Being a freelance writer isn’t an easy gig. Many people wake up on January 1st and after staring at themselves through a hazy fog of cheap champagne and celebratory glitter decide that this would be the year they took the big step and pursue their passion for the written word.
Three months and several rejection letters later they sit alone in their basement home office muttering about being an under appreciated, true artist. Instead of writing for a living, they spend the majority of the day failing at freelancing. Fortunately, after spending a fair amount of time sucking at this job and talking with other writers who have also, at some point sucked, I have found five truisms that should keep you from flunking out of freelance writing:
Freelancing is a J-O-B.
The bunny slippers, the special hours, the inordinate amount of time spent checking email or taking photos of food may make this gig look like a cool excuse for tax write-offs. I assure you, whether you are wearing a bathrobe or a business suit, if you don’t commit to working you won’t eat. Internet currency/street cred/real estate cannot be printed off and used as cash to pay the gas bill. I’ve tried it already.
Real world client interactions rock.
It’s shocking I know, and if you need to take a few moments to compose yourself I understand. There are times where you’ll have to *deep breath* unplug from the Matrix and get out there to find clients. Networking events,
business events and conferences, etc. are places to find these clients. If you have a niche, go to events for that niche, then you can hit them up on Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, etc.
If you never leave the house, you will miss out on a lot of opportunities.
If you want to pick a low-budget, start-up business, freelance writing is the way to go. To start, all you really need is a computer, an internet connection and a printer. However, if you stop there, the freelance writing money wagon will not stop at your door.
Okay, I’m not sure about there being a wagon, it could be an internet rumor like Facebook shutting down. The truth is, if you are unable to communicate with an editor, don’t have a website with links to your work or refuse to get on that Tweety thing or Faceplant you are going to miss opportunities.
You don’t need a fancy website, but you do need a little slice of internet real estate where you can host your clips. The advantage is two fold: many editors don’t open files from people they don’t know which means your query with clips attached may be deleted or shunted to the spam file. Also, you cannot rely on a website to keep your clips live. Saving them as a PDF and uploading them to your website will keep you from losing clips to limited bandwith or upgrading tragedies.
While you’re setting up your site, grab yourself an email account, an IM (instant message) profile and a social media account. If you have to pick one I would start with Twitter. Facebook tends to be more personal, while Twitter allows you to follow people in the industry without being personally connected.
You don’t need a paying client immediately to pay the rent, you have an opening in your schedule. It’s the difference between “Please go out with me, I haven’t had a date in a year” and “I scored two tickets to the game on Saturday, would you like to go with me?” Desperation is a turn-off in both the public and private sector. So don’t announce to Twitter that you need a job. Approach clients/editors privately – dm, email, phone call and let them know you are available.
Do Your Research.
Not a week goes by that I don’t get an email that says “I love/like/tolerate/skim your work on Freelance Writing Jobs, how do I become a freelance writer?” I always wonder why they left a site chock full of info, from a variety of industry professionals, to send me an email.
When I write back I always direct them back to FWJ and include a few of my favorite “Get started links.” I do this not to be an ass, but to give them the opportunity to use their own research skills to find the information that is important to them. Every writer has different goals, pathways and priorities when it comes to this profession. Putting in the time to research the industry boosts a writer’s confidence and affords them an opportunity to personalize their writing journey.
Being a freelance writer isn’t easy, but it is a worthwhile, bankable profession as long as writers keep an eye out for possible pitfalls on the way to writing success. Starting out well and maintaining good habits along the way will hopefully keep you from enduring a suckfest. I’ve been there and it’s not fun. You don’t need to be a starving artist to have a successful writing story. Plus, a rumbling tummy interferes with your inner monologue as you write.
Got any tips on how to stay sucker free? Share them below!