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Ten Radical Tips For Freelance Writers
THE REALITIES OF FREELANCE WRITING
Goodness gracious, how many freelance writers are there in the world? My only contact with them is through a writing site called HubPages, but even on that one website there are over 100,000 writers. Can there be over a million freelancers? Five million? I have no doubt that there are, and they are all looking for that pot of gold at the end of the literary rainbow.
That last sentence should be a little depressing for many of you, because that means there is a great deal of competition in the field of freelancing, and let’s face it, that rainbow is limited in size. There are only so many pieces to that literary pie and far too many people with forks and a serious hunger.
So what should you do if you are a freelancer? Well, one avenue is to go the way of the content mills. You can write SEO articles until the cows come home, and there will always be someone willing to pay you five bucks for 500 words. At that pay rate you just might earn enough to retire by the time you are eighty.
You can break free of the SEO frenzy and write some quality articles for sites that will actually pay enough for you to enjoy a dinner out from time to time. The choice is yours!
If you feel like SEO is robbing your brain of oxygen, then continue reading and you just might find the path to your own personal rainbow.
FEEL FREE TO SAY NO
I know, this sounds like a sacrilege, but bear with me for a moment while I tell you a story. I agreed to write a content article awhile back on oil well drilling. It was offered by a business contact that I had done considerable work for, and I figured I’d do a little research and whip out a quick article and pocket the twelve bucks.
It turns out that oil drilling is a complicated business that uses a language that sounded very much like Ancient Greek to me, and when I was finished my article was stilted and embarrassing. In other words, for twelve bucks I almost ruined a good working relationship.
I now pick and choose rather carefully any jobs I apply for. I do not randomly apply for anything being offered and I set a dollar amount that I am not willing to go below. My time is valuable and I won’t waste it making pennies when there are dollars to be made.
WRITE ABOUT THINGS YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT
This would appear to be the exact opposite of the last tip, but it has a qualification that goes along with it. Many advisors in the writing game will say to only write about things you know and quite frankly that is far too limiting. I have a pretty good educational background with three college degrees, and the amount of things I know nothing about far outweighs the things I know something about.
I am not willing to limit my opportunities to just those fields in which I am knowledgeable, but I also am not willing to write about things that will forever be a mystery to me no matter how much research I do. For instance, I will never write an article about the pains of childbirth, but I have written numerous articles about automobiles, and I wouldn’t know a torque converter if I tripped over one.
SEND QUERIES TO MULTIPLE PUBLICATIONS
Back in the good old days, editors wanted first crack at material and they would request that you only submit to one editor at a time. That was all well and good when refusal occurred in a matter of days. Now, though, there are so many submissions that editors can only promise to get back to you in weeks or months. If your article is time-sensitive then that system will not work.
I submit to as many editors as I can find, and I let them know that I am doing that. For a time-sensitive article, like the coming Olympics, I tell them that the first editor to buy the story gets the story. Editors are not stupid and I believe that they appreciate the honesty. Besides, they know what the competition is like out there just as you do.
SCREW EXPOSURE AND NARROW YOUR FOCUS
There once was a day, not so very long ago, when writers would jump at the chance to have their work published for no fee. They were after exposure and the thinking went that if they didn’t get paid for a particular piece they were still getting their name out there for others to see and that was invaluable.
Hogwash! My time is valuable and it takes time to write an article. There are millions of websites out there and thousands of online magazines and print magazines and journals, and they all pay real money for real articles. The days of this boy writing for free are long gone and they should be for you as well.
SMALLER IS BETTER
Everyone wants to write for Better Home & Gardens or Good Housekeeping. The thinking is that these are huge, established magazines and they will look fantastic on your resume. Well, that may be true, but remember that everybody and their mother wants to write for those mags, so the competition is beyond stiff. I have also found that national magazines can be a bit oppressive in their demands.
My suggestion is to go small and build relationships with editors of low-key, low-hassle online magazines. The requirements are usually much more lax and you can earn a steady income without the migraine headaches.
PAYING YOUR DUES IS EXHAUSTING
You have all heard the saying that you have to pay your dues. Again, hogwash! Yes, you must have writing skills and yes, you need to improve those skills, but that is all the due paying you need to do.
If you tell yourself that you are a newbie and you must accept anything anyone is willing to throw at you, then you will be working for pauper’s wages for decades. Learn your writing craft and then shoot for the moon. Why not? What do you have to lose, a crummy five bucks for 500 words?
ACCEPT THE FACT THAT YOU MAY NOT BE THE BEST FOR THE JOB
Never, and I repeat never, tell an editor that you are the best person for the job. Chances are excellent that there is someone out there who is better than you, so why open that can of worms?
Show an editor that you have game. Show an editor that you are trustworthy and that you meet deadlines. Show an editor that you are willing to do the research and do a more-than-credible job. Do not claim to be the best because chances are good that you are not.
TAKE A ROAD LESS TRAVELED
There are millions of freelance writers in the world. There is only one you. Start acting like it.
The big thing these days is blogging. I would venture to guess that there are millions of blogs online. That is one hell of a lot of competition. How are you going to make yourself and your blog stand out? The same question can be asked about your freelance business. How are you going to make that business unique and not one of the current herd? If you can answer that question then you are well on your way to success.
STAY WHERE YOU ARE AND ENJOY THE SCENERY
Do you remember the days when it was mandatory that you live in Los Angeles or New York if you wanted a career in writing? Well forget about it! The internet blew that theory right out of the water. You don’t have to move anywhere; all you have to do is learn how to be a good writer and your talent will take you places no airplane ever could.
STOP USING THE SHOTGUN APPROACH IN PROMOTION
I know, everyone says that you have to get your product out there any way that you can, and social networks like Facebook and Twitter allow you to do that for free….but….the same is true for everyone else, too. Have you logged onto Facebook lately? I just did in a random experiment and in the span of five minutes I read twelve postings about a product of some sort, or the latest appearance by some guy’s band, or the latest writing by someone and on and on we do and where it stops nobody knows.
Now guess how many of those postings I read…..ZERO!
There is too much of it and in the end it is all meaningless. Instead of flooding the market in hopes of finding someone who cares about your writing, try building a network or people who can actually do you some good? Start with fellow writers. Add agents or publishers you may have had contact with. Toss in anyone you have met that may be involved in business. Now expand those networks and meet new people. I submit to you that you can use your time much more wisely on a site like Linkedin than you can on Facebook, and you most definitely will do better networking by attending writing conferences than you would hanging posters on telephone poles. Just sayin’.
Stop Making Excuses
NOW GET OUT THERE AND DO YOUR THING
The writing scene is changing rapidly. There are millions of freelance writers out there trying to accomplish the same things you are trying to accomplish, and for the most part they are all using the same techniques to advance their careers. How can you tell one from another? How can anyone stand out from the crowd if everyone is doing the same things?
I say to you that it is time to break the mode and find your own path. Just because everyone else is doing it does not make it right. Think outside the box and find a method of advancing your career that nobody else is trying. It just might mean the difference between success and mediocrity.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)