freelance writing tips for beginners

Here are seven effective tips to start a freelance writing career for beginners. They are my personal golden rules since earning a living online is not only difficult, it’s also very competitive. They should help you survive as a freelance writer.

I’ve never been one to believe in “staying in the game”, but instead in staying ahead of the game. I have also never followed social grains, but instead, have created my own grains along the way.

This system has worked for me and is one I contribute to my success as a writer and website owner whose income is earned solely from writing.

1. Create a workspace you love

I once worked in an office as a writer for a real estate company. After staring out a bland window that faced the back of the unpainted brick building next door, I pleaded to be able to personalize my space, making it warm and inspiring. Unfortunately, the guy I worked for was not only controlling (insecure), he was about as creative and interesting as a blank piece of paper and refused my requests.

Needless to say, I felt frustrated and mentally void when trying to write descriptive content to sell the homes he had listed for sale. He just didn’t understand the impact a space, any workspace, has on a writer. A negative space, the back of a brick building, has a negative impact. A positive space has a positive impact.

In saying that, let’s hope you understand that when you write, your surroundings impact what and how you write. It truly is linked to your inner inspiration.

I didn’t stay at the job long after that. I found him and his environment boring and stale. He was my incentive to create a new grain and venture completely out on my own. I’ve never looked back!

2. Now that you have a workspace, eliminate all distractions. Finish all housework. Complete all errands. Turn off your phone. Walk your cute dog and pet your fluffy cat, then send them away. Your kids too. It’s all gotta go. Immerse yourself in your newly created inspirational space and concentrate on the task at hand.

3. Learn your audience! Understanding the audience you’re writing for is as important as being able to type and spell. If you don’t know your audience, how can you produce appropriate content?

Example: the cat in the hat sat on a fat rat that made a splat.
Example: international companies have expressed their concern about the possibility of another recession.

These are two completely different sentences for two completely different audiences. If I have to detail which is which, you should probably stop reading now.

How can you learn your audience? The truth is, that should be obvious from the topic of your assignment. Children do not read global recession topics and adults do not read about fat rats. If you’re truly not sure, review already posted articles on the company’s website to get a feel for what’s being accepted.

Another reason understanding your audience is important is because you will need to write at the correct level for the potential readers of your article(s). That is accomplished by understanding the F-K readability scale.

Did you know that every article you read, every magazine you buy, every book that is written and every public document produced has a readability rating attached to it? It always shocks me how many writers do not know this.

The short version. A Flesch–Kincaid readability test is a mathematical calculation that determines the reading difficulty of an article. The number, once calculated, determines if the written sentences are appropriate for children, teens, average adults or those who are university educated.

The higher the score, the easier the article is to read. If you’re writing for a general audience, a readability score of between 60 and 65 is usually sufficient. This opens your article up to a wider audience.

This is my personal creative writing space…on my rooftop!

Funny story. I once wrote a short piece about 100 trees that had been mysteriously cut down in my city. This was illegal, of course. In the article I stated that nearly 100 trees had been felled.

A few people wrote to correct me, saying that the trees did not fall, but that they were cut down. Another wrote to tell me that there is no such word as felled, while another wrote to “give me hell” for using words that he did not understand like felled.

My point. Even when you do hover in middle reading-ease-ground, there will always be someone, somewhere to object.

Examples of F-K readability scores:
Time magazine: 52
Reader’s Digest: 65
Harvard Law Review: low 30s
Moby Dick: 58

I once read that Oprah magazine was in the high 70s, which if true, would make sense for her to reach as large an audience as possible. Here is the chart that is used as a guideline to determine readability levels.

If you’re new to this and do not know the readability score for your own work, you can find out by entering the text of an article you’ve written on one of these sites. There are many others.

Flesch-Kincaid Readability Tool

4. Understand your assignment topic the way you know your mother or father or sibling, which is inside and out. Don’t try to fake it and whatever you do, don’t even think of plagiarizing. Not even a little bit. If you’re not familiar with a topic but do have an interest in it, relay that to your editor. If they still want you to write the article, then you can move on to the next point.

5. Research using accredited sources only and not “sources” such as my friend’s blog dot com. That’s not acceptable. Embed your research links into the article in the appropriate places or, if the editor asks, place them separately at the bottom of your submitted work.

6. Learn to use Google Scholar, Scopus and other Internet resources more efficiently. These will not only return better research results for you, it will also cut down on a lot of wasted time sifting through fluff search engine results.

7. Finish your article early. Write it a day or two before the deadline and come back to it before you submit your final product. This will give you time to double check and make changes. Then you can be a hero and submit the article early to relieve your editor or client of the stress that comes with meeting squeaky-tight deadlines.