Beginning A Freelance Writing Career Tips For Success
Wisdom from the Byrds
“So you want to be a rock 'n' roll star?
Then listen now to what I say
Just get an electric guitar
Then take some time
And learn how to play
And with your hair swung right
And your pants too tight
It's gonna be all right
Then it's time to go downtown
Where the agent man won't let you down
Sell your soul to the company
Who are waiting there to sell plastic ware
And in a week or two
If you make the charts
The girls'll tear you apart
The price you paid for your riches and fame
Was it all a strange game?
You're a little insane
The money, the fame, the public acclaim
Don't forget what you are
You're a rock 'n' roll star!”
I don’t know why my mind went to the classic rock song by the Byrds but go there it did.
So you want to be a freelance writer? Then listen now to what I say.
Who wouldn’t want to be a freelance writer? Wear sweats to work each day; write an article or two, get in touch with your agent, do a book signing each week and rake in the millions of dollars….what’s not to like about that deal?
Well my friends, the reality of freelance writing is a bit different. When I think of freelance writing I think of one of the greats of all time in Major League Baseball…. Pete Rose….his nickname was Charlie Hustle. A freelance writer must be a hustler. He/she must constantly push, push and push again in search of writing gigs. Query letters are as much a part of their life as eating, and at times they have a desperate hold on sanity and a tenuous hold on reality.
They succeed because of a combination of talent, luck and marketing skills, and if they fail it is usually because they lack those same attributes.
So you want to be a freelance writer? Then listen now to what I say.
Freelance Writing Is a Business
First lesson of the day: freelance writing is a business! Do not confuse writing with freelance writing. The former is done for the pure joy of bettering a craft; the latter is done to survive economically. Freelance writing is a business and as such it must be treated as one. There are millions of freelance writers in the world today, but there are billions of readers as well. Freelance writing is not so much about defeating the competition as it is about appealing to the consumer. If you do not understand that distinction then you have not been writing long enough.
I write eight to ten hours each day. I have a schedule that I stick to religiously. I have a business plan, tax files, business hours and short-and-long range goals. I eat well when my business does well; I eat frugally when my business does poorly. I have extras when my marketing plan has been successful; I have no extras when my marketing plan has failed.
In other words, I am the CEO of my business and my business is freelance writing.
If you think you can treat freelance writing like a hobby and become rich and famous then you really need to see about getting your meds increased.
A must have for any freelance writer
This might come in handy for billing your first customer
- How Much Should You Charge For Freelance Writing Jobs?
Pricing in the freelance market can be a bit confusing. Read on for some clarity and further understanding about the world of writing.
Think Small and Then Branch out to Big
I will repeat an earlier statement: there are millions of freelance writers in the world, and many of them have much more experience than you have, most definitely if you are just starting out. That means they have made contacts with editors and agents and publishers and it means they have a working relationship with others in the business. It means they understand what it takes to succeed in this business, they have developed their platform and they have established a name for themselves.
All of that took time, and it will take you time as well, and there is no better place to begin your march towards the top than at the bottom.
Actors do not start out making multi-million dollar movies. They begin with local theater and indie films; they establish themselves in the profession; they work their way up the ladder of success. The same is true for freelance writers.
My first freelance job was with a content mill making $10 per 400 words. Hardly the stuff of legends. My first magazine article was a freebie to a local online publication in Olympia, Washington. Again, hardly the stuff of legends, but it was necessary to gain credits and become established in this business.
Build your foundation and then you can begin framing the building.
I have found this writer to be very truthful and realistic
Maximize Each Article
One article to one publication does not equate to riches. One article to several publications at least will pay the utility bill.
If I write an article about Mount Rainier, which I have, I can pitch that article to a national parks magazine. I can also pitch it to a Washington State travel magazine. I can also pitch that article to an RV magazine and a vacation magazine and a……
Get the picture? There are exclusive publication rights, but there are also reprint rights, meaning that the same article can be published in several periodicals and they all pay you. Why limit yourself to one pay day when multiple pay days await you?
The same can be said for syndication. If you query a newspaper with an article idea, then syndicate that idea and pitch it to one hundreds newspapers; each one will pay as long as they receive exclusive rights for their area.
Don’t sell yourself short. If you have an excellent article then let it work for you.
Some more tips
- Freelance Writing Tips and Suggestions
A plethora of ideas about the writing business. A veritable blizzard of suggestions for those who are snow blind.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Becoming a successful freelance writer takes time, as in a year or more. This is a case of doing as I say and not as I have done, because this writer did quit his full-time job with benefits to start from scratch as a freelance writer with no benefits. I was in a unique situation with few bills and some savings to tide me over until I became established, but few writers have that luxury.
A general rule of thumb tossed about in the freelance world is do not go full-time in freelancing and do not quit your day job until you are making at least 50% of your normal income from writing, and then think long and hard about making the break from the security of your regular job.
It is frightening to have no safety net. There is a great deal of pressure. There are endless anxious nights as the bills pile up and the rejection letters pile up with the bills. There are thousands of excellent writers out there who are barely scraping by, so keep those realities in mind before you pull the plug on a guaranteed income and venture into the shark-filled waters of freelancing.
One Final Tip
Don't limit yourself to one avenue of freelancing. There are more ways to make money in this business besides magazines. Try your hand at screenplays. Try your hand at ghostwriting. Try resumes and copywriting and yes, even try the content mills if you must. Every job adds to your platform and your credibility as a professional freelance writer.
Join me on my writing blog for more suggestions
- Artistry With Words | A topnotch WordPress.com site
Writing tips, thoughts, links, suggestions, discussions and much more
Another helpful tip
That’s Enough to Get You Started
“When there seemed to be no hope at all……” Yes indeed, welcome the world of freelance writing. There will be times when you question your sanity and doubt in your abilities. There will be times when the pressure becomes almost unbearable. This is no easy gig and it is not a gig for the easily-deterred. Fame and fortune are pinpricks of light in the distance, and percentages will tell you that few truly make it in this freelance world.
Still, it is a rush. It is an adrenalin-fueled walk on the wild side, feeding the need that is in all freelance writers. One small victory keeps us hungry and hopeful; one query acceptance sends us back to the writing board to pour out another thousand words and part of our soul.
If that sounds like something you can embrace then welcome to the fold. Misery loves company but so, too, does success.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”