Lots of people have thought about freelancing but haven’t done anything beyond express their curiosity. And a pretty frequent objection to starting out as a freelance writer is this:
I’m a bad writer.
I have three things to say about that.
1. Everyone is a bad writer
No one is born with good writing skills. When we’re born, we can’t see straight. We don’t have thoughts, we just have instincts and impulses. We can’t even move our arms and legs on purpose. It takes a year just to figure out how to stand up and say a couple of words.
Yes, writing skills come more easily to some people than they do to others, but we all start with nothing, squawking and covered in slime.
We all start off as bad writers. But some of us improve.
Being a bad writer is temporary, as long as you’re committed to getting better.
And the good news is, it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to get better. It basically boils down to:
- Write stuff.
- Read stuff that good writers write.
Do a lot of both of those, on a regular basis, and you’re light years ahead of every other person who sits around thinking about how they can’t go into freelancing because they aren’t a good writer.
2. Don’t think you have to be GREAT
You need to be a decent writer if you’re going to have a shot at freelance writing success.
But you don’t necessarily have to be a great writer. You just need to be good enough.
Good enough is good enough to get started. You can land beginner gigs as a “good enough” writer, and if you keep doing the two important things I mentioned above, in addition to paying attention to what your clients and editors say about your work, you’ll start improving pretty quickly.
Good enough really is good enough.
What does good enough look like?
- You know how to write in complete sentences, and what you right makes actual sense.
- Your writing is informative and not stilted or boring — it “sounds” natural (and not like you’re “trying to write”).
- You’re able to deliver something, at word count, that lines up with your assignment, in an organized fashion. Your paragraphs look like paragraphs. You might even have subheads!
Bonus points for good grammar, appropriate word choice, and concise phrasing.
Make sense! Don’t be stuffy! Deliver what’s promised! Generally speaking, that will be good enough.
3. That sounds like an excuse
If telling yourself you aren’t a good writer is what’s stopping you from moving into a freelance writing career, then maybe you’re right, or maybe you’re making excuses.
If this is something you actually think you want to do, but “I can’t write well” is what’s stopping you from following through on it, take a closer look. Are you doing anything to improve your position?
- Have you bought any courses or materials to help you practice writing?
- Are you practicing your writing in a journal, a hobby blog, or anything else?
- Are you socking away money for the “someday” when you figure out how to do this thing and take the leap?
If you really think you’d like to be a writer, but you shut yourself down before you even get started, then you’re just making excuses. And you’re making excuses because you’re afraid.
Don’t let the fear win.
Thousands of people have figured this out. You can do it, too.
But you have to actually do something.
Here’s how to be a better (freelance) writer
If you’re ready to get serious about being a freelance writer, more power to you. The great thing about starting today, as opposed to starting back when I first started out, is that there’s a veritable smorgasbord of options for you to teach yourself how to get going.
These are some of my favorites. (And some of these are aff links.)
To strengthen your writing skills:
- Yahoo style guide
- Grammar Girl’s podcasts and books
- Blog post reviews, which give you an inside look at what an editor wants from your writing
To get started in your business
- 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success, a self-paced email course that’s great for folks who are just getting started
- The Sweet Spot: How to Build a Freelance Business That Makes Life Sweeter, an instant-download ebook that comes with a membership program, great for advanced beginners
- Coaching with me, which works for anyone at any level
The last word…
Ultimately, if you want to be a writer, you need to keep writing. It takes practice and consistency to make it in this gig, but that’s great news for you, because all it takes is practice and consistency! You don’t have to be a “born writer,” you don’t have to know how to diagram sentences, you don’t have to have a college degree in English literature. You just have to be able to practice and learn.
So off you go!