Monster List of Freelancing Tips You may not find everything on this list useful, but surely you’ll find something on this list that is worth your time. Successful freelance writers don’t underprice their services. Charging too little not only hurts the freelancer, it hurts the whole freelance industry. When you underprice your services, you make it harder for other freelancers to charge a reasonable rate. Successful freelance writers don’t overprice their services. There are plenty of writers out there willing to work for next to nothing. It is a plague on the industry. Unfortunately, this means that when you overcharge for your services, it is easy for clients to find cheaper workers. The key is to charge a reasonable rate that reflects the quality of your service (most cheap writers aren’t very good) but recognizes that you are in a competitive industry. Successful freelance writers manage their time well. Here are some Time Management Tips for freelance writers. Successful freelance writers have great business cards. If you want to know more about the value of business cards read Promoting Your Services: Buy Business Cards. Successful freelancers follow instructions. While it is true that you can give a customer exactly what they asked for and still not give them what they want, your best chance at success is to follow their instructions. Successful freelance writers work together. They collaborate on everything from clients to marketing to research. You don’t have to be in the same room to collaborate, read Working together in virtual facilities. Successful freelance writers know how to network, whether it is face to face in group gatherings or online through social websites such as LinkedIn. Successful freelance writers are productive. They work hard and they work smart. For advice on increasing your productivity read Five ways to become a more productive writer. Successful freelance writers ask the clients what they want and listen to the answers they give. Remember that working with clients is a collaborative process. This means that you should not only find out what they want initially, but check in along the way to make sure that you and the client are still in sync. For advice on collaboration read How to Collaborate — and How Not To. Successful freelance writers explain things clearly. Whether communicating in writing or in a meeting with a client, take the time to make sure that your clients and your readers understand what you are telling them. Successful freelancers finish on time. Nothing is harder on the freelancer / customer relationship than missed deadlines. Do not commit to a deadline unless you are sure you can handle it. Successful freelance writers write about things that interest them. It is very difficult to have a long career writing about things you don’t care about. Successful freelance writers know what they want to write about next. When you have ideas for future articles or projects, write them down. If you don’t, there’s a good change you’ll forget all about them. Successful freelance writers avoid distractions, whether it is the radio, the television, the Internet or the phone. Always keep your main goal in mind whenever you are tempted to go off on a tangent. Successful freelance writers delegate. There are hundreds of things that can be delegated or outsourced: research, design, accounting, marketing, public relations, laundry, filing and even . . . writing. The only thing worse than being too busy is not being busy enough, so if you can find a way to keep an assignment by delegating some of the less important tasks in your life, do it. Successful freelance writers know how to use a feed reader. If you are a freelance writer who uses the web, a feed reader is one of the most useful tools you can find. Feed readers (also called aggregators or RSS readers) allow you to subscribe to content from web sources such as blogs, news services, job sites and search engines. Most modern, frequently updates web sites provide a feed. Successful freelance writers don’t dwell on the negative. Every career choice comes with problems and opportunities. Freelancing is no different. Don’t dwell on the things that go wrong. Fix what you can and move on. The beauty of freelancing is that there is always another opportunity on the horizon. Successful freelance writers take time off. It is easy to get burned out as a freelance writer. Freelance writing can be an 18hour a day 7 day a week career at times. As some point, however, you will need a break. Don’t be afraid to take one. If you have a lot of clients, you may need to schedule your breaks in advance, but make sure that there are breaks. Successful freelance writers automate. The computer is a powerful tool. It can automate many of the repetitive tasks that slow you down. One of the best, cheapest tools around is PhraseExpress, which lets you assign blocks of text (and other things) to a simple keystroke. This can be very handy when working with boilerplate text, company names and project titles. Successful freelance writers make it easy to get paid. Sending invoices and collecting payments are two things that can easily be outsourced or automated. Check out paypal.com. They have solutions for just about every billing need. Successful freelance writers emulate successful freelance writers. Find a mentor. Successful freelance writers are great editors. Learn to be a good editor. Successful freelance writers try new things. Don’t be afraid to tackle a new subject, explore a new market or search for a new client. Successful freelance writers learn from their successes. Everybody knows your supposed to learn from your failures and figure out how things went wrong. Don’t forget to look at your successes and figure out how things went right. Successful freelance writers have a personal life. don’t forget to have fun, enjoy friends and be social. For writers, especially those working alone, it is easy to crawl into your little cave (or office) and forget the world exists for long periods of time. Don’t forget to get out of the cave every day and see the world around you. Successful freelance writers don’t take revisions personally. When a client wants a change, it is not usually because the first version was wrong, but because they have a clearer idea of what they want than they were able to communicate to you. Successful freelance writers get the most unpleasant tasks out of the way first. If the hardest thing for you to do is cold call a new prospect, do that before you do anything else. If editing is what you hate the most, start your day off with that. People tend to push off the tasks they hate the most. The problem with this is it leaves the task hanging over your head, haunting you like a ghost until you get it done. Get it done fist and move on. The peace of mind is worth it. Successful freelance writers don’t check their email more than twice a day. When you are supposed to be writing, don’t waste your time on things that seem productive such as checking your email or reading blogs. Save those activities for a specific time and keep a limit on that time. Successful freelance writers are responsible. You are responsible for everything that happens. Responsibility and fault are two different things. It may not be your fault that the computer crashed and you lost all of your work. As the boss, however, it is your responsibility. Successful freelance writers have a sense of humor. As a freelance writer, you’re going to find yourself in a number of absurd situations. I once had a private detective as a client. He lived up to just about every detective cliche you can think of. He paid in cash. Insisted we meet in public places. Drove a beat up old car. He even used an autodialer when he wanted to get a hold of me. It called every ten minutes, like clockwork. All I was doing was writing copy for a web site but it felt like I was in the middle of a Raymond Chandler novel. You either love those moments or you hate them. It’s easier if you love them. Successful freelance writers have ergonomic equipment. It’s hard to be on top of your game when you’re battling repetitive stress injuries. Get an ergonomic chair, keyboard, mouse pad, and whatever else it takes to make your work hours as comfortable and body-friendly as you can. Successful freelance writers are ready to write when the muse strikes. Keep a notebook or a PDA handy at all times. You never know when inspiration will strike. Successful freelance writers who love TV have Tivo or a DVR. When writing is a business, you often need to meet deadlines. For people who love TV, that means you run the risk of missing your favorite shows. Get a DVR so that your TV will automatically record your favorites and you can watch them when your assignment is finished. Successful freelancers present well. To be a successful freelancer, you need to look like a professional. You may write in ripped jeans or pajamas, but your work should be immaculate. Successful freelance writers know when to say NO. That means that they have the won’t-power to tell people they are too busy to go to lunch, unwilling to take assignments that pay “on publication”, unable to drop their rates or pay their own expenses to get to a client meeting. Successful freelance writers know how to skim. You can’t read every word of every book and article you need to research. Learn how to look for the important points and disregard the rest. Successful freelance writers collect their money. Some clients are deadbeats. Whats worse, in many cases they are the most demanding clients you will have. A good client is worth their weight in gold but a bad client will suck up your time, energy and money. Never let a client that is seriously behind on their payments order new services. If they threaten not to pay you, they probably never intended to pay. Don’t be afraid to send a collection agency after them either. Successful freelance writers know what they are getting into. Freelance writing is not any more of a dream job than plumber, secretary or physical therapist. Every job has good and bad points. Freelancing can be hard because you have to sell, write, edit, manage clients and collect money, all while paying your own bills on time. It is rewarding, but it isn’t easy. Successful freelance writers have web sites that advertise their services and draw potential clients in. Successful freelance writers advertise online through services such as Google AdWords Successful freelance writers advertise in newspapers and magazines that cater to their region or niche. Successful freelance writers research markets using services such at Writer’s Market. Successful freelance writers attended conferences and conventions for writers and for their niche industries and publications. Successful freelance writers keep in touch with past clients using post cards, holiday greetings and the occasional phone call. Successful freelance writers stay current in the areas that they write about. A business writer studies business, a copywriter keeps up to date on the ad industry, a writer who specializes in health keeps up to date on the latest health trends. Successful freelance writers look for new and interesting ways to establish their reputation in the field such as getting certifications or degrees, giving lectures, making videos, writing books and teaching classes or seminars. Successful freelance writers understand visual design and know how to make their work look good. Successful freelance writers manage their money. This means more than just stashing. This means getting an accountant, figuring our what you can deduct from your taxes, deciding what it is cost effective to outsource, and knowing when to make the important purchases such as computers, office equipment and advertising. Successful freelance writers either multitask or they don’t. Some people work well by multi-tasking, other people need to focus on one task at a time. Figure out which kind of person you are. Try multi-tasking for two days, then try forcing yourself to work one task at at time for two days. Go with whichever seemed to yield the most results with the least stress. Successful freelance writers know when to walk away from the computer. If you spend most of your time as a writer working in front of a computer, don’t spend the rest of it playing on a computer. Get away from the screen for a few hours every day. It will improve your concentration and your eyesight. Successful freelance writers have read Bob Bly’s Guide to Freelance Writing Success: How to Make $100,000 a Year As a Freelance Writer and Have the Time of Your Life Doing It and made up their minds that if he can do it they can do it. Successful freelance writers have read Rewrite Right! : Your Guide to Perfectly Polished Prose and learned the proper way to edit a document. Successful freelance writers have read How to Write Attention Grabbing Query & Cover Letters and learned how to properly query a magazine or approach a client. Successful freelance writers take the time to learn a little about marketing and public relations. They know that selling your services is as important as performing your services. Successful freelance writers can tell you what they do and why you should hire them in a half a minute or less. Successful freelance writers want to succeed. They like their jobs and they don’t spend their time wishing they were doing something better. Successful freelance writers have a business plan. They know what they want to accomplish and they have figured out what it will take to reach their goals. Successful freelance writers know a little something about contracts. Some of the contracts that magazines want writers to sign are difficult to understand and can hide some fairly abusive practices. If you can’t understand a contract, find someone who can. Successful freelance writers know how to repurpose their work. That article on health fraud you wrote for a consumer magazine can become a list of health tips for another magazine. Find ways to make the most of your research and writing time. Successful freelance writers don’t wait to hear from people. Don’t waste time waiting for replies. If you don’t have any work at the moment, send out one query after another or make cold calls or put out an ad. Don’t pin all your hopes on a single publisher or client. If you don’t have any assignments, then your assignment is to find assignments. Successful freelance writers negotiate. If a client is offering too little money or demanding too many rights, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Sometimes, just asking will get the result you want. Other times, you will have to apply a little pressure. Sometimes, you’ll have to settle for things you’d rather not have. Thats what negotiating is all about, exploring what benefits are available and what aren’t. Successful freelance writers love money. The idea that a starving writer is somehow more pure or honest than a rich and successful writer makes them laugh long and hard as they check their ever-growing bank account balance. Successful freelance writers can take normal jobs. Every once in a while, it can be interesting to go back to the nine-to-five lifestyle and remember what life was like with a manager staring over your shoulder, a co-worker who talks on the phone all day and a regular paycheck. I recommend temping. I’ve had some great success with AppleOne. Successful freelance writers prefer variety over security. They freelance because they don’t want every day to be exactly the same and they realize that there will be good days and bad days, lean times and fat times. Successful freelance writers have confidence. They believe that their work is good enough to get paid for, their clients are going to love them and another gig is on the way, even if they can’t quite see it yet. Successful freelance writers are problem solvers. Whether the problem is theirs or a clients, they find solutions and they get the job done. If something breaks, they fix it or work around it. Successful freelance writers keep submissions logs that track who they have sent queries to, when they sent them and what the eventual response was. Successful freelance writers break the rules. They want to know what the traditional way to do something is, but if they think they have a better system, they at least give it a try. Successful freelance writers scope out the competition. They want to know where they are on the food chain and what the other freelancers around them are doing. Successful freelance writers invest in postcards. They use them to follow up with clients, to let old clients know that they are available, and to market to new clients. The beauty of a post card is that it will get looked at. An letter can get thrown away without even being read, but everyone has the time and inclination to at least glance at a postcard. Successful freelance writers barter. There are many times a client can part with things such as old office equipment or bookkeeping services when they don’t have cash to offer. Just make sure that what you barter for is worth more (to you) than what you would have charged. Successful freelance writers get people’s names and titles right. Don’t send Daveed Smythe, Associate Editor a query addressed to David Smith, Assistant Editor. People hate it when you get their name wrong. If you aren’t sure, simply call and check. If your are sending a magazine query, take the time to check the latest masthead. Successful freelance writers get rejected. Everyone gets rejected. Magazines don’t like your queries, clients don’t like your proposals. Sometimes it is a matter of skill but most of the time it is a matter of taste. Successful freelance writers like to turn on the radio at five o’clock so they can hear about all the traffic jams they aren’t a part of anymore. Successful freelance writers know how to close the sale. Whatever the issue is, if you want their money you are going to have to get them to commit. Successful freelance writers aren’t desperate enough to be abused. They turn down work Successful freelance writers outline or otherwise plan their jobs. They don’t dwell on planning, but they take a little time to make sure they have a measurable way of determining if they are on schedule and on the right track. Successful freelance writers track their time. They may break it down into billable hours, word counts, work categories or milestones. One way or another, they know how they are using (and if they are wasting) their time. Successful freelance writers get money up front from business clients. Magazine freelances don’t have this luxury, but business freelancers not only can get partial payment up front, in most cases they should get it. A deposit/partial payment for services indicates that your client is serious and has the capability to pay. There are plenty of people out there who will exploit your services, having an upfront fee reduces the number of people who will do that to you. Successful freelance writers ask for referrals. When you have a satisfied client, especially one you’ve gone out of your way for, it is perfectly reasonable to ask if they know of other potential clients or if they can write a short note expressing their satisfaction. Successful freelance writers realize that they are running a business. Freelance writing is like any other small business. It requires a set of business management skills that cannot be ignored. Successful freelance writers avoid most meetings, but they go out of their way to avoid soul sucking meetings. There is nothing more draining to a person’s energy, whether they be a freelancer or a poor working stiff, than attending a meeting that wasn’t needed, wasn’t wanted, and didn’t accomplish anything. Successful freelance writers are surrounded by terrible freelance writers. Some of those terrible writers are even making a good living at it.