Four Ways Freelancing Improved My Writing and One Way It Didn’t

Behind the Scenes editing

I’ve been a freelance writer for a few years now and one of the best things about it is the fact that freelancing allows me to improve my writing and get paid for the privilege!

Now that I’m in a position to look back and assess how far I’ve come, it’s interesting to note just how many ways in which freelancing has turned me into a better writer.

1. Freelance writing helped me write faster

It’s pointless writing a lot of words if they’re not good words and one of the things freelance writing has taught me is how to churn out a lot of words in a short space of time without compromising on quality. After all, the more I write, the more I can earn and it’s useful to know that if I’m really up against it, I can throw 20,000 words at a page in a day. OK, so I’ll be burnt out and utterly useless for a couple of days after that, but knowing that I have that skill in my back pocket is really useful if a client suddenly needs work yesterday – and if a publishing or submissions deadline is looming, I know that I can hit it if I have to.

2. Freelance writing helped silence the inner critic

One of the problems of being a writer is that it doesn’t matter how many times you hone a piece, it’s never good enough. When you have a client who needs their article or ebook by a certain date, you don’t have the luxury of agonising over every single word. You just have to do the best you can and hope your client is happy. As it stands, it’s very rare for clients to ask for edits when I submit work for approval, which means that I’ve become adept at choosing the right words first time around to achieve the desired effect without constant rewrites.

3. Freelance writing helped me toughen up

Whatever type of writer you are, a thick skin is essential. Just this morning, I received a rejection from a publishing house I’d really hoped would pick up my submission. Not so long ago, that news would have seen me sink deep into the realms of depression, not writing for months because what’s the point when nothing you do is ever good enough?

After years of being turned down for jobs for various reasons, I don’t take rejection so personally any more. Sure, it still stings, but there’s a million and one reasons why you might not get picked up, most of which have little to do with the quality of your work. When I apply for a freelancing job, I might be too expensive (or not expensive enough), too experienced or inexperienced, not have the right ‘voice’, or it might even be that the client doesn’t hire anyone at all. I know that I probably won’t win the majority of jobs I apply for, but I’ll win enough to pay my bills and, more importantly, I’ll get the right client for me. Not all clients are a good fit and that’s OK.

The same principle applies to publishing houses. If I don’t get picked up by one, that’s OK too. It wasn’t the right one for me.

This also extends to editors. I used to hate anyone pointing out that I could have phrased something better or shifted the order of things to make an even  bigger impact. Writing’s such a personal thing, editing was like having someone tell me my baby had big ears. These days, if someone tells me how my work can be improved, I get on and make the improvements, trusting their judgement. I’m lucky enough to work with some fantastic editors and there’s no doubt that being able accept their criticism makes a world of difference.

4. Freelance writing taught me not to be shy

Most writers hate to promote themselves, but these days, self-promotion is essential, regardless of whether you have a publishing contract or not. When I apply to jobs, I have to convince potential clients that I’m the best writer for the job in just a few sentences, which means you can forget about being shy. I have to hit the client right between the eyes with how great and amazing I am and how much they want to hire me.

It’s the same with my own books. I’m not a pushy salesperson and I never will be, but I’m quite happy to mention my book if it comes up in conversation, ask around for speaking opportunities and take every opportunity I can get to market myself. It’s all part of the job.

5. Freelance writing is addictive

There’s one way in which freelance writing hasn’t been so great for my own projects. The problem is that being paid to write is addictive. There’s no better feeling than have a client approve payment for your carefully chosen words and the money that I’ve made from writing has become an integral part of the household budget.

The problem is that when you have bills to pay, paid work takes precedence over creative projects that may never see the light of day. I have plans for a series of books and even a cover already made up for the first one and I haven’t even begun writing it. It’s actually a good thing I got rejected from that publishing house because they wanted completed manuscripts and I’d promised myself I’d finish what I’d already prepared in time for their response should they want to see more.

That was three months ago and I haven’t actually added a single word.

So the plan for this year is to take the time management skills I’ve learned in terms of meeting client deadlines and apply it to my own work. I need to treat myself as if I’m a client and start building a strong portfolio of my own material to take my career to the next level. With a third book for So Vain due to be published in October this year, I’m putting the finishing touches to The Trouble with Secrets and then I’m going to move on to the other ideas I’ve had and finish them off. With everything I’ve gained from freelancing, there’s no reason that I can’t conquer the world with my words by this time next year…

That’s the plan, anyway.

How about you? Are you a freelance writer? Have you found that it’s helped your own writing or hindered it? Are you thinking about going into freelancing and something I’ve said above has convinced you to make the jump? Let me know about your experiences in the comments below!