So I Want To Be A Writer…Do You?

I’m not sure what happened.  One day I woke up and decided it was time to be a writer.  The desire has always been there, lurking but aside from this blog and a few random pieces that nobody but I have read, being a writer – a professional paid writer – seemed a distant dream.  Sometimes we just have to take the leap, especially when we’ve run out of excuses.

I did it.  I woke up.  I took the leap.  I signed up on a freelance writing site and dove…hard.  I’m submitting proposals for every job I’m interested in and for which I’m qualified.  I’ve been at this for about 2 weeks, give or take a day.  I’ve secured 3 contracts.  There have been hiccups as is expected with any new endeavor.  That’s okay.  I call those hiccups “learning experiences.”

I’ve a few suggestions if you’re interested in freelance work.  Tidbits I’ve learned during my so far short career as a freelancer.

1.  Be prepared for rejection.  It will happen.  If it does happen, that’s okay.  Assume that wasn’t the right job for you and move on.

2.  If you choose to sign up on a freelance writing site, read the policies CAREFULLY.  Understand fully the ins and outs of how the site works and what they expect from you and the clients who might hire you.  The terms of the site are set up to protect you so don’t ignore them.

3.  Get organized.  Secret:  I’m not.  Not at all.  I have multiple legal pads with outlines,  I’ve got to make a run to Office Max for more post-it notes, pens are running out of ink, nothing is in one place, my hours are weird, I’m not sleeping well or long, I’m not eating right and in general my organization at the moment can only be described as “WTF?  A bomb went off in here or what?”  That not only applies to my workspace but my brain, as well.  I’m focusing on different projects with different topics and to say my thought process is scrambled is an understatement.  I’ll get it together.  My writing isn’t suffering but my advice to you is to get it together BEFORE you start writing.  Have a plan.

4.  Quiet the little voices in your head.  You know those voices (I call them Little Bitches) who attempt to cause doubt?  The ones that make you question every single word you write telling you they aren’t good enough?  That you aren’t good enough?  Shut those Little Bitches down.  QUICK.  They are evil and they are wrong.

5.  Write for yourself.  The most important thing writers should remember is at the end of the day, we are the ones who need to be happy with our work.  Yes, we may be writing for a company website or composing articles for a publication and yes, we want our clients to be 100% satisfied with our work but really, when it’s all said and done, we must be happy with our work.  We need to feel good about what we’ve written.

6.  Don’t overload yourself.  In other words, don’t be me.  I’m taking on whatever contract I can get.  I’ve got 4 articles that must be written by tomorrow.  I’ve got proposals waiting to grow up to be contracts.  I know me well enough to know I will take on everything I’m offered even if it means I’m working (too) many jobs at once.  I don’t care.  It happens that I’m rather skilled at multi-tasking.  Having multiple jobs doesn’t inhibit my ability to focus on what I’m writing.  But I will become frazzled.  I will get grouchy.  I will not sleep and forget to eat.  I will also love every second of it so unless you thrive in chaos, do yourself a favor and don’t bite off more than you can chew.

7.  When in doubt, ask questions.  If you feel unsure about a client, do not hesitate to investigate on your own.  Check out their website or blog, search Google for reviews of their business, ask the client direct questions and at the end of that if you’re still unsure or don’t feel comfortable with an offer, move on.  Intuition is key.  Listen.

8.  Don’t be afraid to negotiate terms of payment.  Some clients will pay by the hour, some pay by the job, some pay by the word.  Decide how you want to be paid.  Do your homework.  Research what other freelancers charge for their work.  Obviously, if you’re a “newbie” you can’t expect to make the big bucks but you can certainly expect to be paid what you’re worth.  Don’t undersell yourself.

9.  Pay for nothing.  If a client approaches you and says you must pay for a product or pay for the opportunity to write for them, just say no.  Those types of shady folks are out there so beware.

10.  Have a comfortable place to work.  I’m so struggling with this right now.  I am not comfortable in any place I sit so I’m constantly moving and it’s disruptive.  I’m having to use my bedroom as an office space and let me tell you, there is simply no room for both.  The other problem I’m having is I’m hot all the time.  I’m old, there are hot flashes from Hell.  I’m most comfortable sitting directly in front of the window AC but doing that means rearranging…well, rearranging a lot.  It’s a pain in my butt.  I am making it work but it isn’t ideal so set-up your work space before you start taking on jobs.  You’ll be glad you did.

11.  Take classes.  Update yourself on the latest Internet jargon.  Understand SEO.  Get a feel for basic marketing techniques.  Brush up on your grammar skills.  Free courses online are available.  Tons of them.  Take the time to educate yourself.  Learning should be a lifelong pursuit so take advantage of the freebies.  Alison is a great place to start but remember – Google is your friend.

12.  Don’t forget to write for yourself.  Don’t allow your own ideas and goals to get lost while writing for others.  Make time to continue writing for yourself.

13.  Build a portfolio.  Another secret:  I’ve not yet done this.  I need to work on it.  How does one build a portfolio, you ask?  Hard work.  Approach businesses you have some knowledge of or interest in and offer to write a blog post or maybe a newsletter for them, place an add on Fivver stating you’ll write an article or blog post in exchange for a good reference, maybe consider an add on Craigslist.  Don’t get sucked into huge projects.  You want a relatively small writing project to showcase your skills.  Make your expectations clear.  Write a letter to sell yourself, state your reasons for needing to build a portfolio and offer your services for free.  You really only need a few written pieces in your portfolio to begin your freelance career.  Once you establish yourself you then build your portfolio allowing you to seek out higher paying jobs.

Being a writer is about passion.  Passion for words, passion for seeing ideas come together to create a story, article or blog and passion for the very act of writing. Believe in what you’re doing.  Believe in yourself.  Make the committment and remember to own it – I AM A WRITER!  YOU ARE A WRITER!  We must claim it to be it.

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