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Tip 3 for Living the Freelance Writing Life: Learn to Write
This is the third tip in my series on becoming a full-time freelance writer. This is the one I'm struggling with right now in my goal to support myself 100% on my writing. Learning to write is not something you do at the beginning and then stop; it is a never-ending process as writing changes.
Before you can begin to make serious money as a freelance writer, you will need to learn the different aspects of the type of writing you plan to do. Once you have decided what you will write and how much time you will spend writing, you need to decide what skills you need to learn or improve. This doesn't mean you have to go to college, even though that is one option. What it does mean is that you have to find ways to learn what you need to know to make money.
If you are like many people who are beginning their writing career, they have a lot going on in the rest of their lives. Unless you are already a student majoring in journalism or another writing degree, you will have to find a way to fit in your learning with other activities. An online class is one of the easiest ways to develop your writing skills. Here are some tips to help you find the right class:
Look for free. If you are experimenting with different kinds of writing to find what is suited to your personality, look for low-cost or free classes. They may not provide much in-depth information, but it will give you an idea of what that writing is like. You don't want to spend several hundreds of dollars on a course and then decide you don't want to do that kind of writing.
Look at reputation. If you know exactly what kind of writing you want to learn, look for schools that are part of a university or have a long-standing reputation. You want something that will teach you the details and not just give an introduction. The instructors should be writers who are currently doing that kind of writing. Someone who used to write is not going to be able to tell you about the current trends in writing.
Consider a degree. While a degree in journalism or creative writing isn't necessary, it can be helpful for getting your first jobs. A degree in copywriting or marketing can help you if you are doing promotional writing for pay. However, if you can't afford the cost of a full degree program, look at courses that only provide certification.
Check with writers' associations. They often have classes for different subjects and their certification carries weight with clients. American Writers & Artists, Inc is one example. They are a well-known association that offers many courses to writers to improve their skills. There is also the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. Writer's Digest magazine offers numerous courses online for every kind of writing.
Online classes are one convenient way to learn new writing skills and improve existing ones. The difficulty lies in your ability to find the time to do the work, but it worth the extra effort.
If you prefer the idea of working with a live instructor and interacting with other students, you also have a variety of options. You can attend a college and work on a degree or even just select a few classes. You can also find seminars or workshops that will include teaching in your chosen area. These are often intensive because they only last a few days, but you can gain a lot of new information. You can also meet some new contacts that will be important in the future.
I attended a writer's workshop a few years ago that had a literary agent as one of the speakers. She gave us her card and told us that she would read our manuscripts anytime we had one ready. I have never finished my mystery novel, but I still have her card for when I do.
Get a Mentor
This can be one of the best ways to learn about freelance writing. Talking to someone who is doing what you want to do will give you real-world experience that you can't get any other way. They can give you tips and hints that courses and books just won't cover.
How do you find a mentor? One of the best ways is to join a local writer's group. If there isn't one around you, look for groups online. You can also find someone from spending time in writing forums. If there is someone posting who gives good advice and you would like to talk with them, send them an email if they have contact information. Let them know you have been learning from their posts, and you would like to ask them some questions.
Writers are very helpful people and are usually willing to impart their wisdom to new writers. Don't be afraid to approach someone who you admire and feel you could benefit from.
If all else fails, find a blog of a writer who is doing similiar writing to what you want to do. Look to see if they have a Twitter account or Facebook page (they probably do) and sign up. While it won't be one-on-one attention, you can still learn a lot. I follow three writers that way, and they have helped me with my writing.
Don't Stop Learning
Writing is a constantly changing business and you have to be willing to learn new things if you hope to make a career of your passion. Look at it as an investment in your future, plus it can be a tax write off when you begin to make some income from your writing.
Keep learning and growing and you will be a successful writer!