6 Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned About Freelance Writing


I’ve been a freelance writer now for five years. In that time I’ve experienced the elation of a piece going viral and the disappointment of having a piece that I worked my ass off on sit there, unseen, in some forgotten corner of the Internet.

I’ve struggled under insane amounts of stress and pressure and wrestled with pieces that kept me up at night. I’ve also had people from around the world get in touch to tell me they liked an article, which magically makes the struggles of writing it disappear.

I’ve learned some things that may be of help to other writers so I thought I’d share them.

1. An article takes as long as you have. If you have three weeks to get an article finished, it will take you three weeks. If you have two days, the same article will take you two days. What does this mean? Well, either that we stretch stuff out unnecessarily or that we’re capable of working more efficiently and faster than we might think.

2. Make the piece fit the format. If you’re writing a blog post, don’t stretch in into a 1200 word snoozefest. I used to think that to be of value, a piece had to be long. I don’t think this anymore. The best articles get in, say what they need to say, then get out.

3. Don’t be afraid of a short deadline. Sometimes the best pieces are the ones that come to you in a “Can you blog this right now?” manner. There’s no time to over-think things, and timeliness, especially online, is oftentimes more important than having a spit-spot piece that’s been polished to death.

4. Embrace the madness of working on multiple articles at the same time. As I told my acupuncturist, I used to stress out if I had two articles due. Now I don’t start stressing until I have 10 due. It’s all about being a rock star scheduler and organizer to keep track of emails, interviews, outlines, drafts, edited pieces and final versions.

Whatever system you use, keep track of each assignment, what needs to be done to further it, and when it’s due. Think of the juggling act as a benefit. Working on different articles can keep you fresh. Burned out on a feature? Whip out a music review. Bored of blogging? Schedule and prep an interview. You get the idea.

5. Get out of the house. I used to think that working from home would be the greatest thing ever. Turns out, it’s not. When I’m writing at home, I’m surrounded by all kinds of temptations: records, books, the phone, friends and family, cats etc.

I started coworking two years ago and it has accelerated my writing career in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Find a workspace that you can really get stuff done in. You’ll be shocked at how much you can accomplish.

That being said, I work from my home office every morning for at least a couple of hours and I really enjoy that time. But, I’m an early riser. Once the world wakes up, I generally head down to my coworking space.

6. The world is a really small place. And that’s an awesome thing. What I love the most about writing is connecting with people. It thrills me to start an interview with a rank stranger and at the end be laughing and sharing like old friends, thanking each other for the opportunity. This happens regularly.

What’s kind of mind-blowing is that this happens with people all over the world. In the last year I’ve spoken with people in Spain, Australia, Indonesia, England, the U.S., France, the Netherlands, South Korea, Germany and more. Don’t hesitate to reach out to people you don’t know. You might be surprised at how much you have in common.

Something that I’m immensely grateful for is that a lot of the people who I get to connect with are movers and shakers, working tirelessly to make our world a more open, just, healthy place. They’re innovative thinkers and doers who promote sharing, collaboration, the commons, sustainability, social justice and interdependency. I’m honored and humbled to be able to share their stories.

What are some valuable lessons you’ve learned about freelancing? In the comments, let us know.

Photo: Jesper Särnesjö (CC-BY-2.0)