After writing full time for four years, I’d still modestly consider myself a rookie writer. But just by advertising my articles on LinkedIn and Twitter—where I have a half decent following—occasionally younger, more inexperienced writers get in touch with me and ask me this question:
“How do I become a successful writer and get clients?”
It’s quite funny, actually; I remember torturing writer and writing coach Elna Cain with similar questions in the past.
“Elna, how can I become a better writer?”
“Elna, how can I earn money writing full time?”
“Elna, where can I bag myself clients regularly?”
Her answer was pretty clear, and that was to keep practicing my writing—practice even when I’m not working on a project—write even when I have no clients—and when I’m not writing … read.
I thought I wasn’t best qualified to answer the whole “How do I become a better writer and get more clients” question that was put to me. But I took a second and murmured to myself:
“Why shouldn’t I? I practice, don’t I? I have a solid few years of that in my locker? That’s pretty sound advice!”
I started off practicing my writing by opening up a Word document and jotting down anything that came to mind. Usually fiction, then later down the line, it was mental health topics, such as anxiety awareness.
Later, I sent some samples to local publications, and it led to volunteer opportunities with a local magazine. Then my work got noticed by a local business that required blog posting for their community-work website. It was small-time, but I never looked back.
I felt obliged to pass onward what simple but great advice I was taught.
So I responded with a brief message:
“Just practice. Write until you drop. That’s what I did. And when you’re not practicing writing—read.”
As we speak, my responsibilities as a writer involve basic search engine optimization, blog posts, resume writing, article writing for online publications, magazine writing, product descriptions, and transcript writing for different clients, agencies, and so on.
And boy do I love my job. But equally, it’s flamin’ hard.
Read and write consistently, every day. Start a blog, perhaps. Showcase your skills as much as possible, and it can result in some valuable gigs and clients coming your way over time.
When that moment comes, and you get your first writing project, you’ll be better equipped to produce great work by putting your practice to the test.
Chances are, if your work meets the criteria, they’ll hire you again or recommend you to other individuals or agencies out there seeking quality writers to produce content for their websites or social media platforms.
African American author Octavia E. Butler once said, “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
Here are just a few tips and techniques I learned practicing my writing skills by reading and writing, religiously.
Look Up the Definitions of Words to Develop a Better Vocab
A great way to become a more fluent, articulate writer is to become more familiar with words that are new to you.
When you’re not writing, you should be reading, remember?
That’s when you’ll encounter words you’ve never heard a bloody darn tell of before through articles, e-books, or printed books.
Look up the definition of that word, and write that shit down, pronto. Or just save it on a Word document. Keep adding and adding to that list; the more, the better.
The Learning Process
I spend hours upon hours reading articles (online mostly) and learning the meaning of words I’ve never heard of before. I feel stupid at the time, I won’t lie, but there’s really no shame in it.
If you’re learning, who cares, right? You’ll get there. We all have to learn at some point.
At the end of every day, I read over them with the intent of using them in my own work.
The more you read, the more exposure to a wider vocabulary you’ll have, which in turn will result in better quality in your own writing.
But a word of warning: Don’t try to overdo the “big words,” because you think it might make a better piece. It may look like you’re trying too hard. Keep it straightforward if you’re obligated to.
If a publication asks you to keep it simple, then keep it simple. Stick to their guidelines.
But it’s better to know the meaning of as many words as you can than not know them at all.
They will come in handy at some point. Knowledge is power.
Synonym the Hell out of That Word
Now that you’ve discovered these brilliant new words, you’re going to become unmasked to even newer words.
Let’s just say, for example, you’ve come across the word “insulted” … I know you’re most likely already aware of how to define this word, so I’m not insulting your intelligence (see what I did there?). I’m merely using it as an example.
Google this word’s synonyms and you’ll get a variety of other terms with a similar meaning, such as “aggrieved,” “offended,” “humiliated,” and so on.
Now you’ve been introduced to much more vocabulary than before. You’re learning fast this way. Go ahead and jot them down also, if you need to.
This is just another little technique I used in the early stages of learning my trade as a writer. Make good use of it.
Write Every Day, Not Just When You Feel Like It
At the beginning of my writing career, I made the mistake of writing only when I was in the mood; it doesn’t work like that. Well, it didn’t for me, at least.
Those clients won’t just land at your front porch, beating down your door with a battering ram. You’ve got to put in the work.
And that means practicing. Be ready.
They will expect nothing less than quality content. That is, of course, unless they’re paying you five bucks per 500-word article—which, in all honesty, isn’t really worth your time.
If you’re only writing one article per week, you’re not going to get considerably better at it, are you?
Well, OK, you might, but it will probably take years, and by that time, there are other writers who are overtaking you because they’re writing 10 times more than you are.
Their quality of work is going to be substantially better than yours, too, which puts them higher in the pecking order for the gig you just pitched for; and guess what?
They also have hundreds of more work samples to show off while you barely have jack shit.
While they’re practicing consistently throughout the week—you’re sitting there dwelling on whether or not you’re good enough to put words on paper. So don’t make that mistake.
Here are a few little writing practices and techniques that can enhance your writing skills:
- Poetry. Take an hour or two per week to write some short poetry; it can really get your creative writing juices flowing. A great workout for the brain.
- Start a story. Perhaps after work or on weekends—spend some time working on fiction or nonfiction. This can prepare you for longer projects, as you may someday be required to write 5,000–10,000 words. Or, if you want to write novels, even better.
- Start an A–Z list. Pick a word starting with “A.” For example, “ambidextrous.” Write a short paragraph, and try to include this word two or three times. Then go on to “B” … and so on. This can really help you with search engine optimization skills, blog posts, and product descriptions.
Make sure to write every single day whether you’re in a good mood, bad mood, or somewhere in the middle. It shouldn’t matter. Practice.
When You’re Not Writing, Read a Lot, and When You Get to That Point, Do Some More
Perhaps it’s search engine optimization you’re into?
Read product descriptions from different global manufacturer websites like Sony and Panasonic, where they may use keywords, or from successful entrepreneurs who use them in their blog posts to enhance their niche website’s Google ranking.
Open up another Word document, and take notes. Bullet points will do just fine. Observe how and when to use keywords; work out when to not overuse the word and when exactly you should use it.
Or maybe you want to become a professional blogger?
Then try reading blog posts such as Harsh Agrawal’s content, where he gives some great tips and advice on how to be a successful blogger.
Check out the structure of his blog posts, the links he’s added, and how engaging his writing is to his readers.
See what I mean? Excellent job. You’re smashing it, already.
When you’re not writing, read as much as possible. Continue to learn, and you will grow as a writer.
You Got This
Write, and write some more on top of that. Until your hands hurt. Read as much as possible, until your eyes water.
Combine them both as a duo—like Bonnie and Clyde, Batman and Robin, or Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Like a package.
Sharpen your writing tools—razor sharp. There’s always room for improvement no matter what. Never stop learning. Always remember, practicemakesperfect.