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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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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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