How do I answer this question?
Usually, I give would-be freelance writers a skills-based answer–somewhat like what I share in this post, Can Anyone Be a Writer? 6 Basic Skills that Writers Need.
While that post gives a good answer, it overlooks the more important question of whether you will like freelance writing.
The longer I stay in this business, the more convinced I become that freelance writing success depends (at least partly) on job satisfaction. If you don’t like writing, you won’t stick with it.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Freelance writing is not for everyone.
Although you may perfect the skills you need to become a writer, you’ll eventually move on if freelance writing makes you unhappy.
In this post I discuss five traits that most satisfied freelance writers share.
Trait #1: A Love of Reading
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved to read. As I child I read everything I could get my hands on.
My reading wasn’t limited to just books either. I read billboards, the back of the cereal box at breakfast, advertisements that arrived in the mail, and more… (This probably helped me later when I went into copywriting.)
In fact, even when I’m not working I’m likely to be reading. I can’t imagine a life where reading wasn’t a big part of it.
Most writers that I know are the same way. Many of them spend a lot of their spare time reading.
Conversely, the people I know who find reading a chore also tell me that they struggle to put words together on a page. A few dread something as simple as a writing a short memo or a personal letter.
Trait #2: A Love of Words
This is different from a love of reading. It deals with topics like definitions, word origins and the history of language.
Okay, I confess. When I was growing up I was that weird kid who thumbed through the dictionary for fun.
Many of my writer friends find also find words fascinating. We love word games and posts and sites that tell us about the history of words. This site, The Phrase Finder from Gary Martin, is a personal favorite.
Loving words and their history contributes to a better understanding of the language and how to use it.
Trait #3: A Natural Curiosity
As a child I was always asking my parents this question. Fortunately for me, they were patient and usually tried to answer. When they couldn’t answer, they got me a book that could.
A healthy curiosity serves a writer well. Some writing professions, such as journalism, demand that a writer look beyond the obvious to get the whole story.
Even for creative writers, the ability to ask (and answer) the question “what if?” is important.
Not everyone has a curious nature. I’ve often heard my non-writing (and non-curious) friends say, “I wonder how they figured that out?” The answer, of course, starts with the question “why?”
(By the way, I don’t want to imply that writing is the only profession to benefit from a healthy curiosity. Science is another area where it helps to be curious, and I’m sure there are other fields as well.)
Trait #4: A Good Imagination
Everyone loves a good story.
When I was a child, I remember riding in a car with my parents. I’d look at the houses we passed and make up stories for myself about who might live in those houses.
Most people connect good storytelling skills to novelists. And of course, they are right. A successful novelist needs to be able to tell a good story. But other writing disciplines also benefit from storytelling.
More recently, content specialists have recognized the importance of storytelling in content marketing. Here are just a few posts that illustrate the point:
- From Rachel Gillett on FastCompany, Why Our Brains Crave Storytelling In Marketing
- From Michelle Manafy on Inc., Storytelling 101: 3 Tips for Creating Compelling Content Marketing
- From Adam Toren on Entrepreneur, Storytelling Could Bring Your Brand to Life and Strengthen Your Marketing Impact
Clearly, a writer who has a good imagination and can tell a good story has an advantage.
Trait #5: Ability to Handle Setbacks
Writers face setbacks, and plenty of them.
There’s the feast or famine cycle for freelance writers. For online writers, there are trolls and other nay sayers. Plus, there’s the certainty of at least some rejection for almost every type of writer.
If you’re the sort who gets discouraged easily, or quits when faced with an obstacle, chances are you won’t enjoy writing.
Too many potential writers enter the field because they think of it as an easy way to earn a living, when in fact it’s anything but.
You may have the skills to write (or be able to develop them). But if you don’t have at least some of the character traits that would allow to be happy as a writer you’ll probably be miserable.
If you’re thinking about becoming a writer, by all means take a look at the skills you’ll need. But don’t forget to also consider whether you’d be happy as a writer. Because your happiness is important too.
After reading this post, are you pretty sure that writing is for you? If so, get the right start to your writing career with the ebook I wrote with Carol Tice, The Step-by-Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success.
Can you think of any writer character traits I missed? Share them in the comments.