The Most Important Milestones For Freelance Writers

The 10 Most Important Milestones For Freelance Writers

Are you a freelancer? Read our post to find out the most important milestones for freelance writers.

When Stephen King got a phone call to say that he sold the manuscript for Carrie, he called his wife first. Then, he immediately went out and bought her a hairdryer.

What can be learned from this?

All writers have goals. King, Patterson, Thompson, and you.

Milestones keep writers on the right track. Without them, you’re fumbling around in the dark with your hands on the keys. Setting milestones make a good way to measure how well your writing is received – and to know how you would like to go forward.

Here’s a look at the most important milestones for every freelance writer.

3 Fair Assumptions About Every Writer

Let’s start with three fair assumptions about every writer. 

It describes the want, need, and practical action that it takes to become a writer. 

No matter what type of writer you’d like to be, these 3 fair assumptions about every writer is true for all of us:

1. Writers want to be published.

While there are exceptions to the rule, most writers want to see their work published. Getting a by-line is a great feeling, and a fix that never wears off.

2. Writers need to be read.

If a writer writes in the forest and nobody is there to read it, are they still a writer? (Technically, the answer is yes.) 

Writers need their work to reach readers. The good news: there are many ways to do it (like publication, self-publication, and blogging to name a few).

3. Writers write (all the time).

Writers should always exist in a state of writing, thinking of writing, or outlining the next think they are about to write. They should read the writing of others, too. 

It’s how to evolve into a better, more successful writer with time.

The 10 Most Important Milestones For Freelance Writers

If there’s one universal truth for living life, it would be that everyone feels like they have no idea what they’re doing. It’s not like we’re born with instruction manuals that describe our lives step-by-step.

Having goals and milestones help us to feel less confused. Without them, we’re directionless.

When you’ve achieved a milestone, you know that you’re one more step closer to being a better writer.

Next, let’s talk about the essential milestones for freelance writers.

1. The First Piece Of Writing

The first piece of writing can be anything. It can be a short story, an article, or a page. It’s the first time that you decided to write anything, and then took the action of putting the words down to a written form.

It can happen early, and it’s likely that The First Piece Of Writing never gets published.

It’s a milestone because that’s when you realised: ‘I like this writing thing. I’ll try to write something else next.’

2. The First Byline

Does the thought of a byline make your heart beat faster? That’s the feeling every writer gets. The good news is that it never wears off.

The first byline takes practice, work, and one pitch after the next to achieve. The next byline will require the same.

Seeing something that you’ve written in published form is something you can be proud of. If you aren’t there yet, remember: those who write and pitch, will publish.

3. The First Rejection

The first rejection of your writing can feel surprising (‘But why?’), shocking (‘But how?’), or like a real drag (‘But why now?’).

It’s important for every writer to realise that rejection is just part of the writing process. You can’t write without having to edit, and you can’t write without facing rejection.

Once it’s happened to you, accept it. Learn from it. Adapt. Move on.

A rejection letter can do many good things. It might help you find another suitable market, it might introduce you to a new editor, or it might teach you something about your writing.

4. The First Payment For Writing

If the byline is the gateway drug, the first payment for writing is the harder fix.

Getting paid for writing is a sure milestone. Every freelance (or professional) writer will achieve this at some point – and if you haven’t, then selling your writing is an excellent goal to set.

It’s the first writing milestone that might require some banking paperwork and an invoice.

It’s also a good sign that your writing can be sold.

5. The First Assignment

Once you’ve been a published writer for a while, the word starts to travel. Advertising gets out there, or someone mentions your name. A publication might need a writer. Sometimes, you pitch them first.

That’s when you’ll get your first assignment.

It’s when someone says, ‘Could you write this?’ and you can. 

Congratulations on another writing milestone!

6. The First Tight Deadline

All freelance writers experience one single moment where the deadline is so tight, you can practically feel it choking the life out of you.

It’s terrifying, but it’s also thrilling.

Don’t fear the first tight deadline. Embrace it. Work as hard as you can to meet it. Remember to spellcheck.

Once you’re done, you’ve earned another achievement badge.

7. The First Fan Mail

Honest recognition for your writing doesn’t come in the form of awards.

Recognition happens when writers receive a message from a reader that says a piece of work was shared, enjoyed, or noticed.

If you’ve enjoyed writing, let the writer know. As a writer, set up a place where readers can get in touch. It helps.

8. The First Sent Mistake

Humans make mistakes. Writers are humans. Do you see where this is going?

All writers make a mistake in something they’ve just clicked send on. It’s an inevitability that I’m safe to say has struck everyone (at some point).

Someone’s name is spelled wrong, you inserted the wrong link. The first feeling you’ll experience is panic. But is it too late?


Let an editor, client, or publication know the moment a sent (or accidentally printed) mistake is noticed.

9. The First Reprint

Selling an article is exciting for every writer.

What about selling an article again?

Freelance writers should always remember the value of reprint markets. Depending on which rights to the story or article were originally sold, you could sell published articles to next markets again.

Usually, it’s best the check with the original market regarding the rights, and to attribute it in the second.

10. The First Worn Keyboard

If you’ve been a writer for long enough, at some point, you will wear out a keyboard for your craft.

I’ve typed enough to wear a dent into the spacebar. (I also keep spares.)

Budget for this, and congratulate yourself on your writing output when it’s happened.

What will you achieve next?

The Last Word

I hope these milestones for freelance writers help you with your writing.

If you want to improve your writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.

 By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at

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Posted on: 8th January 2021

6 thoughts on “The 10 Most Important Milestones For Freelance Writers”

    1. Thanks a lot for this piece. I’m just beginning my writing journey and I’ve been rejected a few times but I feel encouraged after reading this.

  1. I’m an author but new to freelancing, where can I possibly get clients to kick start selling my article? Thanks

    1. Agu, thanks for commenting!

      Job search websites, social media groups, and market lists might all help you to find clients. Writers Write also has many more articles and resources, too.

      Good luck!

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