14 Freelance Writing Skills You Need to Succeed

When I started freelance writing, I made a ton of mistakes, doubted my ability and had imposter syndrome.

And I know any potential client I was negotiating with could feel my uncertainty.

Yup! I had it all, yet I stuck with it, improved my writing, landed online freelance writing jobs and am now helping others become a freelance writer!

14 Freelance Writing Skills You Need to Succeed

So, I wanted to go back to that time when I was new and learning freelance writing skills so that I could wow my clients.

But, you want to know something?

It takes a lot more than just some snazzy freelance writing skills to impress the pants off of your clients.

While you might catch their eye with your quirky cover letter or impressive skills on your resume, becoming and staying a successful freelance writer involves so much more.

And to help you, I’ve rounded up fourteen freelance writing skills to take your game from “me,” to unstoppable.

So, keep on reading for all the juicy tidbits!

Freelance Writing Skills You Need

As a new freelance writer, you might be thinking that all you really need to be great at is writing.

Well, you’re wrong! From editing, to researching, to marketing and more, to have a sustainable freelance career and recurring online jobs, you need these specific freelance writing skills  in your arsenal.

Simply by learning these critical skills, you can command better freelance writing rates, helping you work less hours but make more money.

But, do you want to know the most critical freelance writing skills?

Here’s my Youtube video on it:

1. Continue to Learn

Just as with any other profession, you should always be looking to expand upon your skill set. While you might know a little about a lot, you don’t know everything and there is always room for improvement.

There is always more to learn about the business side of freelance writing, pitching, managing your money and most importantly, your niche. Don’t become stagnant.

I’ve been a digital marketing writer since 2014 and I’m still learning about my niche – new Instagram features, new Pinterest marketing strategies, better content marketing strategies and more.

I’m also learning more about new writing services like email writing as a way to grow my business and make money writing!

2. Incorporate Copywriting Skills

Out of all the freelance writing skills on this list, copywriting skills is by far the most important to learn.

While you’re unlikely to be the next Joe Sugarman, you can certainly learn from the great copywriters of our time.

Unless you’re writing highly technical white papers, press releases, academic lessons and the like, you need to have some decent copywriting skills to keep an audience engaged.

Good copywriting keeps your readers eyes glued to the screen (or paper). It evokes emotion and moves them to action. And just like with many other things in life, there is a formula to success with copywriting.

Here are a few quick tips for writing copy that will have the reader eating out of the palm of your hand.

  • Use power words. Words like, risk-free, guarantee, and delighted
  • Write in a conversational tone
  • Keep ideas simple
  • Write to sell – whether it’s a product or idea
  • Write for the benefits, not just the features

For more help, check out my Youtube video on copywriting formulas to use as a beginner freelance writer.

3. Learn About SEO and Searcher Intent

What do you do when you need to find a new vacuum that’s good for picking up pet hair?

While you might ask your aunt Helen or the crazy cat lady next door, if you’re like most people born after the 1960’s, you go to Google and type in “best vacuums for pet hair.”

You will then be presented with over 89 million search results, but likely won’t look past the first page – who has time for that, right?

The goal for your client is to get on that first page for whatever search term they are targeting.

Getting on the first page means pageviews which equals subscribers and or sales.

Your goal as a freelance writer is to help get them there. To do that you need to have a solid understanding of search engine optimization and searcher intent.

When your client’s audience Googles “best vacuums for pet hair,” what is the searcher’s intent? My guess is they are looking to purchase a vacuum that will sufficiently pick up pet hair.

Before they do that they might read through a few blog posts containing different vacuum reviews before they make their decision.

The SEO targets the keywords related to the topic while the writer helps to satisfy the searcher’s intent with their content.

To get started with SEO writing, check out my Fast Track to SEO Writing course.

4. Research Skills

Let’s say you landed your first freelance writing client and they assigned you a blog post on the best Marketing Tips for Thought Leaders. This is a topic you know something about – you’ve been reading up on it and are excited to write this post.

So the first thing you do? You gather more information about marketing tips and then about Thought Leaders succeeding in their business. From there you can outline your findings into a helpful article.

Finding credible sources, finding the best information for your content and formatting it to be a unique piece of content takes skill – is a freelance writing skill.

It might be a good idea before you land your first writing gig you start a blog or guest post so you can practice research skills.

5. Translate What a Client Wants into What They Need

When you are working with a client, they might tell you that they want one thing but actually need another.

Getting these details ironed out can be done with a client brief that includes items lines such as a proposed headline, overview of what the client is looking for, target keyword and secondary keywords, searcher intent, success criteria, target influences, word count, main takeaways, competition, and outline.

But how can you tell that your client is asking for something that isn’t realistic or that you can’t provide?

Let’s say your client is asking for an in-depth review post on the best vacuums for pet hair and is only looking for 1,200 words, because they’re on a budget.

Well, every other competitor post from page one is over 3,000 words. While you could certainly provide a 1,200 word post, you need to help them realize that with that short of a post, it’s unlikely that they will make it to page one of the search results.

Therefore, creating a content brief is a perfect way – and a great freelance writing skill to have – to ensure you and your client are on the same page and you are able to provide them the value they are looking for.

6. Follow a Style Guide

The vast majority of the time, clients will have a style guide that you need to follow. If they don’t you can help them to create one to ensure consistency.

Style guides could include specific keywords, type of formatting, ways to cite and link resources, etc.

In order to turn in work that they will be happy to pay you for, you need to adhere to their style guidelines.

But, there will be writing jobs that don’t give you a style guide. So, what do you do? For me, I take a look at their existing blog to see how frequent they publish content, how long each article is and what categories they mostly write about.

I would also make sure I know their audience by reading their mission statement or About Us page. All of this information can help me figure out their style guide.

7. Know Your Niche

To find success as a freelance writer, you need to have a writing niche. While your freelance writing skills might fall into a variety of specializations, you should market yourself to a specific niche.

For example, I market myself as a digital marketing writer but my specialities are content marketing and social media marketing blog content. Of course, if a lead wants email marketing content or a specific ultimate guide on PPC content, I will decide if it’s worth my time.

If you do technical writing as a content writer, the type of freelance writing work you might do are creating instruction manuals, write how-to guides and articles that are easy to read.

This will make it easier to make a writing portfolio and website that caters to your prospective clients and pitch to them.

8. Learn to Effectively Pitch

Next to learning copywriting as a freelance writing skill, learning how to effectively pitch is up there in importance.

Have you ever come across a writing gig or job listing and thought, “this is exactly what I am looking for!” Well pitching allows you to convince the client that you are the freelancer for the job!

You do this by having related writing samples, a writer website that speaks to that client and the right copy in your pitch.

For example, if you are sending a cold pitch to a gardening supply company, a related writing sample to share is something like, “9 Best Gardening Tools for Kids” or for women or for under $30.

9. Professionally Communicate

Being able to professionally communicate with clients from the very beginning not only shows that you are a professional writer but also helps to build those lasting relationships.

This also translates to how available you are. It might seem like a great thing to always be available but be careful. Prospects may expect to reach you at all hours of the day or complain when it takes you longer than 12 hours to reply to their questions.

Every point of contact you have with your clients need to be done in a professional manner, even if they are in the wrong, the scope creeper or are just rude to you.

I know. That last one is hard.

I hear stories from other writers saying they do all this work for a new client and then they drastically change the content or nit-pick every sentence or demand more of them.

I usually tell these writers that this isn’t a client to keep but you need to not burn bridges. Do the work (or don’t say anything) and then drop the client. You need to be professional all the time online.

10. Marketing Skills

While writing the post is only a portion of the freelancing puzzle, you should be familiar with how marketing works.

This helps to provide more value to the client. Rather than just pumping out content, you understand how that content ties into the bigger picture and can formulate that post accordingly.

Learning marketing means understanding how to promote your business as well as how to promote your content and client pieces (this isn’t creative writing here!).

Having a presence on social media can attract better clients.

This was one of the reasons why Walmart hired me for content writing.

11. Blogging Skills

As a freelance writer, you can also offer complementary services to your freelance writing clients. Having blogging skills – writing long form content – is a great way to do this.

This is the preferred writing style multiple clients will ask you to do so make sure to add it as a writing service and on your portfolio.

Perhaps in addition to writing the post, you can also format it within WordPress, write social media posts to correlate with the post, or make an infographic.

All of these add-ons can be additional services are part of your blogging package for potential online freelance jobs. I know for me, I provide clickable headlines, creative common licensed photos, and I offer to share it on my social my social profiles.

12. Spelling and Grammar

It should go without saying that you shouldn’t turn anything into your client that has spelling or grammar mistakes. This will only make your work look sloppy and will decrease your chance of getting any referrals.

I use Grammarly to edit my content and for a while I had a copyeditor to help with my digital marketing long-form content.

13. Editing and Proofreading

Using an editing tool like Grammarly isn’t the only thing you should do before you submit your work to your freelance writing clients.

While your client might have an editor and proofreader on staff, you as the good writer should be able to edit and proofread your work before clicking the submit button

This will help to show that you are detail oriented and care about the client’s results.

14. Understand Online Tools

As an online writer, a freelance writing skill you must learn is how to use online tools. Some examples are:

  • SEO tools
  • Project management tools like Trello
  • Image editing tools
  • WordPress plugins
  • G doc
  • Microsoft Word

While a freelance writing job ad on a job board may not ask you if you know how to use Keyword Surfer or Canva, many clients do ask if you know WordPress, Google docs or Microsoft Word.

In any case, knowing how to use all of these tools just makes you stand out as a better writer and more valuable to your clients (which translates to more money writing).

How to Show Your Freelance Writing Skills Professionally

Now that you know which freelance writing skills you need to be successful, how do you professionally showcase them?

Through a resume and cover letter of course!

If you are new to freelancing, you might be asking yourself…

Do freelance writers really need resumes?

You bet they do!

Just look at any freelance job boards and you can see that most of them ask for a resume when applying for a job or gig.

It’s a necessary evil that even freelancers can’t get away from.

But fear not…

Adding freelance work to your resume isn’t much different than adding any other jobs.

You should list the position you held, include accomplishments, and client references.

When talking about accomplishments, be specific in the value you provided to your client.

Are you seeing a trend here yet?

If you wrote an email  sequence for a client that got them a certain number of sales, be sure to include that.

There are so many great templates on Canva for creating a stand out resume.

But what about the cover letter?

Cover letters are a way to plead your case as to why you are the best candidate. Carefully read through the job or gig listing and include similar language in the cover letter. If the description says something like:

“We are looking for personal, direct, and authentic copy.”

Your cover letter could include something like:

I am a copywriter that specializes in creating authentic copy that is both personal and direct.

See what I did there?

And, the #1 way to showcase your freelance writing skills?

It’s your writer website.

Hands-down the #1 way to look professional and sell your services and value as a legit freelance writer.

Here are writer website examples of Writeto1k students of mine:


By having an online presence that showcases their writing services they look more professional and able to write content for eCommerce companies, small businesses and large brands.

Over to you –

Which freelance writing skill are you lacking?

Share with my in the comments below! I’m here to help!

Remember to pin me!

Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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Hey Elna, I just bought your Writeto1k course. I’m just gobbling up everything you have. But I do have a question and it might be silly but what the heck I’m going to ask it anyway. I’m still working on my website and I was wondering if I should create the website first even if I don’t have any samples to show or should I try and guest post first. Also as follow up to that I do have a few reviews on google that I have posted and I have written stories on fanfiction. Should I include any of that or no? Thanks for everything you are doing for newbies like me.Reply to Heather
Hi Heather, Thank you so much for enrolling in Writeto1k. You can email me these questions or post them in the private Facebook group! For your question, go ahead and create your website. There are several pages you need to create anyways and your portfolio page is just one of them. If you want to include fanfiction stories you can as long as that is your writing niche and the types of paid writing jobs you want to have. Otherwise, I wouldn’t include them in your portfolio.Reply to Elna
Hi Elna! I found you on Pinterest. Great site and super detailed articles! I’m a writer and blogger too and this was really helpful. I’d thought about most of these but not really all together like this. I have to learn more about copy writing. And in your research section, I’ll be reading that credible sources post next! Thanks!Reply to AJ
Hi, Thanks for coming over! Glad you found me on Pinterest 🙂 Have fun reading my posts!Reply to Elna
I think this is my favourite post from you – it’s pure gold in terms of what I need to know. PS – check out my Gravatar, from the Visual Identity module.Reply to Norah
I hope you will be fine. I am a freelancer. I got diploma of computer science of 6 month .I am expert in pdf conversations and copywriting.Reply to Shaniwa
Hi Norah, Thanks so much! Glad you found it helpful! Understanding those freelance writing skills is helpful when starting this journey! Have fun landing your first client!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna. I’m gorging on your posts! I haven’t found anyone who speaks to me like you do and I’ve found you at exactly the right time 🙂 It’s only taken 4 years of floundering about as a VA (hate it) to realise I only want writing work. I have a good bit of what you recommend but I’m going to do your Writeto1K course for the extra steps I need to take. Thank you! NorahReply to Norah
Hey Norah, Oh thanks so much for coming over and wanting to enroll in my Writeto1k course 🙂 I’m here for freelance writers and can’t wait to welcome you into the community!Reply to Elna
Awesome post, Elna! Marketing skills, learning new things, and improving my research skills are the things I’m working on this year in my copywriting.Reply to Mira
Hi Mira, Thanks for coming over! That’s great to hear! Yes, marketing your services is something you need to learn all the time! Have fun researching these freelance writing skills!Reply to Elna