Yesterday I talked to a women who thought she might like to write to earn some extra income, but as she put it, she had no idea where to start. I hear this so often, but at least this woman had actually written something!
That’s significant because you’ll never make it as a writer if you don’t write. I know that seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people approach me and other professionals and it turns out they’ve never written a word.
So where do you start if you want to become a professional writer?
It depends in part on what you think you want to write. Even more, perhaps, on what you find yourself actually writing.
Although it’s an over-simplification, in many ways you can break freelance writing into three broad categories:
Corporate writing – which includes all sorts of businesses, including both for profit and not-for-profit. If you’ve worked in offices you’ve probably done this kind of writing. I think the best place to start is with Peter Bowerman’s Well-Fed Writer. He give you an excellent overview of writing for organizations and shows you how to sell yourself and your writing ability.
Magazine writing – this category now includes consumer magazines, trade magazines and blogs. Here the go-to book is Writer’s Market. The front part of the annual volume tells you everything from how to write a query to an overview of pricing your freelance writing for clients. The balance of the book is market listings. The Magazine Writing FAQ will also help.
Writing books - Books of course come in all flavors, fiction, non-fiction, children’s, poetry, etc. etc. Then there’s the whole issue of trade publishing v. self-publishing. None-the-less, I recommend you start with Writer’s Market which has market listings by book publishers as well as magazines. There are two categories here that may help – Books, and Self-Publishing. Writing With Vision is another blog of mine that deals exclusively with getting your book written.
Pick one of the three areas, buy and study the books and sites, but not for very long. Give yourself maybe two or three weeks max, then do something!
Nothing will happen until you take action. You don’t need more information than the above to get started, I promise. I’m all for continued learning unless you use it as a way to avoid writing and/or contacting clients. You can learn more later, after you’ve tried some things and maybe even gotten one or two articles published or sold a press release or two.
So get started!
How did you break into freelance writing?
(Shameless self-promo department – if you buy the books through the links I make a bit as an Amazon affiliate. And if you want real support as you get started or as you expand, try the 5 Buck Forum – a truly supportive writing community.)