Being a freelance writer is a great way for someone who loves to write to create an online business they can operate from anywhere. Three years ago I started my sales copywriting business and went from zero to $250k in just twelve months, even though I didn’t have a writing degree, a fancy website, or a huge portfolio.
How did I do it? In this article, I’ve compiled a list of eight ways you can set yourself up for success as a freelance writer. Some of them are business related, and some of them aren’t. But all of them will help you move the needle towards growth when you implement them in your day-to-day life.
Create a Routine
The great part about being a freelance writer is that it can be as flexible as you want it to be. The not-so-great part about being a freelance writer is that it can be as flexible as you want to be. The temptation with freelance businesses is to just go with the flow. That’s why you have a freelance business, right? So you can set your own schedule?
Yes and no. If you don’t set up any structure in your day, it will be impossible for you to scale your business. Creating a daily or even weekly routine with build in time for lead generation, learning, writing, and business development will help you grow your business.
This is especially important if you know that you’re the kind of person who needs structure. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but by not giving yourself some structure in your daily or weekly business activities, you’re actually restricting what you can accomplish and making it harder to accomplish the goals you set.
Setting boundaries for yourself and your business is so important. And guess what? They don’t just set themselves. We train our clients and team on how to treat us by what we allow and don’t allow.
Let me tell you a story about how I realized the importance of boundaries a little too late. I started a freelance graphic design business in my early 20s. Most of my freelance contracts were through one company which was owned by someone with a very strong personality. I was young, and I didn’t have a lot of experience as a contractor. Add to that the fact that I am a people-pleaser by nature. I like it when people are happy and feel stressed when people are not. Can you see the storm that was brewing here?
That client took advantage of that characteristic trait of mine at every opportunity. They demanded high-performance on impossible deadlines. They called at all hours of the day and night. They required me to work on holidays – even Christmas Day. And for years, when they said “Jump” I asked“How high?”
It took some time for me to remove myself from that client and step back far enough to see how unhealthy it was. But once I saw how damaging that kind of no boundaries client relationship was, I vowed to never put myself in that position again, and I never have.
It’s important to take some time to sit down and consider what you want your working relationships with your clients and team members to look like and communicate that with them. Boundaries are good. They’re healthy. Create the boundaries and then be firm in enforcing them.
Get Your Sleep
This is another one I had to learn the hard way early on in my business. When I was in serious growth mode, I often sacrificed sleep in order to accomplish more. I do believe that growth phase does require more hours, but I was doing it to the extreme. I was working 18 to 19 hours a day and falling asleep over the laptop nearly every night. It wasn’t healthy.
Sleep is vitally important to your body’s cells. Sleep is the time that your body’s cells regenerate, and if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re operating at partial capacity all the time. Not only are you physically depleted, but your mental capacity is lowered, your emotions are all over the place, and before long your physical health and mental health will start to suffer.
When you prioritize sleep you are doing yourself and your body one of the biggest favors ever. And a happy, healthy body means a happy, healthy life as a freelance writer.
I’m a writer so I don’t often get science-y, but when it comes to keeping my body and mind in tip-top condition, science has a lot to do with it. That’s why I recommend staying hydrated. Next to sleep, getting enough water every day is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp and your body healthy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, water helps our bodies perform some really vital functions:
- Regulates body temperature
- Moistens tissues in the eyes, nose and mouth
- Protects body organs and tissues
- Carries nutrients and oxygen to cells
- Lubricates joints
- Lessens burden the on kidneys and liver by flushing out waste products
- Helps dissolve minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to your body
Just look at all those benefits! And drinking water, in the overall scheme of things, is easy. Aim for half your body weight in ounces per day. Your mind and body will thank you.
Building a business as a freelance writer can be intense. It’s important to continue to invest yourself in learning, and learning is free! There are lots of ways to learn that are super accessible to everyone. Podcasts, YouTube channels, books, online courses, in-person events – all of these things are great ways to build your knowledge base as you grow a business as a freelance writer.
Here’s an easy way to start learning without getting overwhelmed. Sit down and make a list of three things you want to know more about. It can be something connected to your business, your writing skills, or just something you’ve always wondered about.
Start with the top item, and download an audiobook about it or go find an expert and watch a YouTube video. Learning one new thing a day adds up to 365 new things a year. Nice!
Read Good Copy
Want to hone your skills as a freelance writer? Read good copy!
It’s hard to write good copy if you can’t recognize it when you see it. That’s why it’s important to stay current on what’s working and what’s not in the copy world. Here are some of my favorite ways to do that:
- Read other freelance writer and copywriters’ blogs
- Scope out successful campaign copy by viewing a Facebook page’s Ads Library
- Grab a copy of the Boron Letters by Gary Halbert or the Ultimate Sales Letter by Chet Holmes … there are tons of good books by copywriters out there. Pick one and go to town!
- Click an ad and read the sales page.
Copy is literally everywhere – you can’t miss it! As you read, take note of who the copy is for, what the main ideas are, and what the promised result is. Notice what hooks and angles they’re using. Identify the pain points they’re addressing. Look for ways they’re using connection pieces to grow trust.
The more good copy you read, the easier it will be for you to write.
Create Reasonable Expectations
There’s one thing that’s the silent killer of relationships, and that one thing is unreasonable expectations. Expectations go hand-in-hand with goals and results. If you or your clients’ expectations are unreasonable, it’s hard to set attainable goals in your business as a freelance writer. And when you’re always setting unattainable goals, you’ll quickly burn out or grow discouraged when it seems like you’re never meeting your benchmarks.
Unreasonable goals can come from our clients or ourselves. Sometimes clients have huge expectations about how their campaigns should perform. One of my first clients wanted to launch a new product and immediately start scaling. The problem was, he had no audience or list and the product was brand new, so we had no data to go on. I knew that his expectations were too high, and I made sure to communicate what he could reasonably expect.
Did he like it? No, not really. But as time went on, I kept pointing him to the reasonable expectations I had set at the beginning. This allowed me to keep serving him without bearing the pressure of trying to “save” his business. Remember, just because they have that expectation doesn’t mean you have to own it. Many clients honestly don’t know what a reasonable expectation is, so it’s really important that you be clear about it.
Make Friends with Other Writers
Want to be pushed to grow and improve? Surround yourself with other freelance writers who are on the same journey. Get out there on social media and join some groups full of writers you can bounce ideas off of and get encouragement from.
And don’t worry about other writers being your competition. It only becomes competitive if you make it that way. I’ve done a lot of referring projects to other freelance writers when I’m booked up or when I know it’s a niche I don’t specialize in. I’ve also had a good number of projects sent to me in that same way.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other service providers who also serve your ideal clients. Funnel builders, web developers, social media managers,and ads strategists also make great additions to your network.
More From Christa Nichols
Have you been looking for a place where you can make connections with other freelance writers? I’ve got just the place! CLICK HERE to join my FREE Facebook group, The Confident Copywriter.