Are you struggling with how to get more freelance writing work?
I’ve been there. When I decided to take my freelance writing side hustle and turn it into a business, the pressure to grow my income was high.
I had just become a single parent and I needed my hustle to become enough of a money-maker to support myself and my two kids.
So I started applying to gigs on job boards, cold pitching and growing my network. I was starting to gain traction but it took a few months for me to realize that if I wanted to get more consistency with writing jobs, then I needed to focus on one big thing: building relationships with the editors I worked with.
Why Editors Can Be the Key to Getting More Freelance Writing Work
A great editor can help you hone your ideas and sharpen your writing skills, so you’re consistently producing top-quality work. They can offer advice and encouragement, which let’s face it, every freelancer needs from time to time.
And building relationships with the right editors is especially important if you’re trying to become a six-figure writer.
For one thing, if an editor loves your work then what might have started out as a one-off job can turn into a recurring gig.
Editors have a hard job, which is why I have never ventured into editing. And when you can make that job easier for them, they appreciate and remember it.
And even if a one-time gig doesn’t turn into anything else, editors can still help you grow your freelance writing career in other ways. That includes referring you to other clients and opening doors that you might not be able to on your own.
I’ve gotten more than a few introductions and a boatload of freelance writing work because an editor I’ve worked with connected me with one of their colleagues or recommended me to one of their other clients. Those referrals have played a big part in growing my income over the years.
But how do you get to work with those great editors and build those kinds of relationships?
It starts with being the kind of freelancer that editors want to work with.
And if you don’t know what that involves, I want to help you out. Here’s how to catch–and keep–an editor’s attention so you never run out of freelance writing work.
How to Be a Freelance Writer That Editors Love
1. Hit your deadlines
This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. One of the most basic rules of being a freelancer is turning your work in on time.
Editors have deadlines for a reason. When your story’s late, that can throw off the entire editorial schedule.
Miss enough deadlines and your editor may decide they’re better off replacing you with another writer who’s more reliable. Not only that, but you can probably kiss a referral to another editor goodbye.
Hitting your deadlines is non-negotiable if you want to project a professional image and cultivate good relationships with your editors. If it’s something you struggle with, then you probably need to reevaluate how you manage your workload and time.
In my freelance business, I use an old school paper planner to manage my workflow. I add assignments to the calendar as they come in.
Each week, I put a sticky note on the calendar showing what has to be done for the week. That covers writing assignments, who I need to pitch and any emails or invoices I need to spend.
As I work through the week, I check things off the list. It’s a basic system but it works for me because I can see at a glance when my next story is due.
I also try to front-load my week and work ahead of my deadlines so by Thursday or Friday, I just have one or two things left and I can take weekends off.
If you prefer to manage your workload online, you can’t go wrong with Trello or Asana. Personally, I’m partial to Trello. A couple of my clients use it to manage their writing teams and I use it to keep tabs of stuff I’m working on for this site.
Regardless of which system you use, pick one and stick with it. Your editors will appreciate getting your stories on time and you’ll appreciate how much less stressful it is to manage your schedule.
And the payoff for your efforts is more freelance writing work, which means more writing income for you.
2. Know your client
Here’s a simple freelance writing truth: every client is different and every project is different. If you want to make your editor’s life (and your own) easier, it pays to know exactly what the client wants you to deliver from day one.
It’s time-consuming for your editor to have to send stories back for revisions and it’s frustrating for you, especially if the client doesn’t pay for edits. That just means more time spent, dragging down your hourly rate.
So, how do you avoid that kind of thing and continue getting freelance writing work from your editors?
Read the style guidelines.
Then reread them. This is particularly important if you’re working with a highly visible brand because you don’t want your work to be a mismatch for their content strategy.
The style guidelines can tell you what kind of tone and voice the client prefers, and which grammar and usage rules to follow. Don’t assume that if the client uses AP style, they’re following it exactly to the letter. I’ve worked with lots of clients that tweak the rules here and there to fit their brand.
Don’t guess about something. Guessing wrong could result in headaches for you and your editor if your work misses the mark.
Don’t overload them with questions, though. Asking too many questions can give off the wrong vibe. You don’t want your editor to think that you haven’t researched the client or that you have no clue what you’re doing.
Read the client’s content.
Unless you’re working for a brand-new client who has zero content on their website or blog, take time to read what they’ve already published.
This can give you a feel for their brand voice and it can also help you avoid duplicating content, which is a freelance writer mistake you want to avoid.
3. Get to know the editor’s style
Every editor has their own personality and style that influences everything from how they shape stories to how they communicate. Getting to know their individual quirks or preferences can make your working relationship flow more smoothly.
For instance, I have one editor that has a very specific way they like quotes to be structured. I have another that’s a big fan of including real-life examples in stories. Yet another editor I work with is particular about how subheads are worded.
They’re all different but I’ve learned to adapt to fit their individual molds. The more you interact with an editor, the more accustomed you become to how they work and what they expect.
Pro tip: When you work with one editor long enough, you start to feel a little like a mind-reader.
That’s huge and it can completely change the dynamic of your relationship. When you both “get” each other, you feel more like a team working together than just a writer working for an editor.
Being on the same page is also a confidence-booster. If you want to be a writer that editors send a consistent stream of freelance writing work to, there’s no room for self-doubt or second-guessing.
My best editor relationships are with editors who encourage open communication and offer a constant stream of feedback. In learning what they expect, I’ve gotten more comfortable with pitching ideas and I don’t cringe from criticism.
Instead, I’ve learned how to look at it objectively and use it to make my writing better.
4. Be responsive
Editors don’t want to have to chase you down. If they email you with a question or send a story back for revisions, they expect you to get back to them in a reasonable amount of time.
My personal rule is to answer editor emails the same day, or the next day at the latest. I don’t like to be left hanging so I try not to do it myself. And my editors always seem to appreciate how quickly I respond.
Responsiveness is more than just answering emails, though. It’s also in how you respond and what that adds to the conversation.
Say your editor emails you to ask a fact-checking question about a story. You send back a short message with link showing where you got your information from.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that response. You’ve given the editor the information they need. But if they have to dig around on the site to find it, you’ve just created more work for them.
Any time an editor asks for clarification about something, I try to give them as much detail as possible to fully answer their questions.
This does two things: it tells them I’m taking their request seriously and it cuts down on back-and-forth emailing, which just wastes time.
If you’re a busy freelancer, you have to make every second count. Wasting time could cost you freelance writing work opportunities in the long run.
5. Follow directions
This seems obvious but it’s a reminder that writers sometimes need, myself included.
If an editor assigns you a 2,000-word story, with a minimum of three expert sources quoted, don’t turn in a 1,500-word piece with one source.
When you’re including data in a story, make sure you’ve cited it properly. Don’t cut corners if your editor tells you to include a specific keyword a certain number of times.
Following directions is something they start teaching in kindergarten and it’s a skill you still need as an adult. Turning in work that clearly doesn’t match up to what your editor asked for or the client expects won’t do you any favors.
This goes back to knowing what the client wants and reading those style guidelines. Remember, you’re writing for the client and their readers, not for yourself.
Bottom line, you don’t want to get a reputation for being a writer who doesn’t listen. You want to be the writer that an editor can count on to nail the assignment the first time.
That’s the writer who gets rewarded with more freelance writing work.
6. Don’t flake out
I get it.
Sometimes things happen and it totally screws up your work routine.
You need to get an expert quote for a story on a tight deadline and you’ve got zero leads. You forgot about a story and now you’re in a time crunch to get it done. Your computer conks out when you’ve got edits due in the next three hours.
Been there, done all of that. So what do you do when life decides to hijack your day?
There are two ways to respond. First, you can panic and delete all your editor’s emails, block them on social media and hope they forget you ever existed.
(Hint: This is not what you want to do.)
Freelancing is big business but it’s a small world and editors talk. Blowing off an assignment and disappearing means you don’t have to deal with that particular editor anymore but don’t surprised if you eventually meet up with someone who’s heard how you ghosted out on them.
And you know what that means? No more freelance writing work from the editor you blanked on or from anyone they might have introduced you to.
The other way to go might seem harder but it’s the right move if you’re not trying to burn bridges with your editor. It’s simply this: reach out, let them know what’s going on and ask for more time.
Will filing a story late win you brownie points? Not necessarily.
But keeping your editor dialed in to what’s happening shows that you’re a professional and that you respect them enough not to bail out.
And if you do end up flaking, offer an explanation. Don’t be afraid to admit that you panicked or that an assignment was more than you could handle.
Being honest may not repair the damage to your working relationship but it keeps your editor from wondering what happened.
7. Remember that they’re human
Editors can be intimidating. You want them to like you and your writing. You don’t want to screw up and make a mistake.
The thing is, editors are people too. And if you’re going to build a solid relationship with your editors, you have to treat them like people, not all-powerful gatekeepers who control your success.
You still need to follow the basic rules for professional etiquette, of course. But it’s okay to be personable, friendly and approachable with the people you work with.
I have a couple of editors that I’ve gotten to know on a more personal level. We’ve never met but we’ve exchanged emails that cover things beyond writing, like marriages and deaths, vacation plans and the day-to-day struggles of parenting.
I can have these kinds of conversations because I’ve spent time getting to know them and because I genuinely like working with them. I like hearing about the little snippets of their life they share and I hope they like hearing about mine.
You can’t expect an editor to be your bestie but you can talk about more than writing. Just remember to draw the line on TMI. If you’re not sure whether something’s appropriate to talk about with your editor, you’re probably better off keeping it to yourself.
Are You Ready to Start Getting More Freelance Writing Work?
There’s no magic bullet for getting ahead as a freelancer but setting the right tone with your editors is a step in the right direction. The relationship you have with just one editor can have a major influence on where your career takes you and how much freelance writing work you end up with.
These seven tips can help you land at the top of your editor’s favorite freelancers list, and stay there.
Do you have a tip or strategy that’s helped you cultivate solid editor relationships? Sound off in the comments!
And don’t forget to share this post if it helped you!