Have you ever wondered how some writers make money from their craft? Perhaps you’ve already tried to do this yourself and failed miserably? Or you’re just about to have a crack at freelance writing for the first time? Think you’ve got what it takes? Before you get started, perhaps I could share some secrets with you…
1. Be Realistic
It’s no good submitting articles or stories right, left and center to editors if your writing ability is not up to scratch. Maybe your grammar needs polishing? Or your punctuation leaves a lot to be desired? Do you have the foggiest idea how to format an article? Whoa! Hold your horses one moment. Writers have to LEARN their craft. It’s highly unlikely you are so gifted you can decide to be a writer one day and earn money the next.
Tip: Invest in a good grammar book, join a writing class, do whatever it takes.
2. Study the Market Carefully
Okay, you want to earn your living writing stories or articles. You imagine giving up your boring old 9-5 job to become a writer. You’ll get out of bed when it suits you; maybe stay in your old dressing gown until noon crafting away. Then the money will start to roll in…
What if I told you that life isn’t like that for most writers?
The majority of writers have to discipline themselves by plonking themselves down in front of the computer screen even when they don’t feel like it. They do not have the luxury of giving up their day job, not right away at least. In any case, if you were able to churn out a few good, publishable articles or stories a week, you would still have to market them. It can take longer to find a suitable market than it takes to write the article or story in the first place.
Tip: Study the market and the writers’ guidelines before submission.
3. Learn How to Craft a Good Query Letter
This is your pitch to an editor to give him or her a taster of the article you are offering to sell. This is a very important part of the marketing process, possibly the most important of all. If you fail to ‘hook’ the editor within the first couple of paragraphs then you can forget it. If you undersell the piece, he or she may not even want to read your article, no matter how good it is. So it makes good sense to take your time when crafting a query letter.
Tip: Think what you want to say and say it concisely. Even slip in an extract from the article as ‘bait’. Read books and articles on writing a query letter.
4. Persistence Pays Off
The persistent writer is the one who gets there in the end. If you are the type of writer who has a lot of talent, but can’t handle rejection, then you’re done for. Rejection is all part and parcel of being a writer. The writer who has not received a rejection slip at some time or another is probably still unpublished, even well known writers get rejections. There have even been some who have had so many that they’ve papered a small room with slips!
Tip: If your work is rejected send it back out as soon as possible, find another market for it. If it is rejected more than a few times, edit and revise and re-submit.
5. Decide what you want to write about
If you intend writing non fiction articles, then you might be at a loss what to write about. The best thing to do is to grab a paper and pen and ‘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 be able to write an article on how to start researching your family tree. Or you may have experience of collecting something unusual, or be an expert on rare books. Think about the questions you would have if you were new to a particular hobby or interest. Have you traveled to some unusual countries? Sampled the cuisine? Rode on a camel and encountered some strange customs?
Tip: There is a huge market for travel, health and parenting articles. For story writers the biggest markets are for speculative fiction and erotica.
6. Do your research
It’s no good opening a file
in MS Works or Word and just typing away if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Even top journalists have to carry out research. For example, if you were to write an article on breastfed babies, it may be an idea to prepare a questionnaire for mothers to fill in, another from a midwife’s point of view, etc. You may need to weigh up the pros and cons of bottle and breast feeding. You may even be able to craft two or three articles from your research by providing a different slant.
Tip: Look for suitable websites for information, be a regular at your local library. Research pays off! If you have problems contacting an expert, try Prof Net.
7. Promote your work
If you are fortunate enough to get some of your work published, think about setting up your own website. Nowadays, software like WordPress and Squarespace make it easier than ever to create a site.
You won’t even need to know anything about HTML programming as it’s all done for
you. Use the website to display your work, or to provide links to online articles or stories you’ve had published. Advertise any services you have to offer on your site; for example, you might teach an online class.
Tip: You can also promote your work by including a link to your latest article in your signature at Outlook Express, MSN, Yahoo and other email programs.
So now I’ve given you the seven secrets, do you think you’ve got what it takes to become a freelance writer?
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.