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Test Yourself: Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Go-To Writer?

Go-to writers … I love them! These are the writers I reach out to again and again, because I know I can trust them to do great work, on time, and constantly suggest new projects.

Editor’s Note: The following content is provided to Writer’s Digest by a writing community partner. This content is sponsored by American Writers & Artists Inc.

Go-to writers … I love them! These are the writers I reach out to again and again, because I know I can trust them to do great work, on time, and constantly suggest new projects.

Winner Stamp

My “inner circle” of writers was carefully built … and they’re very well paid. But I know what I’m doing with them isn’t unique.

Every publisher or marketer has a set of favorite writers. When they need something new … or have an opening on the Editorial Calendar … these are the writers they call.

The “preferred” writers … the trusted “go-to” partners … don’t struggle to make ends meet. They don’t wonder where their next project will come from — in fact, many have to turn away work because they have too much to do.

Would you like to join them? Can you imagine an inbox overflowing with projects … editors who are happy to take your calls … and seeing your name on publication after publication?

It is possible … if you have the right skills. I’ve outlined the top four here, with a short test so you can see if you have what it takes.

The Go-To Writer Test

  1. Do you have a positive attitude?
  1. Do you respond promptly to questions, editor queries, and follow-up emails?
  2. Do you consider yourself an “idea machine”?
  3. Do you always hit your deadlines?

I hope you were able to give a big “Yes!” to each of these questions. If not, don’t worry — you can still become a go-to writer (and now you know what to focus on to improve your odds of success).

Here’s why these four questions — and the skills they represent — are so important for writers who want to become a publisher’s or editor’s best friend.

The Critical Skills for Being a Go-To Writer

Skill #1: Keep a Positive Attitude

My go-to writers are universally positive, upbeat people. When I reach out to them about a project, I get enthusiasm and a can-do vibe back from them … and that’s very important in the writing business.

Why does a positive attitude help so much? For one, it helps kill off the self-doubt, fear, and worry that can block good writing, so it’s easier for you to complete your assignments. But it also inspires me that I’ve made the right choice by picking you for the work.

After all, like all prospective clients, I’m human, too. I have days where I’m frustrated and overwhelmed. On those days, I don’t need a negative voice to help me throw a pity party … I need a writer who brings energy and positivity to the table. And when I find them, I will go back to them again and again and again …

Skill #2: Be Responsive

If I reach out to you … get back to me! Shockingly obvious, right? But you’d be surprised how many writing projects I have to reassign each year because the first writer I reached out to didn’t get back to me promptly (or at all).

What do I mean by prompt? I’m not saying you have to hover over your email (I realize you may be balancing other projects, too). Responding within 24-48 hours is good; ignoring your email for weeks is bad.

What about editors who don’t get back to you? I know it happens, everyone is busy … but trust me, if you’re one of my go-to partners, I’ll respond to you. Especially if you’re coming to me with a great idea. And speaking of ideas …

Skill #3: Be an “Idea Machine”

I’m constantly looking for new ideas to help me connect with my readers and build my business. Yes, I can brainstorm on my own … but my life is so much easier when a great writer comes to me with a good idea.

In fact, this is one skill that really sets go-to writers apart from the crowd. Go-to writers aren’t waiting around for me to come up with something for them to do … they’re constantly suggesting new projects and pitching new articles.

Do I say yes to all of these ideas? No, but turning down one idea doesn’t mean I don’t want to see more. Plus, by continually pitching me new ideas, new writers give themselves more opportunities to get hired for projects and earn their way into my inner circle.

The best part of this? You can train your brain to be an idea machine. See how in James Webb Young’s classic book, A Technique for Producing Ideas, and be sure to listen to AWAI’s Great Books Club discussion of his novel here.

Skill #4: Hit Your Deadlines

Make sure you hit your deadlines! If you don’t, I may not forgive you (and there are many other publishers who also consider blown deadlines to be an unpardonable sin). I certainly won’t offer you more work.

After all, your deadline is just one part of the publication process. Your work has to be reviewed … edited … matched to relevant graphics or illustrations … laid out for publication … uploaded to the website … and so on. When you miss a deadline, you throw off the whole publication schedule.

So budget your time wisely so you never miss a deadline. And if time management is something you struggle with, check out copywriter Roy Furr’s time management tips for freelancers or master writer Will Newman’s methods for scheduling your way to writing success.

Pull all these skills together, and you have the potential to find great success as a go-to writer. So think it over … and then start! Select a publication you’d like to partner with, fire up your idea machine, and start working your way toward success by pitching them a new idea.


If you have any questions about the process, connect with me on Facebook or contact me any time at my website,

To your success,
Rebecca Matter

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