Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to Become a Freelance Writer

So, you say you want to be a freelance writer.  What?  You don't?  Why not?  There are several advantages to being a freelance writer (if you have the time, that is, don't have a day job or can do it in the evenings):

  1. It pays.  Not a lot, but I've made more freelancing than selling my novels.
  2. You get to practice your craft more.  It can challenge your writing abilities. You have to interview people who are boring and you still have to make an interesting story out of it.
  3. You learn a lot.  I think most writers love to learn and freelance writing you learn about stuff then write about it.  It's a blast.
But you might be say, "How can I break into the freelance market?"  I know, it's not easy.  I had one advantage that I live in a small town so it was easier to hobnob with the movers and shakers and editors of the local publications.  But here's some tips that should work even if you live in a big city:

Get out there and meet people.  Join civic groups.  Go visit them first and see if there's the type of people you want to meet in them.  If you find one with an editor or a publisher in it, bingo!  This may cost a little money and time, but it's worth it, even if just for the networking purposes.  I belong to three groups in my area: the economic development council, Toastmasters, and a networking group called Power Partners.  The economic development council has been the best (and the most expensive, minimum individual dues are $100 per year) because the editor of the local newspaper is also a member.

Volunteer.  Contact your local hospital, clinic, animal shelter, service organizations and volunteer to write for their newsletter.  They will most likely welcome the free work.  This will give you clippings for when you want to get paid work.  It will also let you practice (and maybe learn errors to avoid) before you try to get paid.  And you'll get clippings (which are scans of the articles you wrote as they appeared in the publication)

Query: Go to a bookstore and find local publications such as magazines.  Most towns of any size have a local-focus publication or two.  Look at the masthead and find the name of the editor (they might also have their email address).  Go to their website, see if you can find out the editor's email if it's not in the masthead.  Come up with a cool idea for a story (this is the hard part) and then email the editor your idea.  Sell it to them, use your writing skill to make them ache to publish it.  Include a resume and clippings as PDF, if possible.  Do this as much as you can (i.e., have ideas, have places to query).

Query again: If they reject the first one, try again (give it a month or so).  Unless they say " stop emailing me" continue to query with new ideas.

Where do you get these ideas?  Well, again, you'll have to look around and be part of the community, not just sit at your computer writing your 200,000-word long high fantasy novel.

Are you guaranteed success?  Nope.  Will freelancing pay the bills?  Not unless you're doing it a lot.  I made about $600 in December.  I'll probably make $250 or so this month.

And when you have a freelance job (paid or not), read this blog post for tips on being successful.  Then read this blog post for tips on editing.  And persevere.  You didn't write that book by watching reality shows.  You won't become a freelance writer by not working at it.

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