Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

So you want to be a freelance writer

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2008 at 11:27 pm

There is something romantic about writing. Something that speaks to people on a variety of levels.

You may want to be a freelancer to supplement your income, or you may be a fresh journalism grad afraid of the current business climate. Maybe you just love reading and want to get your ideas out there. Whatever your reasons, there is one truth you’re going to have to learn. Writing isn’t romantic, at least if you want to get paid for it.

Freelance writing can be down, dirty, and downright hard.

If you’re just starting out, you’re going to have to prove to editors that you have what it takes to write great copy. You’re going to have to maintain a high level of professionalism in every professional and online interaction. And, you’re going to have to live against the grain of society.

If you’ve been at this for a while, you’re going to have to start shifting the way you think, begin building your brand, and learn a new bag of tricks for the digital age.

On top of all this, you’re going to have to deal with perpetual rejection while maintaining an ego on steroids, because in becoming a freelancer, you’re going to be a lot like a used salesman. Except, you’re going to be glossing over your own dings, scratches, and faulty transmission to convince others that you’re a great investment.

No matter where you are in your dive into freelance writing, I have three tips you can implement into your life today to give you an edge in the modern freelancing market.

Ditch the text/ IM speak.
Do this immediately. If you text message or IM your friends, start spelling out words and using punctuation. If you sneak an LOL or emoticon into an email to an editor, you’re not going to make a good impression. Go through and edit your Myspace and Facebook pages while you’re at it, because a good editor is going to Google you if they’re thinking about hiring you.

Start a blog today.
This is especially important if you don’t have a portfolio. And, keep in mind your professional blog isn’t going to be your bitch log. Write good copy and write it often. Post pictures if you want to get into photography. Present a wide range of what you can write, from book reviews to news articles all relating to a specific topic you choose. But, understand that if you want to get into writing for Catholic publications writing about sexual fetishes probably won’t fly, and if you want to write about the horror industry or movies in general you should have some way to contact professionals in the field. I will write more about blogging in later posts.

If you don’t have a professional blog, do some digging into free blog hosting. Blogger and WordPress are good choices, Google them for more information.

Read as much as you can.
Read the paper. Read magazines. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read short stories. Read advertisements and advertorials and the backs of cereal boxes if you have to. Read greeting cards and bumper stickers. Read to try to figure out why what you’re reading does or doesn’t work, and then read for fun. Read websites, blogs, and physical print items. Read for hours a day or for as much time as you can fit into your schedule. Because, believe me, if you’re not reading, you’re not going to be a compelling writer. As a writer, you’re going to have to be an expert on everything from religion to superheroes, and all of that knowledge should somehow make its way into print. That’s the way to surprise and delight readers, because it brings them into the cosmic joke that everything’s related. Just to give you some insight into a writer’s mind, while I was writing this paragraph, I was thinking of the “Choose Life” speech from Trainspotting. If you’ve never heard of it, go out and buy the book and the movie because you’re missing out.

That’s all I’ve got for today, but come back soon. The next post I write will be about keeping emails professional.