When I first put this site up, I did so with the honest intention of updating it far more regularly. I suppose I can’t judge myself too harshly, however, when the reason why I’ve been so neglectful is because I’ve had quite a bit of paid work that took precedence. With any luck, I’ll have a recommended reading post and several other updates published here soon.
This past week, I received a phone call from someone who found my work online and wanted information on becoming a paid blogger/freelance writer. Although I’m relatively new to the business and still have a lot to learn, I decided this might be a good chance to share a few tips/pointers that I’ve picked up, since the process can seem pretty daunting when you’re staring down the starting line.
1. Yes, writing is a “real job.” If it’s something that you sincerely want to do for a living, you have to treat it like one. Set deadlines for yourself, and keep them. Even if an assignment seems small, or is unpaid, take it as seriously as if it were for a major magazine. You never know whose hands it might fall into.
2. Take a law class. I really mean it. Journalism Law was probably the most valuable course of my college career. If a formal class isn’t in the cards, do some extensive reading from reputable and up-to-date sources. Laws can change quickly, but having some familiarity with issues like copyright regulations and libel could save you an enormous amount of trouble. I’ve written whole articles praising edX, but I’ll do it here again. HarvardX offers a free copyright course that is self-paced, and openly available to the public.
3. Don’t apply to every job you see. It can be very tempting when your bank account is dwindling into double (or single) digits, but trust me, a little selectiveness can go a long ways. Sending out applications and pitches is tiring, and takes a great deal of time and energy that you could use for other things. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t stretch yourself and tackle new topics; just come to understand that you can’t be everything for everyone at once. Make a list of topics that you have previous experience with, or that interest you the most, then seek out opportunities that you will enjoy writing about. It may sound obvious, but it can be easy to forget if you're panicking about the electric bill. Stick to your guns, and remember why you started doing this. Most people don't write to become rich, but you'll find a niche if you're persistent.
4. When I first decided I wanted to be a writer, I had a lot of questions about the nitty-gritty of how a person would go about actually getting a job and earning money. I know now that there are many answers to that question, but here’s what I typically do: if I find a website or other publication that interests me, I write the name down and follow them on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn, ect. I check their ‘About’ section for whether they use freelancers, and if I have an idea that I think might be a good fit, I pitch it to them. I also regularly peruse job boards like ProBlogger, All Indie Writers, Ed2010, JournalismJobs.com, and even Craigslist (just be discerning with that last one). For tax purposes, you’ll often be hired as a contractor and given a W-9 form to sign.
5. For anyone interested in writing book reviews, NetGalley and GoodReads are your friends. I’ve received so many great titles through NetGalley, and it’s been an invaluable tool to me as I’ve tried to keep up with publishing trends. All you need is an ereader, or a desktop copy of Adobe Digital Editions (which is free). If you’re thinking of starting a review blog, NetGalley is a great way of gaining access to upcoming titles.
6. Just a quick note on rejection, and then I’m done. Rejection will happen, as it does in every field, and you’ll experience it often. You might make a mistake on an article that you’ve written (scratch that— you’ll definitely make a mistake at some point). Try to distance yourself from it as best as you can, but there’s no law against feeling a little self-pity. Wallow for a bit, even, but don’t let it change your course as a writer. As Richard Bach said: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
If you'd like to chat about freelancing, write a guest post, or ask about an assignment, shoot me a message through the 'Contact' section, or add me on LinkedIn. Happy writing!