So you want to learn how to be a freelance writer – or, at the least a better one.
While that’s a noble pursuit, it’s worth noting that we’re sitting squarely in 2017: apprenticeships with your friendly local scribe are about as plentiful as those with the local blacksmith, or cobbler.
Writing is still the same amazing art form it has always been. However most of it is done by legions of minds tucked securely – and often anonymously – behind legions of keyboards across the globe.
Pinning down a single mind to help guide your freelance writing journey can be very tricky, but you can improve your chances considerably by using a little etiquette and a lot of common sense in your search.
Here are a few important tips for freelancers in search of a mentor to call their own:
Lead With Originality
If there’s one thing a seasoned writer can spot from miles away, it’s boilerplate.
If you send the same cut-and-paste query to every potential mentor, you’ll get results commensurate with your effort. In other words, zip.
Open your communications with some indication you’ve read and appreciated paste articles or books they’ve penned, and express a desire to follow in their footsteps.
While you don’t need to turn your initial communication into its own novel, a little substance to your outreach will be more likely to get you a response.
Respect Their Time
If a potential mentor responds to you, don’t keep them hanging for a response.
Likewise, don’t send an unsolicited email to them at 3am and expect an immediate reply; give them ample time to respond to any message.
Remember, they didn’t become a successful freelance writer in their niche by constantly kicking back: they’re probably working too, just as you are.
If a meeting is set up, be punctual and if you absolutely must cancel, be sure to give as much notice as possible.
Be Ready to Offer Something
It could be as simple as paying for lunch or as complex as a dedication in your upcoming novel, but don’t hunt down a mentor with empty hands.
Knowing how to write is a finely-honed art and you wouldn’t ask another trades-person to fix your car for free, or paint your house for free, right?
You’re asking someone to lend you some of their specific skill, and potentially even empower you to be direct competition, so at the very least buy them a hamburger.
Be gracious and grateful if they agree to be your mentor, and work hard to apply the lessons they teach.
For some mentors, the best payment is seeing a pupil succeed, but you’ll need to offer a little something to get your teacher-student relationship to that point.
A mentor is all the best parts of how-to guides rolled into one interactive encyclopedia of what you need to know.
Treat that opportunity with the gratitude it deserves, and hopefully you’ll cultivate a career-boosting connection with your new mentor. Happy hunting, freelancers!
Delany M is a talented freelance writer at WriterAccess who creates dynamic content while mentoring other new writers within the private talent community. See how outsourcing content creation can save you time to focus on