Five Easy Tips to Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer
By Rob Parnell
Have you noticed recently that everyone's talking about the economic downturn? About how tough things are getting for the average worker? And that property and investments you had a year ago are now about as valuable as plastic ornaments?
To be honest my partner and I, both full time writers, hadn't really noticed the recession creeping up. We rarely follow the news, usually because we're too busy on writing projects.
In fact, money wise, we had our best month last December AND petrol was back to a dollar a liter—so we both felt the world was a cool and groovy place.
We're not the only ones.
If you're an astute surfer you'll also have noticed that writers, in particular, have been bragging about how they seem to have a recession proof profession.
It's true. Think about it.
It doesn't matter if all else is collapsing, in the modern world today, pretty much the only thing that never goes away is news, the need for information, books and publications, movies, TV shows, marketing material and just about anything creative that starts with writing.
It's not really an amazing phenomenon - just a reality.
Recently I've been getting a lot of emails from writers asking, "How can I make extra money? Indeed, any money? How can I use my writing talent to bring cash into the household and help my family? Myself?"
My answer varies depending on the writer.
Some, like JK Rowling, may benefit from hiding away for two years to write a bestseller - she's living proof these things happen.
But let's get more short term here.
Others I suggest they write ebooks and sell them—or other people's—on the Net. Still more I recommend self publishing because I've yet to meet a writer that couldn't make money from POD.
But mostly I urge writers to become freelance - mainly because that's what I did. Not only does it embrace all of the above ideas but there's more, actually many more, opportunities out there than meets the eye of the average would be freelance writer.
Here are five ways to attune yourself to the freelance writer's world.
1. Don't Say No to Anything
Too many new writers say no to certain types of work because they believe that it's not their kind of thing.
Is this crazy or what?
It's like a bricklayer saying, "No, love, no can do. That's not really my kind of wall." or a dentist complaining, "Oops, can't help you, mate, not my kind of teeth."
If you're a writer, you write.
Writing an article on fly-fishing or the affect of the weather on depression is not, I repeat NOT, going to ruin your art with fiction or poetry. I promise you, it will do the exact opposite.
All kinds of people want business reports, marketing copy, newsletter articles, ghost written autobiographies, speeches, jokes, fillers, technical manuals, contracts, resumes, you name it.
Don't limit yourself.
All writing experience is good experience.
2. Don't Rely on the Net
I've lost count of the number of writers who tell me they've tried to find freelance writing work on the Net and end up being badly paid (if it all), abused and / or under-appreciated.
You know the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing expecting a different result - so why keep writing for peanuts when you don't have to?
The work is out there, offline, all around you. Perhaps so close you don't even see it. (Or perhaps don't want to see it?)
For every hour you scan the Net looking for phantom writing opportunities you could be calling real businesses in your local neighborhood touting for paying work, or sending out non-fiction pitches to publishers (who always prefer you do this offline anyway), or dropping off leaflets about your services to your local newsagent or library.
Okay, so it doesn't seem as glamorous perhaps, but that's where the real work is. Do you wanna be freelance or not?
3. Believe in Yourself
It's too easy to think you're not good enough or you don't have enough samples.
It's easy but it's an excuse.
Everybody has to start somewhere. I've been getting freelance writing work most of my adult life. Not once have I had to send over a sample, even when I started out.
Tell someone with confidence you can do something and they will believe you. If they don't like what you do, they'll never call you again. But mostly, we writers have a lot more talent and ability than we think.
Only writers beat themselves up about writing.
You'll find that clients change what they don't like and generally pay you anyway.
(Ask any journalist!)
4. Believe in your Voice
If I had to pick one psychological disadvantage that new writers face it's lack of faith in their own voice, also known as writing style (if you're not sure what "voice" is.)
Okay, we all have to learn the basics: punctuation, spelling, grammar, formatting appropriately, etc. These are the minimum requirements if we go freelance. But that stuff's easy. You can learn all you need to know in an afternoon.
But once you know how to edit out your mistakes, don't get too hung up on the words. Your writing should reflect the way you speak and think.
For one thing, it's easier for you, as a writer, to aspire to that.
And getting all formal and literary sounding is usually the sign of a bad writer. Good writers strive all their lives to make the writing smooth and appear natural and effortless.
Trust your own voice. It's what makes you unique.
But, uh, don't forget to learn the basics, will you?
5. Be Persistent
Like anything in life, you need to work at something consistently to get better. Nobody jumps into a helicopter and knows exactly how to fly the thing without practice.
But don't get fooled into thinking you need a professional qualification to get started as a freelance writer. You'll drive yourself crazy with this misnomer - and most likely spend a fortune stifling your innate talent. (I've seen it happen all too often.)
The only thing a would-be freelance writer needs is to persist. Writing is one of those things that improves the more you do it.
And actually getting rejected helps you far more quickly!
So don't delay, get your pen out and start writing. Start actively seeking freelance work - online and more especially, offline. Submit more. Send out more queries, make yourself available.
Letting everyone know you're a freelance writer is a great way to start. (And it costs nothing.)
Sometimes it's your mum or your best friend that knows someone who needs a professional writer.
So take the gig - and do it.
And don't complain it's not your kind of writing!
Newsletter contributing columnist Rob Parnell is a prolific writer who’s published novels, short stories, and articles in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, and a teacher who’s conducted writing workshops, critique groups, and seminars.
Please visit Mr. Parnell’s Web site at: