I started writing content for websites in 2017. I wanted another stream of income and since I love to write, I figured monetizing my skill as a writer was a good path to take.
I started on Upwork and after months of failed attempts and experiments, I had the following realizations: one, content writing is worlds apart from literary writing. Two, putting the number of literary publications you’ve had on your profile and proposals doesn’t help in getting you a project. Still, these two worlds can positively impact one another. Drawn from my experience, here are five ways freelancing can improve your creative writing.
1. You work with deadlines
Deadlines are one of the biggest benefits of joining the Upwork platform. I want to keep my clients happy and my profile free from bad reviews, so I get to work as soon as a contract is activated. I must finish a 500-1000 word article in 12-36 hours depending on the complexity of the topic and the amount of research required. This business-like approach to writing has increased my short story publications in literary journals because I set a deadline for submitting a story and I meet that deadline, no matter what.
2. You learn to start writing immediately
Thanks to freelance writing, writer’s block is no longer an issue for me. A freelancer in a competitive marketplace can’t complain about writer’s block—they have to write content for a client as agreed. With each contract, I get started immediately. It may be just a few notes on a notepad or some scribbles on a sheet, but this process helps me brainstorm on the things I know before venturing into the unknown.
My first draft is clumsy. A content article has an introduction, a body of subheadings, and a conclusion. Depending on the type of content, I begin either from the introduction or the body of the article. Sometimes I write in bits and pieces, then rearrange them into a coherent article. I do this because I can’t afford to spend time waiting for the entire article to come together in my head.
The first drafts of my short stories are hardly ever coherent. I rarely have a clear direction of where the story is headed but that doesn’t bother me. My aim is to write whatever comes to mind and see where the train of thought goes.
3. You can write about anything
Freelancing requires that I be prepared to write about anything; travel, fashion, tech, health, gadgets, food, SEO practices, you name it. My success is determined by my research.
As an African writer, this has expanded the themes I address in short story writing. I don’t have to write about civil wars, corrupt leaders, and HIV epidemics. I can write about anything.
4. You appreciate lean language
In content writing, the length of articles determines your success engaging and converting readers. An ideal piece ranges from 500-1000 words. Between the first and second drafts, I do lots of editing, cutting, and rephrasing. Content writing has made me value the art of saying more with fewer words. It has also helped me foster a love (and a flair for) flash fiction.
5. You come to welcome feedback
Content writing has made me appreciate feedback from clients. When I was a writer for my school’s paper, I always argued with my mentors when they cut out my favorite sentences. I dreaded edits and feedback. Freelancing has made me value and appreciate helpful critique. I send in a draft and listen to my clients’ opinions and suggestions. I know that by listening, I can write better content that will take us closer to achieving our common goal of converting readers.
Although most literary journal editors hardly give feedback on rejected pieces, you can send your work to mentors and colleagues to critique. Creative writing workshops are also great places to receive constructive feedback.
Boost your own creative work
I encourage creative writers to start freelancing, even if it’s part time. Apart from increasing income, you can crystallize powerful routines and habits that will improve your success as a literary writer.
Did you enjoy exploring the ways freelancing can improve your creative writing? You might also like these blogs on freelancing.