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10 Tips for Making it as a Freelance Writer

10 Tips for Making it as a Freelance Writer


For most freelance writers, what they write is not going to consist of giving their opinion on different subjects such as politics or religion or even current affairs. Jobs will frequently consist of an individual or a company wanting to promote themselves or a product or a service and the freelance writer will be hired to get a very specific message across.

Even if the article is promote a viewpoint, it is the viewpoint of the person hiring the writer and not the writer him or herself, unless that writer already has a following of their own.

What this means for an individual entering the freelance market is that these writers must promote themselves and the services they offer. Here are ten tips for freelance writers:

Tip 1:

Read. As in everything – online newspapers, journals, magazines, writing publications, how-to’s and more. The more a writer exposes themselves to different types of writing, the more they build a bank of knowledge that can be used as a part of their job. For many freelance writers, the one near constant characteristic of their job is how wide ranging their subjects can be.

Tip 2:

Learn How To Research.  All Internet sites are not of equal value when it comes to information. A rookie mistake often made is to not source the material used for research. Follow quotes to the source make sure words were not cut out by a site to support a certain viewpoint or even not said by the person at all, just attributed to them. Think of it as the difference between reading a biography of someone’s life and a fiction story where that person is used as a character – only one of those is going to have any real factual information.

Tip 3:

Master The Language.  No matter the language spoken or read, the freelance writer needs to be an expert it in. The writer does not have to master all languages, or even a second language, but those writing in English need to be proficient in it. Writing has rules, very specific rules, in fact, and knowing these rules it critical for a writer. While E.E. Cummings may have indulged in lower case prose, without punctuation and with its own syntax, the writer who wants to be hired will be well versed in proper grammar and how to find correct usage of capitalization and punctuation.

Tip 4:

Learn The Different Forms Of Writing:  Noted children’s author Suzanne Williams of the Goddess Girls series notes over 80 different types of writing ranging from “adventure stories” to “wanted posters” with nearly the entire alphabet in-between those two types. As with language itself, there are different rules depending the writing genre used. A letter is not the same as a report in structure or in what information is included. Developing skills with more than one format of writing opens the door to more job opportunities.

Tip 5:

Learn The Different Points Of View In Writing:  Writing is done from one of three main points of view: The first person, the second person, and the third person. Think of first person writing as “I” writing. By virtue of the use of the word “I”, first person writing takes on a very personal tone. It is the writer relating their own experience through the medium of the written word. It’s telling a story where “I” is the main character. Second person writing is more like talking to someone, but instead of telling a personal story, that person’s story is being told by the writer. Writer’s will use the word “you” frequently to convey this point of view. Third person is most easily compares to telling a story that was overheard. More generalized words are used, such as “the young woman”, “they”, “she or he”, or “the tall man with the red hat”. It’s a more professional and technical type of writing. Becoming comfortable with all three “voices” works to widen the types of writing the freelance writer can do.

Tip 6:

Take Classes:  It is the rare writer who is so talented all on his or her own that no formal instruction is necessary. The different forms of writing and the different perspectives will become second nature to those who take classes because they will have to write in those formats and from those three voices. Their work will be critiqued by instructors and peers and they’ll quickly grow into a more polished and professional writer. The writer will learn about proper research and notations and attributions, even if those are not well understood at the outset. As professional business people, actors, and educators continue to take classes to hone their crafts, so should the writer.

Tip 7:

Submit Early And Often:  There’s been a lot of downsizing over the past several years and that means more people looking to get their foot in the door in a career field. Good writing stuck on a computer hard drive because a deadline was missed is writing that might as well not have been done at all. Be quick when it comes to applying for freelance positions. Find forums or job boards where individuals and companies place projects to be done and be one of the first to apply for that job. It’s better to be in the top 30 of all applicants than to be the 100th when the person who is doing the hiring has stopped at number 31. Writers should also be proactive when it comes to seeking out writing opportunities. Writers can find blogs that allow guest writers to post and then do so. Getting the work out there means building a writing resume that can be pointed to with pride.

Tip 8:

Move Out Of That Comfort Zone:  Writing about baseball may be a freelance writer’s strong point, but that writer has to ask how many articles about baseball are offered? While someone may be fine with writing one article a month, the writer who wants to move into freelance writing as a career needs to expand the number of topics he or she can write about. It doesn’t matter if the writer’s understanding of how electricity works is limited to Ben Franklin and a kite, writers who succeed will go back to Tips 1 and 2 (read, research) and learn enough to almost take their state’s electrical contractor exam! This is one of the ways freelance writers move from part-time keep-the-day-job writing into a real full time career.

Tip 9:

Know The Deadline: The individuals and companies that hire freelance writers are expecting a product that meets their specifications and, often just as important, a product that is returned before a publication deadline. This is where writers can often make rookie mistakes. The writer bids on a project – a certain length of article, a set number of articles, and a deadline – but the writer has underestimated how long it would take them to do the work. Each writer has to answer for him or herself the question of how much time they have to commit to a project. Expecting to write ten heavily researched 800 word articles in one day as a beginner is not realistic. The writer will not be able to keep their end of the commitment and the person who hired them will certainly not keep the writer. A successful freelance writer understands what they can commit to so each job can be completed to the client’s satisfaction, often leading to more work.

Tip 10:

Write:  This final tip should probably have been number 1 – after all, if the writer doesn’t write what good are all the other tips?  Start with friends and family. Convince them to buy some random product, write a concert review, be a movie critic for a day, or just start jotting down everything that comes to mind when the words “monkeys and bananas” is heard and try to make it as original as possible. Many writers have said they write because they have to, because the words are inside them and they have to let them out. Writers write. Tip number one.

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