3 Simple Ways to Instantly Improve Your Freelance Writing

Man working at desk in home office
Hero Images/Getty Images

Freelancers are, most likely, already decent writers. If you’re writing for a living then you’re clearly doing at least something right. But stagnation is a dangerous game, and the best writers know that constantly sharpening their skills is the best way to ensure continued success. With that being said, even the most seasoned writers might easily gloss over some seemingly obvious steps to take to improve their writing, so here are three easy ways to improve your freelance writing today:

Invest More Time in Researching

Did you know that if you scroll down on Google searches — or even click onto the second page — there is actually a wealth of content? It’s true. Unfortunately, far too many freelancers spend all of five seconds doing “research” before getting started on their writing. It’s easy to gloss over the first few results on a Google search and think, “Welp, nothing’s here” before moving on to another search with more basic (and often more boring) keywords.

Spend some quality time browsing around for legitimate articles that can actually improve the quality of your writing. Whether you’re poking through obnoxious articles or looking up info from academic journals on Google Scholar, you’re investing in perspective. Even if you’ve read through an article and chalked it up to utter shit, you now know what not to write. Don’t give up here and simply retry your search with broader and less interesting verbiage, but rather take this dead end as an opportunity to rethink the way you approach a search and try to go deeper.

Listen to Criticism

Feedback is a good thing and something you’ll almost certainly receive if you’re turning in work to an editor or in any other similar arrangement. Good, honest criticism is the best way to improve as a writer… as long as you listen to it.

It always surprises me just how many people in the workforce revert into oversized children when even the slightest bit of constructive criticism is flung their way.

Criticism isn’t always correct; there’s something to be said for sticking to your guns and going with your gut. But if you’re in a position where constructive criticism is offered, why not at least consider it? There’s no need to take criticism personally because it’s not personal. If there’s one common trait among the absolute best, most reliable freelancers out there, it’s a shared ability to recognize mistakes, learn from them, and do it better next time.

Use and Attribute Legitimate Sources

If you’re reading this, then you probably write for a living. And if you write for a living, you’re probably well aware of the importance of attribution. Yet surprisingly, I come across a staggering amount of writers who will make a claim in their work without ever sourcing a word of it.

“Company X, the leader in sales of X in the entire world did blah blah blah the other day.”

According to whom? Are you scouring through Company X’s quarterlies and comparing them to every other business in that market all by yourself? I thought not.

There’s nothing wrong with fact-filled articles, just cite your sources. If Company X really is the leader in sales of X, then what’s so difficult about slapping a quick attribution on the beginning/end?

“According to X Magazine Monthly, Company X, is the leader in sales of X in the entire world.”

Ah, much better.

If you can’t find and cite a source for your claims, then they don’t belong in your writing. Even if you can't find a compelling way to cite a generally well-known notion, you can work your way around this with some simple rewording. Here, watch:

Sitting here writing this, I personally have no idea if more Americans drink Starbucks Coffee than any other coffee franchise. Let’s say I’m working on an article and want to portray the market dominance of Starbucks, but can’t find any solid evidence that Starbucks is indeed the most popular coffeehouse in America. I can still get my point across by saying something like:

“Starbucks is debatably the most popular coffee shop in America — there’s one on damn near every street corner in the country.”

That sentence works because I’m not claiming any specific fact. I’m asserting personal opinion by conceding that “most popular” is “debated,” and also making a hyperbolic statement that is clearly said in jest. Any idiot knows there isn’t literally a Starbucks on every street corner, but we’re all familiar with just how many franchises are packed into a given area.