How Much Does Talent Matter?

I had a great conversation recently with someone I was interviewing, and we got on the subject of talent when it comes to freelance writers. We were discussing how much “talent” matters in the equation of what makes someone a successful freelancer. I’ve been giving the matter some thought, and here’s my take on it:

Talent is Only a Small Part of Freelance Success

Yes, having a certain amount of raw talent is required. You need to be able to write well. Good grammar is a skill that you can improve with time. Spelling is something that a lot of people need help with, at least some of the time (me included). I use Spellcheck on my WP program, and I check my dictionary and thesaurus regularly.

There are a lot of talented people around, but talent alone is no guarantee of freelance success. You need to take whatever level of talent you have and combine it with other skills if you are going to do well in this business.

  • Develop your Listening Skills

Get in the habit of really listening to your clients. Let them tell you what they need, and fulfill that need. You will quickly get a reputation as being someone who is easy to deal with and who cares about their clients. This strategy will lead to repeat business.

  • Follow Instructions Carefully

You might have seen dozens, or hundreds of similar assignments in the past. That doesn’t mean that you can just dive into the one right in front of you without reading the instructions carefully first. If your client wants a particular font used or has asked that you double space between paragraphs, then it’s for a reason. Give them what they want.

  • Treat your Clients Well

My clients are not interruptions from whatever else I’m doing during my day. They are the reason I have a business, and I treat them accordingly. I make a point of making them feel welcome when they get in touch with me, whether it’s about their writing needs or just to say hello.

Talent is a good thing when it comes to freelance writing, to be sure, but it’s not enough. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you are difficult to work with, your clients will move on to someone who they find easier to deal with. That’s just the way it is.

How important do you think raw talent is to freelance writing success?





5 responses
  1. SpikeTheLobster Avatar

    Jodee: nice post. I don’t have a mass of experience, but I will say this – talent matters more as you desire more money. The lower-paying jobs (you know, the slave labour ones) don’t require any: regurgitate some news, rewrite some content, spew nonsensical gibberish onto a page so that it fits the SEO requirements. Easy.

    However, as we begin to look to higher ground and better salaries, talent does matter. I agree with you, though – it only matters a bit. A little talent is enough. (And not thinking you have tons of it is a good idea, too – immodest people suck.)

    There’s one trait I think you missed that is more important than talent and even than most others: reliability. Even if you have off days or make mistakes, being a solid producer of good quality work will go a lot further than almost anything.

    Sorry, I kind of went on and on there, didn’t I? 🙂

  2. Wendy Sullivan Avatar

    Talent is no guarantee of success in anything. Many talented artists, writers, singers etc go unnoticed and die without the greater world discovering them.

    Sadly, well marketed people without talent (see any American Idol winner, ever) get much further.

    If you have talent, and you are smart/lucky enough to couple it with some marketing savvy, you will most likely have a measure of success.

  3. Alex Crabtree Avatar

    Your points are well taken, but I would add that the ability to research well is important, as is the talent to be flexible in what in not only voice, but scope.

    Although I’m greener than a fresh blade of grass, I’d still argue that in the long haul you need to be versatile, talented, and most importantly; service oriented.

  4. Jodee Avatar

    @ SpiketheLobster: Very well put, and I totally agree with your take on immodest people. Don’t know if you remember the saying, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” This is a situation where if you’ve got it, you don’t need to flaunt it.

    And yes, if you show up and do the work as agreed, your clients will definitely appreciate it and come back again and again.

    @ Alex Crabtree: You have made some excellent points as well, and I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  5. Clara Avatar

    I have the confidence that I HAVE the talent… but I have to continue to learn/apply the tools needed to see the vision of my freelance writing to fruition…nice post by the way:)

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