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The freelance writer’s path to more assignments and better pay

By David Hammond 
Imagine two freelance writers. They write at the same skill level. Both share similar career goals.

Yet, one continues to struggle while the other builds up to a full schedule of good-paying assignments.

You see this a lot. Which raises the question: Why?

What makes the difference?

The answer is simple. While writing competency is essential, it’s not the only area of improvement that deserves your attention.

In this post, we look at four areas of development in addition to writing ability that will increase your market value as a freelance writer.

Develop a reputation as a niche expert

Most freelance writers are generalists, willing to accept any assignment that comes their way.

With proper research, a generalist can produce a competent article on a variety of topics.

With that said, a generalist can’t cover a topic with the same level of accuracy, depth, and insight as a niche expert.

Niche expertise gives you an edge with editors for assignments related to your specialty.

(And it doesn’t have to be one or the other. As a niche expert, you can still accept assignments outside your niche as a generalist.)

If you’re coming to freelance writing as a second career, niche expertise is often a way to bring the benefit of your life experience along as career capital.

For example, if you worked in food service write about food. If you’ve worked with horses, write about horses. If you were a couple’s therapist, write about relationships.

Develop your ability to generate marketable ideas 

Many writers come up with an article idea and then try to locate a publication to fit it.

However, from a business perspective, it’s a better strategy to take a market-driven approach.

That is to identify a publication that seems like a good match for your niche. Study it. Then, come up with ideas tailored to fit the publication’s brand image and point of view.

The more marketable article ideas you generate and propose, the more assignment opportunities you create.

Develop professionalism

If you’re a proficient writer, an undisputed niche expert, and an ace at coming up with marketable ideas, it won’t count for much if you lack professionalism.

A big part of professionalism is reliability. Can you deliver work that’s true to the agreed-upon assignment by the agreed-upon deadline most of the time?

And if a difficulty or a delay with a piece does arise, do you let the editor know before the last minute?

Another aspect of professionalism is business maturity. Most editors avoid a freelancer who's overly defensive, disrespectful, or divisive.

Develop industry relationships 

Editors can’t work with you if they don’t know you.

The way to make editors aware you exist is by sending them query letters. A query letter proposes an article idea and yourself as the one to write it.

In addition to a means of getting assignments, each query letter you write (whether you get the assignment or not) serves to advance your relationship with an editor.

With multiple query letters, an editor will come to know who you are, that you have a niche, and that you come up with article ideas with their readership in mind.

Writing good query letters is a skill that improves with practice.

As a beginner, rejection comes with the territory. So, it’s vital to maintain courage and send out query letters despite any shyness or self-doubt.

If you apply yourself and stay at it, you’ll gradually develop working relationships with a growing number of editors.