How did it all start?
Freelance writing, I mean.
If I had to answer this question, I think I would say: “It began with accepting the obstacles and taking up the challenge.”
Well— a few weeks ago I received exactly that kind of question from a follower of my Facebook page.
Hi, I am a Wanna-be-writer. Could you please explain how long it took you to be what you are now and what tips would you recommend for me. I am a beginner and I don’t know where to start. Could you help?
The question awed me. How was I going to respond to give him a thorough answer without coming up with a 2,000 words personal essay? I had to think about it.
So I told this person I would better off answering his question with a blog post (which I’m doing), but I felt compelled to spend at least a few words on a short reply.
It takes practice, goodwill and a bit of stubbornness to enter the freelance world. You will have to experiment with various writing styles and niches until you find your match, research and keep up-to-date with writing markets, marketing your skills and products on Social Media, blog and network with fellow freelancers… and you have to keep going, keep pitching and marketing even when the waters are too calm for your taste. Never give up. :-]
That summarizes it a bit, doesn’t it? But it still didn’t answer the “how did you get started” question, so I tried to put myself in my follower”s shoes, to recall what it felt to me– that fear that left me wonder whether I’d ever make it in the freelance world.
I never gave up on my dream to write
When you write small books and essays from age 10, you know you’re never really going to give up on your passion. As I grew up, a hobby that made me happy 24/7 slowly began to shape into a future career in my mind.
Oh, there have been many along the way— “I’ll be a pediatrician!”, “I’ll be a teacher!”, “I’ll be a full time comic artist!” —but nothing ever replaced writing in my art. Perhaps its only ‘competitor’ was illustration, because I’ve always been an artist, too. Art and writing are my room-mates.
So your first asset to enter the freelance writing world should be your dreams, your passion for writing. It will get you going, even when you run into obstacles and downtimes.
I never gave up on my dream to write for money
Why just write without compensation?
To earn money doing what you love is THE job!
Even so, it took years for me to accept that I would have to charge a fee for my writing services. Back in 2007, when I started earning money for writing sponsored posts on my own blogs, I felt compelled to set my fees at the lowest possible amount ($1 to $5) and I was just happy that I could make that measly $50/month I could spend on my personal shopping without having to ask my parents.
But was it right? No way!
I recently published a free 5-page comic here on Writer’s Mind that tells the story of Margie, a newbie freelancer who puts her lifestyle at risk to write for content mills. That’s what I was going to do if I hadn’t the push from my family, my friends, kind advertisers and fellow writers who saw the potential in my writing.
Don’t do that mistake. Life is good and your job should add more good to it, not turn it into a hell.
I read blogs, books, magazines, white papers and more
Every writer starts as an avid reader. At least, that makes sense if you think that you can’t learn how to write well if you don’t read how others write well first.
I read blogs because I’m a blogger. When you stumble upon big blogs like AllFreelanceWriting, TheRenegadeWriter, YoungPrePro, QuickSprout or MakeALivingWriting I know I’m going to learn a big deal about how to widen my blogging horizons and I regularly discover new angles and new niches.
I read magazines because I want to pitch them and because I want to stay informed. Also, magazines are a precious resource of new ideas, potential sources and prospects (because I may not be interested in pitching the magazine itself, but a company that advertises on that specific publication in a specific niche).
I read white papers and case studies because they’re great for background research, they provide useful information about a subject (yes, I have used white papers to complement my university studies, too!) and they show you how YOU can write a successful white paper or case study.
Read anything that interests you. And sometimes, even what you have no real interest in. Your mind takes in all the new angles and voices and will come up new connections.
I used fiction to experiment with different types of writing
Whether it was Character blogging, fanfiction or short stories, using fictional situations helped me explore different niches and types of writing.
If you’re a blogger interested in finance, you could create a fictional character that works in a bank and writes detailed journal entries about his experiences.
If you want to learn how to write a case study, you may invent a fictional corporation and write about how you (and that’s yourself or a fictional person you created for the exercise) helped it achieve a certain goal.
There’s no limit to imagination, is there? Then use it at your own advantage.
I explored the available markets in length and breadth
Research, research, research. It’s the only way to learn what the market expects from you.
Whether you wish to write for a magazine, a blog or a company website (copywriting), your pitches and proposals won’t get your the job unless you have done your homework. Prospects want to know that you understand their niche, that you keep up to date with the industry and that you’re flexible enough to find connections on your own.
Want to land more gigs? Give your curiosity a boost and use it to improve your research skills. :-]
When I had a hard time understanding a niche, I studied
No human being was born with an encyclopedia installed in their brain.
You have to keep learning throughout your life, keep up to date with niches that interest you, find new connections between topics and build up your vocabulary when the industry you’re interested into is filled with technical terms and foreign words.
If you didn’t enjoy studying back in school days, make an effort to start doing that now. Trust me, the confidence you will build this way will keep you going even when an assignment will look more like a nightmare than an easy gig.
When it was the English language to bug me, I made an effort to learn from my mistakes and hone my skills
I’m not a native English speaker. I started learning English in high school and I have only used the language for as little as 13 years.
What did I do to reach today’s competencies?
Simple: after high school I developed a hobby for text translation. I also began reading novels and manuals in English, which helped me improve my skills.
But online chats where the thing that really made a difference. When you chat, you only have seconds to a few minutes to IM a person without interrupting the flow of the conversation. To put it simply, chats force you to think in English rather than translating from a language to another. After only six months, my skills improved considerably.
Not a native English speaker? :-] CHAT!
How did you get started on freelance writing? Share your experience in the comments below.
Image credit: Tyron Francis