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5 Essential Tips for Aspiring Freelance Writers

5 Essential Tips for Aspiring Freelance Writers

The world is awash with aspiring freelance writers. This is a great thing, but it is also the one that makes life hard for all of the said freelance writers. The world of freelance writing is not one that comes easy, and anybody who wants to make a success of it will need to put in many hours to pull it off.

The fact that it is a difficult world to get a foothold in should not make it any less appealing for those who truly want to write for a living. There are just a few things you need to be clear on before you take a real leap and become a fully paid up member of the freelance writers’ fraternity.

1. Leave Your Principles at The Door

This may sound like a horrible thing to say, but the truth hurts. If you want to become one of the very few successful freelance writers who make a decent living from their work, you will have to take on assignments that you really don’t want to do. Now i’m not saying that this needs to be anything too sketchy, but at the outset you will find yourself doing work that seems pretty bizarre.

All freelance writers have to take on unusual, or just downright soul destroying work when they are looking to get on their feet. I’ve done tens of thousands of words on things that have literally melted my brain, but I was getting paid. Every time you get paid, it is another job complete. Every time you complete a job, your profile gets that little bit more credibility.

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When you do end up doing this kind of dredge work at the beginning, try to take the positives out of it. Really do your research and take it as an opportunity to learn about a topic you previously didn’t even know existed.

2. Choose Your Freelance Platform Wisely

If you want to get good work, you are going to need to find the best freelance writers’ platform that best suits your skill set. You also need to focus on those platforms where there is so much work being offered that the little gems of jobs are still able to be seen amongst so much of the rubbish that is out there.

Personally I believe Upwork to be the platform that best works for me, but there are many high quality places where you can find fairly paid work. Everybody has to work for low-money at the beginning, but if you build your profile on a good site whilst doing that, eventually you will start getting interest when you go for the better paid jobs.

3. Know Your SEO Basics

In today’s market, it is not enough for freelance writers to simply be writers. In many ways you also become digital marketers for your clients. Whether this is through inserting so many keywords into a blog or website content, you will very quickly need to make yourself familiar with the basics.

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You won’t need to become an SEO expert, unless you want to be, but terminology like domain authority, anchor text, back-links, white-hat, and a whole host of others are all going to be things you will need to get a general grasp of.

The most important thing with SEO is that you should never let it compromise your writing. Even if you feel like you are forcing words into sentences, you will still be able to give it your own personal touch, and that’s why we want to write in the first place.

4. Don’t Give Up Your Day Job

Ideally you will not just turn your back on your old career and decide to join the ranks of freelance writers on a whim. I cannot emphasise enough how difficult it is to get by, especially at the beginning. If you want to make it last, you will need to be patient.

For this reason you should not give up your old job before you decide to go all in. Do whatever work you can on the side. Working like this will put less pressure on you to take the really bad jobs out of desperation. Taking your time will also let you slowly grow through the learning process you need to master in order to not waste your time chasing jobs you will never get.

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Having a secure pay packet to fall back on will also make it less frustrating when you realise that a person you thought was going to be a great client, turns out to be nothing more than a horrible time-waster or scam artist.

5. Believe That You Are A Writer

Most freelance writers come from a writing background. It is often our passion, yet paradoxically becoming a freelance writer can sometimes turn this passion into something we start to feel a lot of resentment towards. Everybody will go through this stage at some point, but you must continue to believe in yourself and your abilities as a writer.

In my own experience, I have found that it is often when i’ve almost got to the point of giving up that a brilliant new client will just fall into my lap. Maybe I’ve been lucky on these occasions, but I think these moments also coincided with me taking some of the pressure of myself and applying for jobs with a little bit more heart and sincerity.

Good clients really do want to work with good writers. Never let yourself fall into the trap of becoming some kind of factory hen who simply churns out proposal after proposal without having properly thought whether or not that job is a fit for them. It’s true that at the beginning you may have to make compromises, but you must also always know your own worth and never forget that you are truly a writer and that this is what you were born to do.

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It will not be easy, but you will get there.

Featured photo credit: Brook Johnston via thoughtcatalog.com

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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