One of the great things about being a freelance writer is there’s no right or wrong way to do things. As long as you deliver excellent work on time consistently, it doesn’t matter if you write in your underwear while listening to death metal. All that matters is you find a process that enables you to thrive.
Personally, I’m a stickler for routines. I’m not talking about what I eat or what I listen to while working either. What I think matters is finding a creative process that works for you and boiling it down to a routine you can follow for all your work.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through what my writing process looks like, from the moment I get an assignment to when I submit it. That way, you’ll have an idea what a day in the life of a freelance writer and blogger looks like. Let’s get to it!
Step #1: Come Up With an Idea and Outline It
Some clients will tell you exactly what they want you to write about. However, when it comes to freelance blogging, you’ll notice plenty of people want you to submit your own ideas as well. Personally, I prefer the latter approach. That way, I get more control over the topics I write about, so I can make sure I don’t tackle things that are outside of my area of expertise. Moreover, it helps me provide more value to clients. After all, if they don’t have to come up with topic ideas, that’s one more reason why it makes sense to keep me around.
Everyone tackles the “coming up with an idea” part of the process differently. What I do is take a look at what other similar blogs and communities are talking about, and try to figure out if they’re missing anything important. Once I do that, I come up with a title idea for that potential article and then flesh it out with an outline. In case you’ve never outlined an article, here’s how I do it:
- Break down the sections you want to include in your article.
- Come up with titles for each section.
- Make brief notes covering all the major ideas you want to hit within each section.
- Write a draft of your introduction and conclusion for the piece.
A lot of people think it’s a waste of time to write your introductions and conclusions ahead of time. Personally, doing so helps me figure out the angle I want to tackle for each article. Moreover, having an outline already approved by a client makes my job much simpler since I don’t have to waste time figuring out what to write about, which brings me to the next section.
Step #2: Write a Draft
This is arguably the hardest part of the freelance writing process. At this stage, I have a topic idea a client approved, a detailed outline breaking down all the plot points I want to hit, and a cup of coffee by my side. All that’s left is to sit down and get to work, but that’s easier said than done.
Every freelance writer has their own way of doing things. Instead of just telling you to sit down and get it done, I’ll give you a brief overview of how I do things, which will hopefully give you some ideas to help you focus:
- I try to get started on work around the same time every day, to build a routine.
- Minimize the number of distractions so I can get more done in less time.
- Use the Pomodoro method to help me work uninterrupted during at least 25 mins at a time.
- Don’t stop to answer texts or emails I get while I’m in the middle of writing.
I know my process sounds painfully generic, but it works for me. The Pomodoro method, in particular, is a lifesaver since I get distracted easily. While I’m in the middle of a Pomodoro, the only things I pay attention to are my outline on the left side of the screen, and my writing app on the right. When I finish each sprint, I check out how many words I managed to write, and I try to beat that score to make a game out of it.
Step #3: Edit and Format Your Draft
By now, the hard part is over. The first draft of your article is done, and it shouldn’t have taken too long. Now, all that is left is to give it a few passes to make sure it doesn’t suck before you submit it.
For me, the submission process involves uploading articles to my client’s blogs, making sure I catch all the mistakes I can, and formatting them using the WordPress editor. A while ago, we published an article about how to format content in WordPress, so check it out if you can. If you’re pressed for time, here are the basics:
- Use subheadings to separate each section in your article.
- Develop a consistent format for the images you use and remember to add meta descriptions and alt text to them.
- Don’t be shy about using lists and block quotes whenever you can to break up long chunks of text.
The most valuable advice I can give you for this part of the process is to triple check every article you submit. There will always be an error or two you might miss, but you don’t want to be the guy that makes silly grammatical errors all the time. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Grammarly app, which helps me catch small stuff, but if you’re more detail oriented, you might not need any help with this.
Step #4: Submit the Article for Review
At this stage, all that’s left is to submit whatever I (or you) wrote for review and wait for feedback. For me, this process involves saving the posts I write as drafts on my client’s WordPress setups and waiting for them to approve and schedule them.
The review process can be a bit passive on your end, but you still need to pay close attention to any feedback you get from clients. If they didn’t like something you did, take notes so you don’t make the same error down the line. In a way, their feedback enables you to refine your freelance writing process and become more effective over time.
When it comes down to it, every job can be boiled down to a handful of processes. Some are, of course, more complex than others. Freelance writing requires you to be detail-oriented, well versed in one or several niches, and disciplined. If you have a routine laid out, all that work becomes much simpler.
As for how I do it, here are the four main steps to my writing and publishing process:
- Come up with an idea and outline it.
- Write a draft.
- Edit and format your draft.
- Submit the article for review.
Do you have any questions about how to improve your freelance writing process? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!