Section Three: Essential Skills for Freelance Writers

Thriving as a freelance writer demands more than just a way with words. It requires robust skills that empower you to manage projects efficiently, communicate effectively with clients, and consistently produce high-quality work.

Remember, as a freelance writer, you are your own boss. You’re responsible for yourself. But, if you start out with the right skill set and consistently hone them, you’re bound to succeed.

Let’s break down some of the key skills I believe every freelance writer should have in their arsenal.

Writing Skills

Obviously, writing is the foundation of your freelance career, but excellence in writing encompasses more than crafting coherent sentences. When you’re a master weaver of words, it shows, and it tells the world that you know what you’re doing. Here are four key points to consider when honing your writing skills.

  • Expand Your Reading: Diverse reading habits can significantly enhance your writing skills. By exposing yourself to various genres, styles, and formats, you learn different ways to engage readers, structure your work, and express ideas. Consider delving into non-fiction, fiction, magazines, academic journals, and blogs. Each has unique lessons on voice, pacing, and audience engagement.
  • Practice Writing Daily: Regular writing hones your skills and helps you find your voice. Daily writing doesn’t always have to be client work. Journaling, blogging about your interests, or even participating in online forums can keep your writing skills sharp. Embrace writing prompts and challenges to stretch your creativity and adaptability.
  • Study Writing Practices: Subscribe to our Grammarist Insider Daily newsletter, read content on sites like Grammarist, take online quizzes, spend a few nights a week taking a writing course, etc.
  • Feedback and Revision: Embrace feedback as any other tool for growth. Seek constructive criticism from your peers, mentors, or writing groups, and learn the art of self-editing. I cannot stress that last one enough. Revising your work with a critical eye is where much of the learning and improvement happens.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is something you absolutely need to practice if you want to understand project requirements, manage expectations, and build client relationships. I think the same could be said about almost any aspect of our lives that deals with other people.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

When everyone’s on the same page, that page starts shaping up to be a work of art. There are two main things I want you to remember.

First: Clarity and Precision

Whether via email, phone, or video call, your ability to communicate clearly and precisely can set the tone for successful projects. Steer clear of technical jargon unless you’re speaking with a knowledgeable audience. I always tell people to explain things to me like I’m five. But try not to treat clients and peers like children! Instead, approach every instance of communication calmly, with care, and attention to detail.

Second: Negotiation and Feedback

Learning to negotiate contracts and handle feedback diplomatically is something you can’t avoid as a freelancer. Negotiation isn’t just about rates; it’s about scope, deadlines, and revisions.

Approach negotiations as a collaboration rather than a confrontation. When receiving any sort of feedback, listen actively, ask appropriate questions for clarification, and view it as an opportunity to improve.

Time Management Skills

Managing your time effectively is crucial if you want to meet deadlines, manage multiple projects at once, and maintain a work-life balance. If you’re anything like me, this is where you’re going to struggle.

I always want to do ALL THE THINGS NOW, and rarely stop to consider that I’m just one person. It took me many years to accept that I’m human and have limits. I spent a lot of time reflecting and changing my own mindset to learn proper time management skills. Here are some tips from my desk.

Tip #1: Lean on Tech

Utilize digital calendars like the one on your smartphone, task management apps like Trello or Asana, and time-tracking tools to organize your tasks and deadlines. These tools can help you visualize your workload, prioritize tasks, and avoid overcommitting. I promise!

I use all of these apps and tools, but I’m also very old school. I still utilize pen-and-paper solutions like a physical planner, a calendar on the wall next to my desk, and a handy tear-off style notepad with an empty weekly calendar to plan the finer details of my days, one week at a time. 


Both time management methods are perfectly acceptable, and it all boils down to what works for you.

Tip #2: Establish a Routine

A consistent writing routine can significantly boost your productivity. Step back and determine the times of day when you’re most creative and focused, and block out these periods for uninterrupted writing. For me, it’s the hours before lunchtime and then again in the evening after my household has settled down. But this could look different for you!

Tip #3: Prioritize Your Daily and Weekly Tasks

Work on prioritizing your tasks based on urgency and importance. This might mean tackling the most challenging projects first or addressing quick tasks to clear your schedule for more focused work sessions. Understanding how to triage your to-do list can make your workflow more efficient and reduce the buildup of stress.

Tip #4: Set Realistic Deadlines for Yourself

Be realistic when setting deadlines for yourself and your clients. Allow for buffer time to accommodate unexpected delays or revisions. For example, I live on the east coast of Canada, and we get absolutely dumped on with snow during the winter. I’ve even had to dig myself out of my house more than once.

My clients understand that and expect that I might have longer timelines set for my work during those months. Transparent communication about timelines helps manage client expectations and builds trust.