5 Quick Tips to Succeed as a Freelancer

Freelancing is a vast, deep ocean and there is so much advice for those venturing into freelancing – read this book, sign up for this course, use this social media platform, so on and so forth. Listening to all the self-appointed pundits of freelancing can be so confusing. So, let’s just push away all this information overload, and get back to the basics. Here are five essential tips on succeeding as a freelancer in any field – because, baby, you must get the basics right!

1.  Know what you are good at and package it as a service

When you become a freelancer, you sign up to compete on the world stage. Thanks to the web you can access a global pool of clients, but hey, the reverse also holds true – your potential clients can tap freelancing talent from across continents.

But instead of being bogged down by the thought, ” How the hell am I going to compete!”, put your mind towards packaging your talents as a service.

Your education, life experiences, professional background other than writing, and any other formal training, all go into making your skill set unique. If you have been an employee ( like I was) before diving into freelancing, you will already have an insight into what you are good at; use that to determine the specialized services you will offer.

To begin with, pitch for all freelancing jobs that are in line with your specialization. It becomes easier for clients to choose you for jobs that match your skill set.  For instance, since I am a business writer, I do not market myself as a creative or academic writer.

2. Know how to pick good clients

Choosing the right clients is one of the top decisions that will determine your happiness as a freelancer.  I know cause I burnt myself early on in the game, with clients who basically saw me as a content writer from India who had to do exactly what they said with minimal pay.

When I realized that my time was not worth the project I was working on, I tried to renegotiate the writing fee, but the client turned out to be a devil. The client wrote a scathing review of my writing services, saying that I had backed out without completing the assignment, which was not the case. I had completed all allotted work but declined to take on fresh topics since I was not under any contract that bound me to continue to work with the client.

Unfortunately, like most real-life crimes, such incidents become a ‘he said, she said scenario’, and for any new client who is considering hiring you, that becomes a red flag. Once a shadow is cast on your professional reputation, it takes more than a few solid projects to get back on track.

If you are lucky, you may have feedback on a potential client from a fellow freelancer. But that is a rare occurrence. So realistically speaking, the only thing you can do to choose the right clients, is asking a lot of questions at the start.

Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • What is the duration of the project?
  • Does the client have a sample of the work he expects from you?
  • What assistance can you expect from the client for the successful completion of the project?
  • Who is the target customer of the client?
  • What is the frequency of content submission and the required length of each article?

The intention behind asking such questions is to get an idea of how much thought has the client given the project. A client who is ambiguous about the ‘what, how, and when’ of a project, spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for an unsuspecting freelancer.  On the other hand, working with clients who are supportive and well-organized will make the project worth your time.

3. Be self-driven to do all that it takes

Most freelancers start out as one-person shops and often struggle to perform business tasks that are alien to them. When I started as a freelancer, one of the first things I did was get my business website up and running. Having never done that in my years as a banker, and having no knowledge of WordPress, I had to spend countless hours reading about how to create a website and learn via trial and error.

Hiring a web designer was an option, but I wanted to go through that process to understand what my client’s experience when they begin a business website and create content. And frankly, I’ve had friends who did hire website design firms, but ended by paying for something that was not up to the mark. This is just one example of how you may need to work outside your comfort zone and be perseverant. Whether it’s brainstorming ways to supplement your business income, finding new clients, or handling a difficult project,  it is perseverance that will separate you from the pack and help you in retaining clients.

4. Use a time and earnings tracker

What does not get measured, does not improve. You must use a tracker (it could be a simple excel sheet) to measure how many hours a day you work, or the number of days you work in a week.  So if you slack on a Thursday and Friday, you must make up for some of the lost time over the weekend.  Doing so will ensure that you meet the revenue targets you have set for yourself and that you meet the content submission dates committed to your clients.

Simultaneously, keep track of the money. Track the invoices to be raised and send reminders to clients on pending invoices. Since I use PayPal as a billing platform, it’s easy to track payments and send reminder notices to clients. It also helps me monitor the USD to Indian Rupee conversion rates.

5. Connect with friends and colleagues – they may hire you or recommend you

Since I have limited working hours per day, I prefer to work clients who are clear on what they want and give me the leeway to set my schedule for submission of articles.

Finding such clients is not easy, but if you can work with people you know  (friends from business school or work colleagues) then you have a better chance of landing such freelancing jobs. Even if your acquaintances don’t hire you, they may refer you to someone looking for professional assistance.

When you start freelancing, let everyone, and I mean everyone, know that you are now available for freelance jobs. Set up a Facebook business page and send invites to friends to follow your page. Update your LinkedIn profile and create posts on topics related to your freelancing field.

That’s true Mr.Forest.

But we can certainly learn from our experiences and exercise these checks to enjoy our time on earth as freelancers.

All the best everyone.


5 Step process for business writing

5 Steps to Writing a Business Article Like a Pro

Does the prospect of writing a business article make you nervous? Business writing can feel daunting, but if you break down the process into steps, you will realize that writing a business article is like writing for any other genre.

What is a Business Article?

A business article is any content you write with the intent of directly or indirectly sharing information about a business. The different types of business writing include blogs, news releases, newsletters, brochure, flyers, emailers, and presentations.


Business writing involves a variety of writing styles.

The writing style will vary with the type of business content you have been asked to write. For instance, compared to a blog, an emailer must have a more succinct pitch. Similarly, a flyer will have to sell an idea very quickly, while in a business brochure you have the luxury of being more descriptive.

I have been writing for small and medium-sized businesses for almost seven years now. In that time frame, I have written business articles on myriad industries, such as business technology, software development, renewable energy, educational consultancy, childcare service, virtual assistant service, and medical billing.

Over the hundreds of articles written, I have developed a business article writing methodology that I’d like to share with you today.  My method of researching and writing a business article may not work for you, but it is one you could certainly use as a start point to create your own version of a writing system.

For this post, I am going to stick to the preparation, researching, structuring, writing, and editing stages of writing a business article.

So here goes.

5 Steps to Writing a Business Article

5 Step process for business writing

Let’s paint a beautiful picture…but with words.

STEP 1: PREPARE – Understanding What is Expected From You

Let’s assume that you are working for a client for the first time and you have been given a topic ‘X Reasons to Have a Blog.’  As soon as you take on this assignment, you need to get answers to the following questions:

1. Who is the target audience of your client?

target audience

Understand who you are writing for and what the client wants

Is your client targetting individuals or businesses? The target audience will affect the way you write. For instance, a business targetting individual buyers will prefer a writing style that is more conversational, personal, and maybe even laced with humor. On the other hand, a B2B client may want an article that is informative and highlights the business’s expertise.

Of course, when we say business article, don’t assume that you need to write content that sounds like a management book extract. Today, every content you write has to be easy to read and must communicate the benefit the reader will derive from the ten minutes they spend reading what you have written.

2. Does the client have keywords in mind for the article?
In my experience, most clients will be happy to let you take charge of this and decide the best keyword phrases for an article. Once you have chosen the keywords, ensure that you include them in the article heading, subheadings ( where possible), and at a frequency of three to four times every 500 words of the article.

3. Expected format and style of the article
Most clients will share a sample of the kind of article they want to write. If they do not, then look at previous posts on their website and clarify if the client wants you to maintain a similar writing style.
Also, agree on the format of submission. For instance, a client that I have been writing for a long time is a virtual service provider called Virtasktik. All blogs submitted to the client must contain a meta description, as well as content for social media posts on the article for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+.

STEP 2: RESEARCH – Evaluate the Available Information and Extract the Pertinent Bits

Online research

You must be a master at both looking for information online and picking the most relevant bits.

As you begin researching the topic think about the two to three key points your article must include. These ideas then become the start point for research on search engines.

Alternatively, type different phrases related to the blog topic you have been given. For example, for the topic ‘X reasons to blog,’ your search phrases could be –

  • Benefits of business blog
  • X Reasons why every business should have a blog
  • Statistics/ Data on the benefits of having a business blog

As you scan through the relevant articles, Google ( or other search engines) will throw up suggestions on other similar search phrases;  look at those as well.

While researching the information available online, I recommend doing the following:

  1. Stay current: Reference articles published no later than three years ago. Since knowledge and technology are evolving rapidly, you must publish content that is relevant and forward-looking.
  2. Use credible sources: Extract your content from reputed websites or blogs of established companies in the industry.
  3. Give credit: It’s important to give credit where credit is due, so include at least one or two links to reputed websites within the article.
  4. Include data: Where possible look for recent developments, industry statistics, or infographics relevant to your topic.
  5. Extract as you read: Highlight or extract the most relevant portion of content as you read the articles. Some writers use tools like Evernote to do this, but I like to do it the old-fashioned way and paste all the relevant content into a single word file. Let’s call this the ‘base document.’
  6. Read multiple articles: As a thumb rule research at least 5 to 6 credible sources of information for every page of 500 words that you need to write.
  7. Include a quote: Depending on whom you are writing for, adding a genuine quote for your article is a great idea.

So for an article on blogging, you can approach popular bloggers for their advice, or reach out to internet marketing specialists for a contribution to your article. You can contact them through their website, via email, or even their Facebook business page.

Tell them who you are, the client you are writing for, the topic, that you are looking for a 2 or 3 line quote, and by when do you need the revert. I often use this strategy and have a 25 to 30 percent success rate, which means I approach at least 4 potential contributors to get a single quote. The research phase will take you anywhere between one to one hour thirty minutes.

STEP 3: STRUCTURE – The Information and Your Thoughts

article writing

Identify key points and decide which piece of information goes where.

If you are writing a 1000 word article, by the time you have researched the information, you should have at least a base document of 2500 to 3000 words. Once convinced that you have gathered all the relevant information, start reading your base document.

Having gone through the document, open another word file and begin writing the key points, or must have information for your article. I like to rearrange and highlight the content in the base document using different colors. For example, the material that I want to include in the opening para is highlighted in yellow, the main body in pink, and article recommendations in green. So what you are doing at this stage is structuring the information and your thoughts before you begin writing.

By the time you are done, you will have your article skeleton – opening, subheadings, bullet points under each, and takeaways from your article ( or the concluding paragraph), as well as the information that needs to come under each section.

If you are working with a word limit of say 1000 words, you can decide to write  150 words for the article opening, 800 words on the main body, and another 100 for writing the conclusion. Of course, its advisable to write the first draft of about 1200 to 1300 words, because as you improve the content during the editing stage, the word count will automatically be reduced.

Structuring the article before you begin writing will take you 25 to 30 minutes.

So you have by this time already spent 2 hours on your article.

Now, let’s begin writing.

STEP 4: WRITING – Write, Don’t Edit


It’s time to just write. Write as you think and speak.

The number one tip at this stage is to write as you think. Write as fast as you can type but keep referencing the base document to see the sub-points and the information you want under each point. Be careful as to not ‘copy-paste’ content from your base file.

As you write the first article draft, I highly recommend that you use a distraction-free text editor such as Write Box to help you write without distractions.

Here some additional tips on writing a business article:

1. Share the article purpose in the opening para: Write an engaging opening paragraph which indicates the central question the article is going to answer. In other words, why should someone read your blog? As an example, here’s an opening I wrote for an article on task delegation:

“Are you a star at delegating things to do in your business? Or are you one of the many small business owners who shy’s away from task delegation because you fear work won’t happen as expected, or that you won’t’ know how things are progressing once you have handed off the task?”

2. Include keywords: As you write, try to include the key phrase(s) where possible, but especially in the article opening paragraph, subheadings of the article, and within the content with a frequency of about 3 to 4 repetitions for every 400 to 500 words.

3. Include external and internal links: Add two to three hyperlinks to articles published on other reputed websites, as well as links to related content within your client’s website. When you add links, use relevant ‘anchor phrases’ to describe them. Instead of saying ‘click here for more information’, add the links within your text.

4. Encourage readers to take action: Close with a takeaway paragraph of what the reader should learn or the final thought you want to leave with the reader. For instance, you could invite readers to register for a monthly business newsletter, leave a comment on their own experiences/ knowledge of the topic, or fill the sales contact form.

5. U.S vs. U.K English: Write in U.S or U.K English depending on which country your client is based.

6. Write in active voice: Minimize the use of passive sentences, write in ‘active voice’ to the extent possible.

Writing a 1000 word article can take about 2 hours. At this stage, depending on your research and writing efficiency, you have already spent between 3 to 4 hours on your article.

STEP 5: EDITING – The Most Important Part of the Writing Process.


Editing is essential to producing a quality article, much like polishing a diamond to bring the shine.

Think of your article ( written so far) as a rough diamond that needs polishing. Spending considerable effort in editing an item is essential to producing quality work that will make your clients coming back for more.

Paste the content from the text file to an MSWord file. Read through the article you have written so far. I find that reading the content aloud yourself or using the ‘Read Aloud Speech’ feature under the Review tab in Microsoft Word, is helpful in identifying sentences that must be re-written or re-arranged to improve the article flow.

Once you are satisfied that the article flow is good, check your content on content editing tools such as Grammarly or  Hemingway App to improve readability. For instance, these apps can help identify passive sentences (which you may want to rephrase in an active voice), identify phrases with a more straightforward expression, or rectify the incorrect use of punctuation. You can reduce wordiness – for example ‘ you have to make a decision’ can be written more concisely as ‘ you must make a decision’.

Cross-check the effectiveness of the article header using tools such as Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer.  When you find yourself stuck for ideas on writing a compelling headline, try the blog title generator by SEOPressor.

Paying attention to the smallest details at the editing stage will make it a time-consuming process, but the end the result will be worth it. For a 1000 word article, I can easily spend an hour trying to edit and improve it. On the other hand, there is no end to the amount of editing you can do in an article. So beyond a point, you must decide if the present version of the article is good to go.  Before you publish your business article or submit it to the client, ensure that you do a plagiarism check. I prefer to use Copyscape.

So there you have it, my tell-all post on writing business articles, and would you know it, it also happens to be the longest post ever published on my blog.

Was the reading time worth it? Do leave your feedback in the comments below.


3 Rules for Writing Easy to Understand Online Content

It is a commonly accepted fact that the average internet reader scans an article/ blog for a few seconds before deciding to continue reading, or clicking the back-button. Therefore,  minimalist impactful writing is a must-have skill for an online content writer .

Photo: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.ne

When writing for the internet, less is more!

Unless otherwise asked by your client, the thumb rule of writing for the internet is to write content that is simple, concise, and has coherent paragraphing.

When writing a 400-500 word online article, you must pack in maximum information in the cleanest manner possible.

Here are three ground rules for ensuring that your content catches the reader’s attention.

Rule : I Get straight to the point: 

Credit: Michal Marcol, freedigitalphotos.net

photo : Michal Marcol, freedigitalphotos.net

  • Write a headline that clearly indicates information contained in the article.
  • Resist the temptation to write a quirky article headline.
  • Use the first few lines of the article to offer a quick glimpse into the focus of the article.
  • Do not waste time giving a lengthy introduction.
credit: digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net

photo: digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net


Rule : II Break it down into blocks of information

  • Use article sub-headings to divide your article into neat blocks of information. However, you must also ensure that the each section of the article seamlessly flows into the next.
  • Use bullet points, numbered lists where possible in sharing information with the reader.
  • Write small paragraphs of 2-3 sentences. No paragraph should be more than 4 lines on your MS Word document
  • Write short sentences. If any sentence goes beyond 2 typed lines, cut it down in the editing stage.
  • Write one thought per sentence. 

Rule : III Use everyday words

  • Write words used by your readers in everyday life. Avoid industry jargons and outdated words (e.g. herein, herewith, wherewithal).
  • Writing in active voice will help you express information in as few words, and as directly as possible.
  • Once you have written the article, spend considerable time editing the  ‘fluff’.

The art of writing and the mediums of expression have evolved considerably over the last few centuries.  However, the art of simplicity in writing has remained an essential hallmark of a successful writer. William Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit”. Sir Winston Churchill remarked, “This report by its very length defends itself against the risk of being read”. 

Do you agree that simplicity in expression is the way to go? Or, do you feel that the internet is diluting the English vocabulary?

Share your comments in the box below.

10 reasons to go freelance

10 Great things about being a freelancer, versus being employed by a company. So true!

Remember, if your work does not make you HAPPY 90% of the times….something’s got to change.

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do