So you want to be a freelance writer?
I can’t blame you. There’s a lot of freedom in it. You can go where you want, work during the time of day that suits you and be your own boss.
At the same time, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. To get to where you can actually live off it can be challenging. It’s a bit of a catch-22 where you can’t get gigs until you’ve proven yourself, but you can’t prove yourself until you have some gigs.
Fortunately, there are ways out of this predicament. Here we are going to cover some of the better strategies for you to employ to get your Freelance writing career going.
1) Start a Website
It doesn’t have to be a blog, but you’ve got to have some place out there where you can showcase the work you’ve done. This is particularly true as it has never been easier to start something like this and make it look pretty good.
Why go through the effort when you can just send links to prospective editors?
For several reasons:
- It means you’re far easier to find and it gives you a place that you can link to in all the articles that get put online in your name.
- On a website, you decide how it looks, what pictures get associated and the general layout. And though you might not think that matters, it does. We are subconsciously influenced by a wide number of characteristics.
- A website means that when people Google you, chances are a great deal better that they see what you want them to see, rather than whatever else is out there. And that is an effective bit of personal branding.
- If you’re at the beginning of your career, this is where you can post articles, for example by starting a blog, to showcase your expertise. People are far more likely to hire you if they’ve got some kind of work sample to look at.
Particularly when you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to focus on one area. That doesn’t mean you can’t write about other areas. If the opportunity presents itself, by all means, do. But when possible aim to write in your area.
The reason for this is quite straightforward. When an editor is looking to fill a job, they generally don’t think about generalists. They think about specialists who’ve demonstrated expertise in that area before.
As a specialist you can take your area of expertise and put a big fat equals sign behind it, followed by your name in the minds of your audience.
3) Accept rejection
If you’re not getting regularly rejected as a freelance writer, you’re not trying hard enough. It’s part and parcel of the job.
Don’t take it personally. Don’t see it as a sign of failure.
Instead, see it as the dead bodies that you’ve got to climb over to get where you’re trying to go. Sure, it isn’t nice, but it’s necessary.
There are even people that argue that you should aim to be rejected. I’m not sure I’d go that far. I personally just shrug my shoulders and move on. Often I’ll even take the idea that got rejected, re-imagine it and shoot if off to the next publication.
4) Aim high
Okay, not every attempt at a writing job should be at the upper echelon of writing opportunities. At the same time, don’t always aim for the D-grade publications. Consistently and constantly keep applying for the higher level jobs.
Sure, they’ll reject you and reject you and reject you; until the day when they don’t. And the moment that happens you’ll have a publication at one of the higher level publications, which in turn will open so many doors that you can’t believe.
At that point, you might even be able to leave the D-grade publications behind entirely.
And what have those rejections cost you? Absolutely nothing as long as you can take them in stride and accept that they’re par for the course.
5) Have a steady contract
For me, the steady work that I’ve gotten from one or two clients has been a life-saver. Sure, I don’t always enjoy the work and it doesn’t pay as well as some other gigs, but it means that I’ve got a basic income.
From there I’ve got the freedom to shoot for the moon, work on longer term projects and more.
In fact, I think that I wouldn’t have written some of the most successful articles if I wouldn’t have had this job to back me up, as I would never have had the courage to try for them. I’d have been too busy finding ways to get food on the table.
Note that there is one big risk to these contracts. You can get complacent and stop aiming for better-paid jobs. In that case, you can get stuck in a rut. Don’t let that happen. My advice is to set a goal that you’re approaching at least so many new publications and editors with ideas a week.
Keep in touch with the people that have given you jobs. Say ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’ to anybody and everybody that might be interested in your work. You never know where you might meet them again and in what positions.
Has somebody that shares your interests?
Then definitely keep in touch with them! Sure, they might not be able to use you at the publication they’re at, but people don’t stick in jobs forever. They might move on and if you’ve built up a good relationship, then they might remember you in the next place they’re at. And that can mean new writing opportunities and new clients.
7) Keep working at it
Writing is something that you can keep getting better at. So, make sure you keep working at your career and that you keep working at getting good writing skills.
As long as there is a rising line, you shouldn’t give up – even if you do need to get the occasional day job to keep you going (there is no shame in that).
You never know when you’re finally going to break through. Sure, it might take a lot longer than you imagine (in fact, it almost inevitably will) but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
So don’t give up just before the finishing line. Keep fighting, keep working and eventually you’ll get there. Take it from somebody who had to slog his way from the bottom (and I mean the very bottom) to where he is today.