Freelance Writers: Do You Have the Writing Chops for This?

Carol Tice

Can you write well enough to be a freelance writer? Makealivingwriting.comDo you wonder whether your writing makes the grade? Is it creative, compelling, unique, and strong enough for you to use your craft to earn a good living?

These are questions I hear a lot in the Blast-Off Class I teach with Linda Formichelli. They often come from writers who’re looking to move up from content mills, or land their first print-magazine article assignment. Writers make comments to me like:

“I’m just not sure my writing is worth $1 a word.”

“I don’t know if my writing is good enough to write for a national magazine.”

“I’ve written for small businesses, but I don’t know if I’m ready to write for a big company.”

So today, we tackle the big question:

How good is your writing?

You might be wondering how I’m going to answer this question without reading writing samples from each of my thousands of individual blog readers.

But I can tell already.

Your writing is good. It’s good enough earn a living.

I have mentored dozens and dozens of people now, both one on one and through the group Blast-Off class. And I have never, ever found that what I needed to do was sit a writer down and have a conversation that goes like this:

“About your writing…it just isn’t any good. You’re not going to be able to make a living as writer.”

In my experience, everyone who is possessed with a burning urge to make a living as a writer practices their writing a lot. You get better and better at it…and you write well enough to do it for a living.

Here’s how you can tell:

Go down to your local chamber and pick up all the brochures. Take them home and read them.

Some of them totally suck, don’t they?

You can write better than that.

Pick up a stack of magazines in the library and read them.

Some of the articles are wonderful, but some are less enthralling, aren’t they?

You can write better than that.

The reality of what it takes to write for pay

The truth is, there are a lot of mediocre writers making a full-time living from writing. It won’t be hard to write better than they do.

No matter what your writing style and ability level, you can find clients who think your writing is perfect for their needs.

Also, other clients who think you suck.

I still occasionally get an editor who just doesn’t seem to like what I write.

Why are some writers earning well and others aren’t? Often, it’s not so much the quality of the writing.

It’s like the old joke about two campers in the woods who’re confronted by a bear and start to run away.

You don’t have to be faster than the bear — just faster than the other guy.

You don’t have to be the best writer ever. Just a good one, who’s better than some other ones.

So what makes the difference in which writers make a living and which don’t?

It’s all about marketing

Writers who aggressively market their business earn well and have lots of clients.

Those that don’t market their business, don’t.

It’s really that simple.

Do you worry about whether your writing is good enough? Leave your questions and comments below.

Your writing is good enough…but is your marketing?

Get your freelance-writing questions answered. Join today.

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30 Comments

  1. Pinar Tarhan

    My favorite line from the post is “You don’t have to be faster than the bear – just faster than the other guy.” Sure, I do dream about being faster than the bear. But as I work to improve myself, deal with my fears and manage my career better, I am getting faster.

    • Carol Tice

      But remember, you don’t HAVE to be faster than the bear, Pinar! Just faster (better) than the average mediocre writer who’s making a living from this craft.

    • Pinar Tarhan

      Yeah, I just meant it as the furthest step, as in reaching the ultimate goals:)

  2. Miss Britt

    I’m trying to break into magazine writing and this is absolutely my biggest fear.

  3. Neeraj Sachdeva

    Hi, apologies off the bat if this comment seems harsh, but I don’t think the post delivered what I presumed it promised! You have made some very good points about mediocre writings and the fact that excellence in whatever we do is the way forward – but the post did not mirror what the title suggested. Somehow I expected that we would be able to evaluate if our writing is worth $1 a word standard or not! But the article gravitate towards feeling positive about what we do (and excel in it). I like the tone, but I think it did not add much to what many know.

    Still, it is a great confidence booster and I liked the marketing aspect of writing, which many writers don’t want to get involved in 🙂

    Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Neeraj —
      I’d love to be able to review all 3,000 of my subscribers work and give them a critique…but obviously I can’t. And there are no secret rules for what would make your writing worthy of great pay. Every writer can find different markets where they might be paid well, based on their unique abilities and experiences.

      I can tell you that if you think you can do it, you probably can. If you think you’re good enough, I’ll bet you really are.

    • Neeraj Sachdeva

      I really like the gung-ho attitude Carol 🙂 And yes, you are quite correct. Quality of writing is usually a subjective matter, would be great to spend 4 years doing a PhD to research what people like!

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