What To Keep In Mind When Building Your Writing Career

Last updated
min read

Successful freelance writers enjoy all kinds of benefits for their hard work. You can choose what topics to write on, whom to work with, and even where to live and when to work.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right?

But building your writing career takes dedication, perseverance, and strong interpersonal skills. You need to know what clients are looking for, communicate professionally, and build a robust network and skillset. 

Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone. 

In this article, we share our top tips for establishing a strong foundation for a successful career as a writer. We cover everything from building portfolios and creating work schedules to maintaining client relationships, embracing rejection, and more.

Build your portfolio—with quality over quantity

A portfolio is a collection of writing samples. It serves to showcase your skills as a writer and personal style to potential clients.

Here’s how you can create a strong portfolio and start winning work: 

Compiling your portfolio

To build a high-quality portfolio, select your very best pieces — those that show off your creativity, adaptability, and ability to engage readers. There are a few ways to do this:

Ask friends, family, and any other writers and editors you might know to help pick out your best work. If you know someone who understands the freelance writing world, ask them for help, too. 

You can also rely on client reactions. If you got great feedback on a particular piece, chances are it’s a solid contender for your portfolio. 

If your article has done well online, that’s also a good sign to include it in your portfolio. Maybe a particular blog post ranked well, got a featured snippet, or received high-quality backlinks. Writing published on a respected industry website adds credibility to your work, too. 

You should also diversify your samples. This demonstrates your versatility across formats and styles and showcases your ability to adapt to clients’ needs. 

For example, a selection of formats in your portfolio highlights your ability to write both long- and short-form articles destined for various platforms. These include:

  • Articles 
  • Blog posts 
  • Essays
  • Case studies
  • Copywriting samples
  • Creative writing pieces
  • Social media posts

Likewise, you can mix and match samples written for different audiences to demonstrate your ability to switch between styles and tone of voice. For example, you might have a sample in a casual writing style aimed at Gen Z’ers. Add that alongside a more formal LinkedIn article to show your adaptability.

Also, include samples from a variety of publications — newspapers, company websites, email newsletters, blogs, media outlets, social media posts, etc. This shows your understanding of different publishing needs. 

Finally, it can be beneficial to tailor your portfolio to specific audiences, and there’s nothing stopping you from having different portfolios for different industries. This helps demonstrate your expertise and understanding of particular industries and niches, which will be very attractive to the right clients.

In fact, at Eleven, we’ve found that specialization and topic expertise are both associated with winning more clients, earning higher rates, and more opportunities to write on the topics that interest you.

Hosting and organizing your portfolio

The best portfolios are visually appealing, neatly organized, and easy to read — free of any broken links or messy formatting that can turn off prospective clients.

Here’s how you can create a portfolio that stands out for the right reasons:

  • Host your portfolio on a freelance platform like Upwork, Fiverr, or Behance. These platforms gather all your samples in one place, making it easy for clients to find and read through your portfolio.
  • Build your own website. This requires a bit more know-how. Thankfully, website builders like Wix and WordPress offer plug-and-play templates to create stunning,  stand-alone portfolios on a budget (or for free!) and with minimal effort.
  • Use publishing platforms like Substack and Medium. These are places specifically created with writers in mind. They’re also great ways to monetize your writing and build an audience.
  • Double-check links. Clients are time-poor, so don’t expect them to follow up if a link doesn’t work. Click through any links before sharing your portfolio. This shows you respect clients’ time and that you’re detail-oriented.
  • Check that prospective clients can access your portfolio. For example, if you’re sharing Google Drive links or a password-protected document, share the file with the client or give them the password.
Pro Tip

For more ideas on how and where to publish your portfolio, read our guide: where to find freelance writing work.

Be consistent and reliable

Consistency builds trust and a good reputation — the building blocks for long-term, happy relationships with your clients. You could be a great writer, but if you’re not reliable or consistent, a client will likely go elsewhere.

This is because clients have their own deadlines to meet. Your article probably fits into a broader workflow, which could include everything from graphic design to distribution and social media posts. Plus, some topics may be time-sensitive — like company news and current events.

With that in mind, let’s break down how to become a consistent writer that clients can rely on.

Set realistic goals

Taking on too much work impacts your ability to write well and meet deadlines. Know your limits: How many articles or words can you produce in a given day or week?

If you’re unsure, spend a week or two noting down how many words you write each day and how long it takes you. This will help you find your average word count/hour.

Use a spreadsheet to track your daily word counts and hours — like this:

Date Hours Words
9 April 6 2,000 
10 April 4.5 1,200
11 April
5 1,600
12 April 5.5 1,800
13 April 6 2,200
14 April 4 1,300
Total 31 10l

Then, divide the total number of words by the total number of hours to get your average words per hour. Or, you can divide it by the number of days to get your average words per day. 

For example:

10,100 words ÷ 31 hours = 325 words/average

To work out your average words per day:

10,100 words ÷ 6 days = 1680 words/day

And average hours worked:

31 hours ÷ 6 days = 5 hours, 10 minutes/day

Don’t forget to also track the time you spend editing and proofreading, and completing any client-requested revisions. This will give you a true picture of your capacity. 

Pro Tip

This process can also help you figure out how to price your freelance writing.

Create a schedule 

Designate specific times for writing and keep to a consistent schedule. Maybe you work better in the morning, or perhaps writing flows easier in the evening. Find the right times for you and stick with them. Treat your writing career as you would a regular job: allocate dedicated hours for research, writing, editing, and client communication.

Here’s a sample schedule that gives room for writing, admin tasks, and research:

Monday To Do
9:00 AM - 10:00 AM Morning routine & planning for the week ahead
10:00 AM - 1:00 PM Deep writing work: Focus on a major project or article
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Lunch break
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM Client communications: Responding to emails, queries, & briefs
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM Research for upcoming projects

Tuesday To Do
9:00 AM - 10:00 AM Morning routine & reviewing goals
10:00 AM - 1:00 PM Deep writing work: Focus on a major project or article
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Lunch break
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM Editing & revising previous articles
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM Client communications & reaching out to prospective clients

Wednesday To Do
9:00 AM - 10:00 AM Morning routine & checking in with week’s progress
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM Client meetings, calls, communications
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Lunch break
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM Deep writing work: Start a new project or article
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM Admin tasks: Invoicing, updating portfolio, promoting your work

Thursday To Do
9:00 AM - 10:00 AM Morning routine & prioritizing tasks
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM Finishing up any major tasks for the week
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Following up with clients before end of week
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Lunch break
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM Setting task list/goals for the following Monday
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM Finish up: Do something creative to ease into the weekend 🏝

Pro Tip

Remember to adjust the schedule to meet your needs, depending on when you feel most creative and able to write well.

Prioritize tasks 

When setting your schedule for the day or week, identify and prioritize your most important, time-sensitive assignments. Focus on completing high-priority tasks first, then allocate your remaining time to less urgent work.

One way to do this is to list all your tasks for the day or week. Pick out the top three most urgent or important tasks. This could be writing a longer article, completing a rush order, or simply replying to a client. Focus on these first.

Some people prefer to tackle big tasks first, while others need a quick win to get them into the groove of the day. Find what works for you!

Use time management and productivity tools 

When you’re juggling multiple tasks, clients, and writing commissions, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Use time management and productivity tools to break your work into manageable chunks, track progress, and stay focused.

Some of our favorites include:

  • Asana. You can group tasks, set deadlines and reminders, add resources and documents, and track progress — all from one dashboard. It’s super helpful if you’ve got many separate projects on the go. 
  • Clockify. Use this time-tracking app to note down the hours you work. Set it up with different project categories so you see how much time you’re spending on each task or client. This is also a great way to gather information to work out your average words/hour and capacity, as we outlined earlier. 
  • Be Focused. This phone-based app uses the Pomodoro technique to break work into manageable chunks. Set the intervals to chunks that work for you (for example, 45 minutes deep work followed by a 15-minute break). Add notes, tasks, and reminders in the app, too.

Reply to client messages quickly and professionally

Set a rule for how quickly you aim to reply to client messages. Some freelance platforms like Upwork even show your client response rate and time. This can make a big difference for clients looking for a fast turnaround on a time-sensitive topic. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to respond within 24 hours, where possible.

It’s also important to be professional when communicating with potential and current clients — whether you’re pitching, negotiating rates, revising, or (as we’ll cover below) receiving rejection.

Here are a few tips to stay professional:

  • Always use clear, concise, and polite language when communicating with clients. Avoid slang or overly casual language.
  • Proofread your messages for spelling and grammar errors.
  • Set expectations early by communicating your availability, rates, deadlines, and other relevant information upfront.
  • Treat clients and collaborators with respect. Listen actively, acknowledge their input, and address any concerns or questions without taking them personally.
  • Communicate proactively. Let clients know if you’re facing delays, the brief is unclear, or the project scope or timeline has changed.

Any time you work with someone, it’s an opportunity to build your network (more on that below). By always staying professional, you build a positive reputation that can lead to more work down the line. 

Handle disagreements or negotiations diplomatically 

Part of being a freelancer means negotiating the scope of work or your rate of pay. When this happens, focus on finding solutions that work for both of you.

If you can’t reach an agreement, it’s okay to walk away. Thank the client for their time, and tactfully explain your reasons for ending the collaboration. Most of the time, though, clients want to find a way forward.

For example, if you’re struggling to agree on a rate for proposed work, you might send a message or email similar this:

Thank you for taking the time to discuss the details of the [Project Name] assignment with me. I appreciate the opportunity to explore the possibility of working together on this project.


I understand that we may have differing perspectives on the rate of pay for the project, and I want to assure you that I value your input and respect your position. However, based on my experience and the scope of work involved, I believe my proposed rate is fair and reflective of the quality of work I will deliver.


I bring [X years/months] of experience in [specific niche or industry], and I am confident in my ability to provide valuable content that meets your needs and objectives. My proposed rate takes into account factors such as [list relevant factors, such as research, expertise, etc.].


That said, I am open to exploring alternative options that align with your budget constraints while still allowing me to deliver the level of quality you expect. Perhaps we could discuss adjusting the project’s scope or finding other ways to add value within your budget parameters.


I am committed to finding a solution that works for both of us and am eager to continue our discussion to that end. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns, and I would be happy to discuss this further.


Thank you again for considering me for this opportunity. I look forward to the possibility of working together.

Why it works:

  • Thanks the client for their time.
  • Highlights your respect for their position and any budget constraints they might have.
  • Reiterates your value as a freelancer (notes your expertise in a specific industry). 
  • Explains your rate based on your experience and the proposed scope of work.
  • Offers proactive solutions (suggests adjusting scope or adding value).
  • Emphasizes your commitment to find a way forward.

Ends on a positive note (highlights your desire to work together in the future).

Pro Tip

ChatGPT and similar writing assistants can help you craft diplomatic, professional messages like those above. You may need to tweak it to match your personal style and the exact situation, but it’s a lot easier than starting from a blank page.

Embrace rejection and request feedback

Rejection is a natural part of the job-hunting process, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s important not to take this personally and keep your communication professional.

After all, individuals who have turned you down now could offer you work in the future or recommend you for another project.

Remember to be gracious when rejected. Thank the person or company for their time and end on a positive note. 

Rejection can also be a great learning opportunity, so ask for and accept feedback. Pay attention to any constructive comments you receive. This can be the key to knowing what to improve. For example, if a prospective client thinks your writing structure needs work, then you know where to spend time polishing your skills.

Pro Tip

The same rule applies when you’re actively working with clients. Accept feedback and revision suggestions as ways to improve your writing. If you’re uncertain about something, ask the client or editor to clarify.

Here’s a sample message to get you started. Make sure to edit it to your specific situation:

Dear [Client’s Name],


I hope this message finds you well. 


I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for considering me for the [project/task] opportunity. I understand and respect your decision to move forward with another writer at this time.

I wanted to reach out to kindly request if you have any feedback on my proposal or writing samples.

Constructive feedback — whether it relates to my writing style, approach to the project, or another aspect — would be helpful in my continuous growth and learning as a writer. If you have a few moments to spare, I would be grateful for any thoughts or suggestions you can provide.

Thank you once again for your consideration, and I wish you the best of luck with [project/task]. I hope our paths cross again in the future.


Kind regards,

[Your name]

Pro Tip

Landing freelance writing gigs can be tough, so make sure to celebrate your successes along the way — no matter how small.

Continue learning and honing your skills

Building your writing skills is like building muscle. The more you train them, the stronger they get.

Plus, if a client is impressed with your writing early on, you’re likely to be given more work. This can be the key to accelerating your career quickly.

So, brush up your skills whenever you can. Here are a few ways to do this:

Learn about SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to a collection of techniques and tactics for helping articles rank better on Google and thus gain greater visibility.

Knowing how to write for SEO is essential to a freelance career. It shows you understand client needs, target audiences, and search intent. Plus, if your articles start ranking well, it’s an important selling point for future clients and long-term work.

Here are a couple of resources to help you build your SEO know-how:

Network with writers, editors, and (potential) clients

A broad network of other writers, editors, and prospective clients can open many doors. Put yourself out there and be visible so people remember you when they search for writers.

Here’s how to start networking:

  • Use social media. X (Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are great ways to find writers, editors, and prospective clients. Follow industry influencers, participate in conversations using hashtags, and consider sharing your writing journey and expertise to attract attention and connect with others.

  • Join online writing communities. Find other writers through social media groups, writing forums, and platforms like LinkedIn or Reddit (r/writing, r/writers, and r/writingadvice are great places to start, but check out industry-specific channels, too). Engage in discussions, share your insights, and connect with fellow freelancers.

  • Attend workshops and webinars. These are great ways to improve your skills and meet new people. Look for writing workshops online, at your local library, or through writing groups. You can also find workshops through professional associations and communities like Scribophile.

  • Attend conferences and events. Look for these networking events both online and in person. Use platforms like Eventbrite and Meetup to find events near you. Check out this great list of writer’s conferences happening across the world in 2024.

  • Join writing groups and associations. Professional industry writing groups, associations, and organizations can give you invaluable access to prospective clients. Membership can also lend extra credibility to your work. Check out this list from Writer’s Write of professional writing associations to get started.
Pro Tip

Landing freelance writing gigs can be tough, so make sure to celebrate your successes along the way — no matter how small.


To become a strong professional writer, you’ll need to adapt to client needs, build lasting relationships, and keep improving your writing skills and knowledge. To secure desirable writing work with great clients, you also have to be flexible, consistent, and reliable — while maintaining a professional communication style.

Don’t forget to showcase your skills, industry knowledge, and writing adaptability with a strong portfolio, available to share with prospective clients and your wider network.

Looking for even more ways to boost your writing career? Check 18 Actionable Tips to Become a Better Writer on our blog!

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