Why You Don’t Have to Be a Great Writer to Be a Successful Writer

I’m not the best writer.

Heck, I know I’m not the greatest writer out there either.

But, many new writers think or feel they need straight A’s in English or to major in Journalism to be a freelance writer. But, that’s not the case.

Why You Don’t Have to Be a Great Writer to Be a Successful Writer

Online writing is different than writing for print magazines or publications. While having the formal training in writing can totally help you with your freelance writing gigs, it isn’t essential for you to start or succeed.

I’m a successful writer in spite of my non-journalism background. My background is in Psychology and education.

I ghostwrite for top influencers in the blogging industry, write for popular blogs like Blogging Wizard and OptinMonster and recently landed a Huffington Post contributorship.

All because I’m not the greatest writer.

So, why don’t you need to be a Pulitzer prized writer to write for businesses?

Your Clients Want Results Not Degrees

Many entrepreneurs or small businesses aren’t concerned if you have formal training. What they are concerned with is  results and that means exceptional posts, not degrees.

If you don’t already know, around 50% of your web visitors can read at a 4th grade level. So, if you’re writing at a college level for your clients, you could be turning off half of their audience.

So, what do clients really care about when they hire a freelance writer?

1. Can You Write For the Web?

Online clients want to know that you can write for the web. What does this mean?

It means, can you write in a conversational tone? Online writing is easy to read, isn’t filled with difficult words or fluff, and provides value to the reader.

Writing blog posts also comes with its own set of formatting rules. When I write blog posts, I write short paragraphs, short sentences, and I structure my writing with subheadings.

You can also add bullet or numbered lists to further break up your post.

2. Are You Confident in Your Abilities?

Confidence is hard to come by when you’re new to something. When I first started Applied Behavior Analysis for children with autism, I remember driving to work with sweaty palms.

I was fearful that I wouldn’t do a good job or that the child I was working with wouldn’t progress.

It was the same when I started freelance writing. I almost quit because of the fear.

But, the one thing that helped me through it all was knowing that I had to keep putting myself out there no matter what. Whether it was pitching or guest posting, I knew that if I kept going with it, I would no longer be a new freelance writer.

So, you see, even if you are a newbie and lack confidence, you just have to put that aside and start. Pitch a guest post idea, create your writer website, or ask your friends and family if they need a content writer.

Clients want a confident writer that understands their services and can produce stellar content. When I landed my first gig, I didn’t have any samples to show in the prospect’s niche.

But, my confidence and how I was able to relate to the job posting probably helped in my favor when the prospect had to make a hiring decision.

3. Do You Have a Social Presence and Connections?

Many writers don’t think they need to be on social media or have a website to be a freelance writer. But in my opinion, to be a successful and in-demand writer, you do need to be on social media and you do need a writer website.

I learned that quickly once I started landing jobs on Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media is the perfect place to grow your blog, showcase your work, and connect with prospects and businesses.

You don’t have to be on all the top social media profiles. I suggest you start with LinkedIn and Twitter. From there you can set up a Facebook fan page as a way to make more connections.

You’re Running a Business

You don’t need to be a great writer, but you do need to know how to run a business. Freelance writing is a business not a hobby.

You’re not going to always write about your favorite topics, or have weeks or months to perfect your piece. And you’re not always going to have the choice on how you will write your pieces.

Freelance writing means deadlines, editing, citing sources, keywords, copywriting and much more. Clients hire you to either help them free up more time or help them improve their conversion rate.

So, what does it mean when you have a freelance writing business?

1. You Need to Market Your Services

A popular saying among freelancers is you always gotta be hustling. Since you are the boss, it’s up to you to find freelance writing jobs.

So, that means you need to always be marketing. There are several ways you can market yourself:

  • Guest posting is a great way to show prospects you are credible, able to write and know your niche
  • Comment on blogs you want to write for or that are in your niche. A prospect may see your comments and decide to get to know you better.
  • Follow prospects on social media. Get on the radar of top businesses you want to write for.
  • Have an email signature. When you work on your pitching and sending off those emails, you can be assured that prospects can quickly find out about you from your signature.

So, even if you are complacent with a handful of clients, know it can all change. You can lose all your clients or the client that gives you the most work decides to take a break for six months.

It’s better to have too many clients than not enough.

2. Wow Your Clients

I talk about this a lot in many of my blog posts.  Going the extra mile for clients can pay off big time.

Just the other day I had a business contact me who told me they were referred from another client of mine.

I told this business that I did have an opening. I wrote an ad hoc piece and then the client asked me if I could write more:

So, if you impress your client on the first writing piece, it can turn into regular income for you. And this isn’t unusual for me. Prospects contact me all the time for ad hoc pieces which end up turning into consistent gigs.

3. Professionalism

Since you’re running a service-based business, being professional is key to your growth as a freelance writer.

This might mean exceeding your deadlines or always being available for emails or just formatting your blog post correctly.

For me, I answer my client’s emails promptly, often upload my pieces to their CMS, and correspond professionally.

This might be common sense, but there are writers out there that don’t think it’s important to be prompt or follow your client’s requests.

If You Enjoy Writing You’ll Probably Love Freelancing

It’s as simple as that. If you know how to write well, then you can definitely be a freelance writer. It’s okay if you make editing mistakes, misspell words or have a lousy writing process. There are tools to help you with all that!

So if being the best writer is stopping you from becoming a freelance writer, then know it doesn’t have to be that way. You can get started today and be successful in a short amount of time!

What are you waiting for?

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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32 Comments

Hi Elna, Just read your piece here and found it most inspirational. I’ve always dreamed of being a songwriter so I taught myself to play rhythm guitar and a few years later I wrote several tunes. It helps that I’m an artist and drummer and can sing a bit. But being a freelance writer is quite another thing I’m most looking forward to accomplishing. The excuse I had accepted was after working a full time job, who has time for writing? So I didn’t pursued it. I valued my relaxation time after work, to spend with my wife. And then there was time for dinner, a little TV, wash up and go to bed so I could awaken at 4:20 am. to do it all again. But one day two years ago as I showered, I had a stroke and my entire life changed. I went from being active to being in a wheelchair for almost three months, a Walker for three months and I found novelty in the cane for three months more. Being a positive person all my life I saw the stroke as a stroke of luck. Since I couldn’t work I started writing. I had no more excuse. With one hand holding my iPhone and my index finger still functional, I have written two drafts of my autobiography with one still left to go. In addition I’ve written a book and am working on my second. -This all within two years. I haven’t had a paycheck for two years and my savings have just ran out. I will follow you because I feel you may inspire me in some positive way. That’s all for now. Thank you, Louis PerezReply to Louis
Hi Lois, What an inspirational story! I’m so happy that writing found you again! Thanks for sharing your story with me!Reply to Elna
Elna Great article and awesome tips. Before I started my current blog I have always worried about what niche to be in. Would my writing be good enough? How many comments would I get. And would my traffic gradually increase. I failed at many blogs before my current one but now I know that you never fail as long as you never give up. Now I write with passion and feelings and don’t worry about every single detail now. Articles like this one, that you write are very inspirational. Thank youReply to Andy
Hi Andy! That’s a great way to think about your blog! You need that passion to fuel you creativity for sure! Writing is a creative outlet so you need to have that passion to keep on writing!Reply to admin
Thanks, Elna. This is amazing advice for any freelancer starting out. Your posts are always helpful, and I love your website!Reply to Alma
Hi Alma, Thank you for coming over! Happy to hear you want to be a freelance writer! Yay!Reply to Elna
Yes! I completely agree! This is the reason I started writing my blog in the first place because I may not be a top scholar but I have a passion for writing and I know I can connect to people in meaningful ways! Thanks again, Elna!Reply to Angelina
That’s great! Yes, just get out there and blog, right? 🙂Reply to Elna
Thank you for this article, Elna! I can attest to the idea that clients don’t want the best blogger on the planet. I can say with certainty that they want someone who can write what they’re looking for. They don’t have the time to write these articles themselves and want someone to write them so they can focus on other tasks on their figurative plate. I don’t have a degree anywhere near journalism and none of the clients I’ve spoken with ever asked about it. In fact, none of them have any idea that I have an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice. They just want to make sure that their investment has been made through the work we do for them.Reply to Lizzie
Hi Lizzie, That’s exactly right! Preach it! Clients want a writer so they can focus on high ROI tasks and grow their business! They can care less if you have a degree in anything!Reply to Elna
Basically, in order to be a successful writer, you’re going to have to settle into the idea that a rather hefty word count is required. How many words do you think most aspiring writers pump out before they reach success? If writing itself is laborious to you, something you must force or strong-arm yourself through, you may want to choose something else. How often does a successful swimmer swim, or drummer drum?Reply to Victoria
Hi Victoria, Being a successful writer doesn’t mean churning out 10k words a week. I make a living writing part-time writing around 5-10k words a month….if you can land profitable writing gigs then you don’t need to bulk write. I do believe you should write every day, whether a newsletter, blog post, client piece, guest post or social media post. Freelance writers online need to be versed on their industry news too!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, thanks for the awesome post, it has done a lot to inspire me. I think that one of the biggest challenges for writers like us who have no formal qualifications is the fact that we doubt our abilities. Your post has given me the confidence to keep pushing forward and to keep improving. Thanks again!Reply to Brendon
Hi Brendon, That’s exactly why I wrote this post 🙂 I wanted to let people know that you don’t need formal qualifications to get started. But you do need to take action and that requires a bit of confidence! Excited to hear you are plugging away!Reply to Elna
Yes! Preach it, Elna! This is what I’m going on about all the time… there are so many people who could build a successful freelance writing career, but they’re afraid to try. Either because they doubt their own abilities, or they don’t want to put in the hard (and often underpaid) work in the early days. I also find it amusing that many university-educated writers would struggle with writing web copy anyway… because writing copy for the web is a totally different beast than writing a scholarly paper. Sharing all over the place! Great post and excellent message. BrentReply to Brent
Hey Brent Thanks! Yeah there are a lot of people who think you don’t need to put in the work to be successful. Sure you can score a gig with a family member or friend, but to really grow your business you have to put yourself out there and work at it. I know a few Journalists that turned freelancer and they found it hard to break in. Having that formal training can really set you back if you can’t adapt quickly! Thanks and have a great weekend.Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Thanks for writing this. I think you just gave every freelance writer hopeful a silver lining. I used to think I had to be a great writer – and that’s one of the main reasons why I haven’t fully jumped into freelance writing. If this post was motivating for me, I can imagine how many others it will motivate to go for their dream of becoming a freelancer writer. Thanks for sharing this! Already passed it along. CoriReply to Corina
Hey Cori! Thanks so much for your kind words. I hope this post inspires and motivates other would be writers that they are good enough to get started! Online business need content and if you are an infectious writer then you’ll be successful!Reply to Elna
Thank you for being very transparent. Your desire the inspire others to pursue their freelance writing business is very appreciated. You are a GEM!Reply to Tawanna
Hey Tawanna! You are so much appreciated! Thanks so much. I want other writers to know that they don’t need all these credentials to be a successful writer. It really boils down to having the desire to improve and the confidence to put yourself out there!Reply to Elna
Nice post. You have put the facts in a simple way. I have recently started blogging and from whatever little I know, simplicity is the key. As you develop your writing skills and create a niche, the writing can get more sophisticated.Reply to Milind
Thanks Milind! That’s great you started blogging and yes you are right – simplicity is the key to being successful. It does take time to develop your niche and writing skills so kudos to you for taking the first step!Reply to Elna
Great post Elna! I’ve had those times where I’ve second guessed my writing abilities as I know we all have. I think you nailed it in saying that while certain aspects of your writing ability are important, there are so many other things that you should take into account to have a successful freelance business. Sharing!Reply to Chad
Hey Chad, Glad you came over! Thanks so much for your kind words. Yeah, I second guessed my writing early on (and sometimes still do) and I know many writers go through this. But, you’re right – there’s more to just writing when you want a successful freelance writing career. Marketing is a huge aspect as well as confidence. Thanks for stopping by!Reply to Elna
Your blog is one of the best blogs I’ve read on writing. I love the fact that you are so transparent about how you got started. It inspires me to keep writing. It was also the reason I finally decided to actually design a website. I’m currently in the process of setting it up. Thanks!Reply to Deirdre
Thanks Deirdre! I love hearing about how my blog helps my followers! It gives me confidence that what I’m writing is helping other writers. Can’t wait to see your site. Thanks for stopping by!Reply to Elna
This post motivates me to keep writing and keep learning how to get better at writing. I’m finding the work we all do as online writers is very fulfilling and expands the mind! Thanks Elna for reminding us that we don’t need an expensive degree to be successful at online writing, just a desire to continue to learn and keep pitching for work. 🙂Reply to Christine
Hey Christine! Thanks so much. So happy to hear you are doing great with your business. Yes, the desire to be a better writer is a better indicator of success than having had formal training. Keep up the great work girl! You are kicking butt.Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, As you may or may not know, I am one of your students on write your way to your first 1k, and I love it, congratulations on your contributorship to the Huffington Post. I hope I might be there one day soon. I better be I am already 60. You are right about confidence, but I still don’t have any, I wish I did. Anyway great post once again, I am looking forward to reading more of your posts. Veronica.Reply to Veronica
Hey Veronica! So glad you signed up for the course and I know with time you will have that confidence. The private FB group can really help with you on that. I found that since we are doing this online, I’m more comfortable taking action. If this was all in person, I’d have a tougher time for sure. I’m even better with Skype interviews! If you have any questions, email me. I’m here for ya!Reply to Elna