We spend most of our time on here talking about ways to streamline your business operations, get more clients, and make more money writing. Basically, we operate under the assumption that you’re (hopefully) already a pretty solid writer, so learning how to grow a writing business is more important.
But sometimes, it is important to remember that the final product we deliver does matter. And while improving your business skills is essential to making more money, you can’t afford to neglect your writing skills either.
If your writing sucks, clients will drop you like a bad habit.
So, what can you do to improve writing skills as a freelancer?
The following tips can serve as a guide for new (or seasoned) freelance writers to improve your writing and level up your career. As a perfect example of walking my talk, I used almost all of them in writing this article!
The 11 Most Effective Ways to Improve Writing Skills
1. Prioritize Your Writing Time
To get better at writing, you have to practice. A lot.
Writing every day is a common suggestion, but I find it can be more sustainable to plan a few hours into the week when you will only focus on writing.
Honor that writing time just as you would any important appointment.
If you don’t have an ongoing client or project at the moment, simply write for practice.
Choose any topic or niche that is meaningful to you, research and write a piece on it. At the end of the day, you will have something to add to your portfolio.
And you never know, you may be able to sell it in the near future!
2. Practice Writing Posts
The most direct way to improve your writing skills as a freelancer is to simply write more articles and posts! There are tons of easy ways to get started, and in some cases you may even make a little money from your practice.
You may want to:
- Start your own blog and write about your experiences
- Join and write for a few content mills
- Offer to write some guest posts
- Share what you are learning in a few sentences on social media
- All of these will propel you toward becoming a better writer.
3. Read Examples In Your Niche And Beyond
Even if you don’t remember what you read five minutes after you finish reading it, the information is still being absorbed into your brain and making you a better writer.
Create a file and collect links and articles like a kid collects rocks. This will give you something to look at when you are feeling stuck, and can provide a motivating boost of inspiration.
4. Develop Persistence
This one is tough, and more about mindset than the actual writing process. But it is still vitally important to success as a freelance writer.
You have to be able to push through discomfort and disappointments.
Sometimes this is a matter of reminding yourself of the value of what you do; both for yourself and your family, and for those who are going to read your work and be helped by it.
Sometimes it’s a matter of taking a few deep breaths and extra minutes of self care to get through a bout of writer’s block or some critical feedback.
Having the fortitude to get back up and persevere despite failures will take you far in this business.
5. Find Community To Stay Focused
If you struggle to stay focused, having accountability can help. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Team up with another freelance writer you know for a 45-minute remote work session
- If you don’t know anyone personally, you can do this with a virtual coworking service like Focusmate
- Join a supportive community of freelancers that can answer questions and provide feedback. The Freelance Writers Den features forums, a podcast, and tons of content to help you improve writing skills!
6. Use Headings To Create Your Outline
Outline using your potential headings to make structuring the post or article easier.
This works very well when you have some general ideas for what a post should be about, and you can get into the specifics later. Then writing the post is just a matter of going down the list and fleshing out those points with more information.
7. Separate Your First Draft From Your Final Draft
Try writing your outline and first draft by hand. This tip is borrowed from the world of fiction writing.
It may take a little longer, but for many writers, the most difficult part of any writing assignment is confronting the blank page.
A good rule to try is, once you sit down to work on something, never leave the page blank for more than five minutes.
Get something written down, even if you are just experimenting with a few potential titles and headings.
This can be easier on a piece of paper, where there is no chance that anyone will see it but you. Something about hand-writing frees up creativity and allows you to temporarily silence the inner critic.
Once you have your first draft, create a new document for the second draft, or type it out into a Google or Word doc. Then leave it alone for an hour. I’m serious. Walk away. Don’t change anything.
Are you back? Good. Now you can edit the draft. Move things around, figure out your headings, play with the structure of the post, and possibly test some headlines.
8. Know Your Subject
‘Keep learning’ is the motto of most writers. We’re in this business because we love the chance to do something different and learn something new every day.
However, research only as much as necessary to answer the questions surrounding your topic. You’ll also want to fact check those answers once you find them.
But be careful that research doesn’t become a distraction that keeps you from getting words down.
I recommend making a short list of things to look up or check when you are writing up your second draft, then quickly go through that list.
9. Become A Cunning Self-Editor
Once you have that second draft done, run it through an editing program like Grammarly.
This will catch the majority of spelling errors and common grammar mistakes. A worthwhile investment for anyone who makes their living with words.
After this passthrough, do some more polishing up.
You should now have something close to a finished piece.
Proofread it carefully yourself. If you still keep missing typos, try proofreading on a different device from the one you started with. For example, if you were writing on your computer, send the article to your phone or tablet and read it there.
Your brain will catch more errors by seeing the words in a new context.
If you have an editor or discerning friend you can send it to for some feedback, do that now. Then you can incorporate those suggestions as needed.
Finally, run the post through Grammarly again to catch any last things you may have missed or changed.
10. Test Out Multiple Headlines
Ensure your headline is on-topic and relevant. If the title is asking a question on behalf of your target audience, the content should thoroughly answer that question.
Speaking of your target audience…
One of the most difficult things about being a freelance writer is staying aware of all your audiences.
As a content creator, you must maintain the style your client or employer needs for their business, and accurately deliver the message they want to convey.
But you must also be aware of the audience you are writing to, and share that message in a way that is easy for them to understand.
Here are some general structure tips to keep in mind when writing most forms of online content:
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short
- Provide vivid examples and images whenever possible
- Use bullets to break up lists of information
- Write informative headings that outline the content
11. Improve Writing Skills by Learning From Online Courses
When in doubt, hit the books! If you keep running into the same technical troubles in your writing, it might be time to look for an affordable course to brush up on the essentials. Knowledge is always a worthy investment for your writing career.
To dive deeper into the topics discussed in this post and more, I encourage you to check out the Freelance Writers Den. There you’ll find tons of in-depth workshops and forums to answer your questions and get you on the path to freelance writing success!
Since we covered a lot of information, here is a quick recap:
- Keep writing, even if you are only writing for yourself. Save all your work, and look for ways to turn it into profit later.
- Use online resources like title generators and grammar checkers to make your work easier.
- Ask for help when you need it, whether that is joining an online community, course, or finding an accountability partner.
Mix and match these tips as you work on building your career and you will see your skills as a writer improve. You are certain to find your own process and voice along the way.
What are your best tips to improve writing skills as a freelancer? Share them by commenting below.