So, you’re thinking of trying your hand at freelance writing? A few words of caution–please don’t give up the day job, not just yet. Read my practical A-Z of freelance writing success first, then if you’re still determined, remember it’s a hard old game, but one where failure and rejection are the stepping stones to success!
Glossary A-Z for Freelance Writing Success
A is for: APPROACH
How you approach your writing is essential as to whether you consider yourself a professional or an amateur. To be professional you have to act it. This means doing whatever is required of you to meet with success. You need to have the right equipment, etch out the necessary research/writing time, and understand your prospective audience.
B is for: BRAINSTORM
Initially, you might be at a loss what to write about. Do not fear. Simply grab a paper and pen to ‘brainstorm’ ideas. For example, what jobs have you had? You may have been in the medical profession, so would have knowledge on health matters, or you may have experience of working outside the home as well as being a parent.
What hobbies and interests do you have? You may be a keen genealogist and therefore able to write an article on how to start researching your family tree.
C is for: CLIPS
If you are fortunate enough to have had a few articles published then it’s often a good idea to submit 2-3 clips [clippings of your published work] when you query your next market. Sometimes editors request them. Never send your original clip, send photocopies. If you are applying to an online market, it’s usually acceptable, unless otherwise stated, to send links [URLS] to any online clips you might have.
D is for: DEADLINE
Punctuality with regards to submitting your work to an editor is a must. Magazines have deadlines for a purpose and that purpose is to print up-to-date articles for their readers–meaning they often cut a close deadline. If for some reason you are running late, then inform the editor about it as soon as possible.
E is for: EDIT
Before submitting your work anywhere, you’ll need to revise and edit thoroughly. This involves pruning out any
unnecessary words and repetitions, checking both grammar and spelling. Don’t fall into the trap of expecting the editor to do it all for you. The editor’s job is to make sure your work is up to standard and they may make a few suggestions once in a while, but a busy editor is not going to take the time to correct badly spelled words and sloppy work!
F is for: FACT CHECK
What could be worse than reading an article where the author gets his or her facts wrong? If this happens, the reader feels cheated and will probably not trust the author in the future to read any more of his or her work. Bear in mind when making use of the Internet that not all websites are accurate. Check and double check your sources. If you need help from an expert, try ProfNet Experts.
G is for: GOALS
Writing goals are crucial to you and your writing career. Start small at first and keep them realistic. Try writing down your goals for the next week, next month, and what you hope to achieve in six month’s time. Type your goals up and display them somewhere prominent where
you can see them on a daily basis. Next to your computer would be fine. Tick them off as you achieve them and treat yourself to a small reward. Finally, goals should not be set in stone; you are allowed to change them!
H is for: HABIT
Get into the practice of writing at the same time each day, whether you feel like it or not. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike–chances are it won’t, even if you develop the habit of writing at the keyboard for just a half hour, five days a week, it all adds up. During one week you would have notched two and half writing hours under your belt. Don’t forget, the more you get into the swing of writing on a regular basis, the easier it becomes.
I is for: IDEAS
Ideas are everywhere, every day, all around you: newspaper headlines, adverts, overheard conversations, chat shows, etc. Just reach out and grab one and make it your own.
J is for: JOIN
Join a writing group either online or in your local community, this is invaluable for feedback from other writers and it will keep you motivated into the
bargain. Online writing groups are particularly good for keeping abreast of the latest writing markets and trends.
K is for: KILL FEE
Some magazines set a kill fee. This means that even if they do not publish the article they have accepted, they will pay you a percentage of what you have been promised for it. If you’re lucky, you may get as much as a 50% kill fee and have the bonus of selling the same article on elsewhere. More often than not though, the kill fee will be a lot lower, that is if the magazine offers a kill fee in the first place.
L is for: LEARN
As a writer there is always something new to learn, always. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you know it all and that you have ‘made it as a writer’. Nowadays, there is no excuse for not learning something new even if money is scarce. Community lending libraries are free and there are some excellent free online writing courses. Barnes and Noble University often offer free writing classes that run for one month. Anything from ‘Writing Romance’ to ‘Writing for Quick Cash’. See here.
M is for: MARKETS
Before submitting anything, study the market. It’s no use targeting a magazine with an article for teenage girls when it runs ads for stair lifts and incontinence pants! It’s a good idea to subscribe to several well known writing newsletters like: www.absolutewrite.com www.writersweekly.com www.writingfordollars.com
Copies of ‘The Writers’ & Artists’ Year Book’ and ‘The Writer’s Handbook’ are also a must if you wish to write for the U.K market. If you wish to publish further a field, then visit: www.writersmarket.com
N is for: NEWSLETTERS
Newsletters are an ideal way for a freelancer to get started. As a rule, they tend to be fairly low paying, but publication in a well known, respected newsletter, such as Writers’ Weekly.com will get you noticed and is a good clip to have. It’s an excellent way to break into the writing market and will increase your confidence.
O is for: OPPORTUNITY
Don’t miss an opportunity. If an editor offers you a mere crumb of hope–then take it. It might be something
along the lines of your article not being suitable for their magazine, but they like your style. Take this as an opportunity to try targeting that magazine again with something that would fit, also mentioning the editor’s prior interest. Or, in some cases, the editor may ask you to add something to your article or even make it a lot shorter–as a filler. Grab this opportunity with both hands. As well as giving you a foot in the door, it tells the editor that you are someone he or she can work with!
P is for: PERSISTENCE
The writer who makes it is the persistent one who never gives up and keeps on sending their work out, even when they don’t feel like it. Persistence pays off in the long run.
Q is for: QUERY
The query letter is your pitch to the editor to sell your article. You need to reel him in by the scruff of his neck. Your query should provide a little taster of your article and tease him so that he is his salivating to read more of your work. As well as giving a brief taste of your proposed article, you can also mention any relevant
experience you might have. Of course, if you have never been published before and/or do not have any relevant experience, then simply do not mention it. We all had to start somewhere!
R is for: REJECTION
Don’t take rejection personally. Rejection can actually be a good thing. Each rejection means you have been doing your groundwork as a writer and are learning something new. Even the greats like J.K Rowling and Stephen King got their fair share of it! If your article or story gets rejected then try sending it off elsewhere, after all, one editor’s meat is another editor’s poison. It could be that the magazine you targeted already bought a similar article or story, or perhaps a few tweaks here or there, might make it a stronger. And remember, any comments the editor makes are like gold dust. Learn from any constructive criticism and advice!
S is for: SUBMISSIONS
Before submitting your work anywhere, ensure that you have followed the writers’ guidelines. If it’s an online market you’re aiming at, you’ll usually find the guidelines under: ‘Writers
or Author’s Guidelines’, ‘Contact’, or ‘About US’ sections on the site. You might find what you’re looking for in the writers’ manuals already mentioned, such as ‘Writers’ Market’ or ‘Writers’ Artists’ Year Book’, or if not, it’s wise to write to the particular market in question, so that you are not wasting your time and money on postage. If you are able to do so, check out what percentage of freelancers the magazine employs.
T is for: TAKE OUT
Remove superfluous words and phrases, why wrap your piece up in flowery language when ordinary, everyday phrases will do? No one wants to look up words in a dictionary every time they read an article or story. Keep it simple. Usually, less is more!
U is for: UNDERSTANDING
You are going to need a complete understanding of the markets you choose to target. It’s no use submitting an article about maintaining good health in old age to a teenage publication! Check the magazine covers, what are they trying to promote? Take a look at the ads the magazine runs. What type of readership are they aiming at?
V is for: VERBALISE
Read your work aloud to check for flow. It’s also a good way to pick up any errors you might have otherwise missed.
W is for: WEBSITE
If you are fortunate to get some of your work published, think about setting up your own website to provide links to your online publications. You will be able to do this for free if you try one of the following: www.tripod.lycos.com; www.geocities.yahoo.com; www.members.freewebs.com
X is for: EXPLORE
[OKAY I CHEATED HERE–HAVE YOU SEEN HOW MANY WORDS BEGIN WITH ‘X’ IN THE DICTIONARY?]
Once you’ve carried out adequate research, written your article and submitted it, explore the options for writing further articles with your newly acquired knowledge. If the magazine hasn’t purchased all the rights to your piece of work, are you free to submit it as a reprint elsewhere? The canny writer can sometimes submit the same article to more publications, thus bumping up their finances even further! Or you could target an entirely different type of publication by writing your article
from a different angle.
Y is for: YOU
It might sound obvious, but YOU are the only one who can make this work for YOU. Some writers claim they don’t have the time to write, yet the same people spend hours watching their favourite television programmes and will chat online until the cows come home! You’ve got to be in it to win it.
Z is for: ZONE IN
Zone in on all those prospective markets out there. Don’t think that you have to be an expert at everything you write about. What you don’t know you can research and in time you will find yourself being somewhat of an expert yourself!
About the Author
Lynette Rees is from South Wales. Her publications include: Writers’ Forum, Writers’ Weekly, Vibrant Life, Writing for Dollars and Write Success. Lynette also writes fiction. Her romantic comedy, A Taste of Honey, was recently released by Samhain Publishing: Visit author’s website.