So you want to become a freelance writer.
Are you sure? I mean really, really sure?!
Too often I find that people are laboring under the misapprehension that freelancing is the be-your-own-boss jackpot – you sit at home and aim bonbons at your gaping maw with one hand while you toss off some nonsense text with the other hand, and voila! Instant career. Um… nope. That might work if you’re only after a little extra shoe money, but for aspiring writers who want to build an actual career, freelancing requires just as much forethought, planning, serious leg (okay, maybe finger) work, and even research, studying, and continuing education as a “real” job. Here’s a few glimpses into your freelancing future:
That’s the first step. Just write. Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be) is the hardest thing to do – and FYI, this part doesn’t get any easier the longer you’re in the writing biz. You can’t apply for a freelance platform without a sample and you can’t pitch to clients without a portfolio and you won’t get any better at writing without actually writing, so do it! Start by writing what you know and/or what you love, which reminds me…
Decide Who You Are.
While a successful freelancer must wear many hats, it’s simply impossible to be all things to all people, and that includes writing for every available niche. You can try snapping up every available job regardless of the subject matter, but you’ll go further faster if you identify your strengths and capitalize on them. Are you a DIY master? Do you kick butt at reviewing restaurants or rewriting recipes? Were you an accountant in your former life? Don’t worry if this isn’t your dream area of expertise; the great part about establishing a freelance identity is that it’s not permanent. Any time you want to change, you can, you just need to establish a foundation (and some sort of client list or at least a portfolio) first.
Learn to Edit.
Whenever I messed up my room my mother would put her hands on her hips, survey the mess, and deadpan, “The maid’s not in today,” and that was my cue to tackle that frightening mass of books and clothes creeping out from the corner. When your editor marks up your copy with the same feedback time and time again (or worse, your clients contact you with repeated complaints about the same issues), it’s time to clean up your mess. Get in the habit of proofreading from the very first piece you write, and learn from the mistakes you make.
Constantly Hone Your Craft.
If you’re going to write for a living you have to understand that you’ll never be done. There is no ultimate end point, no “there” to get to. You’ll constantly be working and writing and chasing the next lead. That’s just the way it is. My advice? Enjoy the process, love the lifestyle, and the results will follow.
So, I ask again… you want to become a freelance writer? Then do it. Do it now – start now – and don’t let anyone talk you out of it. It’s not the idiomatic cake walk you may previously thought it to be, but it sure is awesome.
Alana M is a lover, not a fighter. When she isn’t hard at work writing all kinds of witty and engaging content, she enjoys long walks on the beach, lion taming, nuclear physics and lying about her hobbies.