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So You Want To Be A Writer…

I’m delighted that Matthew Stibbe occasionally comments here. In his latest he pointed to an article of his called How to be a freelance journalist.

It’s absolutely excellent. Stibbe knows his stuff for sure, and to continue with some cliches, he pulls no punches. Most of what he suggests for would-be journalists applies well to those who want to become freelance writers. What do I like best in his post?

I was surprised that he said British magazines fuss less than American magazines, but my favorite tip is “Develop A Sense Of Humor.” I think it would be absolutely impossible to do this business without the ability to laugh first at myself and then at the wacky wonderful things that happen.

Another outstanding tip is the caution that “They over-rely on one client or one stream of work.” I know this one well and have learned not to do it no matter what. 

There are many other things in the article that are worth reading, and bookmarking so you can refer to it from time-to-time.

What do you like best in Matthew’s article?


{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Ed, Jennifer – I guess I was writing for the ‘wannabes’ who seem to annoy you so much and who sometimes bug me for free, detailed advice about stuff they could find out for themselves. I was trying to explain that being a freelance journalist isn’t a cakewalk. You need to put in the work, do the training, develop your skills, build a portfolio, find your network of contacts, pitch for business and all the rest. Just the same stuff that you both do and, I’m sure, do brilliantly. In fact, I think this sort of thing is the difference between a professional writer and a ‘regular person.’ I think it’s a bit unfair to expect that every freelance writer must first have been a full-time staffer. I’m might be wrong but it seems to me that that is a bit of a closed-shop mentality. Good writers don’t need to restrict entry into the profession to do well. They just need to be good writers.

    Matthew Stibbe’s last blog post..Infographics are worth more than 1,000 words

    • Anne

      Good point Matthew. I’ve done a couple, maybe three stints as a professional, sort of. By short I mean a year or less. Of course, a whole lot of my readers are new or wannabes so obviously I write for them. But I’ve got some real pros, like you and a bunch of others I know and probably more I don’t know about.

      One of the things that tickles me most about freelance writing is it’s one of the few trades left that doesn’t require some sort of certification or degree. I personally think we need more trades that are truly trades – those you can learn on your own with some mentors (editors in our case) – but you know what?

      The ubiquitous “they” who supposedly run the world have never called me up to ask what they should do next. Talk about a closed shop!

  • Good points, Ed. It’s always bugged me a little that so many people just assume they can say, “Ta da! I’m a freelance writer!” without taking the time to prepare themselves to, you know, be one. But then, I’m one of those grumpy professional journalists who transitioned into freelancing. 🙂

    Jennifer L’s last blog post..Retro References

  • Searching for Matthew Stibbe’s latest work I landed here… and I’m pleased to bookmark this blog among my favorite writing-related readings 🙂

  • Ed

    As a practicing freelance journalist, what I like best about Matthew’s article is also what I like least: that it “assumes you’re not a professional writer but a regular person looking to become a writer.”

    Rarely do we read “how to become a freelance journalist.” While specialized, the tips offered can be transferred to any nonfiction freelance writing; check your facts and, yes, this is a business.

    However, professional journalists who happen to freelance must cringe at the thought of a new writer assuming the role of journalist. The majority of freelance journalists don’t arrive at freelance from left-field, but by transitioning from traditional jobs in the industry. Just as I wouldn’t walk into an operating theater and hope to conduct myself like a surgeon with a decade of educational and experience, I don’t think anyone can decide to be a journalist and hope to be as successful as an experienced professional moving into the freelance market.

    While “how to be a freelance journalist” opens the eyes of wage slaves, it could harm the market for others. Just as the flood of untrained and ill-prepared freelance writers has created a negative image for publishers and opened the way for people to expect $1 for 500 words, freelance writers turned journalists only make it more difficult for those of us with “freelance” on our business cards.

    Ed’s last blog post..Chicago Sun-Times Files For Chapter 11

  • I like best that you recommended it. Very flattering! 🙂

    Matthew Stibbe’s last blog post..Recommended links 17 April 2009

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