Let me save you a little time on your freelance road trip and bring you closer to a profitable writing career by sharing the common wisdom that didn’t work for me — and what eventually did.
1. I’ve never been published as a result of a writer’s market book.
It’s the first piece of advice new writers often receive: Make use of those massive, yearly updated tomes listing thousands of publishers’ contact information. What they don’t tell you is that most of those publishers have been around for so long that they already have a large bank of writers to draw on. Your odds of getting your work carefully examined by one of them are miniscule.
Also, the information in those books is usually dated. It’s collected months before the books are actually published.
2. I’ve never been accepted by publications that print writing that’s worse than mine.
If a magazine publishes terrible writing it’s because they can’t find good writers and will jump at the chance to publish good writing like yours, right?
Wrong. If someone publishes bad writing they either like bad writing or they simply don’t know the difference.
3. The writing jobs I’ve found on job boards have never turned into long-term gigs.
This is not an excuse to stop checking writer’s job boards! Those one-shot jobs are a great source of extra income. They’re just not a great place to look for those jobs that keep on giving.
4. I’ve had very good luck finding work with new publications.
A new magazine signifies a new editor busily trying to build up a passel of regular writers. If you can write a pitch with an idea that impresses this editor with your punctuality, conscientiousness, congeniality, and writing style, you stand a good chance of getting piece published and—even better—getting on as a regular writer at the ground floor.
5. I’ve also had luck with sending my work to carefully chosen publishers.
One of my earliest publications was in a literary magazine I found in my university’s library. Flipping through it, I remarked, “Hey, this poetry is a lot like mine. I bet they’d accept my poems.”
And they did.
6. The long-term opportunities I’ve found have always been near at hand.
I found one gig writing for the student paper of a university where I’d been taking courses. I found another writing for a language-learning site that I’d been using myself. Neither of these jobs had been publicly posted; I learned about them by just being there and being aware.
Pay attention to the services you use every day—your memberships, clubs, and connections—and ask yourself if any of these might provide you with work.
7. Keep looking for new clients.
Even if you have full-time work, you should be doing a search for new clients at least once a week, and this does include those one-shots. Don’t make the excuse that you don’t have time because of the work you already have. You can’t guarantee that the work you have now will remain steady, and, as the next point explains, time is relative.
8. Your time is expandable.
One day I woke up and realized that I desperately needed my life back. With careful planning I managed to squeeze what had been a full-time workload into two days per week, leaving the rest of the week to enrich my mind with new knowledge and experiences (always crucial for a writer) and to work on long-term creative writing projects.
How? By learning to work with greater concentration and to protect myself from interruptions. I eliminated all time-consuming tasks of questionable value. I also hired an occasional assistant to take over things like transcription and research.
You can do it, too.
Now, get busy.
Wanda Waterman is a Canadian blogger, poet, and cultural journalist, and she’s been making a living as a freelancer for the last 10 years.
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