I am on vacation this week. Here’s a classic post that originally appeared on my caroltice.com blog. Enjoy!
Now that I’ve been helping other freelance writers to earn more for a while, I’ve realized there are some behavior patterns struggling writers have in common.
It’s helped me crystallize the following traits that I believe most well-paid writers have, and that low-paid writers often lack.
What are the 7 habits of highly-paid freelance writers?
1. They don’t waste time on low-paying gigs. I recently had a mentee sent me a plaintive email as she wondered how she would make more money than the $10,000 a year or so she was earning. “So, do I just say ‘no’ when people offer me $20 articles?” she wailed.
Yes. That is exactly what you do.
Say it with me. “No.”
Or better, “No thank you, but feel free to contact me in the future if you find you’re in a position to pay professional rates.” (Sometimes things change, editors change jobs, and they do call you again. If you’re polite.)
2. They’re not neurotic. They are not spending hours a day wringing their hands over the state of journalism today. They do not need to dust their office five times daily, or have all their desk knick-knacks lined up just so to start working. They get down to business and start writing. They don’t have a lot of writing tics, either – they know how to spit out a draft, polish it up, and file it.
3. They take good care of themselves. The wan, flabby, sleep-deprived yet wildly successful writer is a bit of a myth. To earn well, year in and year out, you have to write and live in a sustainable way. Personally, I try to go walk uphill and down around my home for about an hour before I start working, or do Wii Fit yoga. I catch a nap if I need to. You have to be in good shape to be brilliant.
4. They’re always prospecting. To find really well-paid work, you have to troll a lot, sifting out all the junk offers and moving forward until you find really good clients. This requires a focused, coordinated, consistant marketing effort, not the occasional, sporadic attempt at networking.
5. They’re efficient. Well-paid writers don’t waste time applying for obviously low-paying jobs through online ads. They know how to quickly find information they need for stories. It doesn’t take them a day to write one short article — it might take them an hour or less. They prioritize their day’s tasks and then knock them out, one by one.
6. They’re diversified. I once met another writer working on a story package for a special section of the Seattle Times. I admired her work and asked her what other accounts she had. Turned out she also did copywriting for a major American automaker!
This was my first introduction to really diversifying my clients. Now I find that if you locate a well-paid writer and ask them about their client list, they’ve usually got at least one major copywriting account up their sleeve. They may write white papers as well as newspaper articles, online content, and product manuals. When one sector suffers, they have other writing types to fall back on.
7. They have goals. Writers who end up at the top of the heap usually don’t land there by accident. They have laid a deliberate course to get where they wanted to go. They break down their goal into small steps and strive to accomplish some small task to propel their career in the right direction each week. They make it a priority in their lives to work on those goals.