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No Experience Needed To Be A Freelance Writer

freelance writerOver in the 5 Buck Forum someone asked how they could begin writing for magazines when they didn’t have any experience. I realized how different freelance writing is from most jobs.

If you want a job as say a computer programmer or an elementary school counselor, you need to demonstrate you have specific training and, unless you’re starting in an ‘entry level’ (read low pay) job, experience.

Freelance writers, on the other hand, don’t need any particular training, nor do they have to demonstrate experience. If you can write even reasonably well you can probably get published and paid for it.

Here are some of the ways you can get started with little or no experience.

Getting Started In Magazine Writing

If magazine writing is your target it’s perfectly okay to submit a completed article ‘over the transom’  or on ‘spec. You don’t need permission. All you really need is a completed article and either the magazine’s email or snail mail address.

You’ll have a bit better luck if you check the magazine’s market listing – Writer’s Market is the best way to do this. Write your article and follow the submission instructions. You may be rewarded with a check.

You can also try a query letter. If your idea is strong and well presented you may get acceptance ‘on spec.’ You then follow-through with the completed article knowing you’re got the editor’s attention.

Sure, queries can work better if you can show some clips on a website or make reference to where you’ve been published, but those are not required.

What editors want is someone who can write – that’s the criteria. In fact, in the long run your ability to write and your ability to market yourself and your writing are the only ingredients required to earn as a freelance writer and to ultimately earn a full time living.

What about other kinds of writing?

Magazine writing isn’t the only place you can get a foothold with no or minimal experience.

Build a website and put up some samples of the kinds of things you want to write. For example, you could post two or three press releases or a sales letter or two.

Assuming your samples are well done, you can begin to market yourself to local businesses who need freelance writers. It will help if you first figure out your hourly rate. Then make some calls, either on the phone or in person.

Check the job links here and elsewhere. Again, using your website you may be able to land a paid gig or two.

Once you start building some credits it will get easier, but there is absolutely no reason you can’t get started without it.

Of course, you may have more experience than you recognize.  No Writing Clips? No Problem! is a post that may help you discover writing experiences you didn’t remember or recognize you’ve had.

How did you get started as a freelance writer?


{ 20 comments… add one }
  • http://tinyurl.com/carobeard42484 January 11, 2013, 3:37 pm

    This is really the 2nd blog, of your website I really browsed.
    Nonetheless I personally enjoy this one, “No Experience
    Needed To Be A Freelance Writer — About Freelance
    Writing” the very best. Thanks ,Bernard

    • annew January 14, 2013, 2:52 pm

      Hope you find other article useful too.

  • lalah May 5, 2012, 6:48 pm

    hi anne,

    i have browsed through and i need advice as to what steps i could take to be published? like, could i just take pictures of stuff or video something and write about it then send it in?? i have never really wrote anything short but i have written 3 short fiction novels but never finished them. just looking for my niche i guess in the writing world bc i do enjoy it.

    • annew May 7, 2012, 8:10 am

      Well, yes, in theory… find a market that wants pix, follow the instructions in their market listing or their web site and submit. That’s the short form

  • Ellen April 20, 2012, 7:13 am

    What amazing person would inspire an article like this Anne? :P. Thanks so much for writing this You and the 5 Buck Forums have been so great, helpful and supportive!

    • annew April 20, 2012, 9:55 am

      You are amazing, Ellen! Come back and read this when you need to.

  • heather April 20, 2012, 6:10 am

    I would love to meet an editor who wanted “a new voice.” All I keep hearing from magazines I query is that they already have enough freelancers. (Yes, I have been published). I must be looking in the wrong places. I can’t get close to a living wage and I need to work from home so it’s frustrating.

    • annew April 20, 2012, 9:55 am

      Heather, are you sending specific queries? Or try sending completed articles.

  • Ali | Writers Blog April 20, 2012, 12:36 am

    Like Samar, I also started my freelance writing career accidently – thanks to a friend’s suggestion. In fact, I’m an ex-IT Pro-turned-Freelance writer… I had a rather cushy job and salary (by Pakistani standards anyways)… As a freelancer, however, I made many times my salary in the very first month.

    The day I got the first payment, I emailed my resignation to my manager. I think that was the best decision I’ve ever made 🙂

    • annew April 20, 2012, 9:38 am

      That was gutsy Ali… some wait for a few more checks… congratulations.

  • Karen April 19, 2012, 5:10 pm

    Thank you for writing this post. All the other gurus give all this great advice but it’s bland and covers everything. It’s like a child that is told to go out and play. They know it is going to be fun but generally if you don’t suggest something he is going to just sit around and do nothing. You gave precise steps to take and gave links to help you on the journey. Basically, what you did was the idiot’s guide to freelance writing and I really appreciate it. This is one of the few times I have ever commented on a blog so that shows you how grateful I am.

    • annew April 20, 2012, 9:35 am

      Karen, I’m blushing and wiggling with pleasure here at my desk. Thank you… your comment is appreciated.

  • sandy777 April 19, 2012, 4:56 pm

    Nice tips, I would say you should also really position yourself strongly with an online profile and use social where you can too. While it might not be to everyones strength to really leaverage social media for exposure I think that having the presence means a lot, twitter, facebook fans and tweets are pretty critical for anyone trying to promote themselves.

    • annew April 20, 2012, 9:34 am

      And LinkedIn too Sandy – but you’ve still got to write to get published.

  • ella April 19, 2012, 1:28 am

    I think that getting noticed is the most important thing for example writing fun stuff at events of friends and families

    • annew April 19, 2012, 9:26 am

      Good point, not everyone wants to make a career out of writing.

  • Samar April 18, 2012, 9:59 pm

    I started freelancing by accident during college. I was going to a stand-up comedy show with a friend who was working in a newspaper’s entertainment section. She had to cover the show but couldn’t go at the last minute. So she asked me if I could do a 500 word review and I agreed.

    Sent the review the next day and a week later my review was in the paper and a week after that, I had a check in the mail. I hadn’t even realized I’d be getting paid! For me, this was a favour to a friend.

    But that check was what got me hooked to freelancing. My first thought when I got the check was ‘I can get paid to write without being on staff? Cool!’

    So yes, freelance writing is the one thing you can do without formal training – as long you learn on the job!

    • annew April 19, 2012, 9:24 am

      See… I knew someone would validate my point. Thanks… and yes, learning along the way is necessary.

  • Susan Enriquez April 18, 2012, 9:48 pm

    People who can write can do well but with experience they flourish. How much would an average, no experience writer would make doing freelancing? Nowadays a lot of aspiring writer wanted to work at the comforts of their home, so your article would really be a great help.


    • annew April 19, 2012, 9:19 am

      Susan, once you get something published you’re no longer inexperienced…

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