Non-Fluffy Advice on How to Break into Freelance Writing, Part 1
Dreaming about working for yourself in a job where you have ultimate flexibility, the ability to use your creative writing skills, and the option to work from just about anywhere in the world? Perhaps you’ve been scoping out some of the freelance writing jobs posted here and wonder if this may be a good option for you? I’d like to share my experiences with you to give you an idea of what it’s like to work as a freelance writer and how to break into this lucrative market.
What’s so great about freelance writing?
Freelance writing is the perfect part time or full time income for a number of reasons. These include:
- Being able to work around other commitments (without the concern of background noises and interruptions)
- The choice to take on as little or as much freelance work as your schedule allows
- The ability to choose the types of industries, organizations, and topics you want to write about
- Exciting learning opportunity to learn about new industries, subjects, and even people
- Deciding how much you want to earn by the type of writing projects you complete
Ready to explore some of the freelance writing jobs here, and learn more from a real full time freelance writer?
The journey to becoming a freelance writer
My story is pretty straightforward. Nine years ago, I quit my job as a corporate Human Resource manager to become a full-time freelance content writer. But, this revelation didn’t happen overnight. I had spent at least three years trying to ignore this nagging feeling that I wasn’t happy in my “day job” and needed a change, but what should I do?
During that time span, I had tried a variety of short-lived gigs, including: selling jewelry, being a virtual recruiter, and even working as a telephone researcher. They were interesting, but not quite what I was seeking. Then, I started to look at all the skills I enjoyed about my regular career in HR and one of them that stood out to me was my writing itself. People often came to me at work to review documents, write things up for them. I was often referred to as the “Red Pen Lady” because I was a fierce editor and not afraid to correct even the big bosses if they messed up their spelling or grammar. Eureka – I had discovered my true passion!
So, with this in mind, I started writing about my other passion – Human Resources and all it’s delicious complexity. My very first article, which took me about a week to write in between my HR duties, was about honoring your talents in the workplace. When I was finished, I printed it out on the office inkjet and proudly displayed it on my office hutch so anyone could stop by and read it. Employees, who frequently came to me to talk about personal and professional matters, seemed to like it, so this encouraged me to keep writing.
My next foray into writing was when I discovered that Yahoo had this nice online platform where authors could self-publish and earn money for page views. At that time, I started writing furiously and in the course of a month, had published something like 27 articles, earning a nice $31 a month in page view earnings. Hey, it was a start!
Next, came the requests from people who had seen my work online and asked if I would do some writing for them. I had no idea people would want to pay me for that, how cool! So, I often quoted super low rates because, after all, I was just starting out. (BIG mistake, will address this in a later article) After I had written a few articles, more clients came my way. Pretty soon, I had around 10 people paying me to write for them, including writing for a very popular flexible career website. Let’s just say, my time was getting stretched thin at this point because I was working all day long at the corporate office, then writing until late into the night on my client projects.
Around the holiday season, when the company I was working for was steadily laying off good people – I made the decision to resign from my job and immediately launch into my freelance writing career. I remember telling the payroll lady to split my compensation up and give it to the employees they needed to stay on board, at least to save them from letting more people lose their jobs. After work, I drove straight home with my little box of office supplies and plants, announced to my husband my decision, and opened up shop in our spare room.
Ok, stop right here…this is NOT the right way to go about landing work as a freelance writer.
When I think back to all the things I did wrong, I just want to climb into a time machine, go back there and slap myself silly! I mean, who just up and quits a job and heads into a freelance writing career? Yup, I did. And you can too, that is IF you know how and when to do this the RIGHT way.
Here’s my disclaimer. Obviously, every freelance writer finds his or her own path, because we all have our own ways of doing things, and opportunities are endless out there. However, I want to share with you the ways you should be launching yourself as a freelance writer so you don’t have to make the same naïve mistakes I did and lived to tell about.
It’s only the beginning
This article is going to be long, I mean very very long so I will be breaking it up into a series. Think of it as having a kind mentor to work with you to help you get into freelance writing yourself. Whether it takes weeks, months, or even years to get to this place — I want to give you some of the same advice that a few wonderful and seasoned writers told me once I had stumbled a few times.
The really cool thing about becoming a freelance writer is that you are stepping into an industry that really values a great writer. There is plenty of support here. There are many opportunities to write about just about anything you are passionate about. And there are many ways to earn a decent living as a freelance writer.
So, before we get started and dive into the world of freelance writing, I want you to do one thing (think of this as homework):
Write down the 3 things you are most passionate about in your personal and professional life.
Why am I asking you to do this? Because it serves two purposes:
The things you are passionate about are often the things you know the most about. This means you will be able to write intelligently and often about these topics.
The things that bring you joy are what will keep you motivated as a freelance writer so you can ultimately find success.
Once you have done this, you need to put this piece of paper somewhere you have to look at it daily. If you find yourself saying, “Meh”, about a particular topic, dig deeper and find out what you really like. It could be something in your career, a personal hobby, something people tell you that you know a lot about or have helped them with. I don’t care if it’s rock-climbing or making paper dolls — just think of what YOU really love.
This is the start of your freelance career.
Come back soon to learn more. And in the meantime, check out some of the freelance writing jobs here.
Tess C. Taylor, PHR, CPC; Founder of HRKnows is a Human Resource Consultant, Career Coach, and Freelance Web Content Manager from New York. You can find her blogging over at The HR Writer, the About.com Employee Benefits channel, and Payscale Compensation Today on a variety of HR, Recruitment, and Career topics.
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