Are You A Freelance Writer? When it Comes To Jobs It’s Not About You!

by Anne Wayman

noWhen I talk with  freelance writers it’s not at all surprising we are mostly talking about ourselves. That’s fine when we talk with each other.

But talking and thinking about me doesn’t work when I’m dealing with freelance writing jobs – either looking for one or working on one I already have. Then it’s not about me. Nor is it about you. It’s about the person who hires us.

People Hire Freelance Writers For One Reason

The only reason someone will hire you to write for them  (or do anything else for that matter) is because they believe you can solve a problem for them.

Although most people who hire writers are nice people, they are much more concerned about themselves – just as we all are. They want that problem solved.

Successful freelance writers learn to let go of their own, natural, self-obsession; they really understand it’s not about them.

So if it’s not about you, who is it about?

It’s About The Editor

If you’re writing for publication, no matter if it’s a book or a magazine article or an article for a well-known website, you first need to please the editor. It’s an editor who decides what writing to buy and what writing to reject and what writers they want to work with in the future.

The editor is the first reader you’re working to please.

You please an editor by reading their publication or their book catalog or their website. You want to discover the style this editor uses and what sorts of writing they seem to favor.

Next you look for any instructions. Most magazines and publishers have market guidelines.  You find those through market listings in Writer’s Market, on the publication’s website or by searching online.

Follow those instructions to the letter or your risking getting rejected out of hand.

And although the guidelines often explain, or try to explain, what the editor wants, it’s only when you combine that information with the actual publication that you get a true picture.

It’s About The Reader

Ultimately, of course, for you and the editor it’s about the reader. While there is value in journaling and other forms of written introspection, when you’re writing for pay you’re writing for a reader.

The ultimate reader is the whole reason the writing is being done.

Your job is to figure out who that reader is. For example, the advertising in a magazine can give you additional information about who the magazine reaches. Book reviews can give you a hint about reader reaction. If you’re writing copy or press releases, talking with the client will give you the information you need.

It’s About The Client

People hire writers for all sorts of reasons. I’m often hired to ghostwrite books. I also write press releases. I’ve done whole websites for people and done some copywriting. I’ve done technical writing ranging from on-site documenting of both software and hardware to third party software books.

I know other ghostwriters who write books, articles and speeches. Some get hired to write scripts for plays either onscreen or off.

If it’s written and published chances are a writer was hired to write it or will be hired to write something similar.

In each of these examples there is a client. The client might be an individual or the representative of an organization or company. And it’s that client you’ve got to keep happy.

Truly listening not only to what the client says but what you sense is behind their words will help you move away from being overly concerned about yourself and being able to reach out and actually help the client achieve their goals with the writing you do.

Getting yourself out of the way doesn’t mean slavishly following instructions that don’t make sense. I think as freelancers we’re obligated to work to inform our clients about best practices based on our experience. Deep listening and coming from an attitude of service makes it much easier for our clients to hear our suggestions.

So it’s not about you, but you are an integral part of the equation.

You might also find value in 8 Top Freelance Writer Business Problems.

How to you work to understand what readers, editors and clients really want?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Helenee December 30, 2011 at 4:53 am

I guess it also depends on what styles and genres a freelancer can write best; this is something that one will find with time. I’m not against experimenting with new territories – but it is important to know what we are comfortable with, so that we can produce our best work.

Starting from that point, I’d look to familiarize myself with the online or offline platform where I wanted to submit my work – with the content it presents, with the readers it usually attracts, with the ads presented and its overall concept, with the guidelines (guidelines, people!) they put forth, everything. This would also help me generate writing ideas.
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Crystal December 29, 2011 at 9:45 am

It’s very difficult to make a living from writing full time, but it’s not impossible. You have to be able to work on your own, meet deadlines and organise yourself. You will also have to be willing to spend a lot of time editing your work to make sure its as good as it can be. If you work from home its very easy to let distractions get in the way. Some writers find it a lonely occupation, so its important to network and have a social life.

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Agr3v0 December 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Thanks for your article… But i am not Freelance Writer… :)
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Kenny December 30, 2011 at 11:20 am

Neither am I..but I really like your article and the way you write about these things. Keep it up!

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annew January 4, 2012 at 12:04 pm

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