Talent can take you far in life. But hard work will push you further than talent alone.
What I’ve learned in the last 6 years I’ve been freelance writing is there are other skills besides writing that can benefit the successful freelance writer. And that’s a good thing! This means that I don’t need to be as creative as Young House Lovers John and Sherry, funny as Martha Beck or as pushy as some go-getter writers to be successful.
Talk about a load off of my back. If I had to be naturally talented like the authors I drool over, I would have given up on this business several lousy paychecks ago.
What I’ve learned has been key to finding more jobs irrespective of where I live, how much experience I have or what I’ve done in the past. It’s helped me overcome and even make use of a degree and work experience that have no relationship to my career as a writer. It’s also given me confidence to pursue different directions in my writing. So here it is. It’s all the work that I’ve compiled from making tons of mistakes and learning in the process. It’s how you will become the writer editors seek out.
Take yourself seriously no matter what stage you’re at.
When I first decided to quit job hopping to finally pursue a freelance writing career, I was scared silly. I didn’t know what I was doing and was sure I would mess up. And I did. But I’m glad I did. It forced me to work hard. I threw myself in my work. I signed up for classes. I called people and asked them for advice, suggestions, help. I bought books, dogearing and highlighting as I went along. I joined and then started my own writing group. I did everything I could to learn as much as I could because if I was going to do this, I was going to give it my all. That’s what I also found inspiring when watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a 2011 documentary about a Japanese man who makes sushi making an art. Here’s what he says about success and hard work:
“Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success… and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
There have been many times at the start of my career where I felt like a fraud. I was amazed people gave me jobs and believed that they would eventually see how inexperienced I was and fire me. So I hid my insecurities and pretended I knew what I was doing when I didn’t. This backfired on me big time and I learned it’s much better to be honest about what was expected of me. In two words, be transparent. It’s how you build trust with any potential editors and how you work with integrity. If you can’t finish an article on time, let an editor know right away. If you’re not clear about the assignment, ask. It’s simple things like these that make you much easier to work with and be the type of writer editors will contact again and again.
I’m no writer diva. My belief is that every writing gig that comes my way is an opportunity and I like to bend in the wind of all opportunities. This means that for the most part, I’m going to get up real early, drive far, or write fast if it will make my client happy. I will deliver quality content and I will change pieces, organize them differently and do so happily. As long as I am treated well, my aim is to be a client-pleaser.
These are just a few tips I’ve learned that can make working with editors and clients easy-peasy. It not only makes the relationship work better for the current assignment, but it makes me more likely to gain future ones too. Basically to stand out from the millions of other writers out there (some who have more impressive portfolios than you), you need to treat your clients as people, think about what would make them happy, work hard and deliver quality content. Those are the things that have and continue to help me. What’s helped you?