Creatively speaking, being a freelance writer has to rank up in the top ten of great jobs to have. It’s certainly a job that allows an individual to have a voice in every aspect of daily life, potentially impacting thousands, even millions, of readers. While it is indeed a creative field, it also is one that places certain demands on those who seek to enter it.
In a nutshell, freelance writing is contracting to produce a written product that meets the guidelines of the person and/or company for which the piece is written. While there will be instances where the personal opinion of the writer is solicited, in most situations, there is a specific goal to the writing. Most commonly information of some sort is presented that meets a clearly defined end result. Once that job is completed, the freelancer moves onto another job.
For the freelance writer to experience the best chance of success, there are steps each writer should undertake. While each writer brings his or her own unique experiences to their writing, the very nature of freelance work is for the writer to be able to communicate about at a variety of subjects, some of which may be unfamiliar at the onset. Writers can up their chances of working in this field by utilizing the following steps:
For some, being told to be a master of their native tongue is something so obvious it’s easy to laugh it off. Native English speakers often feel that just because English is the language they speak, they are already proficient in it. Sadly, this is not true. Writing has rules and knowing when to use a semicolon versus a colon is only one aspect of it.
Unless specifically requested, there is no “text speak” or modern slang in professional writing. Proper capitalization and punctuation DO matter and those who are careless within these areas – or worse, those who believe the rules don’t matter and nobody pays attention to those details – will find themselves immediately dismissed from consideration by virtually all employers.
Since most writers will have access to the Internet for their research, there’s a wealth of information to be found regarding punctuation, spelling, grammar, and proper capitalization. From dictionaries to thesauruses, to the amusing and information Grammar Girl, really learning the language to be written in is a vital first step.
In the old days, when writers wanted to get factual information they either pulled out their set of encyclopedias or they went to the library. The benefit to that type of research was the factual nature of it. There’s a definite difference in information found in an encyclopedia and that found on a great many websites. Anyone who has ever looked anything up on the Internet has discovered there is at least one website devoted to practically any subject that can be named.
The difference today is that it can be difficult to determine which websites are factual and which are opinion. Freelance writers need to be able to separate the fluff from the facts and use that information to support the premise of what is being written. While an opinion piece on how bad PCs are versus Macs may be funny and even confirm the writer’s personal opinion, a PC company looking for some sort of promotional piece may find it less amusing.
When writers do research they are also “sourcing” material. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will have more accurate information regarding job specifics and career growth than a site that does not have type of research behind it. Writers often need to do extensive research, particularly if the subject is not one they are intimately familiar with, and making sure the sources used are as accurate as possible is a huge step.
Everyone has heard about making a good first impression. It’s been standard in business for years and continues to be a vital part of getting hired. For the freelance writer, their first impression is often a written one. The writer contacts an individual or a company in response to a position offered, presents their services and experiences, and bids for the job. This is where really learning the language to be written in plays a huge part.
When someone posts a job for a freelance writer, the responses from people looking for work can quickly approach the hundred mark. This type of response – “Hello, I am Very Much Interested For Your Project and Native English Speaker.” – an actual bid response – will quickly have the “Delete” button clicked by the person hiring a writer. If the person who wrote that is actually a native English speaker, he or she is clueless about proper written English and clearly not qualified to do the job.
Successful writers know that how they present themselves is a huge part of whether or not they will get hired. Freelance writers should be making use of all the tools possible – spell check just to start – and, in addition, they should actually read what they write before submitting it. What the writer thought was clear when they were writing it may not be so when it is read back.
Writers have their work get rejected, often quite frequently. The freelance writer is somewhat at the whim of the market, particularly as their experience grows, and keeping a positive attitude can go a long way. Writers use those rejection slips as the impetus to make their work better. They read more, study more examples of writing, and practice writing to have others read it just to critique the work.
For quite a few freelance writers, especially ones just starting out, this means hanging onto that day (or night) job and writing on the side. This can take a good deal of the pressure of and allow the writer to hone their craft as they move more deeply into the world of freelance writing.
It might be cliche to say half the battle is trying, however, for the freelance writer half the battle is believing it can be done.
It would be nice to think that simply having the desire to do something would make that desire manifest. It is not, however, true for most things in life and not true for many writers. If everyone was the next Stephen King, there would be nothing special about Stephen King. Having the desire to write is certainly a hugely important factor, but skills are also needed and many people who would like to write just don’t know where to begin. Writing a grant proposal is not the same as writing a technical article, which in turn is not the same as writing a short fiction story or a heavily fact-driven journalistic piece.
Learning about the different types of writing, the different “voices” of the writer, and the possible points of view are all things that more formal learning teaches aspiring freelance writers. From doing research to writing a query letter, the more the writer knows, the wider ranging their market is and the more employable they will find themselves. Just as actors, even highly paid professional ones, continue to take acting classes, writers too benefit from the initial and continuing education that encompasses all aspects of their craft.
Since one of the working tools of a writer is access to the Internet, taking some classes like those offered through institutions such as Penn Foster, Stratford Career Institute or Ashworth, offers the skills a writer needs to go with the talent they already have.
Sir Arthur Helps might have been speaking of writers when he said, “Nothing succeeds like success” and the writer who keeps that in mind keeps a positive attitude, and keeps learning may soon find saying “I’m a writer” with the resume to back it up is their perfect career.