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6 Must-Have Skills For A Freelance Writer In 2023

Updated: Jun 12

Anyone who’s been in the freelance writing world for a while will tell you that the profession is much more than just writing. Freelance writing sounds like a fairly straightforward job. You write and you charge for what you write.

But there’s so much more. Thanks to constant updates in technology, the ever-changing platforms where people consume content, and the sheer competition in the industry, it’s not just enough to be a good writer if you want to succeed as a freelance writer.

This blog lists 6 skills that you need to have if you want to be a successful freelance writer.

So, let’s get started!

Research and analysis skills

As a freelance writer, you will often have to write about topics that you don't know much about or that need a lot of research. You need to be able to find reliable and relevant sources of information, analyze them critically, and use them in your own original content. You also need to give credit to your sources and avoid copying others.

To improve your research and analysis skills, use trustworthy online tools and databases, such as Google Scholar, Wikipedia, or Statista. Obviously, these sources aren’t always right but they’re a good starting point.

Additionally, you should also learn how to check sources for their credibility, accuracy, relevance, and bias. And you should follow ethical rules for citing sources properly using the appropriate style guide (such as APA or MLA) and avoiding plagiarism.

So, here’s how you nail research and analysis:

  • Find reliable and relevant sources of information using keywords and filters

  • Evaluate all sources for their credibility, accuracy, relevance, and bias

  • Synthesize information from multiple sources into your own original content

  • Cite sources properly using the appropriate style guide (such as APA or MLA)

  • Avoid plagiarism by paraphrasing or quoting sources correctly

Time management skills

Freelance writing is a self-directed and flexible career, but it also comes with deadlines, expectations, and challenges. You need to be able to manage your time well and efficiently prioritize your tasks to meet your client's needs. You also need to balance your work and personal life to avoid getting burned out.

Thankfully, there are quite a few tools that’ll help you keep your sanity in check. First off, start using project tracking tools. Google Calendar, Trello, and Asana are some of the more popular tools that are available. You can always choose to use others.

Also, be realistic. Set realistic goals and have a realistic timeframe for those goals. You cannot write a high-quality 6000-word blog in a day. It’s simply not possible. You’ll just end up disappointing your client and yourself.

Understand the scope of work and then commit to a deadline.

When I was new, I made this mistake a lot. I was so happy that I was getting clients and I just didn’t have any sense of how long it would take me to complete projects. I’d commit to ridiculous deadlines and at the end of these projects, I’d be burnt out and the client wouldn’t be very pleased with the work. I had to correct my mistake and I did. I hope that you don’t commit the same mistake in the first place.

Also, given that you’re your own boss and you don’t really have to report to anyone, it’s way too easy to get distracted. Procrastination is something you’ll come face-to-face with many times. Resist that dopamine rush and stick to your schedule. It’ll pay off in the long run. Meeting a friend for a drink can always happen next week.

In summary:

  • Use project management tools to create a calendar for all the jobs that need to be done

  • Prioritize your tasks based on their urgency and importance

  • Meet your deadlines, no matter what (there are exceptions, of course)

  • Say no to distractions. Create a routine and stick to it.

  • Burnout is real. Working ridiculous hours every day isn’t sustainable. It just isn’t. So, take a break, stretch your legs, go out, and do what you like doing!

Marketing, marketing, and more marketing

Should a good writer have to spend tons of time telling other people how good she is? No.

But is that what you have to do? Absolutely yes.

Now, it’s not that simple, of course. You don’t just sign up to every single social media platform and start saying you’re an absolutely amazing writer. No.

There’s a bit of nuance involved.

Marketing, as a freelance writer, is about building a brand.

It’s about telling people why they should associate themselves with your brand.

So, how do you go about it?

Social media is a good starting point. LinkedIn is key here. Whether you like it or not, LinkedIn is the biggest name in town. Now, you might think LinkedIn is for old and decidedly uncool people but it simply doesn’t matter.

That’s where you get to build a professional brand. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Post content related to your niche

  • Post success stories

  • Post helpful guides and articles

  • Talk to industry leaders and peers

  • Generally, be helpful and give it time

Twitter is another great platform to be on. If you’re not aware yet, you should know that Twitter has great tech, writing, productivity, and business communities. Again, the playbook is the same. You post helpful content and essentially, position yourself as a thought leader. Give it time, be consistent, and see the leads pouring in.


Freelance writing is amazing. You get to be your own boss. You can work from home. You don’t have to report to anyone. You can work whenever and wherever you want to work from. I mean, it’s so good!

Then there are the things that are not so good.

Stability is the first point, of course. Sometimes, you’re drowning in work and at other times, you don’t have as much as you’d like.

There’s no salary. At 6 AM on the 1st of every month, you will not see a message telling you that money has been deposited into your account.

For the first couple of years, I could never really think of the future. While my salaried friends were taking out home loans, I was scared to even think about it. What if I don’t get enough clients? What if something goes wrong? What if my skills aren’t required anymore?

Over the years, of course, I’ve learned that it’s part of the game. You will always have a certain degree of uncertainty in your life.

The best thing that you can do is to adapt.

I learnt so much about the US real estate market at one point because I had a high-paying client who wanted me to write even though he knew that I didn’t really know about the real estate sector.

The fact is, you’ll have to continuously keep learning, you’ll have to change your marketing techniques, discover new platforms where you’ll be in greater demand, and stay on top of developments in your niche.

You’ll have to adapt.

The ability to adapt is probably one of the most important skills for a freelance writer. This is especially true these days, thanks to developments in AI and whatnot.


Freelance writing is a creative career that requires you to come up with original and engaging ideas for your content. You need to be able to brainstorm, research, and develop ideas that suit your clients' goals and audiences. You also need to be able to write with flair, humor, and personality, as well as use different techniques to make your content stand out.

So, how do you keep coming up with creative content all the time?

Read creative content. Reading is important to everyone, of course, but it’s crucial for anyone who wants to write. The more you read, the better you’ll write. Doesn’t matter what you’re reading. Fiction, poetry, satire, humor, war, mythology — simply doesn’t matter. Just read.

There are a few short-term solutions, too, of course.

  • Brainstorm with other writers and come up with different ways to phrase the same content

  • Try out different techniques to see which one works the best for your audience

  • Use online tools and apps to generate ideas such as HubSpot's Blog Ideas Generator and Portent's Content Idea Generator

  • Practice writing with different prompts and keep refining the content till it’s absolutely on point

Awesome writing skills

This is a no-brainer, but you need amazing writing skills. You need to write clearly, concisely, and creatively for different audiences, purposes, and formats. You also need to have good grammar, spelling, and vocabulary, as well as an eye for detail and accuracy.

There are hundreds of thousands of freelance writers around the world. You need to differentiate yourself and the best way to do it is by writing content that’s great.

Bonus Point: Understand Search Engine Optimization

Understand how search engines show results to their users. There’s a ton of information available on the subject. Read everything you can about how to write SEO-optimized content and then implement your learnings.


Freelance writing is genuinely one of the best professions out there. It helps you express yourself, you can work from anywhere, you can learn so much, and of course, there’s good money to be made.

However, it’s important that you keep yourself updated and acquire new skills as and when they’re needed. The skills that I’ve listed above are some of the most important ones that you’ll need. I hope you’ve found them helpful.

If you’re looking for great writing opportunities, here’s my job board that you can visit. I list the best remote writing jobs there. About 60% of the jobs listed on that board are jobs that you’ll find on no other job board. So, take a look and see if there’s a new career waiting for you!

You can also follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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