In honor of Halloween I’d like to trot out and kill a few monsters in the closet that scare would be freelancers out of their dream.
Monster: You’ll never get paid or paid on time!
There’s not a working freelancer I know that has never been hosed by a client. There’s also not a store I know of that has never had to deal with a bounced check or shoplifters.
Kill Strategy: Planning and prevention.
Magazines are notoriously slow. There’s not much you can do about it other than to stack work so while your waiting on Shopper’s Delight’s article payment to come in you’ve got items coming in from six months ago. In other words, it takes time to build a steady stream of income. It helps to diversify your income – magazines both local and national, blogs, etc. as long as the work lines up with your career path goals.
Corporate work or online work is easier because they tend to pay faster especially if they use PayPal, direct deposit or other electronic banking options. Make sure your payment terms are clear, are understood and enforced. It takes time out of your day, but dropping a call can catch an error or shake down a slow payer. Some writers charge late fees, others demand a deposit to begin and most have a nicely worded and effective “Demand for Payment” letter that sounds all legal and scary for seriously overdue accounts.
Monster: It’s lonely being a writer.
Writing is one of those solitary careers where you spend much of your day inside your own thoughts bringing words to print.
Kill Strategy: Strong Support System
It’s doesn’t have to be all dark corners and hunched-over typing. Being a writer affords you a unique opportunity: to be a part of a distinguished group of people. Reach out to other writers, but also, be frank and honest with family and friends. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean they can stop for coffee anytime they feel like dropping by, but because you work from home you can schedule time to hang out when others may have to punch it in at the office. It’s imperative for writers to have a core group of both writing and non-writing friends to combat the singleness of our jobs.
Monster: There are a million writers out there all clamoring for a few gigs.
There are a million writers yes, there are limited gigs, yes, but there are limitless possibilities if you look for them.
Kill Strategy: Go beyond the traditional publications and websites.
Time, Newsweek, Vogue, Women’s Wear Daily, Cosmo, Men’s Health, Parents have thousands of writers trying to crack into their pages. Now, did you know there are dozens of magazines that start-up each week? There are long standing magazines that are not first thought magazines, but they are successful and most importantly there are fewer writers beating down their doors. Many writers make a handsome living writing for local, regional and lesser known publications. I can attest there is a magazine for everything. Think of a subject. Now Google it with the additional word “magazine.” Whether online or in print you can, with effort, not only break into writing, you can have a viable career.
Monster: The Catch 22. You need clips to get work and you need work to get clips.
It’s true, clips make the writing world go ’round, all writers need something to show editors and clients that they can produce quality work…
Kill Strategy: It’s not only clips that will get you work. Writing samples help as well. A sample is different than a clip because it’s not a published piece, it is however, a testament of your skill. Also, with a little digging, you’ll be able to find a publication – usually a smaller one unless you have a unique skill set, background or tie to an industry leader – that will take on a new writer so you can begin to build your portfolio.
These are just a few, but popular boogie monsters in the closet that rattle the cages of would-be writers. There are grains of truth to the stories, but like most legends they’ve been inflated a bit. If you really want to be a freelancer, map out your kill strategy and get to work!
What are your favorite freelance writer myths/legends?