My story as a successful freelance writer isn’t one that begins with years of hard work, struggling and searching for clients and eating nothing but ramen and tomato soup. At the time that this story starts however, the majority of my diet did include ramen and tomato soup – because I was in college.
I was working at an internship at a local magazine in the city I lived in and it was my junior year of college when I first began freelancing. My internship was a complete overview of everything editorial, but I functioned mainly as an in-office writer. At first, I was hesitant to take the position, considering I had my heart set on a career in art therapy at the time. My majors were art and English after all. However, the more I interviewed subjects, listened to their stories, did research and crafted articles on these topics, the more I realized that the challenge of doing this work was enjoyable. After the internship, I was asked to stay with the magazine as a regularly contributing freelance writer.
Skip ahead a few years and I’m the editor of three magazines. I’m working a nine to five job, most of the time more than that, and finding that the majority of my time was spent editing and creating content in lieu of writing, which was what I found myself wanting to do. I wanted to be able to set my own schedule, work on my own terms and most of all – get back to writing. I found myself remembering that in between that internship and this job, all I did was freelance. In order to get to where I was and quit my job, I had to figure out what I did before and do it again.
The magazine where I had my internship at, like other publications, was part of a larger publication group that produced a number of other magazines which, if I would have thought about it, I would have started there if I would have known what was good for me (which should be pointer number one… just hang in there). Instead, an editor of a women’s magazine that was based in the area happened to see that I was a writer for the other magazine and liked one of my stories. She reached out to me, asking if I would be interested in writing a similar story for her. Here is pointer number one – getting your foot in the door somewhere, anywhere really, is key. Once you’re published, whether it’s through someone else or on a self-published blog, getting published the first time will not only make you reputable to other editors and publishers, it opens a door to help you become recognized.
After writing for these two magazines for a while, I realized that I had mainly been writing two types of stories – lifestyle stories and business profiles. I hadn’t really branched out as much as I would have liked too, and as much as I liked those topics, the stories I found myself reading in my spare time compelled me to do additional research about the publications that I liked to read. Ideas for stories about environmental issues, fitness and outdoor sports began to come to mind, and in my spare time I would research, interview experts and compile stories about topics that I was interested in and submitting them to appropriate blogs, magazines and other publications. Pointer number two – figure out what you want to write about, do it and never stop submitting. The more you submit and the more you write, the higher your chances are of getting published. Bonus pointer on this one – the life of a freelance writer, while great due to the freedom it brings, requires a great deal of work. You must be prepared to work.
Sometime after writing the for the first women’s magazine, I began writing for a different women’s magazine. Like the one prior, this publication is owned by a larger publication company, which opened a door for the opportunity to write for a business magazine. Initially, the thought of writing business news and political pieces made me cringe, but when you need an income and you have a prospective client, it’s hard to turn down work. While the first story that I wrote took me three days to write (not including the research and interviews and pre-writing work), the end result was pride and experience writing about a subject that I hadn’t tackled before, leading me to pointer number three (or four, if you count the bonus in the last round) – get as much experience writing on as many subjects as you can. Be open to writing anything – I mean anything. The more subjects you write about, and get published on, the more clients you open yourself up to. Having published experience to show on any subject, is invaluable.
Pointer number four (or five) comes with this one as well – and that is to think outside the box when it comes to what it means to write freelance; if you confine your idea of writing freelance to journalistic articles only, it will be difficult to write for a living. Open your mind to other options within the writing realm; there are many other options out there. Freelancing for marketing agencies, social media outlets for various companies, scholarly research companies and more are just a few of the many opportunities out there for freelancers.
The last pointer I’ll leave you with is this – the way to find these and many more opportunities is to do the work and search. Sign up for as many freelance writing job sites as you can. Join LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, anything you can that sends jobs for you to apply too. The overarching theme here is this – do the work, reap the benefits.
Megan Martin is a freelance writer and editor based in mid-Michigan. She has written about everything from arts and entertainment to political pieces. She enjoys anything outdoors, traveling and a good cup of tea. For information about her work, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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