How do you become a successful writer? Be modest and hardworking. It will come.
In the modern world we writers are just as challenged by celebrity and success as almost any other field. Let’s face it – most people won’t make £100 an hour unless they are very lucky and skilled. After 10 years in the business I am making a living – I can meet all my bills and feed my family from the work I do. Here is an honest and realistic set of tips and tricks to work toward the level of modest and honest success I have achieved over the years.
1. Be prepared to work hard
There is no way to succeed in life without really going at it. To be a successful writer you will begin by earning far less than you want, but in doing so you are developing your skills. Very few people can honestly say they started out as a brilliant writer and developed from there – everyone starts at a baseline and as they get more commissions, so their skills improve.
2. Invest time in your clients.
Don’t be afraid to work silly hours to produce the quality you want to impress your new clients. I call that time spent, ‘investing in the client’. With all new clients you will have to spend that extra bit of time to get what they want from you. In return you should get a loyal and regular client – loyal and regular clients pay your bills at the end of the day! Equally be sensible – don’t work for less than £7 an hour and work on the basis that as you get to know your client’s business, you will speed up!
3. People Per Hour
Over the years one of the best sources of work for me has been through People Per Hour. There are other portals such as Guru.com. Focus on one of these and bid for work. Though many of them can be criticised for allowing a race to the bottom in rates, they are a source of good work. Don’t be frightened to bid relatively low at first – your aim is to develop your portfolio at the end of the day and by winning bids so you can get that essential paid portfolio under your belt. I still use the same portal and charge the rates I need to live on, which are certainly not £7 an hour!
Bid regularly for your work. If you are on Tax Credits or the Jobcentre is breathing down your neck, you can justify the time bidding as time working – if you don’t bid at the end of the day you won’t get commissions.
Another point to consider is to write original bids every time. People hiring get used to seeing the standard format approaches. Make it personal to them!
4. Get in with an agency
If you can get writing for an online copy agency early on in your career, this may well be a good idea. They chuck all sorts of commissions at you and you can develop your ability as a general copywriter from there. Their chief weakness is that they can only charge so much for the copy you write for them, so you will get a relatively small income. They can really help you develop your portfolio however, and get you used to writing good copy under some time pressure.
Though not something you want to be doing in 10 years’ time as a writer, agencies are a very good bunch to write for. They take away the need to constantly pitch for work, and can leave you just focusing on quality output. It is that quality output that you can use to drive your career forward.
A lot of agencies come looking for writers through portals such as People Per Hour. Regular writing gigs are what you want at the end of the day!
You need a strong online presence to show off your work. Start with a free website such as wordpress.com and show off your best work from there. My own website here is a development from that. It shows my best work over the years for a huge range of titles I have written for. Ideally it should be search engine optimised – considering much of your work will include key words and human readable text for Google you should be fairly good at optimising your own work!
6. What are your niches?
Write about you know is an age old adage that still holds true to this day! The better and more specialised your niche the better your chances at getting work. I used to be a top UK mental health writer but honestly, this is where thousands of others compete in. I am now a reliable sailing writer that many people contact direct for my knowledge and skills. I maintain an interest in parcels and global logistics writing – these have always brought home the bacon.
Try to tread the untrodden path. Millions write in fashion, health, diet and automotive. Do you have an interest in writing about heavy goods vehicles? What about gardening? Could you write about the latest fiction books on the market every day? Find a couple of tight little niches and make them your own!
7. Get a lot of clients
We all dream of that golden client we can rely on who gives us piles of copy. This isn’t always a good idea. Relationships change and things get stale. My oldest writing relationship is 10 years old this year but I hardly produce anything for them as my interests are elsewhere. Many of my current clients are 2-3 years old and we’re going great guns, and I still have the bug to write for them. One used to give me £300 a month worth of work but now it is less than £100 as their needs changed. By having 15 clients so your different relationships can change and you can better survive the peaks and troughs of work. Some disappear for months and then reappear to give me piles of the stuff! It soon mounts up.
Will you be a millionaire?
I’d love it one day if a client felt that my work was worth £100 an hour and they wanted ten hours work a week from me. It hasn’t happened yet! I’m comfortable enough from what I produce from my online copywriting that I don’t worry how I’ll pay the rent this month. I’m actually saving for my retirement and planning for the future now. If you go through this life telling yourself you’re not good enough, you’ll go nowhere fast. If you constantly seek to improve? You won’t do badly!