they will look it up. Learn to apply your curiosity to your niche, but be willing to learn about other things too.
Compassion – Being a critical thinker doesn’t mean investigating other people’s arguments because you think they are trying to fool you. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to understand where everyone else is coming from. This is especially true when you’re writing as you need to use the art of gentle persuasion.
Awareness – Every moment is an opportunity for critical thinking. Dig that little bit deeper, ask one more question and be constantly alert. If you can discover content where others can’t it will make your life a lot easier.
Decisiveness – Critical thinking shouldn’t be confused with over-thinking. In critical thinking, you learn to know which questions are pertinent and which ones aren’t. Asking the wrong questions over and over isn’t going to move you forward; asking the right questions and acting on the results will.
Honesty – Your critical thinking might not always lead you in the right direction but you have to be honest when it isn’t. First off, you have to be honest with yourself that you are not infallible and will make mistakes. Then, you need to be honest with your reader and say “I thought this, but it was not the case, in fact, I found this”.
Willingness – Following these practices day in day out is not easily done. It’s going to take a lot of effort and you have to be willing to open your mind up to everything around you. Sometimes you might not like what you see but you’ve got to be flexible and willing to adapt to what you find.
Creativity – This is how you’re going to stand out from the crowd! Can you ask the most creative questions, find unique insights from your research and present your evidence in an attractive way?
You need to become an archeologist of the truth. Dusting away the layers until you have something tangible in your hands. The “truth” that everyone tells is boring, the real truth that you find at the bottom of your excavation is what is really interesting.
If you regurgitate the “truths” that are already out there, you’re not going to stand out. Your writing might be a bit better than the competition, but they’re already established which puts them ahead. The answer is discovering a better truth, a more accurate truth, and it starts with critical thinking.
4. See Everything as an Opportunity
One of the keys to freelance writing for beginners is being able to stand out from the competition and establish yourself as a go-to person. However, in a competitive market, that’s not always the easiest task. Luckily, you have one thing that is completely unique, which is your life, so you have to learn to use it.
The time when you’re not writing can actually be some of the most valuable you have in the day. So many intriguing things happen in our lives on a day-to-day basis, we just have to look for the story in them. If you start to look at everything that happens to you as an opportunity for a story then you’re bound to find rich content ideas coming to you.
Of course, you’re writing ability is going to help to stand out in freelance writing, but the overall content is where the best writers separate themselves. It’s not that easy to hold a person’s’ attention in the 21st century, so to do so, you’re going to have to offer something different.
Constantly coming up with a new viewpoint or theory is exceptionally difficult though. You can sit around at a computer pondering ideas all you like, but eventually, the well is going to run dry. This is why you have to be switched on to everything you see in life and ask questions about what is happening.
In our article Choosing Your Freelance Writing Niches – 7 Ways to Start Ahead of the Competition, we said that if you have an interest, the chances are, there are tons of other people out there with the same interest. The same thing goes for questions. If you’re going about your day and suddenly wonder why Bigfoot shows always seem to find Bigfoot but never get a picture of him, the chances are, someone else is having that thought too!
Do some research, ask the questions, and produce some great content and the bigfoot non-believers will come! This probably won’t relate back to your niche, but the idea is the same. Question the things that happen in your life, and turn them into amazing content through investigation.
One thing we love about the idea that everything is an opportunity is the ability to learn from your failures. At some point in your career, you’re going to write something that completely bombs. Some writers would be quick to erase those pieces of writing from their memories, but to us, they are an excellent opportunity.
If you can figure out what it is that makes an article bad, then you’ve taken the first step to figuring out what makes an article good! Dust that article off, spruce it up, and see if you can get a different result next time around. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of A/B testing.
Your options are unlimited when it comes to finding content, the only thing that is holding you back is the limits of your imagination. By learning to be a critical thinker and seeing everything as an opportunity for a story you’re going to be able to make your writing stand out in a way that’s going to put you on the path to success.
5. Step Out From the Shadows
We just said that freelance writing for beginners is about trying to stand out, so why are we constantly trying to fit in? We need to learn to stay true to ourselves and not be afraid to offer something different.
Everyone in your niche is saying one thing, but you’ve done your research, and you have a completely different view on the matter. Congratulations, you’ve got yourself an excellent opportunity! All you have to do is trust yourself and use this to your advantage.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that in freelance writing there is a bigger market for traditional thinking than there is for your new idea. This might be true, but there are even more people trying to peddle that traditional thinking. Clear up the jobs with the people who are open to new thinking and build yourself a reputation.
Your new way of thinking might not go down well, but on the flip side, it might go down very well and suddenly you’re a hot commodity!
As Linkedin say, “if you want to get on in life and are motivated then you have to stand out from the crowd and get yourself noticed by the people that count.” There are many ways you can do this in freelance writing, whether it be through your branding, your profile, your voice, or through your content, but the main thing is you can’t be scared to break away from the pack.
Personally, I like to let my content do the talking. There’s nothing better than taking a topic and turning it on its head by using unique questioning to find a new reality. So much of the internet is filled with mediocre research that people are crying out for your unique take.
It’s time to step out from the shadows and show the world exactly what you can do. Use your unique thinking to create your own identity in your niche.
6. Persistence Pays
When you take something very seriously like you’re going to take your freelance writing career, it’s easy to take it personally when some of your work or ideas are rejected. However, one person’s opinion shouldn’t allow you to be pushed off course.
What you’ve got to do is be really honest with yourself, evaluate your work, and if you still feel like you’re on the right track then you’ve got to keep going. Maybe tweak a few things here and there, do a little bit more research, but the main thing is if you think you’re on the right track then don’t doubt yourself.
Sometimes, persistence is key in this job and unfortunately, you’re going to face some rejection along the way. The most important thing is that you don’t get discouraged. If you thought you were on the right path yesterday, the fact that one person didn’t like your work shouldn’t change that.
While rejection shouldn’t faze you, it is a good chance to find out where you can make improvements. Have a dialog with potential clients if you don’t get the job. Ask what you could have done better and what areas you need to work on. What’s the worst thing that can happen? They don’t get back to you, which isn’t going to cost you anything.
Like any profession, freelance writing for beginners has a sharp learning curve. Some people never catch up with the curve, but if you can learn to take rejection, find out why you were rejected, and come back even stronger, you’re going to cut that learning curve down greatly.
7. Give Yourself a Break
We’re always talking about being the best boss you can at Think Freelance Writing. We think it is one of the most important parts of any freelance job because no one else is going to be looking out for you but yourself.
Part of being a great boss is recognizing when you need to go easy on yourself and give yourself a pat on the back rather than a telling off. Sure, you might have made a mistake, but everyone does. If you spend your time cursing yourself for messing up you’re just prolonging the time it takes for you to learn from your mistake.
“Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress, which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.” Unknown
Some people say that an important part of freelance writing for beginners is being able to be strict with yourself, and to some extent, it is true. But not every moment needs strictness. There are going to be some moments in your freelance writing career when you’re just going to have to be nice to yourself. Accept that you’re going to make mistakes, allow yourself to make them and then move on.
When I first started writing I really struggled with this aspect. If I had a new blog out somewhere I’d constantly be looking through the comments to see if they were positive. If I did find a negative one I would really take it to heart and be critical of myself.
This is such a waste of mental energy though. Instead, it’s a much better use of time to focus on the bigger picture, accept when you do make the odd error and make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Freelance writing is a difficult mountain to summit. The chances are you’re going to have some falls along the way. The important thing is not that you don’t make mistakes, it’s that you learn from your mistakes. Freelance writing for beginners is a constant opportunity for learning, so we’ve put together our 7 ways to learn from everything you do:
- Treat the business like your baby.
- Be your own analyst.
- Become a critical thinker.
- See everything as an opportunity.
- Step out from the shadows.
- Persistence pays.
- Give yourself a break.
One of the great things about you is that you’re unique. That’s why you have to use your life to offer your readers unique and engaging content. Learn to think critically about everything you do and relate it back to your niche.
If you can learn from everything you do then you’re going to cut your learning curve greatly and start to stand out as a freelance writer. Once you know how to stand out and make a name for yourself then you’re on the path to great success in freelance writing!