The First Step To Profitable Freelance Writing – Write!

by Anne Wayman

start writingOver time, people ask in a variety of ways, ‘what’s the first thing I should do to start freelance writing?’

Last year I wrote How To Start Freelance Writing In 10 StepsThere the first step is to decide what kind of writing you want to do.

While there’s nothing wrong with starting by choosing the kind of writing you want to focus on, particularly in the context of a list, I’m not sure it’s the real first thing or step to freelance writing as a career.

Many ways to start freelancing

Of course, the problem with freelance writing that makes money is that there are as many ways to get it done as there are writers who make a profit.




Some write fiction, others write non-fiction, still others write poetry. Some studied creative writing and got at least a bachelors degree, others didn’t graduate or even go to college. Some are still in high school. Some write books, some blog, some write for clients, some write articles for magazines, some write for newspapers. At every job they’ve ever had they ended up doing a whole bunch of writing – no matter what the job. Often, over a writer’s lifetime, they will have done several of these – writing just seems to happen.

Writing is the key

When, however, I look at my own story and the stories of successful writers I know and read about, they do have one thing in common. They write.

Sounds over simplistic perhaps, and maybe even obvious.

Over and over again, however, I get questions that indicate to me many would-be writers are waiting for something magical, or some sign, or something to signal they should become freelance writers.




Compare this with the folks who started writing something as soon as they’d mastered the alphabet. They journal, they volunteer their writing, they have notebooks full of writing that go back ages. Somewhere, somehow they developed the desire, even the need to string words together for others.

I think it’s rare for someone who doesn’t sort of compulsively write to be a truly successful freelance writer.

First step to freelance writing

So today my advice about the first step to becoming a freelance writer is to write. (And yes, my advice may well change next week.) Write about yourself, write about your friends and family and environment. Write stories, write poems.

As you continue to write, look for markets for your writing. Check out magazines or blogs or jobs or… you get the idea.

When you find a market that seems to fit, submit something to them. Write and submit, write and submit. Over and over again.

Build a website and spell out there the kind of writing you do. When someone asks you to write, and someone always will, ask them what they pay – eventually, if not a whole lot sooner, you’ll start getting paid as a writer, can be the start of a career.

What was your first step in freelance writing? What do you expect it to be? 

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana Schneidman February 3, 2014 at 8:13 pm

My first step towards professional freelance writing was at a full-time job in marketing research where I turned data into reports. I would perfect my reports beyond the requirements of the job to create work samples for my eventual portfolio.

Another path is the three-pages-per-day advice in The Writer’s Way by Julia Cameron. If you aren’t actually writing at all, this transforms good intentions into action.

-Diana

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annew February 4, 2014 at 7:18 am

Good suggestion, Diana. I love Cameron’s work. Thanks!

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Charlotte January 23, 2014 at 10:12 am

Funny how writing is always the first step! It sounds so simple and yet we so easily get caught up in other stuff that we forget. I remember my first free-lance assignment years ago fell into my lap because of other writing I had done. Wise words, Anne.
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annew January 24, 2014 at 10:36 am

I love that your first assignment fell in your lap…

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Cathy Miller January 22, 2014 at 5:10 am

My writing for pay was done within the safety net of corporate work. No matter what position I held, I always wrote – newsletters, presentations, reports, proposals – you name it. Took me a LOT of years to get outside the comfort zone of a regular paycheck & benefits. But, I’ve never looked back and don’t regret the leap.
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annew January 22, 2014 at 8:48 am

Cathy, I’ve had so little corporate experience… a year here, a year there. I’ve liked the paychecks, the regular paychecks etc. but the rest of it, for the most part, was way to constrictive for me.

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Helene Poulakou January 21, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Actually, this is step #1, 2, and 3, LoL LoL.

For me, it’s writing itself that helps me refine (a) my craft, (b) the direction(s) I’d be most pleased to go with it.

Thinking about doing (writing) is very different than diving head first and actually doing it: the first is theory, the second is experiment — and it wakes the inner child, our inexhaustible creative source.
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Amandah January 21, 2014 at 11:40 am

My first step was to jump right in without having a solid plan. Would I have done things differently? Yes, I would have. I would have spoken with ‘seasoned’ freelance writers and hired a coach to help me outline my business. I learned this and other valuable lessons, which I can share with others. :)
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annew January 21, 2014 at 11:59 am

Amandah, I plunged right in (write in?) too. And yes, it sure can be done more neatly, but I had a blast.

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