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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 June 18, 2019

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common leadership styles and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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