Successful web writers put content creation on the back burner for several hours each day. What? You spend your entire day crafting witty SEO prose and polishing keyword optimized headlines?
You’re doing it wrong. It’s not enough to research, write, edit and publish.
If you plan to blog eight hours today, with all eight focused on writing, yes, you’re doing it wrong. To survive — and succeed — as an independent contractor, or freelancer, stop typing your fingers to the bone and invest in your business.
So, I’m here to help. Each day I spend time writing, but I’m also doing these nine things. Are you?
1. Look for Gigs
As soon as you feel like you have enough work in the pipeline to keep the bank account padded, you’re getting lazy. Trust me.
Not too long ago I was thinking to myself, “Wow, I’ve got a really full roster of clients right now. I’m going to focus on writing for a few weeks and coast for a bit.” Then two multi-year contracts ended suddenly. Another client decided to take two months, not two weeks, to get rolling and I was hurting.
Never get complacent. Spend a few minutes each day checking your favorite sources for work: freelancing writing job boards, Twitter, your email, LinkedIn or job-posting websites. This is a great activity to wrap up your day when you’re too tired to string words together.
2. Apply for Projects
Now that you’ve found a few writing ops, you have to actually apply for them. Some are as simple as writing a cover letter and attaching a resume. Others can take several rounds of interviews and hours of online questionnaires and writing samples.
I have an ongoing list of potential opportunities on a scrap of paper floating around on my desk. Each time I run across a project, blog or website I want to research further I jot it down. Eventually I make time to actually apply.
To be best prepared for this process, have an updated resume file, list of links to online writing you’re proud of to use as writing samples and your professional social media account profile URLs handy.
3. Build Relationships
I can’t stress this tip enough. The number one way I get writing jobs is through relationship building. Period.
Every single person you meet may open the door to your next writing gig. So, be social and write off the time you spend socializing on your professional Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts as a work-related activity.
After all, your friends and connections will turn to you when they need writing work, right? My last few writing opportunities started with Twitter comments and email correspondence via people I was interviewing for an article.
4. Leave Feedback
While you’re scrolling tough Twitter and laughing at Facebook posts, take the time to leave some thoughtful feedback. Clicking the Like button or retweeting here and there won’t get you noticed.
When you read an article tell the author what you liked about it in the comments. Or reply to a another person’s comment with intelligent insight. Show you’re involved and interested in the topic. Build those relationships. This tactic has earned me guest blog positions on two growing blogs in the past few months, giving me a few more credits to add to the old resume. Nice.
5. Process Invoices
OK, I am not a numbers person. If there’s one activity I don’t enjoy as a small business owner, it’s doing the accounting work and tracking invoices.
But, if you want to get paid, you must send invoices in a timely manner and follow-up on late payments. Sometimes I wish I had a 300lb ripped uncle Rocky to do this work for me, but sternly worded correspondence usually works just as well.
And in all honesty, I shy away from individual clients who don’t work with independent contractors often and have a payment system in place. I’ve been burned several times. So, there’s another tip: Choose your clients carefully! If they won’t discuss payment details openly, walk away.
6. Read, Read, Read
As a writer, you should read a lot. Read everything you can from articles online and classic novels to magazines, newspapers and newsletters you get in the mailbox addressed to the previous family who lived in your home. Read it all.
Look at how the sentences are structured. Pay attention to the formatting. Glean what you like and take note of the amateur writing (and don’t replicate that!).
Keep your eyes open for bylines containing the words contributor, guest or special to. That means the publication accepts freelancers. Add it to your list of gigs to check into further. (You have a list, right? No? Start one now!)
7. Attend Webinars
This week alone I spent five to six hours listening and learning. I attend online webinars regularly and for the first time ever joined a virtual content marketing conference. The majority of these online events are free and chock full of great tips and advice.
If you’re having a writer’s block day, or don’t have any assignments on the agenda, why not improve your skills? Network and build relationships with like-minded individuals in your field at these online gatherings.
8. Update Profiles
If you set up your LinkedIn profile or Contently writer page eons ago and haven’t looked at it since that inaugural visit, shame on you.
As a writer your interests, expertise and clients are changing month to month. Express your current services and opportunities in all online profiles. With so many writing sites offering these for free, updating your online profiles might be an all-day task. But in the end it’s worth it.
This might also be a good time to upload a new avatar, profile picture, link to your new blog or freshen your links to writing samples.
9. Plan an Editorial Calendar
Finally, nothing will get done if you’re not organized. I admit, I struggle with the concept of an editorial calendar too. It’s not because of the work, but because I need flexibility.
If an editor asks me to rework a lede or add more sources to a piece quickly, I want to do that now–not follow my daily agenda. But in the grand scheme of things, having an editorial calendar remind you to publish on your blog regularly, send out a newsletter, meet monthly quotas, network with new acquaintances and meet weekly financial goals isn’t a bad thing.
I like to think of an editorial calendar as a guide or an outline. Don’t schedule yourself down to the minute or you’ll never stay on track when thrown a curve ball project or unexpected conference call.
If all of this is making your head spin, it should. We haven’t picked an easy career path. But I have to admit, it’s the most rewarding.
Want to learn more tips and tricks for writing online? Pick up my free e-book, 18 Ways to Increase Online Writing Productivity and Earnings then drop me line on Facebook and let me know what you think! I’d love to connect!
Note: This post was updated on April 21, 2019.