To have a successful freelance writing career, you just need to be a great writer, right?
Well, not exactly…
While writing skills certainly provide a good foundation, it’s not the only skill you need to succeed in this industry.
There are a number of supplementary skills that are important, too. These skills can add immense value to your brand, give you a leg up on your competitors, and take you from three- and four-figure jobs, to the high-earning writing career you desire.
Before I dive into these added-value skills, I want to make a note: You don’t need all of them to succeed. You don’t even need three or four of them. In fact, just adding one can boost your brand value and give you the edge you need to lock down higher-paying clients.
1. SEO Knowledge
If you’re interested in taking on web writing jobs, SEO knowledge is a huge plus. SEO or Search Engine Optimization, from a writing standpoint, requires working keywords into web content to get it noticed by search engines and, as a result, potential customers.
But SEO is fickle though. Search engines change their algorithms often, and Google looks down on “keyword-stuffed” content.
Proper SEO involves thoughtfully placing keywords into content while preserving the value of the piece. If you can help a client with some market research for industry keywords and place them in your content, you will have an edge over the competition. A lot of web writing jobs require at least some consideration of SEO, and even if they don’t, you can tout your SEO skills as a selling point to snag the job. It’s a win-win for both you and the client.
2. Photoshop Basics
It might sound strange that you can use graphic design skills as a writer, but you’d be surprised how many clients I’ve had who needed just that combination. Usually it’s creating a photo or graphic to go along with a blog or social media post, or sometimes it’s something as simple as editing or cropping a photo.
If Photoshop isn’t your thing (or you can’t afford it), I also like a website called Picmonkey. This free site lets you do basic image customization with just a few clicks of the mouse. You can even create easy collages to share on Instagram or other social platforms.
A more sophisticated graphics program that is free to use is Gimp. Gimp is similar to Photoshop but it is open source. Gimp may be the perfect option for you if you don’t want to spend the money on Photoshop right now but you want to dabble with a robust graphics platform.
3. Skype Skills
If you want a six-figure freelance writing career, and you don’t know how to use Skype, it’s time to learn. Download the app, make sure your microphone and camera work, and start playing around.
Skype can add incredible value to your brand, making you more accessible, more available and more personable. It can also help you deliver better, more hands-on customer service.
And the best part? Skype isn’t just for video chat. I know as freelance writers, we tend to shy away from more personal contact – like phones, video or in-person interviews. But Skype has regular ol’ typed-out chat, too. This is great for communicating on the fly if you have questions, need more information or you just want to update a client on your progress. It works on your phone, too.
4. Project Management Experience
Some clients don’t just want a writer; they want someone to actually manage their content. This may mean coming up with blog topics, working with their editors, marketing and SEO team, and creating a schedule of posts, deadlines and other project details.
If you have experience with project management software – like Basecamp or Teamwork – that’s even better. Many companies will use these platforms to manage their teams, projects and tasks.
5. Web Research Skills
Sometimes, you’ll snag a job right in your wheelhouse. You’ll write about something near and dear to your heart, or you’ll get to create content on a topic you’re a downright expert in. But this doesn’t always happen.
You could be tasked with writing on a topic that’s completely new and outside of your comfort zone. Yes, it’s harder. Yes, it will take more time. But in the end, it will make you more employable, more knowledgeable and a better, more versatile writer.
What’s the key to nailing this out-of-left-field content? Killer web research skills.
Knowing where to look, what to search for and even just what to type into Google is key. If you’re familiar with some places to get statistics, that can give you an advantage, too. And remember, the quicker and more efficient you are with your web research, the less time it will take to complete the project, which puts more money back in your pocket, so work on honing those research skills.
About 23 percent of all websites use the WordPress platform, and when it comes to small businesses, that percentage rises even higher.
I can almost guarantee that the majority of your clients – particularly the ones who require blogging or other web content on a regular basis – are using the WordPress platform.
If you have basic skills on the platform, it can help you snag more freelance writing jobs. When applying for a gig, offer to not only write the blog, but also post it and optimize it. You can also help update outdated content, add news or events, or simply help manage their site and make changes when needed. Knowing WordPress is a great way to add value to your services.
If you want to learn more about WordPress, the best way to get familiar with the platform is to create a website and install it on a domain so you can play around with it. For instructions on how to work with WordPress, search for “WordPress tutorials” in Google.
7. Business Savvy
You might not have attended business school, but if you possess even a little business savvy, your freelance writing career will benefit from it.
Good negotiating skills, knowledge of contracts and NDAs, experience with invoicing and payment systems, and even knowing how to file your own taxes is crucial to freelance writing success. If you’re not too confident in your business skills, consider enrolling in a basic business course at your local community college. It can make a big difference.
Set a goal of adding at least one of these skills to your repertoire every 6 months to a year, and keep improving and bettering yourself as a professional. The rewards will be well worth it in the end.
By the way, are you trying to find a new freelance writing job, but running out of places to look? I can help you out! Visit The Ultimate List of Freelance Writing Jobs and 100+ Paying Websites.