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How Do I Start to Learn Writing as a Freelancer?

get started freelancingHi Anne,

How do I learn to start writing as a freelancer? I have no money for classes.


CA in comments

Hi CA,

I’m going to tell you how I got started writing and then freelancing. I’ll tell you why I’m using me as an example at the end.

The family story is I began talking about becoming a writer when a news story I wrote for our school paper was published. I was in the 6th grade. This was ages before the internet – I actually got established as a freelancer before we had the net.

Someplace in high school I discovered both Writer’s Market the annual, and the magazine. I didn’t just read them, I studied them. It wasn’t, however, until my early thirties that I actually started writing and submitting.

In the beginning, everything I wrote was rejected.

I fell into creating a magazine for a local church that had some national distribution. Editing that magazine also taught me a lot about writing.

About the same I stumbled into computers when a writer friend of mine – he’d actually sold some stuff and I was in awe. We each bought an Apple. By the time I figured out how to run it I was able to walk a local computer trade show telling people I could write manuals – someone hired me.

I went to work for a computer company writing technical manuals, and then wrote for their magazine. I met an agent there and contracted with three others to write a book.

There’s a pattern here

Do you see the pattern?

I wrote and wrote and wrote some more.

When I couldn’t find a job writing I waited tables and did other part time jobs in order to keep writing – and that’s the secret of learning how to be a freelance writer – you’ve got to write. And you’ve got to find people who want what you write or are willing to pay you to write what they want written.

It’s not magic, it’s work.

It’s not taking ‘the right’ class or paying a lot for lessons. Classes etc. can help, but they aren’t a requirement – not for freelancing. If your writing isn’t up to par, classes can work wonders.

How do you start?

You start by writing.

Pick two or three blogs about writing and do what they say – that’s free!

Read Writer’s Market – even an old copy from your library – the front part of that book tells you most of what you need to know.

You start writing for others just as quickly as you can – even if it’s for free – just make sure you get copies or the web address or both.

It’s possible these days to actually begin earning a few bucks through the content mills – just don’t get stuck there, use them as a springboard to higher pay.

When someone asks you to write for them you say ‘yes.’ Not forever, but for now – until you develop the skills and the confidence to ask for pay.

When I look back over my career I see that saying ‘yes’ to all sorts of opportunities, plus creating my own is the secret, if there is one.

Writing and saying yes – or Write & Say Yes! A whole new slogan that can get your freelance writing career moving.

What’s your experience with starting your freelance writing career? Let’s talk about it in comments.


It really helps me when you share this post with your network – thanks!

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by thenext28days

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Hey Anne,
    Reading, writing and studying- just like in school:) I wrote my first gossip column when a senior in high school. It was when I learned the ‘Power’ of words!

    I would say to always choose your words wisely so as not to offend, maim or
    cause bodily harm!
    Clara recently posted..Good Clutter Bad ClutterMy Profile

    • I’ve never written a gossip column… but I sure could have in 6th grade! Love your notion that words shouldn’t be used to offend (and I’d add except in politics), maim or cause bodily harm, ’cause they sure can!

  • Anne, I didn’t know you used to write for a school paper.

    Same here, although I honestly can’t say I knew I wanted to freelance at that time (I was more interested in fiction).

    It didn’t last long. I could be a bit too provocative for some people even then, writing a big expose on drug use in the school pretty early on. The teacher advising on the paper loved it and ran it as the main story.

    The administration was less thrilled. I think it was the only time in my high school career when I was called to the principal’s office. 😉
    Jenn Mattern recently posted..5 Online Writing Jobs for BeginnersMy Profile

    • I can well imagine you being ‘too much’ for school admins, Jenn. 😉

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