10 Questions That Reveal Your Chances of Freelance Writing Success

Earlier this week, I had a new freelance writer ask me how much writers earn and how long it takes them to start earning. Unfortunately, industry averages don’t tell you anything about how you will do as a freelancer.

But I mentioned that in my experience mentoring freelance writers, I’ve discovered there are some basic factors that are strong predictors of freelance-writing success.

What are your odds of earning big? Take this quiz and find out:

My 10-point Freelance Writer’s Success Forecasting Quiz

Rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 for each of these points.

  1. Motivation. Successful freelance writers are internally motivated to work on their business. How driven are you to make a success of your freelance writing career? For instance, do you find yourself blowing off TV because you want to work on your freelance goals, and that it’s easy to psych up for marketing your writing?
    1=I’m not driven
    2=I kinda maybe want it a little
    3=Yeah, I want it
    4=I really want to make this to happen. Not kidding.
    5=I’m all fired up
  2. Available time. How much time do you have to devote to launching your freelance writing career?
    1=Only an hour or two a week
    2=I could stop watching TV and gain 8 hours right there
    3=I’ve got 10-15 hours I could free up
    4=I could do it at least half-time
    5=I can go at it full time
  3. Self-confidence. How confident are you in your abilities as a writer? How do you feel about putting yourself out there and marketing your writing?
    1=I’m very insecure
    2=Not exactly bursting with self-confidence here
    3=I’m not totally down on myself
    4=I think I’m OK
    5=Damn, I’m good
  4. Flexibility. Are you willing to explore any and all types of writing that might pay the bills, or are you only willing to pursue a specific type such as writing for national consumer magazines?
    1=I just want to do one kind of writing — and it’s on my own blog
    2=I could maybe blog for other people, too
    3=I could probably write blogs and articles
    4=I could see mixing in some copywriting or tech writing if it paid better
    5=I’m totally open to exploring whatever writing opportunities might pay the bills
  5. Other options. Do you have other means of putting food on the table — a career you could resume, or a spouse earning a decent income?
    1=independently wealthy
    2=spouse makes enough to cover our bills
    3=I have a day job now so I could just keep it
    4=I could maybe work part-time on the side
    5=no other way to feed the family — I totally have to make this happen!
  6. Fianancial resources. Do you have the money to invest a little in the tools and learning you might need to succeed in freelance writing?
    1=I am basically out of cash
    2=If Demand Studios paid a day late I’d be out on the street
    3=I’m just scraping by
    4=I’ve got a little extra cash to put into this
    5=Money is no object
  7. Positive feedback. Are you someone who always got A’s in creative writing or English? Have you won writing contests, or had others praise your work?
    1=No strokes yet
    2=I got good grades in writing
    3=There was that one writing contest I won
    4=I’ve had more than one person tell me I should write professionally
    5=I’ve won me some awards
  8. Education. Have you ever studied English, journalism, creative writing, copywriting, or marketing?
    1=no education in this area
    2=I took a writing class once in college
    3=I got a university extension certificate
    4=I earned an A.A. degree
    5=I have a B.A. degree or higher
  9. Pro writing experience. Have you ever written for pay before, either as a freelancer or staffer?
    1=I have no previous clips
    2=I’ve written for mills only
    3=I’ve got a couple of clips
    4=I have a small portfolio of clips from a few different markets
    5=I’m an experienced, paid writer
  10. Business experience. Have you ever had your own home-based business before, or helped manage a business for someone else?
    1=No previous business experience
    2=I’ve sold Girl Scout Cookies
    3=I’ve helped manage a company before
    4=I had another successful home-based business in the past
    5=Serial entrepreneur

Key:

1-20 points — There are some serious obstacles to your getting a good-paying freelance writing career going, especially in the short term.

21-34 points — You have some assets as a freelancer, but there are some potential roadblocks here, too. You will probably need some time to gradually build your income.

35-50 points — You’ve got a lot going for you as a freelance writer. You ought to be able to ramp up your earnings fairly quickly.

Are there other traits that are essential to freelance-writing success? Tell us your theory on what it takes to make it.

8-ball photo: Stock.xchng – ZoofyTheJi

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19 comments on “10 Questions That Reveal Your Chances of Freelance Writing Success
  1. Dee says:

    Thank you Carol! I recently discovered your blog and I’m thrilled to have such a resource for the dazed and confused newbies! My day job pay was recently cut by half. I’ve been debating if I should take this opportunity to get my freelance career going, but I’ve had my doubts about whether I have what it takes to pull it off. This quiz was exactly what I needed. I answered modestly but still came in with a 42. And if marketing experience gets me a bonus then I’ve got it (that’s my day job). This has sincerely boosted my confidence by helping me to see what I have going for me, rather than dwelling on what I lack. Speaking of…I don’t have an abundance of writing samples. Do you have any advice on how to market your writing skills when you don’t have a lot of experience? Do you find that people are hesitant to hire a writer without an extensive portfolio?

    Thanks for what you are doing here!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Dee — you found an oldie-but-goodie post here!

      You definitely get extra points for past marketing experience. 😉

      Remember that every writer working once had no clips. So that means some markets are willing to take a chance on you. Your marketing background should help you convince clients that you can do the job.

      Inside my Freelance Writers Den community, I have a 4-week bootcamp called The Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success. It goes blow-by-blow on how exactly you can start from no clips, build your portfolio quickly, and start getting paying gigs. If you’re interested in the Den click that link — sign up on the waiting list if we’re not currently open. I often only tell that list when we open to new members.

  2. Kymlee says:

    I scored pretty high, so that’s definitely encouraging. When I decided to go full time freelance, i thought i would be replacing my full-time income in just a few months. Thr challenge for me was that the new client acquisition took much longer that i expected. It came through though, so I think patience is a big factor too. Are you patient enough to make the follow up calls and realized that everything takes longer than expected? That was something I had to cone to terms with.

  3. Lucy Smith says:

    I was a little bit horrified to see I’d scored 27, but then I took a closer look and realised that I’d missed a question that I scored a 5 on.

    Perhaps ‘attention to detail’ should have been another question.

  4. meg says:

    This was a fun quiz, Carol–I nailed a 45! The things which prevented a 50 were the 4 on flexibility and the 1 on financial resources, but everything else was truly, heart-felt 5 🙂 I liked Laurie’s no. 11 “sense of humor,” and would add my own no. 12: “Are you able to keep your nerve?”

    • Carol Tice says:

      I love it!

      I have that financial resource question because I do find that for some, if there isn’t a desperate financial need to get it done, then they don’t. I’m always joking that I’m glad that freelance-writing thing worked out because I really have no other marketable skills…and my husband is still figuring out who he’s going to be when he grows up in terms of a career. I think HAVING to make it happen helped me make it happen.

      Like your addition to the list!

  5. doug_eike says:

    Thanks for this analytical approach to quantifying the qualities of a freelance writer!

  6. Ahlam says:

    @Wade, there is always reason for hope!

    I enjoyed this quiz Carol. Also – I would mention how treating yourself as your own employee has helped me a bit. Often, when I think about doing something for myself I am more willing to slack off. On the other hand, when I have an assignment to complete for someone else, I give it 200%. As a freelance writer, going forward with the mentality that you are “employed” for yourself will help give an extra push. You learn to hold yourself accountable for the effort and energy invested.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Everyone needs some strategy to make them execute on their own stuff. For me the big stumbling block is getting ebooks done on any kind of timeline…they take me forever. Where if I plan a live Webinar, I WILL have those materials ready by broadcast time!

      My husband really struggles with this in his freelance video business. When he’s an employee he is such a workhorse, but when it’s his own thing all of a sudden that drive to meet deadlines isn’t there.

  7. I was right on the edge with a 34. My biggest hang-up is I don’t any recent clips. When I say recent, I mean 15 years ago in college, so I’m not including those. I believe that once the ball gets rolling it will be better, and the good news is I like putting myself out there. Connecting with people is terrific and I love public speaking. I have reason for hope, thanks Carol.

  8. Kelli says:

    Carol,

    Thank you so much for the quiz. I scored a 38, so I shouldn’t hang up my writing shoes just yet.
    Like many, I think the hardest part is the marketing. I struggled with answering the question about my confidence in my writing and marketing abilities. Do I think I’m a good writer? Heck yeah, I think I’m a great writer. Do I think I can market my writing talents? Um, could you rephrase the question? 😉

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think that’s a very common situation, Kelli. A lot of people got into writing because you can do it in a room by yourself without talking to people. But in our modern era, to get gigs you need to really put yourself out there, which is new to a lot of writers. I increasingly believe it’s the BIG differentiator between big earnings and not — the willingness to actively market yourself, beyond looking at job ads online.

      I love that people are having fun with the quiz!

  9. Debbie Kane says:

    Love the quiz! What’s really helped me is remembering to take the long view and keep your business goals — or at least one — posted where you can see them. For example, since it took me forever to stick my toe into the blogging pond, I have a Post-it note on my computer that says “Blogging is awesome — it’s helping my business skyrocket.” Visualizing it will help me make it happen!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I love that you have that affirmation posted!

      I find the whole secret sauce in my mentoring group isn’t so much the initial call…though writers obviously get a lot of practical tips on how to move forward there. It’s the ongoing support — every month we have a “weigh-in” where we want to hear what your goals were last month, what you got done, and what your goals are for next month. Before I had the ongoing support, I found mentees weren’t as successful.

      It’s really the big stumbling block in freelancing — no one’s holding you accountable. I recommend everyone find a place where people will support them, and ask how they’re progressing.

  10. Karen says:

    Love this, and not (entirely) because I scraped into the ‘top’ group. I definitely think knowledge of marketing and publicity can make the difference between scaping by as a writer or becoming super successful, My degree (Public Relations) is probably more help to me than other writers’ degrees in English. I don’t think this necessarily should be the case, but I do think it’s the 21st century reality.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I agree, Karen. I meet so many writers who write well…but the difference in who is earning well is all in the marketing ability and willingness. And the drive to make it happen.

  11. Laurie Boris says:

    This is great, Carol. My score could be higher, but would suggest: #11. Sense of humor! So important to get you through the rough patches.

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