I didn’t bother to find out what the freelance writing requirements were to be successful. At least I didn’t before I quit my job and gave myself 6 months to make money writing.
I have now.
I searched hundreds of job postings that were looking for freelance writers. Common skills and traits emerged from the postings. I narrowed it down to the 10 that were asked for the most.
Below are 10 things, skills, needs, requirements, (whatever you want to call them) every freelance writer must have.
You must have all 10 or your journey to being a writer could end up as days of you beating your head against a wall asking, “Why isn’t this working?”
You thought writing would be the first need but it is actually communication. Writing well is a given and you will be doing a lot of it, but it isn’t the only thing.
You will need to be able to communicate with:
· The audience that reads your words.
· The person that hired you.
· The editor looking at your work with a fine-tooth comb.
· The person who pays you.
· Possible team members on a project.
Communication is not about being this super outgoing person with tons of personality. Introverts can be great communicators. Since most freelance work takes place online, much if not all conversations, take place by email.
Great news for the shy folks out there!
Important take away: No one wants to work with someone that is unfriendly, rude, and difficult to get in touch with. If you struggle with communication, you will struggle as a freelance writer.
CLEAR, ENGAGING CONTENT
Engaging is the buzzword of online writing. It replaced “value” in terms of what your content should be. Regardless, engagement is key.
You may be asking yourself, “What exactly does clear, engaging content mean?”
Clear, engaging content should be:
· Intentional – the writing should have a purpose.
Example: If you are writing about camping, focus on great tents or sleeping bags. Don’t write about camping all willy-nilly.
· Storytelling – the old rule of show don’t tell. Share a story that will help the reader see themselves with your product, service, or whatever you are writing about.
Example: share a story about what happened with a particular tent that makes it great.
· Extra Valuable – (there’s that word again) give the reader more than they thought they wanted or needed.
Example: Someone is reading your article because you promised to tell about a great tent. Tell about 10 great tents, why they are great, and where they can find them.
· Conversational – write like you are talking to a friend. More importantly: keep it simple.
· Clear about the next step –make it very clear what you would like the reader to do next. No one likes to feel unsure.
Example: how to buy the great tent. A link to the tent.
Important takeaway: People want to know what’s in it for them. When done correct, your content will be easy to understand, intriguing, and actionable.
(Learn more about writing Clear, Engaging Content here)
This one gets overlooked or ignored. Someone starts a blog and thinks it will be cute stories about their life. Nice. Great. Hate to break your heart but only you and your family are going to want to read it.
Those cute stories have a reason for being told. That is where the research comes in.
Let’s go back to the camping example. You are writing a blog post about a funny story that happened to your family camping. The tent is part of the story and you want to share information about it. You are likely going to have to look it up. What is it made of? How much does it cost? What are its features? What are the benefits? Where can they buy it?
Whether you are writing for yourself or someone else, some level of research must be done.
Reasons for research might be:
· Gather knowledge on an unknown topic
The list is endless.
Important takeaway: Get comfortable doing research now. You and the person who hires you will thank you.
UNDERSTANDING BRAND, MESSAGE, AND SERVICE OFFERINGS
All writers, especially freelance writers producing content for others, must know this and know how to do it.
The reader is the person reading your work, of course. But, the reader isn’t just anyone because not everyone will read your work. When you sit down to write anything you need a very clear vision of who is going to read it. There is someone that either you or the company wants to read the content and buy the product. Who is it?
(Learn more about Knowing Your Audience here.)
The brand and messaging are what the people buy. They are about feelings and emotions. What does having that particular product or service say about the reader? How does it make the reader feel? The brand and message is all about the reader.
As the writer, you must know, understand, and communicate how the brand and message will make them feel.
The service offerings are the products. These are what the company is selling. All products have features and benefits. As the writer you need to know both.
They are different.
Start writing after you know all this information. If not, it could end up a
cobbled piece heading to no one reads it land.
WRITING TO VOICE
When writing for others, this can make or break getting paid on a project.
Some companies will be fun, whimsical, and witty. Others will be to the point, no fluff, and serious. If you don’t know this before you start writing there is a chance your project will not be accepted.
Just like with brand and messaging, the voice of a company is important.
If a company hires you to write content for their website they will expect you to write in their tone of voice. Not yours.
Your style may be conversational and easy.
They may be just
the facts, ma’am.
Get this wrong and you could lose out on future projects or not get paid at all on the one you have written
Important takeaway: be sure to do research on what voice or tone the company wants before you start writing. Save yourself the headache and possible heartache.
(Learn more about Writing to Voice here)
ATTENTION TO DEAIL
Writing, in general and always, should be accurate and truthful.
Getting the details right is the difference between a professional or a hack.
If you don’t want to bother with the details, don’t bother with the writing.
If a company gives you things they want in the project, put them in. Triple check that you got them right.
Grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and word count are a few of the details you must look for. Don’t slack on this. The harder you make an editors job, the less likely you are to be hired again.
Important takeaway: Take the time to check and double check the details of a project. Be a professional. Take pride in your work.
One of the reasons you want to be a freelance writer is to be your own boss. Make your own hours. Work in your pj’s.
You will also spend most of your working time all by yourself.
My home office only has me in it. No cubicles set up in my living room. No water cooler to gossip around. I eat lunch by myself. My team meetings consist of me talking to myself. No pep talks to get me moving. No one telling me to “get back to work” or to get started. No one is finding me work but me.
Get used to it.
You work alone. You will motivate yourself. You will organize your day on your own. You will start working on your own. You will give your own high fives and gold stars.
Important takeaway: With the freedom of writing comes the drive to make it happen on your own.
Say what? But I want to be a writer so I don’t have to answer to anyone.
ABILITY TO MEET DEADLINES
That’s not how this works.
Even your own blog should have a deadline for posted content. Consistency on a blog is key to success.
People who hire you to write for them are going to want their stuff in a certain amount of time. This may be something that gets worked out between the two of you or they may tell you when they want it back.
Either way, a deadline is a deadline.
Don’t miss it.
Can’t take the pressure of a deadline? A different career might need looking at.
Deadlines are everywhere. Embrace them now.
RELIABLE INTERNET AND WORD PROCESSING SYSTEMS
This may seem like a strange requirement to put on this list but it isn’t. It will be very difficult to get work as a freelance writer if you cannot get online and are not able to type the content.
Poor Internet connections will delay your research. Delay your ability to find work. Delay your ability to turn in your work. (Not to many snail mail or faxed projects going on these days).
No one is going to accept a handwritten project. Some companies have requirements for what systems they want used for the work. You will need to know how to use them or be able to do the research to find out.
Get a good Internet provider and learn a couple of word processing systems.
ACCEPT CRITICISM AND REJECTION
This last need is the one that gets most people. It is why people start and quit this career.
You will not be the right person for every company. For every website. For every reader.
Guess what? No one is.
People will tell you no. They will ignore you. They will tell you that the work stinks.
Move on to the next project. Rewrite the piece again. Learn from what happened. It happens to everyone. No one is immune to rejection or criticism.
Heck, even Stephen King had Carrie rejected 30 times.
Important takeaway: Criticism and rejection will happen. This is an absolute. Get comfortable with it.
These freelance writing requirements are not anything you have not heard before. It is important that you know and understand that all are needed to be successful. All are wanted by clients for you to have. Learn the ones you don’t know. Embrace the ones that scare you. Give yourself a high five for the ones you already have.
Comment below and tell me which, if any, you are most scared about.