People come to this website, I assume, because they either want to learn how to make money as a freelance writer or, having had a bit of writing success, they want to learn how to be more successful and maybe even make a living freelancing.
Sure, you may have the desire to write a great (name your country) novel, or do a masterful non-fiction book that helps people change their behavior for the better. You may see writing as your art or you might want out of the cubical and figure writing is a good way to do it.
Whatever your reason there really are only three secrets or steps to creating a profitable freelance writing career. Those keys are:
Does that seem like an oversimplification? Here’s what I mean:
It’s like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall – practice, practice, practice but for the freelance writer it’s write, write, write. Nothing will happen if you don’t somehow consistently get words on a page or screen. If you can’t find a way to write regularly you’re unlikely to find writing success.
How much writing, of course varies. A page a day is a good sized book; 100 words just under what’s considered acceptable for most book length manuscripts. Two-hundred and fifty words or so five days a week is 65,000 words – plenty for a book, enough for a decent blog and at least a short magazine article a week. Web articles typically run 500-800 words, although they can be shorter or longer. Figure out what you can produce and stick with it for six months or so.
You may find setting up a reward system for yourself helps.
Once you’ve written a draft, you need to rewrite and edit your work. The first step is often just to reread what you’ve written on screen. You’ll pick up errors, things you’ve left out and better ways to phase certain ideas. If you’ve got time, leave it for at least overnight.
Come back, read on screen again, then print out the corrected copy. Go away from your computer and read the printout slowly and thoughtfully. Again, you’ll want to change, add and delete. Put it away again for at least overnight if you can.
Read the piece out loud – yes, right out loud. Sure, it’s embarrassing at first, but you’ll be amazed at what your ear hears that your eye can’t see.
After a solid rewrite and edit or two, declare it done. Again, exactly when you do this is up to you; the point is to avoid getting lost in a search for perfection. Neither you nor I would recognize that perfection even if it were possible to reach.
I know, marketing is far from your favorite thing, but how to you expect to have an audience, let alone a paycheck if you don’t work to get your writing sold.
I like what Peter Bowerman says in The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds ... “The bad news: marketing yourself is a continuous process.” He then goes on to point out that if you do market yourself consistently you’ll be something like 95% ahead of the competition.
Again, exactly how you market depends on you and the kind of writing you want to sell. If it’s magazine articles you need to submit queries regularly. If it’s a non-fiction book you may want to develop a book proposal even before you finish the book and use it to find either an agent or a publisher. It’s probably easiest to sell corporate writing by making phone calls to local businesses. Don’t worry, you don’t need to sign up for any marketing classes in an online school. And so it goes, marketing, marketing, marketing.
My experience and the experience of other writers suggests roughly a third of your time should be devoted to marketing.
Do you see how this works? In fact you could do worse than divide your writing life roughly into thirds – the first third for writing, the second for rewriting and editing and the final third for marketing. All three are necessary if you want a successful writing career.
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