Must-have Freelancing Skills for Writers in 2021

From the profoundly fulfilling to the despairingly dull, the life of a freelance writer can twist and turn without warning. In many ways, successful freelance writers need to possess an all-encompassing skill set. One that allows them to navigate the digital world with ease, perform high-quality research for articles, and if need be, claw their way through an impossibly complex and extremely specific niche. If you think a bright career as a freelance writer awaits you or you want to develop your existing freelancing skills and chase exciting new possibilities, here are some points you might find useful.

The Ability to Self-Edit

While some of the world’s best writers like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Gabriel Garcia Marquez might opt for an encapsulating stream-of-consciousness style of writing, the page you are reading is likely not the original one that they wrote down. No matter how scrambled, impossible or instantaneous it may seem. Herein lies what might be the signifier of a writer’s true strength: their ability to effectively self-edit. Learning to not be precious with your words is difficult, but it can and should be done.

This does not mean you need to bin your favourite sentences just because they don’t fit into your current assignment. It means knowing when to save those sentences for another day. Moreover, when the time arrives to send off your work, it will look a great deal more professional. Especially if you have made sure to carefully edit it and check for any grammatical and spelling errors. You may find it helps you sharpen your competitive edge and give a new lease of life to your words.

Digital Competence

Learning to be digitally competent does not necessarily mean throwing away the pen and paper entirely. But it does mean practising a few highly valuable skills in order to navigate the online world with ease. Freelancing skills like online research, effective digital communication, cloud computing and perhaps even some web design can carry your career to a new stage. Plus, since freelancers work remotely a great deal of the time, the job might depend on you becoming digitally savvy in the first place. It may be worth striving to obtain a Google cloud certification in this regard, particularly if you feel like some more training is in order. Learning digital skills is very much an ongoing endeavour, just like writing itself. So never give up on the pursuit of knowledge, as it won’t give up on you.

Conducting Research and Up Your Freelancing Skills

Research is so closely intertwined with freelance writing, that it is impossible to neglect in the pursuit of a well-developed skill set. Without research, there is a chance that your articles will suffer from a lack of substance. Which is in no way a slant on your writing ability. It is simply a noticeably missing component of what makes a complete piece of writing. While the internet is unquestionably useful for research purposes, learning how to sift through the mountains of low-quality, frankly purposeless nonsense that it has to offer should be high on the agenda.

By keeping some reliable, trustworthy sources on your radar, you can return to consult them throughout your various projects. Bear in mind, however, that the quality or acceptability of your references and sources will likely depend on the nature of your article. For example, say you were writing a scientific piece or a technical script, you may need to use academic references and evidence from case studies. You can find this kind of information at JSTOR online, Google Scholar, or by reaching out directly to the author of the publication.

More journalistically oriented publications are also completely suitable for most projects, provided they are a recognized, legitimate source of information. Some useful publications include:

  • Forbes
  • The New York Times
  • The Atlantic
  • Slate
  • Vox
  • Vanity Fair
  • The Washington Post
  • Wired

On the other hand, sources that should be ignored at all costs include the personal blogs and social media posts of strangers, as they could write literally anything based on no discernable reality – and they often do. Directly referencing Wikipedia should be avoided. As much of the information found on its pages can be outdated or referenced with dead sources. It can be incredibly useful in terms of pointing you in the right direction, however, especially if you can manage to follow the references through to a reliable source.

Learning to Write in a Multitude of Niches

While mastering one niche can be immensely profitable, (depending on the prominence of said niche). The nature of freelancing often demands that one is adaptable and flexible when it comes to the day job. Once you supply yourself with the tools and the skills necessary to develop flexibility in freelance writing, you are essentially opening up a brand-new world of work for yourself. There is no need to be afraid to approach new niches. Even ones that might seem utterly mind-numbing or soul-destroying at first. Particularly if you can do the research, beautify the topic on the page and self-edit. Diversifying your writing can be a superb way to gain meaningful experience in the industry while building a strong portfolio. Not to mention improving those freelancing skills.


Learning to cope with solitude and isolation can be difficult. Especially if you are an extroverted person who thrives off other people’s energy. Freelance writing does not tend to offer that opportunity very often. So learning how to avoid distractions while staying motivated might be a question of discipline. This is perhaps especially true for the remote workers of the world who are starting to feel cooped up at home. 2021 has been a difficult year for many, and remote learning looks like it will stick around for the foreseeable future in some cases. Learning how to overcome these pitfalls as a freelance writer can render you invincible in the world of work. Free to relish in the beauty of the written word.

Continue Reading:  5 Most valuable skills you need to acquire in order to succeed as a freelance writer

About the Author

James Daniels is a freelance writer, business enthusiast, a bit of a tech buff, and an overall geek. He is also an avid reader, who can while away hours reading and knowing about the latest gadgets and tech, whilst offering views and opinions on these topics.