Freelance Writing Success: 5 Traits To Develop, Starting Today

Want to develop a freelance writing career? If you’re proactive, love learning new things, and enjoy writing (mostly), chances are that you’ll succeed.

Recently, a new freelance writer asked a good question about writers’ personality traits: “what kind of person succeeds as a writer?”

Wow, great question. Years ago, when I contributed to a large magazine, I congratulated a writer on a great article—and her luck in landing a high-paying new gig. “Yes,” she said drily, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

In short, to succeed, you need to accept responsibility.

Freelance writing: the responsibility for success is all yours

Accept it. Luck helps, but be prepared to accept responsibility for both success, and failure.

From The Psychology of Success:

An internal locus of control keeps you from falling prey to the belief that you are just a hapless victim and nothing is your fault. When it comes to success, it really pays to take responsibility for your results.

Let’s look at some personality traits which help.

1. Persistence: you won’t give up on your dreams and goals

Persistence matters. Both overall—you’ve decided on a career and won’t quit—and with writing projects too.

You happily take on projects you know will stretch you, and persist, even if a project challenges you. You’re prepared to meet your deadlines (see the third trait below), no matter what.

2. Ego: you accept editing suggestions gracefully

As writers, we get caught up in our words. Every writer has a tendency to reject criticism. Let go of that, and let go of your words too, after a project is done.

When clients and editors ask for revisions, carry them out, always gracefully.

That said, be prepared to make your case if the suggested edits are wrong. An example. Years ago, a publishers’ copyeditor changed a brand name, right throughout a 60K-word book. I sent her information on the trademarked name, and discarded her edits, without comment. (It must have stung, however, otherwise I wouldn’t remember the incident.)

3. Deadline-centric: you know deadlines matter

Meet your deadlines. Always. Competent writers are fanatical about deadlines. The benefit? Once clients know you’re reliable, not only will you get more gigs, they’ll recommend you to others.

4. Haggling: you can negotiate happily

Hate haggling? Reframe that. Tell yourself you love it—yes, it’s all in your mindset.

When it comes to your fees, have a bottom line: you won’t go below that. However, be flexible. You might suggest:

  • A longer deadline;
  • Shortening the project; or
  • Lengthening the project. For example, if the client baulks at the fee for an article, or a series of ads, suggest you’ll meet their fee if they commit to additional articles, or ads.

5. Emotions: you can keep your head

When you freelance, you encounter many situations, and many different kinds of clients.

Years ago, I accepted that every gig is different. Occasionally, you’ll get a high-pressure gig—perhaps you’ve inherited it, because the previous writer quit—and people are short-tempered, or less than kind. Keep your head, and your nerve. As Rudyard Kipling put it:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…

See our second personality trait above, be professional, and keep your ego in check. You can do it.

Freelance writing: the benefits outweigh the drawbacks

If you’re uncertain about the hassles of freelancing: the need to market and get clients consistently; too many clients, or too few…

Look at the benefits. Not only can you work as much or as little as you please, you can write anywhere.

Have fun. 🙂


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