The Copy Collective’s Andrea O’Driscoll knows what it takes to be a good writer.
Being a good freelancer isn’t just about being a good writer. Sure, having some talent is a great place to start, but there are a lot of gifted writers out there who barely make ends meet. Why? Too often it’s because they don’t have the right attitude. People don’t want to work with a tortured artist, they want to work with someone who is reliable, honest and professional.
So what exactly does that involve? Here are 10 tips for becoming the kind of freelance writer that everyone wants to work with.
1. Accept feedbackRepeat after me: feedback is my friend. It might not always be what you want to hear, but feedback will make you a better writer. Editors are busy people. If one has taken time out of his or her schedule to discuss your work, it’s a compliment, not a criticism.
2. Don’t take it personally Yes, I know you put your heart and soul into every word, but that doesn’t make every criticism a personal attack, or every rejection an insult. Editors make client-focused business decisions more often than they make personal digs.
3. Turn copy aroundIn other words, get the job done. It’s no good leaving half-written jobs languishing on your laptop while you wait for inspiration. You need to finish what you start.
4. Be availableThis can be a tough one. Every freelance writer has a horror story or two about taking on too much or having to work through a family holiday. But the fact is if you turn down too many jobs, people will stop asking.
5. Do what you sayPeople need to know that you can be relied upon to deliver on your promises. Be a (wo)man of your word.
6. Meet deadlines It’s not just about you. If you miss a deadline it affects everyone – designers, proofreaders, editors and (God forbid) clients. That’s not going to make you popular.
7. Be flexible Everyone knows that things can change. It’s a fact of freelance life.
8. Your client has a client – so make them look goodYou need to be on their team. If their client makes a last minute change, you need to help accommodate them. If asked, you need to say nice things. And of course you need to maintain consistently high standards.
9. You are precious, but don’t be preciousOnce you’ve filed your copy, you need to cut the cord. If an editor decides to change ‘effervescent’ to ‘bubbly’ despite your careful word choice, let it go. They know what they want better than you do.
10. Ask questions, but accept the answer – even when you don’t like it
It’s good to ask questions, but not everything is open for debate. Once a decision has been made, accept it and move on.