A Reality Check Before Becoming a Freelance Writer
My Personal Experience
“Do as I say and not as I do.” Those words perfectly apply to this writer. What I am about to tell you in this article is the wise way to approach a full-time job as a freelance writer. I, however, did not follow my own advice.
As some of you may know if you have followed me along this journey, I abruptly quit my full-time teaching job in October 2011. The reasons why I quit my day job are not important. What is important, for the purposes of this article, is that I had no backup plan. I stepped out on the high wire without a safety net, effectively backing myself into the proverbial corner with no escape route at all. I was either going to make it as a writer or become a statistic, joining the thousands of others who shoved their feet in their mouths and discovered that shoe leather is not tasty.
I knew nothing about the freelance writing business. Absolutely nothing! That is not hyperbole, folks. I didn’t know the first thing about how to make a living as a writer of words.
Still, almost three years later, here I am, eating three square meals each day, paying my bills, and loving every minute of my life.
How did I do it?
Hard work, stubbornness, and a willingness to learn!
What follows is a checklist that I want you to consider if you think you would like to go full-time as a freelance writer. All the items on the checklist may not apply to you. You just might make it by only checking off four or five of these items. I was able to make it despite ignoring most of these, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend doing it my way. So, do as I say and not as I do, and maybe your journey will be considerably easier than mine was.
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- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
Tips and suggestions about writing, for writers, written by writers
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DO YOU HAVE GAME?
It is a valid question. Do you have some writing ability? You can’t fake quality in the writing business. Whether you plan on making it as a blogger, or making it by submitting and selling ebooks or magazine articles, if you can’t write well you won’t make it in the long run. Oh, you might make some passive income writing for sites like Bubblews or HubPages, but without game you will not make enough to live on, and you can take that to the bank.
You do not have to be the next Hemingway to make a living as a writer, but you need to at least understand grammar, and be able to write a paragraph that resembles the English language and not the scribbles of a pre-schooler.
If you wonder if you have game, join a writing group and wait for the critical assessments you will receive. If you pass that scrutiny you probably have what it takes.
DO YOU HAVE A BASE OF OPERATIONS?
People need to know how to find you, and that means a forwarding address that is yours and yours alone.
If you don’t have a website or an anchor blog, get one.
Freelance writing is a business, and every business has a location, whether it be a street address or an online storefront. You are your business, your writing is your product, and people need to know how to find your business and product.
Get busy. Start construction of your site. This is important, so get your tools organized, and lay the foundation.
ARE YOU ORGANIZED?
If you plan on paying your bills as a writer, you better be able to juggle twenty balls at once, without dropping one of them. Can you handle writing ten articles at the same time? Can you make sure you meet deadlines? Can you organize and can you prioritize? Can you market yourself? Can you cold-call? Can you make important contacts and then retain them through the months and years?
Can you organize your day like a working day, shutting yourself off from the world, and treating your business like a real business?
If the answer to all those questions is yes, then you just might have what it takes.
DOES YOUR CUP OVERFLOWETH?
Are you a creative person? Do you have thousands of article ideas floating around in your head, and better yet, do you have thousands of unique ideas floating?
There are millions of writers out there, all after the same pie you are chasing. What differentiates the writers who eat and the writers who scrounge for crumbs is the ability to see a new angle in an old topic.
Magazine editors love new angles. They get as bored as anyone else with the same old same old. Give them something new and they will be calling you for articles instead of you begging them for assignments.
An important book for any freelance writer
DO YOU HAVE RELATED WORK TO HELP DURING THE TOUGH TIMES?
If I were an investment broker, I would tell you to diversify, diversify, and then diversify again. There is safety in diversification. When one aspect of your investments dries up, you always have some investments that remain steady or in fact are skyrocketing.
The same is true as a freelance writer. What do you have to fall back on when the magazines dry up, or your ebooks stop selling? Can you teach a writing course at your local community center? Can you scrounge up some work as an editor or copywriter? Can you find some local community newsletters to write? Have you canvassed your local businesses and offered your services to them?
When I first started out I got lucky. I managed to land a company in Fort Worth, Texas, and a real estate company in Los Angeles, and during the lean times those two customers kept me afloat. They are still with me today, as are ten other customers that I found through those original two.
DO YOU HAVE BACKUP RESOURCES?
Again, do as I say and not as I do. When I quit my teaching job I had enough money to live on for three months. THREE MONTHS!!!! I do not recommend that approach to anyone else. Looking back on my folly now, I can see that I was a human recipe for disaster….and yet I made it.
In a perfect world, I would suggest you have backup resources to live on for a full year. I know, this isn’t a perfect world, but that would be my recommendation.
HOW THICK IS YOUR SKIN?
I’m dead serious now….if you can’t take rejection and constructive criticism, then get out now before you lose too much blood. I have seen too many good writers fall in the gutter because they got their feelings hurt, or they had their ego bruised, or they weren’t feeling the love.
This is the not the 60s and we are not having a love-in. If you want love as a freelance writer, get a puppy. Is that clear enough for you?
And There You Have It
Not a complete checklist, but this should give you something to think about before becoming a freelance writer.
If I discouraged you from trying then you weren’t really ready. If this list did not discourage you, then you just might have what it takes to make it.
I guess we’ll find out starting now.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”