Each day, I get a slew of emails from starting freelance writers that want to know how to get those first few jobs. Now, I don't go off giving my secrets, but I definitely lead them in the right direction. There are a number of ways that you can land your first freelance project and continue your career into the lucrative world of writing/editing
Craig's List can be useful. Never fall for the scams, though. Never write for free. Oh, and please do not write for $5 for 500 words. I'll come to your house and hurt you. Using public advertisement locations like Craig's List is a great way to connect with businesses or companies looking to use freelance writers because they cannot afford to hire an in-house staff writer. Why? The average copy writer makes between 45-60K per year plus benefits. An employer can higher a freelance on a contract or per project and avoid the overhead of retirement and insurance costs.
Start a Blog:
Starting a blog with a domain name allows you to develop a voice. Starting a blog means that you will develop a site that adheres to the voice that you plan to sell. If you are a medical professional, I suggest creating a proper tone that demonstrates your expertise. That doesn't mean that you can't get quirky. Use this blog to write 450-600 word posts on topics in your fields.
As you can see from my blog, my specializations are in writing/editing, parenting, nutrition/fitness, and literature. I stick to those topics. You would be wary if all of the sudden I posted an article on composites vs. amalgams. You wouldn't trust my 'professional' opinion because I am not a dentist. I am a scholar with kids. Get help starting a blog using ProBlogger or SITSgirls. There are so many blog sites out there, but these are my favorite.
Buy the Latest Edition of Writer's Market:
I cannot underestimate the resourcefulness of the Writer's Market. I buy the new version each year and if you buy it off Amazon, it is WAY cheaper than if you go to the store. I suggest getting the deluxe edition which allows you to access the listings online. I keep this book on my desk because I can research the markets without wasting precious time on the internet.
When you begin writing freelance articles, make an index of ideas. Take these ideas and turn each one (maybe do 2-5 per day). Once you have the pitch, finger through the Writer's Market and pick out 5 markets that are matches for your pitch. Send the pitch out to the first one on the list and if it gets rejected, send it out to the next one and so on..
Spread Yourself Evenly Between Writing and Editing:
If you are like me, a lifelong learner, there is one thing that I know about myself that I am glad to know: I need multiple hats to be happy. I cannot just be a poet or writer. I must be a poet, journalist, editor, mom, teacher, and coordinator. I am multiple things. Being multiple things can cause some folks to spread themselves thin and NEVER accomplish anything. Don't do this. Choose two things.
Choose editing and writing, but only if you are great at both. While you are busy churning out pitches and submitting to publications or soliciting businesses, you can develop an editorial perspective. How? Here is what you should do:
- Email me about editorial internships with Unsolicited Press. We always make room for qualified candidates.
- Read the Chicago Manual of Style.
- Get a Dictionary. Read it at breakfast.
- Write a cold call editorial pitch. Email me if you need help. I charge $25 to write one of these (yes, I am a shark).
- Create a Linkedin account. Or, do one better and create a website. You know you can make a Tumblr blog look like a website and it's free to connect your domain? Not only that, it can serve as your social media outlet. Our managing editor does it: www.wordybirdy.org
- Create standard rates for your services. Be willing to negotiate.
- Submit to jobs, internships, or other.
- Offer editing services on a place like Fiverr
Be Persistent and Organized:
The main fault of new freelancers is that they get tied up in job boards and reading articles about writing. I mean the basics of writing. Sure, you should have stellar grammar. You should be able to pen a compelling piece on nonfiction with great research. If you cannot do this yet, take several courses in writing/literature. But do not get stuck in the perpetual freelance cycle of reading and never writing.
To be organized, do the following:
- Create a submissions record that lists the publication, the editor, return time, and date that you sent it.
- Create an idea index.
- Create a writing schedule and stick to it.
- Write all of your blog posts on one day and then set up a posting clock. Auto-post love.
- Create a budget.
- Set a long term goal.
- Organize your research into files based on topic.
Be persistent. Don't let rejection letters kill you. Who gives a shit if that publication didn't want your piece. Take it as constructive criticism. Look at your query and fix it. Make it even better than before and then send it out to another publication.
Freelance writing is HARD. If you think that you are going to just wake up tomorrow and start making money, then you are crazy and should find a job that gives you quick rewards...like working at Taco Bell.
Stay tuned for more posts on all of things that I love.