Which Freelance Writing Tips Have Helped You Most?

Carol Tice

Excited man with an answer to questionsSometimes it’s a little thing. Sometimes a huge mental shift. But at some point, every freelance writer gets a few pieces of advice that change everything.

For me, it was probably the first time I got an article killed — and the editor told me I was too close to the subject and had an obvious agenda.

It was the beginning of learning to be a journalist for me, and report all sides of a story fairly (no matter how I felt about the topic).

Then there was the writer friend who took my outrageously long first-ever feature article draft and showed me how to use active verbs to make my sentences less wordy. That was a game-changer, too.

It’s sort of unreal to me, but it’s been eight years (!) since I started this blog full of freelance writing advice. More than 700 posts are up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make this blog even better in the future. I’m interested in learning more about what readers need to know — how I can help create more “aha” moments that lead to better writing income for you.

I read a post this week that inspired me about how to do that. It was over on Firepole Marketing, about how to get your blog subscribers to love your marketing emails. One of the tips was to ask your readers how your information helps them and hold them accountable for taking action. That conversation builds relationships — and subscriber loyalty.

Well, duh! It made me realize it’s been way too long since I’ve asked you how my blog helps you. That would be the obvious next step to making sure my future posts are helpful to you!

I thought about setting up a survey about it. Or I could have just sent out an email and asked. But I really want detailed answers, not “yes” or “no” ones. And I want to hang onto your insights, not lose them in my overcrowded email inbox.

So I’m asking you here on this blog post: Have you gotten useful freelance writing tips from me, that have helped you earn more?

If so, please tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to know:

  • Where you’re at in your freelance-writing journey
  • What type(s) of writing you
  • What tip(s) helped you
  • What you took action on
  • The result

I can’t wait to read your success stories!




  1. Kevin Carlton

    Hi Carol

    Two pieces of advice always stand out for me. And I’m really grateful for them:

    (i) Always look to swap out existing clients with better paying ones.

    (ii) Market your services to businesses that actually have the means to pay you a good rate.

    Since I first started my own writing freelance, I’ve had just enough work from inbound enquiries to tide me over while I found my feet as a business. But much of this has been from small local companies and one-man bands.

    It’s been great not having to put loads of time into marketing when you have so many other things to think about. But now’s the time to start making a good living as a writer.

    And guess what? I’m doing something about it.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for kicking this off, Kevin! Definitely too many writers expend effort marketing to publications or businesses that don’t really have much of a budget to pay them. Starting to qualify clients before you bother pitching them is a life-changer.

  2. Lisa Baker

    Carol, thanks for linking to the Firepole post!

    And as far as best freelance tips – I agree with Kevin: continually raising my rates has been a big one for me. My whole first year of writing, I raised my minimum rate with every client. I would not have had the guts to do that without your voice in my head telling me to charge professional rates!

    Another tip that helped me, which I think I read in the Den, was to estimate 30% of my income for taxes and 30% of my time for marketing. That helps me with hourly rate — basically take what I’d want for a W2 job and double it.

    Also, I love when you post stories of writers who had big success thinking outside the box. Like Erin the travel cooywriter’s story of finding a unique niche and dominating it — replicable examples like that.

    • Carol Tice

      Awesome to hear how raising rates has worked for you, Lisa!

      I love my guest posters, too — I think we can’t have enough unusual and uplifting stories of how new writers are getting real pay, right now.

  3. Pinar Tarhan

    It’s really, really difficult to pick because I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and bookmarked so many posts. But I especially love your “113 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Freelance Writing Income — Now” post, because it’s a tremendously helpful checklist of actionable tips. Whenever I feel stuck one way or the other, I can always go back to it and kick my own butt into action. Another go-to reference post for me is “How I Make $5,000 a Month as a Paid Blogger”, because it reminds me of it’s possible to make a living through blogging. Yes, I know it’s possible. But sometimes you go through a bad month or two, or what’s out there doesn’t quite satisfy you. Of course your resource posts have other links I bookmark as well.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, that’s why I keep those two posts in the ‘most popular’ bar…I do get a lot of comments that they help a lot!

      I’m really appreciating all the feedback everyone is leaving…this helps me see what sort of topics to do in the future.

  4. Williesha

    Not sure where to begin. I’ve learned a lot about querying and how to find potential clients. I’m not making as much as I’d like, but I’m making more than twice as much as last year. 5 figures!

    And, of course, I’ve learned how to craft great guest blog request emails from you!

    • Carol Tice

      Always like to hear writers are doubling their income, Willi! Now the only thing to do is…double it again. 😉

  5. Williesha

    Lisa that is awesome. Totally using that pricing formula. I was guestimating.

  6. Bhakti

    Hi Carol, I follow yours and a couple of other blogs on freelance journalism…I think the biggest takeaway for me from here has been to aim higher, expect better pay…so important for a freelancer. Thanks for all the lovely posts.

  7. Cherese Cobb

    I have been freelancing for three months, and one of the best tips I ever got was that I will never know everything about freelancing writing. You suggested picking one day a week to devote to learning and using the rest to write! It has made me so much more productive!

    One thing I would like to learn is how to ask people for interviews, especially before getting the “yes” from your editor.

    Carol, thank you so much for your help!

    • Carol Tice

      I had to go through that same process with learning about blogging…bottomless pit! Now, if the topic isn’t something I’m dealing with right *now* in my business, I pass. If it’s something I am currently trying to do or wanting to add, I might check it out. We can’t learn it all at once.

  8. Katherine Swarts

    (I mean the topic of pre-qualifying leads, as per Comment #1 on this post.)

  9. Kristen Hicks

    Really the most important takeaway I’ve gotten from your blog is seeing an example that it can be done. When you’re just starting out, every job ad or offer you hear for $5 a blog post is disheartening and makes you wonder if that’s just where the market is.

    Seeing real-life cases of other writers that regularly find work far beyond those ridiculous, unrealistic numbers is something that writers really need in those first few months.

    • Carol Tice

      That’s why I tell people to STOP LOOKING AT JOB ADS! It gives you a very warped idea of the marketplace.

      Thanks for sharing what helped you. 😉

  10. Terri Carr

    Hi Carol,

    I’ve received a boatload of helpful tips from reading your blog.

    Hard to choose but the ones that stood out the most for me were the ones where you shared your the bloopers and learning experiences that you had along the way. And how having embarrassing experiences wasn’t a career-ender. I also really liked your post about being an unstoppable force. That quality is really the crux of freelancing, isn’t it?

    Lastly, I like the posts that talk about:

    – feeling overwhelmed, good to know that it is pretty normal
    – that you don’t need to know everything about every aspect of freelancing.



    • Carol Tice

      Yes, everyone loves to see me fail. 😉 I’m glad that my embarrassing moments can be helpful to others, though.

      And I loved the unstoppable force one too! Actually have another post coming up along those lines.

      I think those final two bullets I hear about a lot!

      This is really helping me to see the themes I need to return to — thanks.

  11. Penny

    I find all your advice useful in some way, but what you did on querying was very timely for me. The results? I don’t know yet, but I’ve put your advice into action, so I guess that’s a result of sorts. Thank you for all the good stuff!

  12. logan mathis

    I find freelancing really difficult at first. I have the hardest time getting customers. besides that, I am happy I took the leap. It’s fun doing what you love. I work mostly on editing novels. I don’t have any tips that really helped me (sorry lol), but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Great post.

  13. William Ballard

    Hi Carol,

    One particular bit of advice you gave me some time ago in the Freelance Writer’s Den is what has really skyrocketed my freelance writing career.

    That advice was in the form of a question you gave me, “How many article ideas have I pitched out since I took ownership of the title freelance writer?”

    And the answer to that question was a very humbling NONE (Zero, zilch, nada).

    Then you told me, “I could never reap the benefits or could never really be a freelance writer without pitching article ideas to pubs.”

    Although that is some pretty straight forward and obvious advice, it really resonated with me and changed my whole mindset about this profession.

    I greatly appreciate you Carol and all the invaluable information you have shared with me over the years.

    I truly consider you one of my main mentors in freelance writing.

    • Carol Tice

      Awesome William — glad I could help!

      It’s funny how many people it seems to strike like a thunderbolt that zero marketing as a freelancer = zero income. It’s definitely a life-changer.

  14. Bryan Collins

    i read the book ‘Turning Pro’ and learn that writing is my job and not some hobby. And professionals who get paid turn up for work (even if it’s hard to find).

  15. Matija from Otroškesobe

    Hi, it helped for me specially about freelancing tips. It took me for a while before started, but now I am doing it constantly on small slovenian market. Which is specially hard, since number of visitors is not overwhelming. Regards


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