Starting to freelance write is really like starting any small business, except instead of marketing a product you’re offering your skill and time to put words on paper (or screen) to someone who will pay you.
These 10 steps will get your writing career off to a good start. Don’t panic, there are some deliberate duplicates here.
What kind of writing do you want to do?
Do you want to write fiction? Non-fiction? Books? Articles? Blogs? Choose one to start with knowing you will probably change your mind along the way.
Pick one or two niches
What do you want to write about? Surfing? Organic gardening? Retirement? Raising kids? Cats and dogs? Thrillers? Romance? Literary novels? Don’t fret over these – just make a choice knowing you’ll probably want to change at least your emphasis later on. Think of these as trial niches.
Learn the basics of the game
For every kind of writing there are rules, or ways to approach the marketing. The kind of writing and the niche you pick will determine what the system is. If you want to write non-fiction you could do worse than explore this site, starting with the categories from the drop-down menu on the right. If you want to do corporate writing take a look at Peter Bowerman’s Well-Fed Writer. If it’s novels you want to write find a book or two and a couple of blogs that appeal to you where you can learn the conventions of writing novels. A copy of Writer’s Market and their online membership will teach you a great deal about the writing game.
You get the idea.
It’s entirely possible to spend way too much time studying writing and not nearly enough time actually getting the words written. Sure a class or two, a book or two and a blog or two and maybe even a supportive forum like the 5 Buck Forum can be a real help – spend too much time on any of them means you may be using them to avoid the actual process of writing.
Figure out what you have to offer that sets you apart
What do you know and/or what have you done that gives you the insight to write about X? Maybe you spent years selling boats, or in the back room of a bank, or working at a grocery store, or… Whatever it is has given you experience that you can use in your writing. Some call this a Unique Selling Proposition or USP. The easiest thing to do is simply write a pithy sentence that describes what you do and why you’re good at it.
Again, don’t spend a ton of time on this in the beginning. Just get clear enough so you can write or speak easily about what you bring to the table.
Write, write, write. Nothing will happen until you actually write.
Get your website built
You need a professional website – you can do it yourself, I promise. You only need four pages to get started.
You’ve simply got to keep writing. Find out what’s the most creative time of day for you to write and use that time to write, rewrite, and write.
The real secret to marketing yourself and your writing is to do it consistently. Even when the money starts rolling in, you’ve got to keep up the marketing in order to keep it rolling in.
I can’t emphasize this enough – in the middle of life and building your business you’ve got to write! Write when you want to, write when you don’t. Write when you’re getting paid for it and when no money is coming in at all. Write, write and write.
Now it’s your turn. How did you get started in freelance writing? What questions do you have? Let’s talk about it in comments.
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