The 18 Biggest Lessons I learned as a Freelance Writer

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Life is amazing. There’re a lot of skills that we learn in schools, through books, or even YouTube. But, some aspects of life can be learned only through experience. That’s the reason every person is special in their own way.

Same is the case with our profession. You may know a lot of things before starting your content writing career, but there are a lot of things that you learn only through experience.

Here are some of my experiences related to freelancing and content writing that I’ve learned the hard way. And I think it’s always better to learn from other people rather than starting from scratch.

So, no matter whether you’re a newbie planning to start your content writing career, or a pro who’s working in the industry from quite some time, this article is going to be a lot helpful for you. So, without waiting any further, let’s get going.

1. Your Personal Brand is essential to your success today

I can’t emphasize enough this topic. Having a personal brand is important for your success as a content writer. There are countless benefits of having a personal brand, let me tell you a few:

  • The renowned business will start approaching you for your services.
  • You’ll develop authority in the industry.
  • People will trust you more.
  • You’ll be perceived as an expert in your industry.
  • And a lot more.

I can’t tell you how beneficial it is to have a personal brand in just one section, so I have written a complete article just for you. Click here to visit the article on personal branding for freelancers on LinkedIn.

2. Retain Your Existing Clients

The secret formula of retaining your clients in B2B sales isn’t a secret anymore. To all those who think that cost is everything when it comes to b2b sales, I would beg to differ.

I have worked with clients who keep coming back to me not because my price is lower than others, but because I am:

  1. Transparent in my interactions – I keep them informed of the progress and delays if any.
  2. Responsive – Client servicing is of utmost importance to me.
  3. Genuine in my approach – I suggest options to my prospects instead of pitching my services to them. Clients are intelligent, and they are not targets to achieve. Clients are humans treat them like one.
  4. Friendly – I am professional at the same time I love to keep the interactions light. Cracking a few topical jokes or sharing some interesting insights related to their business could do the trick for you.

You can try these tips even if you are a freelancer or someone into institutional or corporate sales. They work equally well.

3. Power of Personalized Emails

What are the pros of it?

  1. 82% of marketers have reported an increase in open rates through email personalization.
  2. As compared to non-personalized emails, personalized promotional emails have 29% higher unique open rates.
  3. Targeted messages and personalized emails help you get better conversions.

Any cons?

Well, no! I don’t think so. But if you are lazy then such emails would require a certain effort. 

Pro tip: Don’t restrict the definition of personalized emails to just putting the recipient’s name in your email template.

Go beyond that! Do some research about the recipient before drafting the email. Start with an unusual subject line that is personalized enough and catches their attention.

4. There’s always someone ready to work at a lower cost

There will always be someone who can work at lower costs as compared to what I offered. And it’s perfectly alright. It’s not that I charge a bomb, but whatever I charge, is for my experience, skills, and quality of work.

Having said that, I have worked even for free when it was for a larger cause. The intent matters.

There will always be options and especially if you are on the client-side. Who will know it better than you?😎

Set clear parameters and it will help you in decision-making whether you are on the client-side or the vendor side.

Cost is one of the most important deciding factors in giving any work to a vendor but TRUST is equally crucial.

5. Learn to Handle Rejections

Rejections at work can come at various walks and from different sources. It can come from:

  1. Client-side
  2. Within the team (colleagues)
  3. Management

The reason for rejection for persons at each of these levels could be the same or different.

Here’s what you can do to handle rejections:

  1. Hear out the other person completely to understand where the rejection is coming from. Know their perspective.
  2. Ask “why” they are rejecting a particular idea or work. The more you ask, the better the clarity both parties will have.
  3. Avoid bringing personal preferences or equations into the picture and take a professional stand.

Accept suggestions or feedback with positivity. Maybe you aren’t able to see the larger picture. Sometimes clients don’t respond at all one may accept it as a rejection. 

One can ask a negating question: is the project called off? To get the conversation started. We’re always too scared of hearing no as an answer.

6. It’s not the content but the value that you provide

When clients approach me for content writing, they tend to ask me, how much do I charge per word. In the writers’ community that I am a part of, we have often discussed the price per word and price per project model.

If you are a client looking to hire a content writer for some requirements, please consider the below pointers before you negotiate with any writer.

The amount of effort and time it takes to create a mission or vision statement for an organization (which is 29 and 35 words on average), usually takes more time to create than a 1000 words article or a blog.

Will you accept that you get a day’s salary for 3-5 or more days of work that you have done?

No, right?

Similarly, for website content, it could be 200-300 words for you on the home page, but you do understand the value those words bring to your conversion goals, right?

It’s the value that a content writer brings to your business is what he or she charges as per their experience. If you are a newbie writer, on the other hand, start treating your work by value and not by words.

7. Having on-ground experience is crucial

Your idea sounds good on paper but we cannot execute it, my marketing manager told me.

I was disheartened.😔

It was my first job.

I was always excited about the marketing side of the business.

I started as a management trainee and soon I joined the marketing team, where I got to work on various projects of category management, new product development, and more.

One day, I was asked to attend the monthly marketing team meeting.

I was thrilled because it was my first opportunity to be seated with the top management team in the same room.

The meeting started and the brand manager asked for suggestions for a trade promotion scheme for the distributors.

Excited as I was, I spoke about a trading scheme.

In my mind, that scheme should have created a product pull.

But, I was taken aback.😑

My manager told me, you need to have on-ground experience first.

Similar incidents followed later and that’s when I decided, I need to get my market understanding clear before entering into marketing. And so, I switched to sales.

Now, I am a content writer & marketer and these experiences have only helped me in having a better understanding of consumer behavior.

8. Connect with like-minded people in the industry

Me: I am a part of a WhatsApp group with freelance content writers like myself.

ABC: Why did you join the group?

Me: I have skilled and experienced writers who technically are my competitors.

ABC: Exactly! Won’t it affect your business opportunities?

Me: Why do you think so?

ABC: Well, you are all fighting for the same piece of cake.

Me: Absolutely not! We are all after the desserts and there are multiple options to pick from.

Me: We suggest, criticize, help, share, collaborate, and comment on each other’s work.

We even refer and learn from each other.

ABC: 🙌

“My Content Community” – you all rock! 🤘

9. Don’t compromise with the health

I asked this question to my team earlier this morning and the answers didn’t come as a surprise to me. Lifestyle diseases also known as the “disease of the riches” is increasing rapidly from the developed to the developing nations.

Most prevalent lifestyle diseases:

  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Cirrhosis
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Cancer
  • Type II Diabetes

Now let us see the top causes of lifestyle diseases –

  • Tobacco consumption
  • Lack of Physical Activity
  • Unhealthy Eating Habits
  • Obesity
  • Environmental factors

If we leave the environmental factors aside, do you think any of the above causes are beyond your control?

No, right?

Just by incorporating healthy eating practices, the risk of getting lifestyle diseases can be reduced.

Yet, we become a victim of it.

Working for a living is good, BUT not at the cost of your health.

None of us want to suffer or make our families suffer because of our lifestyle choices. Do we?

Are you,

  • Eating on time?
  • Eating healthy?
  • Avoiding Tobacco?
  • Reducing alcohol consumption?
  • Keeping yourself physically active?
  • Taking proper rest?

If we all know this, then WHAT are you doing to ensure that you lead a healthy lifestyle?

10. Know your client’s needs before you start writing

When a client says that I want you to write an x number of blogs, what is your immediate response?

  • Do you ask them the purpose of these blogs?
  • Why do they want to publish only blogs?
  • Have they planned a content strategy?
  • Is their online presence adequate?

If you think on these lines then great…👍

If not, then please start doing so.

“Ask” your client the “Right Questions”. It will help you gain more credibility and more business. 😊

How have you helped your clients to understand what is good for them?

11. There are three types of clients

I always thought there were two kinds of clients until I met the third type.

  • Type 1: Just do what is asked of you, don’t put our brains.
  • Type 2: You do the work, but we are open to suggestions.
  • Type 3: We appreciate you going the extra mile, is there anything we can do to help you?

How many types of clients have you worked with?

12. Adapt to changes

“It is not the strongest nor the most intelligent species survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin

If you are a business owner or CXO, how are you adapting your business strategies in these testing times of Covid?

Which department has been hit the most, apart from sales of course?

13. It’s okay to make mistakes

Are we all humans?

Of course, we all are humans, as science says so😉.

All right then, let me make you think deeper.

What makes us human?🤔

Apart from our neural capabilities, humans are identified by another striking yet ignored characteristic.

What is it?

The very ability to make mistakes, learn from them and try not to repeat the same mistakes is what differentiates us from other living beings.

All of us have made mistakes at some point in our lives.

I would be glad to know someone who hasn’t.😉

My friend told a simple yet powerful statement to me, which was:

“It is ok to make mistakes that make us human.”

I kept on thinking to deconstruct it and realized that it is right.

Our state of mind is governed by the acceptance of the fact that’s how we deal with our mistakes.

This is what makes us human.

14. Don’t judge people based on their working style

If you are working during the wee hours of the day, then in which category would you put yourself?

  1. Workload pressure
  2. Slow worker
  3. Workaholic
  4. Night owl
  5. Circumstantial reasons

Identify yourself?

I doubt if there would be any other option. If yes, then please enlighten me 😊.

In my experience, most of the people fall in the last three categories.

Why is it so?

It is their choice, that’s it.

No matter what you do or how you do it, as long as you do the work with honesty, nothing should make a difference.

Making judgment or passing remarks on someone’s work style is the worst thing one can do.

The result is all that matters.

15. Storytelling makes you writing more memorable

When I was 2-3 years old, I had three near-death experiences.

Yes! that’s true. How do I remember them? Honestly, I hardly remember anyone of those. But, my mother and grandmother told me about them as I grew up.

Because all those incidents happened to me, I can’t recall any of them, except for one, that too partially.

But what I remember is the pain and fear of my grandmother losing me. She felt guilty for all those incidents because all of them happened at her place when my mom wasn’t around.

Although it was no fault of her I was her responsibility in my mother’s absence. I was a naughty one back then😉.

I was too young to understand death even when they told me about it for the first time when I was around 8-10 years old.

I am fortunate enough to have survived all those incidents and thankful to God for giving me such a beautiful life.

These stories will stay with me for a lifetime.

That is the power of storytelling.🤗

All of us are born storytellers it’s just that some people are better than us.

16. Don’t work for peanuts

I usually don’t like saying it out loud for something that hurts me, but I received a message last night on LinkedIn, which annoyed me.

It said, “work from home” opportunity. Write a story of 400-600 words and get paid Rs. 80 per story.

Wow! Isn’t it amazing?

I mean, seriously! Is that the worth of the work of a content writer?

When will agencies and people understand the value of well-written content?

I can’t stoop to this level to get work. I will prefer to work for free for an established firm than getting paid for 10-20 paise per word.

My humble request to all the writers, please value yourself, else such clients will dictate the pricing terms, and you will be on the losing side in the future.

Say no to such people loud and clear.

17. Learn To Negotiate

18. Clients are Also Humans like Us

A routine follow-up email to a client turned out to be a lesson for me.🤗

What’s the lesson❓

“Clients are humans like us, and at times they too struggle to prioritize things. The least we can do is to understand their perspective and be soft in our tone of the conversation.”

Full-time Freelancing is difficult for sure because you are dependent on every single client for payments and keep your monthly cycle going.

And that is what adds frustration to most of the freelancers, continuous follow-ups for acknowledgment of work or processing of payments.

But, when clients see your genuine efforts, they do apologize and acknowledge the delay from their end.

So as I said, be good to your clients, and they will reciprocate 🙌

Conclusion

I know this post was quite long, and I still feel there’s a lot more to share than what I’ve shared here. But, this is it for today. I hope you enjoyed reading this article, but before you press that back button, take a moment and share this article with your friends, I am sure they’ll like it as well. Have a good day ahead!

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Passionate about Sales, Marketing, and Content Writing, Ruchi has always been a result-driven and data-oriented person. Understanding people’s needs and responding to them appropriately has been one of the key reasons for her career growth. In her free time, she loves to share her wisdom on LinkedIn. Click here to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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