If you’re interested in a career in freelance writing – either as a full-time job or a side hustle – you may be wondering what skills or qualifications you need in order to be successful. Well, you’re in luck. In this post, I’ll be discussing 10 of the most important freelance writing skills.
Becoming a freelance writer is a great way to earn money remotely, making it an ideal choice for digital nomads and anyone else who wants a flexible way to work online. I’ve been working part-time as a freelance writer for the last couple of years and it’s honestly great.
However, what skills do you actually need to succeed? While there are no hard-and-fast rules, the following set of skills should stand you in good stead.
Must-Have Content Writing Skills
As a self-employed freelance writer, skills like time management, self-motivation, networking, and business skills are vital, in much the same way as they are for most other types of freelance work. However, there are a few additional skills that are particularly useful for freelance writers.
I put together this list of skills to be a freelance writer based largely on my own personal experience of freelance writing. These are skills that I find (or have found) to be particularly useful when working as a freelance writer. Of course, each job is different, but these are the skills that should set you up for success.
1. Freelance Writing Course
If you’re just getting started with freelance writing, taking an online writing course can be really worthwhile. I recently took a course called Becoming a Freelance Writer by Knowadays. You can read my review of the Knowadays writing course here.
Taking a course like this is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of freelance writing as a career. You’ll learn about different writing styles, from blog posts to press releases and even persuasive marketing copy, what’s important for each, and some of the best ways to get started.
A good freelance writing course (like the Knowadays one) will also teach you about the business side of freelance writing, including how to market yourself, find clients, and manage competing deadlines. It will also equip you with a valuable set of practical article-writing skills.
Getting feedback from experienced instructors can also help to refine your skills and boost your confidence. Plus, having the course on your resume can help to show future clients that you’re serious about freelance writing and committed to the job. Use promo code GOATS25 for 25% off the course with Knowadays. Click here for details.
2. English Language Skills
It sounds like an obvious point, but, if you want to earn money from your writing, you need to be able to write well. I’m not saying you need to be the next Ernest Hemingway or Charles Dickens. However, strong English language skills are essential for anyone who wants to be able to sell what they write.
Of course, there are various apps and other tools that can help to improve your writing. But, being a good writer is more than just being able to spell and use grammar and punctuation correctly (although these are clearly important.)
Knowing how to use words effectively can be the difference between an average writer and a good one. The better you can master the nuances of the English language, the better a writer you will be. And, the more you write, the easier it gets.
3. Research Skills
Not every freelance writing job requires you to do research. But quite a lot do, so it’s a very useful skill to have.
For example, imagine you’re writing a travel blog post about the different ways of getting from Place A to Place B, or the top things to do in Place C. You’ll probably need to do some research to ensure that what you’re saying is accurate, relevant, up-to-date, and helpful.
Thankfully, we’re not talking about academic-level research (usually, at least). You don’t typically need to write a whole bibliography or get hung up on the “correct” way to reference sources. However, it’s still important to be able to conduct thorough research where necessary.
4. Computer Skills
In today’s digital age, computer skills are vital for virtually every freelance writer. Even if you’re writing for print media like newspapers or journals, you’ll probably still be actually doing the work on a computer.
So, it’s important that you know your way around word processing software, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. You don’t need to be an expert, but you should at least be competent. These are key tools of the trade, after all.
Online writing skills are also important for anybody writing pieces that will appear online – like blog posts and online sales copy.
You don’t need to be an SEO expert by any means, although having at least a basic understanding of how to write SEO-friendly copy can certainly be an advantage. It’s like having an extra set of tools in your toolbox. The more you have, the more you can do.
5. Time Management and Organizational Skills
As a freelance writer, good time management and organizational skills are vital. You often have to balance multiple clients, competing deadlines, and various admin tasks, which can be tricky at times.
I often find myself spinning several plates while working as a freelance writer. However, keeping yourself organized and on top of all of your tasks can make your life much easier and help to stop you from feeling too overwhelmed.
Nobody wants to miss a deadline – or have to stay up all night working to meet one (been there, done that – it’s not great.) As well as being important for your own sanity, good time management is also important for maintaining a good relationship with your clients.
I like to write all of my tasks down and schedule them in my calendar, so I can see at a glance what needs doing each day. This doesn’t solve everything, but I find it makes things feel much more manageable!
Self-motivation is also super important as a freelance writer. It’s what gets you to your desk each day and carries you through the days when you really don’t feel like writing.
Without a boss telling you what to do, it’s all up to you. Personally, I love the autonomy and freedom that this gives me. However, being able to motivate yourself is crucial. Without this, you don’t get anything done – and you don’t get paid.
I find it helps to set clear goals for myself. For example, writing a certain number of words each day, or finishing a certain number of blog posts each week. As well as helping to keep me motivated, this also means I can keep track of where I am and ensure that I’m on track to get everything done.
Adaptability is another important skill for freelance writers. One day you might need to write a blog post, the next a technical manual or report, and the next a piece of sales copy for an online magazine.
I find this helps keep the work exciting, although you must be able to effectively shift between one style of writing. After all, a blog post on video gaming probably needs to look quite different from a formal report on climate change.
Being open to feedback also helps you to improve as a writer. If a client wants something changed, try to take it as an opportunity to grow. Think about why they want the change and how you can use this to improve and write even better material in the future.
8. Business Skills
Working for yourself as a freelancer requires certain business skills. You need to manage your money, market your services, and deal with clients. It’s one of the key differences between writing as a hobby and as a career.
You need to figure out how to set fair rates for your work. Finding the balance is key – charge too much and you’ll struggle to find work; charge too little and you won’t be paid enough for your time.
One of my least favorite things about working as a freelance writer is the financial admin. You need to keep track of your invoices and manage your own taxes. It can be tedious, but being able to do it effectively is crucial.
9. Networking Skills
Networking skills are important when it comes to finding job opportunities, connecting with potential clients, and maintaining professional relationships. The more you connect with other professionals, the more opportunities will likely come your way.
There are various different ways to do this, from attending in-person summits and industry events to online writer’s groups and Facebook communities.
It’s all about making as many connections as possible to help get your name out there. Even a brief interaction on LinkedIn or Twitter can lead to work in the future. Play the long game and you will be rewarded!
10. Formal Qualifications
You don’t strictly need any formal qualifications to become a freelance writer. However, they can certainly help.
Formal qualifications help show potential clients you’ve got the training to back up your words. It’s proof that you take your craft seriously.
Having a degree or other certificate can also let you specialize, which often leads to higher rates of pay. For example, freelance writers with qualifications in medicine, engineering, or law can leverage these qualifications into higher paying work related to their field.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any of these qualifications though, they definitely aren’t essential. It’s all about maximizing whatever you can offer, and promoting yourself as much as possible.
Freelance Writing Skills: FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the main skills required for freelance writing.
You don’t need any specific qualifications to be a freelance writer. Strong writing skills, a good grasp of the English language, and the ability to communicate effectively are the main requirements. However, qualifications like degrees or certificates in writing or related fields can also boost your credibility and help you specialize.
Certification is not necessary to become a content writer, but it can help. As well as possibly making you a better writer, getting certified also shows clients you mean business and have a range of professional writing skills, which can help to set you apart from your competitors.
Some of the most important skills for freelance writing include strong writing and language skills, effective research skills, computer literacy, time management, and organizational abilities. Self-motivation, adaptability, business management, and networking skills can also be very helpful.
Yes, you definitely can start freelance writing without experience. After all, every freelance writer needs to start somewhere. Begin by building a portfolio with sample writings, start a blog, or contribute to online forums and communities to showcase your work.
Freelance writers’ incomes vary widely based on experience, niche, and workload. Some freelance writers are paid very well. Others only earn a small amount per piece.
It all depends on the sector(s) you’re writing for, the nature of your clients, and how much experience you have. However, as a rough indication, the average freelance writer in the US earns more than $25 per hour.
Now you know a bit more about some of the essential freelance writing skills. These collectively form the backbone of any successful freelance writing career.
As a next step, I recommend sitting down and figuring out which of the above skills you have, and which ones you need to build on. Then, do some research on the types of freelance writing jobs that appeal most to you.
Once you have a better understanding of your skillset, you can start to build an action plan for how you’ll use those skills to launch your new career. Remember, it’s a constant journey of learning and growing. I wish you all the best!