The Seven Highly Effective and Profitable Habits of Successful Freelancers
I've been in publishing since 1987, have been a freelancer since 1993 and ran an editorial
staffing agency in New York City from 1996 through 2004.
Over the years, I've noticed that successful freelancers, eg, those who make their living
entirely from freelancing (writing, editing, copywriting, web design, etc.), have the following
seven traits in common.
1. Write⁄design every day: Many freelancers are drawn to their particular career
because they love it. They love to write, design, draw - whatever it is, they would do it for free.
Once they decide to freelance full time, most work at it every day. They write articles,
design sites, doodle illustrations, etc. In other words, they don't stop working on their craft
just because there is no paying client.
Benefit to their career: These professionals always have a body of work to sell, show,
update their portfolio with, etc. Beyond that, it keeps their skills fresh and allows them
to work that much faster once they are being paid for a project.
As a personal example, when I first started to write articles to promote my business,
it would take upwards of two hours to complete one. Now, I can knock one out in 30 minutes
if I have to.
Side Note: I have run across more than a few freelancers who don't exactly love what
they do. BUT, because they like the life of freelancing, they discipline themselves to do what
it takes, eg, (work at it steadily) to make a living at it.
2. Don't wait for markets to come to them: Building on this first habit, when you are
constantly churning out new material, you don't have to wait for clients to come to you, you
can pitch to them.
If you've written a great article on the benefits of yoga, why wait for a national exercise
magazine to take months to get back to you. Pitch your local newspaper journalist who covers
health. You'll usually know within a week or two if they can use your story.
Your neighborhood paper can't use it? Pitch the neighboring county's newspaper, a popular
e-zine dedicated to women's health, a new health website that needs fresh content, etc.
Successful freelancers are this proactive. When I was recruiting, I was constantly amazed
at the type of assignments successful freelancers were able to ferret out for themselves.
When I'd ask, "How did you get that assignment, come up with that idea?", the comments
ranged from, "I couldn't sleep last night so I start doing some digging online because I just
wrote this great article and wanted to get it published," to "I was just doodling and came
upon this great design; I knew it would make a great logo for this niche, so I put it on a
t-shirt and pitched a few boutiques in my neighborhood."
Successful freelancers are not only creative in their work, they're creative in how they
locate markets to sell their work.
3. Have more than one stream of income: By this, I do not mean that they have second
jobs. Most successful freelancers do more than one thing.
For example, a writer may design a line of themed t-shirts with their witticisms on them.
Illustrators, in addition to creating logos, may sell paintings or drawings. Web designers
may also create online games.
I don't know how many more brain cells creative types use than the rest of the population,
but editorial and creative professionals usually dibble and dabble in more than one sector
- and quite successfully I might add.