Becoming a freelance writer
Why become a freelance writer?
Freelance writing sounds like a fun career path to take. It can be rewarding in both personal and financial terms, and the greatest perk is that you can do it from anywhere you like. An on-line freelance writer can work from their local cafe or home, and that freedom of choice concerning a freelancer’s workplace is one of the most enticing aspects of freelance writing.
What skill set do you need?
– A good command of the English language is an absolute must, there’s little point applying for a job like this when you aren’t able to communicate to the standard required.
– Quality control, as a freelance writer you have to make sure that you are meeting the standard that your client will expect. Shoddy grammar, incorrect punctuation and misuse of vocabulary make for unhappy clients. And an unhappy client makes for an unemployed freelancer.
– Proof reading! Sounds like it should be part of quality control right? Proof reading is so important that I feel it needs it’s own point. It’s easier than you would imagine to miss the little mistakes in your writing. It becomes second nature after a time; so don’t worry; but at the beginning it doesn’t hurt to get someone to check it over for you (Alina is checking my spelling as I type).
– Creativity, time management and formatting are all minor points, but important nonetheless. Make sure you can use word (or whichever software you prefer), that you notice when you’ve missed lunch in your typing haze, and take a moment to stop and do something relaxing for a while. You’re a freelancer for a reason, right?
Where do you begin?
The first phase of a freelancer’s career (as with many other careers) is the most challenging. Many do not know where to look for jobs or how one even becomes an on-line freelance writer. The best place to start searching for freelance work is on noticeboards and dedicated websites. Sites such as Elance and Problogger are examples of the above. These two examples (and others like them) display lists of jobs for freelance writers. These job opportunities are posted by companies or individuals looking to hire fresh writing talent, that means you! So getting started doesn’t have to be such a daunting experience.
How I became a freelancer…
My personal experience was different, but equally challenging. I actually found a job almost as soon as I started. However, not every writing job is a good one. This particular opportunity had three major flaws. Firstly, the pay was too low. Secondly, the subject area which I was being asked to cover was not an area of interest for me. Thirdly, the client was slow to respond to my correspondence.
Why is low pay a problem?
The answer to this question seems obvious, but why isn’t low-paid freelancing like any other minimum wage job? The answer is that in freelance writing you are often paid by word count. In this case I was paid per thousand words. A low rate of pay per thousand words meant that I was forced to write as many thousands of words as I could in a limited amount of time. Researching and writing in such a way can wear you out and sap the fun out of an enjoyable career.
Why only write about things that interest you?
The answer to this question is simple. You will always be better at things which you enjoy. Writing thousands of words on a boring topic is a draining activity, as I can attest from personal experience. If you want to write great articles and get positive feedback from clients, pick the projects which best suit your personality and interests. Don’t be afraid to be picky.
The importance of communication…
Communication is an essential aspect of any successful project. Your client will know what they want and have their own ideas to contribute. They will also appreciate your feedback and creative input. So try to maintain contact with the client throughout the creative process, exchanging ideas, feedback and making sure that you are giving them the content they want (even if they didn’t know they wanted it when the project began).
What comes next?
The next step is sending CVs, proposals and examples of previous work to potential clients. Don’t just apply for one position at a time. Go after every position which looks like a good fit. If you only get one then you can count it as a success. If you get more than one project then congratulations (seriously, well done you!). But remember not to take on too much work at one time or you might end up wearing yourself out (not to mention keeping the rest of us out of work!).
Joe Malpas (contributions by Alina, the over-the-shoulder editor!)