What it takes to be a freelance writer

Anybody can learn to write, and almost anybody can become a writer of some sort–but that doesn’t mean everybody should freelance. Here’s a list of the qualities that I’ve found to serve me best in this career (the list will never be complete; here’s to many more years of discovery as I flesh it out).

  • An inquisitive mind: Whether I’m reporting or working on a magazine piece, it’s my job to think of things the reader wants to know, along with the unexpected: Things she’s interested in, but may never have thought to ask. Of all the characteristics a writer can have, I’m pretty sure that being naturally inquisitive is the most critical.
  • Enthusiasm: As a freelancer you willingly jump onto a perpetual work treadmill, spending at least a little time every day beating the bushes for your next gig. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re going to jump right back off that treadmill pretty quickly. Hopefully before it flattens you.
  • Ability: I’m convinced that everybody has the kernel of writing ability, and with careful cultivation you can grow it to whatever its maximum potential happens to be. But that’s not the only kind of ability you need as a freelancer. It’s been said a million times before, but I’ll say it again: Freelance writing is half business, half writing. So if you have the ability to keep yourself organized, work punctually on deadline and stay on-task without a traditional office, you’ve got a leg up on at least 50 percent of that career you’ve been dreaming of.
  • Humility: If you ever stop learning (or think you have nothing left to learn) you’re dead in the water. ‘Nuff said.

Photo: “reporter’s notebook” by Roger H. Goun on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons attribution license

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