8 Steps to Making Your Freelance Writing Dreams Come True in 2012

Carol Tice

by James Palmer

Well, another year has gone by. Didn’t make much progress on your freelance writing goals?

Don’t worry. There’s still hope.

Below are eight ways to finally make your freelance writing dreams come true:

  1. Get your head on right. To succeed at freelance writing, you have to get in the right mindset. Two things I did to help get into a positive frame of mind are to read inspirational quotes and motivational books — my favorites are Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz — and to simply take responsibility for what happens in your life. If your life is always messed up due to your spouse, that skinflint editor, and the economy, you’ll never see how you can change things. But if you are responsible for your problems, it means you can fix them.
  2. Set realistic, actionable goals. Writing ten thousand words a day while holding down a full-time job is probably not going to happen, but 500 words per day is doable. Getting published in Esquire is a laudable goal but not within your control. Querying five publications per week in order to build up your clips is more actionable.
  3. Stay away from lowballers. If you start out writing for pennies you could get stuck there for years. Go after publications and clients that know the value of good writing and have the money to pay for it. Low-paying clients won’t respect your work and often turn out to be the most difficult to work with, too.
  4. Learn to query. Professional publications want to work with professional writers. Learn how to write professional query letters and letters of introduction.
  5. Read. You would think this is obvious, but for some it isn’t. You have to read if you are going to write. Read novels and poetry and blogs and how-to books and, last but not least, the magazines and websites you want to write for.
  6. Write. Believe it or not, here’s another one we often forget. You’ll never get good unless you practice.
  7. Pitch. You’ll never get paid if you don’t pitch stories to editors — lots and lots of stories. Study the publications to get a sense of what they’re looking for and send those queries out.
  8. Stick to a niche. Specialists usually earn more money than generalists. Try to become known for a particular market, type of writing you do, or client you help.

James Palmer is a freelance copywriter and author of 23 Ways to Make More Money as a Freelance Copywriter



  1. Victoria

    These are all valid points for me as I am just starting to branch out on my freelancing journy.

    I need to learn all about the world of query letters as I want to get away from the low level article writing market. I still need to work out what my particular niche is but I look forward to the challenge.


    • James Palmer

      That’s the spirit, Victoria. Learning to write good, solid queries will definitely get you started on the next level as far as well-paying writing work. To select your niche, look at everything you’ve already written. Is there a pattern or a preponderance of one particular topic over another? If so, that could be the basis for your niche.

      Good luck!

  2. vonnie

    This was a good post for me to read this morning. I needed the motivation. Thanks!!

  3. Cindy

    I am always in trouble with the resolutions for the next year. Some call them goals. I am afraid to plan big things, because I don’t want to feel disappointed. I only want to reach my goals with baby steps, but many of them. My first baby step for 2012 is to clean up:)

  4. Victoria

    I just realised that I have registered for the webinar but will not be home when it starts. Is there a possibility of hearing a recording at a later date?


    • Carol Tice

      Sure Victoria — all my recordings are available to members of Freelance Writers Den…which reopens very shortly.

  5. Megan Hill

    One downside I find to my job of working with words all day is I don’t feel like reading as much at the end of the day. But you’re right in saying it’s important, tired eyes be damned 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t care how blind I go…I’m still reading novels. Just really nourishes my creativity.

  6. Jean

    Number 3 is absolutely true. Lowballers and those who expect to get their projects done for pennies are always the toughest to work with. They expect way too much for the money they’re paying. These people might as well write their copy themselves – seems like nothing satisfies them.

    All great tips. Thanks for the article, James! I hope 2012 will be much more lucrative for me this year, especially since I chose a specific niche.

    • Carol Tice

      It’s definitely been my experience. I think many writers fear that at big companies it’s somehow harder, but my experience with the Fortune 500 companies I’ve worked with is that they were a dream — professional, appreciative, clear about what they wanted…and of course, paid great.

    • James Palmer

      You’re welcome, Jean. And have a great 2012!

  7. Krissy Brady, Writer

    Love this post, thank you James! Since the new year, I have been heavily implementing tip #2. I used to be so terrible with stringing myself too thin, and now that I am creating more realistic goals, taking my work and other obligations into account, my productivity has skyrocketed! I’ve finally gotten rid of the sinking feeling of “Where the heck do I start?” when I begin my day. Happy 2012! xo

    • Carol Tice

      I try to make a short list of top priorities before I leave my desk at night, so that when I come in I don’t even ask that question…has really helped me.

      • Krissy Brady, Writer

        Great tip, I’m definitely going to try that! I’ve got the morning routine almost down pat, especially the making a bucket of coffee part. 😉

      • Ellie

        Hi Carol. I do a similar thing each night just before I go to bed. I write down a ‘to do” list of items I need to work on during the upcoming day. Doing this seems to make me start out with direction rather than spending an hour or two getting organized.


  8. Ellie

    Great discussion on how to focus your freelance writing efforts. The 8 steps form a blueprint we all can follow. I think step 6 (write) and step 8 (stick to a niche) are extremely important.


  9. Deena

    Thank you for tips that are actually relevent. I googled “steps towards making it as a writer” and read some general and often unrealistic fluff and then I read this list which actually gives productive ideas of how to make your writing dream come true.

  10. Penelope

    Well, it’s 2013, so we’ve skipped a year in the comment posting. 😉

    I think #1 and #2 are the most important before moving on to the next steps. Your head has got to be in the game, and you’ve got to believe you actually be a writer–and get paid for it.

    The second point is to create actionable goals, and that has been the most challenging for me. I found I can only write down 3 items on my to-do list that I will tackle, or I become paralyzed. If you can move beyond that, then fantastic! I find that 3 gives me a reasonable goal to shoot for, and if I can write 500 words per day on my books, plus do content curation, and blog posts, I’m on a roll.


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