The 4 Traits You Need to Make a Living Writing

There’s a lot of advice out there about getting started in freelance writing, but I think most books and ebooks skip over one of the fundamental steps to success: Before quitting your job and jumping into freelance writing, a would-be writer would be wise to take an honest look at their personality and history to assess whether they have the skills to be successful.

I’m not talking about “Do you write well?” Many freelance writers string words together beautifully, but they still can’t manage to make more than a few thousand a year with their writing.

Here are some of the other talents, besides writing, that I believe you need to make a good living as a freelance writer:

• Self-discipline. If you were left alone at your house all day, would you research topics, conduct interviews, write articles and turn them in on deadline, or would you watch TV and empty the refrigerator? If you don’t have the drive to focus on your business during your business hours, you will not make a good income.

• Willing to sell yourself. Are you willing to write query letters, research markets, respond to job ads, and do in-person and on-line marketing of your business, each and every week? Successful freelancers constantly market themselves. If that makes you feel uncomfortable, it would probably be hard to make freelance writing pay well.

• Willing to deal with rejection. Successful freelancers constantly look for new clients and try to break in with new editors. Even when you’re fully booked, you still look for better clients so you can swap them in and drop poorer-paying ones. That’s how writers progress to where they’re earning really substantial sums. If sending a query letter and not ever getting an answer makes you need to curl up in a ball on your couch and eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every time, freelance writing will not make you richer – just fatter. Pros send dozens of queries and resumes a month and know that maybe one of them will pay off, and they’re fine with it. It’s just business.

• Willing to say “no.” Do you have a hard time turning work offers down, no matter how wretched the pay or conditions? If so, you would be in real trouble as a freelance writer, especially in the Web 2.0 era. There are many opportunities to write for almost nothing these days. If you have trouble setting healthy boundaries with people, especially employers, freelance writing won’t end up being lucrative for you.

So – what do you think? Are you cut out for freelance writing? Did I leave out any other important traits you need to succeed? Comment and let me know.