Non Native Writers: 5 Ways You Can Improve Your Skills

At some point over the past two or three days, I made a post on Facebook. I have no idea what the comment was, or how it got an imaginary ball rolling. What I do know is that suddenly a hundred twenty-six would-be writers contacted me.

Some wanted to know how to do better on Upwork. Others wanted to know where to find freelance writing jobs.

Of those hundred twenty-six inquiries, one woman spoke English as a first language. One.

I am to be as tactful as possible with my words. As some of you know, other writers are “grilled to perfection,” yet I come across as “extra crispy.”

My goal within this post is to provide non-native English speakers with a few tips to improve their writing skills, and therefore improve their writing prospects.

First and foremost, read

The most practical bit of advice I can give to non-native English writers is to read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read the back of the cereal box and read the instructions for the DVD player. Read Twain, Coelho and King. Just read.

As you read, you’ll get a better feel for the (very unnecessarily complex) idiosyncrasies of the English language. We have expressions you can learn, and the cadence of our language might also be different than yours.

Reading is the easiest way to become a better English language writer.

Ask for feedback

This is where I begin to get extra crispy.

Many, many writers who don’t write English first think they’re great writers. They are not.

Paragraphs are awkward, words are tossed in where they don’t fit and sentence structure is sloppy. Frankly, sometimes the whole thing doesn’t make any sense at all.

Even if you think you’ve mastered the English language, find a friend or a consultant who can look over your work. It should go without saying that the friend should speak English well. Preferably, he should be a native English speaker.

Your writing is probably not as good as you think it is.

That’s the honest truth.

Find your client

All this is not to say that you can’t find good clients if you’re not a native English writer. There are oodles and oodles of good, solid clients who will offer you work.

In the United States, these clients often pay low rates and are frequently found on the content mills, like Freelancer and others. I never recommend those.

But in your local area, they may be business owners who wish to reach out to English speaking customers. They may be clients in need of translation services.

Use your imagination to find clients but be honest about your English fluency.

Know the risks

As a native English writer, I often complain about being underbid by non-English writers. This is a problem for me, because those clients value price over quality.

But it’s a problem for you, too.

Your client may interview both of us. My bid is $.10 per word, while yours is $.01. Thinking you’re a better deal, he’ll hire you first.

But once he realizes that he’s spending too much time editing your work (or trying to make sense of it in the first place), he’s going to come back to me. It happens every time.

Not being forthcoming with your clients is a guaranteed way to lose their business.

Practice, practice, practice

Everyone starts somewhere. Freelance writers who do speak and write English natively started somewhere. You’re going to have to start somewhere, too.

The more you read and the more you write, the better you’ll become.

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