Freelance Writing Tips and Suggestions
Take What You Need and Leave the Rest
I doubt Mr. Humphrey was much of a writer, but his quote worked for this article, and I’m not above borrowing whatever I need, so there you have it.
Not everyone is going to agree with the advice I lay out in this article. That’s fine! If you feel differently about some of the things I write here then I gladly suggest you write your own article and refute everything that I am about to say. I will be the first to read your counter-article, and then I will counter, and you can counter again, and before you know it we will be the dueling banjos of the literature world.
The point is that there is more than one way to Tipperary, and if your journey in writing takes you along a different path then so be it. I’m just tossing out my thoughts; if they help you then fantastic.
With that out of the way, here are some random thoughts about writing and freelance writing that I hope you find interesting and useful.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY ALWAYS
Yes, I said always, and I’m adamant about that. I spent eighteen years of my life in a classroom fighting a battle I could not win, trying my damndest to stave off ignorance and stem the tide that is flowing towards mediocrity. I do not have to stand for it in writing too, and yet that is what I see more and more of in today’s world of literature.
Anyone can start a blog and call themselves a writer. Anyone can start a website, and with content mills just about anyone with half a brain and a computer can actually make money writing. That might qualify them as “freelance writers” but it does not qualify them as “good writers.”
The world needs more quality….please be part of my movement and demand of yourselves better quality.
EVERY ASSIGNMENT IS IMPORTANT
I don’t care if you are writing a blog entry for a customer for $10 or you are doing an article for the New Yorker for $500; every article is important and should be treated as such.
It is important to realize that every piece of writing that you do is a part of your platform. Your writing is a direct reflection on you as a writer and as such should reflect your best work.
During the mornings I do SEO work for customers. All that is important to them is that the correct keywords be used. They really don’t care much about the quality of the writing; as long as the grammar is correct and the keywords have been inserted, they are happy….but I’m not. I am constantly trying to find new ways to make their assignments interesting and to make my writing fresh.
Keep the bigger picture always in view, and the bigger picture is your success as a writer.
PAY YOUR DUES
Freelance writers do not start out with the best assignments, just as apprentice craftsmen are not hired by the best construction firms when they first start out. In writing, as in any other pursuit, you have to pay your dues and work your way up the food chain.
I have recommended before and I’ll do it again that it is alright when first starting out as a writer that you do some assignments for free in exchange for a byline. Having your name posted in print is huge for your career, and worth much more than $25 in payment for the article.
It might be necessary to start out working for peanuts; many freelance writers do, and in the world of supply and demand, that is probably as it should be. Earn your stripes and you will eventually be paid what you deserve.
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IF AT ALL POSSIBLE AVOID CONTENT MILLS
It may not be possible but if it is, don’t work for pennies doing SEO work. Instead, start locally and work your way up to the big boys.
Go to local businesses and offer your skills for their blogs and websites. You can charge more that way and still be charging less than the content mills charge their customers. If a content mill is paying you $15 for a 500 word article, you can bet they are charging the customer at least double that and most likely more. Why not skip the content mill and be your own content mill?
A very lucrative market for me when I was first starting out was the real estate market. I landed a very successful real estate brokerage in Los Angeles, and they paid quite well for me to do their listings and property descriptions. They took the pictures from 1200 miles away and I wrote the content and everyone was happy.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
When pitching ideas to magazines or newspapers, it is important that you pay attention to the latest trends. Trends are fickle mistresses; they are here today and gone tomorrow, but if you catch them when they are hot then it is much easier to sell an editor on your story.
In addition, do your homework and check to see what a magazine is looking for in the way of article topics. You do this by visiting their websites and checking their submission guidelines, or by buying a copy of the Writer’s Market. If a magazine says they are not looking for personal interest and you send them one anyway, you end up looking like a fool and also you have told the editor that you are unprofessional….and it’s important to avoid both of those outcomes.
NETWORK, NETWORK AND THEN NETWORK SOME MORE
I feel like I have said this until I’m blue in the face, but let me say it one more time: you are the marketing executive for your writing business, and the product you are selling is you. If you don’t do it then nobody else will and that you can take to the bank.
Networking should go beyond Facebook and Twitter. Join your local Business group or Chamber of Commerce and get your name out there. Have business cards made up and then pass them out to everyone you meet. Volunteer to read at libraries and have book readings at bookstores. Give talks at local schools about writing as a career. Join writing forums and guest blog on the blogs of other writers.
In other words, treat your writing career as though it were as precious as gold because, well, it is. There is only one you. There is only one writer with your unique blend of talent and personality.
Get out there and sell!
SUCK IT UP AND BE READY FOR REJECTION
I remember the first time a girl turned me down on a date offer in high school. I remember the second time, too, and the third.
After three rejections and still no date, I had two choices to consider: either I was un-datable and should seriously consider moving to a monastery, or I was very datable but I just hadn’t met the right girl yet.
Rejection is a way of life in the writing business. It has nothing to do with your ability as a writer (unless you really suck at writing LOL) and everything to do with being in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time.
Either develop a thick skin or end your freelance writing business now before the rejections crush you like a grape.
There Will Be More
Of course there will be more. I’m still learning in this business, and as I learn I pass it all on to you. There is no reason for you to make the same mistakes that I have made; just read my articles and then you can avoid those mistakes and make some new ones of your own. J
As always, if I can be of any help to you then feel free to contact me. Every time I help one of you I am networking, and I am also spreading goodwill and karma, and I am a huge believer in karma.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”