10 Ways Good Freelance Writers Are Ninja–and what to look for when hiring one

by Amanda Cleary Eastep

I didn’t want to be a ninja when I grew up.

A vet. A race car driver. A writer…always a writer…which at first seems nothing like a ninja, especially when it comes to the cool weapons.

Sword vs. dull pencil

Ninja star vs. wadded up first draft tossed at the waste basket

Shuko hand claws vs. fingernails that need trimming because they’re decelerating words typed per minute

But as I was coming up with names for my freelance writing site, “ninja” seemed fitting. Especially when paired with “word.”

So, the lack of cool weapons aside, what does a Word Ninja, a.k.a. great freelance writer, have in common with an ordinary ninja?

1. She gets the job done.

Deadline. This word has an interesting history–flashback to the Civil War. “Seventeen feet from the inner stockade was the ‘dead-line’, over which no man could pass and live.” The term was also used in printing: a guideline on the bed of a printing press beyond which text will not print. No soldier, printer, or writer should ever miss one. Working with a client to strategically and realistically plan the deadline in the first place ensures timely delivery of the piece (and ensures the writer’s longevity).

2. She’s fast but thorough.

…as my 5th place ribbon from the junior high track meet proves. Speed is important and essential for meeting deadlines. But it must be accomplished without sacrificing accuracy and thoroughness (sleep is another matter).

3. She’s aware of her surroundings.

…especially when there is a hammock, beach, and Pina Colada involved. Writers tend to have a heightened sense of awareness. Sure, that may be noticing the way a butterfly lights on a sunlit daisy, but with a company or organization,  it involves a writer’s keen comprehension of that client’s message and ‘voice’ and the skill to communicate them.

4. She’s brave (but not fearless). (A lesson I learned from Maribel)

Except for sky-diving after neck surgery, I don’t recall a time I said, “I can’t do that.” At least out loud. There are those moments in the process when a huge project and it’s deadline seem like a tsunami on the horizon. But…

5. She stays focused on the target.

I mean goal. This isn’t so much about keeping an eye on a deadline as it is about giving good and deserved attention to each project. And each client, who should feel like he or she is the only client.

6. She’s well-trained and practiced.

No, not like a poodle. For every assignment I accept, I am able to draw from what I learned in the master’s program at Columbia College; on the job as an editor, promotions writer, and PR manager; and through entrepreneurial experiences and self-directed research.

7. She is flexible.

(OK, so are cheerleaders, but I’m still bitter about 7th grade tryouts.) Things can change, fluctuate. Even the best strategies. When working with a variety of people, departments, and organizations, I have to hurdle obstacles that appear and sometimes bend over backward to meet a new deadline (i.e., NOW). 

8. She seeks wisdom.

Writers are incessant learners. This comes with a natural curiosity about the world and the research involved in gathering facts, background, and ideas for articles, essays, and books. That’s the knowledge part. The wisdom comes with experience. The best lessons I have learned as a professional I’ve learned from my colleagues, from fellow writers, and from my own failures and successes. 

9. She cleans up after herself.

Mistakes. Yes, even ninjas mke them. If I make one, I’ll rectify it. After all, I’m a ‘cross my i’s and dot my t’s’ type of gal. Clear communication and set times for clients to review drafts throughout the process help ensure a flawless project. And by ‘draft’ I mean a well-written, proofed, and edited version to review. 

10. She’s resourceful.

I was a girl scout. I love figuring it out. That doesn’t mean projects are McGyver-ed together with chewed gum, shoelaces, and adjectives. Resourcefulness is about this part of the word: “resource”. It means knowing where to gather the best information and how to use it.

The biggest difference between a Word Ninja and an ordinary ninja? Ordinary ninjas kill you.

Sound like characteristics you need in a freelance writer? Contact me at wordninjawriting@yahoo.com.

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