So you’ve finally made a jump into beginning a freelance writing career.
But, let me tell you something: competition is tough. And, unless you decide to up your game, getting a long-term client or simply snagging a one-off gig can be difficult.
Most companies will have designated people for particular tasks, to help streamline their processes, but it also helps to have a few additional skills here and there as a freelance writer.
Before anything else, though, let’s take a look at the basic skills you need to have up your sleeve as a writer, blogger or ghostwriter for hire:
BASIC SKILLS OF A FREELANCE WRITER:
CAN WRITE WELL
Obviously, you can’t be a writer or a blogger if you do not have the skills — or the passion — to begin with.
If you feel like your writing is not enough, guess what? You don’t need to be the best writer in the world to be successful in this industry.
I’ve always loved writing since I was a small kid but it took me a while to get really confident enough to make a living out of it. A local client told me that I had the knack for making complicated technical subjects simpler and easier to understand even for the non-technicals to understand it, so I took the compliment to my advantage.
As long as you know how to write for an 8th-grade level, then have a big chance of succeeding as a writer. You only need to make sure that all your posts and articles are clear, compelling and solve a problem.
SPELL CORRECTLY AND KNOW GRAMMAR
How would you feel if you were reading an article that has a gazillion of misspelled words or sentences that don’t make sense?
Me? I’d probably close the browser right away. Why waste your time on something that obviously does not sound professional?
Brush up on your English grammar, use your dictionary, turn on your spell-checker and continue improving your skills by writing regularly.
Proofreading your own work won’t usually end up with a flawless copy but it does help get rid of common errors and inconsistencies. I love using Grammarly when I write as it double checks my sentences real-time.
DO RESEARCH AND FACT-CHECKING
Writing and blogging are not about writing fluff. Epic, high-value content contains facts that have been researched and double-checked. You certainly cannot go claiming something in your copy when there are no sources or data and statistics to back it up.
Do you think you have these skills — or can develop them — to become successful at a writing career?
It doesn’t stop there, of course!
If you want to become even better at writing and blogging for yourself or for others, you definitely should know more than just write.
These new sets of skills can seem intimidating at first but once you get the hang of it, it gets much easier and becomes second nature to you.
READY? HERE ARE OTHER HIGHLY RECOMMENDED SKILLS FOR WRITERS TO HAVE:
1 / SEO AND KEYWORD RESEARCH
Although most freelance writing assignments won’t tell you to use keywords as they want to make sure you use natural and conversational writing style, it’s imperative that you sprinkle them in.
Keyword research can be easily done using Google Keyword Planner but if it’s too much for you to sort through, you can also use an alternative called Answer the Public.
Ranking for single or double text keywords can be very difficult. A lot of bloggers and content marketers rely on using long-tail keywords to help their posts and their sites rank better instead.
Of course, make sure that you ask your client if they have a particular keyword that they want added to the articles . If they don’t, you can go ahead and wow your client by doing your own research. Just make sure that your articles still read naturally and not weird with all the keywords in them.
2 / DESIGN AND VISUAL MARKETING
Readers on the web are scanners and skimmers. Only about 20 percent of actual content is actually read on average and visitors scroll through 50 to 60 percent of a page.
As a freelance writer, it is important that you know how to style your posts in a way that is easily read and digested by readers.
Want to know how the best writers, bloggers and content marketers design their written content to make it visually appealing?
Here are some techniques:
- Break down your content into small paragraphs of 3 to 5 sentences each
- Use headers and subheaders and underline or bold text for emphasis — but don’t overdo!
- Utilize bullets and numbers (like this one!)
- Add large, clear pictures that are related to your content
- Make good use of white space so your text doesn’t look crowded
- Use your blog’s colors but stick to 2-3 only
- The same also goes for font types
- Use infographics to summarize your points
If you want your entire blog (and not just your text) more visually appealing, I suggest you grab a copy of Marianne Manthey’s Blog Beautiful E-Book (affiliate). It has been a great help to me.
3 / SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
Although a lot of writers submit their work as word documents, there are also those that directly submit content through CMS to make it easier for their clients.
Social media marketing starts right at the creation of a blog post. It is considered in the creation of a featured image or in any other image within the post. Writers need to make sure that these elements do not only look good on the actual web page but also on the various social media platforms that they will be shared on.
If you are a one-person team on your blog, I suggest using Canva and PicMonkey to create visually stunning images to accompany your high-value content. Of course, Photoshop and Illustrator are also your best friends.
SMM is also about sharing your content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and other networks during strategic times. Aside from using the brand’s own fan base, it is also a big plus if you leverage your own network to spread the content.
And, when you have by-lined posts, make sure that you are able to respond quickly to reader comments on social media and on the site, too.
4 / EMAIL MARKETING
The scope of the work of a content marketer, writer and blogger go beyond writing the actual content.
Even if you are not directly assigned to create email copy, writers need to know how to convince people to click on their emails and read their recently published post on the Internet.
Many huge sites rely on their email list not just to increase page views and traffic to their site but also to add conversions and sales.
Emails are a great way to build trust with your audience and it is something that only you, the owner, can control. Social media networks are forever changing their algorithms so you need to make sure that you have other sources for traffic in case these changes affect you negatively.
5 / CODING
Now, that totally sounds intimidating, right?
But, if you want to really go the extra mile, knowing basic HTML and CSS coding will do wonders.
Marketers who know how to code can create effective pages that look visually stunning, embed code to track their content’s performance, create better emails, do A/B testing, automate AdWords and more.
6 / PERFORMANCE TRACKING AND DATA ANALYSIS
Most importantly, writers and content marketers should know how to track and analyze their data to create better content.
Having a website does not mean continuously doing guess work to know what the audience wants. It means adding code to elements that you need to track to see if they are a hit with readers or not.
Coschedule is a genius at creating headlines that appeal to their audience and it is through tracking and analyzing that they find out very important things about headlines.
Of course, not all of us love going through data (it’s overwhelming, TBH) so they also something written for those who aren’t data junkies.
OVER TO YOU…
Who knew writing and this whole digital marketing thing could be such a crazy world?
If you’d like to up your game, I suggest you start it now. Lurk on the big blogs and find out the secrets of the top marketers, on how exactly they create compelling copy that convinces their audience.
Writing is an art and a science.
And those who master it leave their competition in the dust.