5 Skills You Need to Succeed as a Freelance Writer in 2020

Michael Leonard


If you’re like most people, you probably think that you have to be a world-class writer to get paid to write words online.

But it’s just not true.

I’m here to break that myth so that you can start, or grow, your own writing business.

Because in two shorts years, I’ve earned over $100,000 as a part-time freelance writer. That means no commute, no boss, and no pointless meetings like I had in the 9-5 life.

But when I started in early 2018, I was an okay writer at best. I just forced myself to succeed through sheer willpower and grit.

I couldn’t fail… again.

The previous eight months were a colossal failure. I had already quit my six-figure job, my blog was failing, and I was starting to rack up credit card debt.

The whole “laptop lifestyle” dream that I wanted to achieve was more like a living nightmare. I was working 70 hours a week (or more), stressed out, in my room alone questioning everything.

It definitely wasn’t sandy beaches and a laptop that printed money like an ATM.

But when I pivoted from blogging to freelance writing, everything changed.

I started to make consistent money, paid down debt, and worked 50% fewer hours. Instead of worrying if I ever had to go back to a soul-sucking 9-5, I started using my energy to find ways to scale my online business.

Now, with two to five clients per month, I never have to worry about going back to the corporate grind. So if you’re reading this and waiting until your writing is “good enough”, you might never get in the game.

Here are five skills that will help you succeed, even if you don’t think you’re good enough at writing.

Willingness to Learn

I’m obsessed with learning.

In a few shorts years of entrepreneurship, I have invested more than $30,000 in my business and personal development. I’ve bought countless online courses, hired coaches, read 100+ books, went to workshops, attended live events, and joined masterminds.

My willingness to learn is why I was able to 10X my monthly income in 12 months as a writer and earn $20,050 in my 20th month as a writer.

By investing in myself, I drastically sped up the learning curve. It’s not to say I didn’t ever struggle along the way (because I did) but it just accelerated the process. The quote that has guided me to keep investing in myself was from Tony Robbins, who said, “success always leaves clues.”

So, instead of trying to learn everything on your own, instead, learn from the people who are doing what you want to do.

There were three investments that really helped me with freelance writing specifically.

  • An SEO course.
  • Benjamin Hardy, Ph.D., online mastermind.
  • A freelance writing course from a six-figure writer.

Each of these investments in myself forced me to learn a ton of new skills instead of mindlessly watching free YouTube videos and reading blog posts. This immersion and obsession with learning helped me create results much quicker than trying to figure it out on my own.

Within a matter of months, I learned how to create writing samples, pitch clients, raise my rates, and start empowering routines.

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” — Brian Herbert

Strong Work Ethic

The second skill that is necessary to become successful as a freelancer is a strong work ethic.

Doing so much work in the personal development field, both in my life and for my clients, I’ve learned a lot about manifesting, the law of attraction, and energy. And while it’s hard to debate science, understanding these concepts alone won’t make you become a great writer and help you land clients.

Instead, you need a combination of being the right person and doing the right things. This is known as the BE-DO-HAVE model.

Whenever you want to achieve something, most people start by doing more. While you need to do stuff, you also need to be the right type of person to have the results that you want in life.

Hustling alone isn’t enough.

While I’m not a fan of “hustling” anymore, you still need to get out there and do the work. No amount of sitting around on the couch imagining five-figure writing months will magically attract clients.

You still have to put yourself out there, develop your skills, build a writing website, pitch clients, and repeat the process.

Remember, the last six letters of attraction are A-C-T-I-O-N.

While I 100% believe in co-creating your destiny and using your mind for success, you need to get in the game. Get off the sidelines, and put yourself in the action to start getting the results you want.

“Developing a good work ethic is key. Apply yourself at whatever you do, whether you’re a janitor or taking your first summer job, because that work ethic will be reflected in everything you do in life.” — Tyler Perry

Growth Mindset

Failure is inevitable when you venture into entrepreneurship and freelancing.

This isn’t just with writing either. Any time you attempt anything new, whether a new job, a new sport, or a hobby, you are bound to fail along the way.

The most successful people that you look up to in any part of life simply failed the most and the fastest. But if you don’t have the right mindset, you will never allow yourself to fail in the first place.

Carol Dweck talks about the two types of mindset in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology for Success.” As she said, there are two types of mindset; a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.

With a fixed mindset, you’re making it nearly impossible to succeed. As Dweck said:

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success — without effort.”

As you can imagine, with a fixed mindset, you think you’re either a good writer or you’re not. You give yourself no room to improve and evolve into a great writer.

When I first started writing online, I had zero talent! I even had people comment on my blog and tell me to stop writing because I was so bad.

But I refused to quit. I always knew I would figure it out and had the growth mindset to allow myself to fall, get back up, and try again.

My skills are 100% developed over time, none of this came naturally to me, so don’t feel bad if you don’t think you’re a natural either.

As long as you have the right mindset and patience to see it through, you will succeed.

With a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities develop through consistency and dedication. These people believe that brains and talent are just the starting point of success.

They feel they can always improve, even if they don’t succeed in the beginning. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for achieving greatness.

This was one of the first books I ever read when beginning my entrepreneurial journey, and helped me learn to reframe failure. Not only will this skill help you in freelancing, but it will help you in every area of your life.

When you reframe failure, anything becomes possible.

“In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow here’s a chance to grow.”
— Carol Dweck

Thick Skin

How would you feel if someone told you that your writing was terrible?

Or that your pitch was unreadable? Or that you should just quit this whole writing thing?

If you’re like most people, hearing negative statements about your work hurts the ego. I know it did for me when I got started.

I can’t tell you how many times I questioned everything I was doing because of negative feedback from people online or editors I pitched.

But thanks to my positive mindset, I persevered and believed in myself — even when no one else did.

So if you want to make money writing and learn to become a great writer in a short amount of time, you need to love getting feedback. This is one of the fastest ways to improve!

Yet, I see so many writers avoid asking for feedback or get down on themselves when editors ask for edits. It’s important not to personalize any feedback, and to learn from your mistakes.

Remember, with a growth mindset you will learn how to take feedback and use it to improve your writing skills.

“I have pretty thick skin, and I think if you’re going to be in this business, if you’re going to be an actor or a writer, you better have a thick skin.” — John Irving


The beginning of any journey is always the most difficult.

It usually feels like the world is against you when in reality, it’s just the universe testing to see how bad you really want it.

Whether you’re learning a new sport, starting a new job, or developing a new skill like freelancing, the ones who persevere are the ones who succeed.

I can almost promise at some point in the early stages that you’ll want to quit.

  • Maybe you’re striking out on landing clients (or not hearing anything).
  • Maybe editors are sending tons of edits your way.
  • Or, maybe your biggest client fires you.

All of these events have happened to me and a lot more negative events, but I just kept going. I could’ve thrown in the towel more times than I can count, but I always believed it in it working out in the end.

Remember, you’re only one client away from changing your life and business forever. One client from Instagram led to over $35,000 in 2019 and helped double my revenues.

You just never know what can happen. But if you quit, you’ll only have regret about not knowing what could have been.

Just keep going, learn your lessons, and stay persistent and consistent to give yourself time to let the magic happen.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”
— John Quincy Adams

Final Thoughts

You might read this and think, why didn’t he mention being a good writer?

Because thinking you have to be a good writer before you can land writing jobs and get paid is a losing mentality.

You’re setting yourself up to fail with this attitude.

Sure, you need to be able to write decent content, but you don’t have to be an expert by any means. So many businesses and blog owners want to outsource stuff like this and need your skills.

But if you get caught up worrying if you’re “good enough” (which is completely arbitrary), you will likely never get started in the first place.

It’s the chicken and the egg theory.

If you had to be an outstanding writer before you landed writing gigs, how would you actually become a good writer?

Being great at anything comes from doing it over and over again.

Each month, I’m still getting better after 4+ years of blogging, and freelance writing online. Don’t forget, it’s a process, not something that happens overnight.

Stay persistent and consistent. As Malcolm Gladwell said, “10,000 hours to perfection.”

I promise good writing will follow, but don’t let it hold you back from ever getting started and letting the world see your gifts.

**Photo by Syda_Productions on Deposit Photos

Comments / 0

Published by

My name is Michael Leonard and I am the creator of Inspire Your Success. I'm on a mission to help readers build online writing businesses and quit their jobs to live a life of freedom!

Scottsdale, AZ

More from Michael Leonard

Comments / 0