Freelance Writing Success

How do you define freelance writing success?

I figure that as long as I'm happy, I'm a freelance writing success.

Now, I won't be happy unless I have:
  • a nice place to live
  • a well oiled machine named Bertha Cornwallis II (my car)
  • extra money
  • lots and lots of Bottle Caps (only the best food ever invented)
  • a lot of work keeping me busy
Only two of those things directly pertain to my freelance writing career - extra money and a lot of work keeping me busy.  By "extra money" (because it's never really extra, is it?) I mean enough to go buy something just for the hell of it, and by "a lot of work" I mean a massive amount (the kind that you never stop - you're working out a project in your head while showering, driving or talking to your grandma).

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a convenience or grocery store in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert selling Bottle Caps.

So how do you become a successful freelance writer?

Easy - follow these steps.
  1. Build a portfolio.  People who are considering using your services will not buy from you if they can't see proof you can write. 
  2. Brand yourself.  Build recognition among your peers and among your potential clients.  There are a lot of us freelance writers out here - start making friends.  Look at everyone you know (aside from us freelance writers) as a potential client, and treat them professionally.  You can start by leaving blog comments on posts which interest you; I receive more traffic here from people following comments I've left on other blogs than from anywhere else.
  3. Advertise yourself.  There are tons of free advertising outlets - both online and in print.  Start a blog, use the classified section of your local newspaper or put a few posts on Craigslist.
  4. Take care of your clients.  When clients begin to trickle in, give them your best work.  Ask if they'll mind if you link to what you've written for them so you can continue to grow your portfolio.
  5. Advertise some more.  Keep advertising when you're too busy to do it - you'll be glad you did.
  6. Maintain your integrity.  This is a really big deal.  Even though there are tons of potential clients, don't go burning any bridges by doing the wrong thing.  If you can't make a deadline, don't lie about it.  Don't try to hurt other writers' careers in an effort to boost your own, and don't ever, ever, EVER steal work or ideas from other people.  That's just bad business.
  7. Periodically reassess your freelance writing career.  Are you still going in the direction you were when you started?  Is that still the right direction for you?  Correcting your path before you're on an entirely different road (or correcting it to try to get on an entirely different road) is sometimes necessary.  Your goals might not be the same now as they were when you started - maybe your freelance writing career used to be all about working in your PJs and now it's about buying a Lotus.
How do you define freelance writing success?  Are you happy where you're at, or are you going for more?

Next year, Bertha Cornwallis III will be a shiny little white Lotus I've got my eye on.  Well, maybe not next year... but definitely in this decade. 

"Success & Failure" image courtesy of COBRASoft at

© Angie Papple Johnston, 2010; if you are reading this anywhere but on or without my name as author, it's stolen.