Written By Alexandra Romanov

Freelance Writing Success: The Top 10 Rules

For the freelance writer just getting started it can be a difficult process. As with any new venture there is a learning curve made up primarily of trial and error. If you have a full time job that pays the bills, you have the time to devote to this process. If you don’t you can quickly become frustrated and you might even think of giving up. Take heart; you are not alone.

There are several things to learn as you navigate the vast waters that make up a freelance writing career but it helps to have a few rules to guide you. As in any career, there are rules for success. The more of them you use the better off you will be. Here are the top 10 rules that will let you sail along smoothly.

For goodness sake, WRITE!

For the new freelance writer, information is the key. The problem is that many people spend so much time gathering information that they never get around to actually writing something. This is one of the reasons I encourage people to get a Helium or Yahoo Voices account. You can write what you want, when you want. If nothing else, start a blog and write something every day.

In the beginning, when you are still looking for clients or maybe deciding on an online company to work with, write something every day. It’s a great habit to get into and it will make things easier later on when you have assignments with deadlines to meet.

While we are on the subject of writing, choose one of the places I’ve reviewed and apply today. Not tomorrow and not later when you have time. Finish reading this and apply.

Don’t work for free

Being a freelance writer does not mean you work for free! You would be surprised at how many people actually think that’s what this means. It doesn’t. It also doesn’t mean writing for less than it costs you to write. Never price yourself so low that you lose money by turning on your computer.

The exception to this is when you are literally just starting out and have no samples at all. Once you have 3 samples, stop working for free. One of the best ideas on this came from a tax attorney friend of mine when he joked that the best place to get samples would be writing for a charity because at least then it would be deductible. That’s a good point and something new writers should seriously consider.

Market your business

This is critical. You simply must market your business. There is no way around it. The easiest way to do this is to create a writer website that has a blog and write in it every day. Send every 3-4 months to your target clients. If you have had a good relationship with a past client, touch base and see if they need anything.

You are going to be marketing and promoting your work for your entire career. You might as well get comfortable with it now.

Don’t ignore social media

Social media is big and it’s important. It’s a great way to promote what you have written, market your skills and engage with readers. It’s also incredibly easy to streamline it so that it takes only a short amount of time every week.

The Big 3 in social media are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They can be set up so that if you post to one it shows up on all three. I recommend setting up all three and doing most of your engaging through Facebook. That interface is the most familiar to people and allows for easy interaction with readers. By all means, if you are more comfortable with Twitter or LinkedIn, use them. The point is to not neglect social media.

Deadlines are damn important!

I had a professor once that flatly refused to ever give an extension on a deadline. He said that wasn’t how the world worked and we needed to get used to it. He was right. Clients expect that when you say you will have the project completed by a certain time that you will meet that deadline without exception.

Many writers, especially new ones, fail to realize that often their part of the project must be completed before other aspects can begin. If you are writing copy for a new brochure, for example, the client will need your text to give to the graphic designer. If you are late then the designer will be late and that could delay the printing of the finished product. You will get away with it once but chances are the client will look for someone more punctual next time.

Don’t Overwrite

This is important for new writers especially. When you get your first assignment you of course want to do a good job. The tendency then is to over write, which is to write at a level far above what the client is expecting. This isn’t a huge problem for anyone but the writer. If you are writing a $100 article and putting $500 worth of effort into it, you lose money.

Clients have certain expectations. You absolutely want to meet them and even exceed them a little. It’s a waste of your time and energy to write a $0.25 per word article when all that the client wanted was a $0.05 per word article.

Engage your readers

Unless you are living in a bubble, someone is going to have a comment on your work. If you are writing articles on the Internet you are going to get a lot of comments. Not all of them will be nice, ignore those. But engage your readers, chat with them on social media outlets, reply to emails and so forth. This not only help keep their interest it also lets you know which way your readers lean on important topics, what interest them and makes them keep reading. The best way to keep readers and make new ones is to develop a relationship with them.

Write for the audience

During the last mentoring session I held several people were concerned because they seemed to be off track. I asked them who their various target audiences were. Not a single one of them could answer the question.

The first and single most important question you need to ask a client is who the target audience will be! Everyone in the group assumed that the target was the client. Here is a hint: It’s rarely the client. In over 20 years in this business I have completed only one single white paper that had the client as the target audience. The client needs something written for them, to be presented to someone else.

The question of who the target audience will be is also important because you have to shift your writing to fit them. As an example, if you are writing a white paper designed to encourage the public to support a cause, you need to write it so that they can understand what might be difficult concepts and industry jargon. Always ask the target audience question first. It will save you a great deal of time and often place you on the exact path you need to take.

Set goals

This is important, especially to the freelance writer, but only 1 in 6 people actually bother with it. I’m not talking about bucket list type goals. I’m talking about weekly, monthly and yearly business related goals. Where do you want to be this time next week? How about next month? You want to create goals such as finding a specific number of new clients, earning a certain amount of money and even writing so many pages in your novel.

It has been said that if you don’t know where you are going you will never get there. That’s very true in our profession. Set some goals and work towards meeting them.


I know this sounds trite and I almost changed it. I didn’t because this is the end all and be all of success as a writer. Writers cannot exist in a vacuum. If we do then we cease to have anything to write about. We need to meet people, go places and experience life. It’s only then that our writing has meaning and depth. No matter how engaged we are online, nothing replaces actual interaction with the world.

We also need to live by turning off the computer and spending some time outside. One of the most common vitamin deficiencies is that of vitamin D. This is largely caused by avoiding sunlight. Not unusual in our busy lives. The irony is that we are unintentionally avoiding one of the essential vitamins that keep us active in the first place. So step outside, get a little sun. Experience life and then comeback and write about it.

Thoughts, questions, or comments on this article? Email Alexandra.


We send you writing jobs.

Sign up and we'll send you 3 companies hiring writers now. Plus, we'll send more companies as we find and review them. All in our free email magazine.

We're the magazine for freelance writers.

We send you companies hiring writers.

Subscribe and we'll send you 3 companies hiring right now.

We'll also send you a guide that gets you started.

We're completely free.

Subscribe now. (It's free.)


About Us

We're dedicated to helping freelance writers succeed. We send you reviews of freelance writing companies, assignments, and articles to help build your writing career. You can view our privacy policy here, and our disclaimer. To get started, simply enter your email address in the form on this page.