“Get a job that involves writing.”
That was the advice my English professor gave me on the day I dropped out of college. Like any good teenager, I immediately forgot her words and took on a warehouse job at a staffing agency, and now, looking back, I can see what that professor saw in me years ago: A passion for writing.
My story is one percent success and ninety-nine percent trying, but what matters is that the success comes at the end of the story (or rather, the end so far). At the age of twenty-three, I am proud to call myself a successful – even thriving – writer. But it wasn’t always that way.
Rewind three years. I found a website called Freelancer.com and bid on a few writing projects, not expecting any results, and was surprised when one of my bids won.
I’ll never forget that first writing assignment, not because it made me rich ($0.005 per word, and unfortunately that’s not a typo) but because it represented a huge shift in my mindset: I could make money writing. I poured my heart and soul into that first article, and walked away richer by far more than two dollars. I had a plan.
Now, half a cent per word is not worth your time, ever. I hesitate to tell people to avoid sites like Freelancer.com, though, because I learned so much by going through that stage. Publications typically look for one of two things when hiring a writer: Education, or experience. Skill is a factor as well, but unfortunately one that’s often overshadowed by the first two criteria. As a college dropout, I don’t have a degree to back me up, so I can safely say that my success has been wholly the product of experience, and that came from starting at the bottom and grinding my way up.
Needless to say, I quit my job and devoted more time to finding writing assignments. Yes, many of them were low paying, even degradingly so, but I had already figured out how much I had to make to survive, and that’s what I did. I wrote articles, blog posts, e-books, website copy, sales letters, fiction – whatever people asked me to write, I wrote. Some days I wrote over 5,000 words, doing all my own research.
I learned two important things doing this:
1) The more you write about something, the faster you can write it, and the more you can charge as a result. Everybody is looking for an expert, and once you can provide that service you will never have a shortage of clients. For me it was social media. I’ve ghostwritten two full length books on the subject, and I can now confidently approach a client with that experience as a backing. Find your area of expertise.
2) Always try to get your name attached to your work. That’s how you build up a reputation that you can point to and say, “Yeah, that’s me.” Helium.com, Yahoo Associated Content, Hubpages.com, Squidoo.com, guest blog posts, your own blog – There are a thousand resources for new writers to easily develop an online portfolio.
Where am I now? Still ghostwriting, but rarely for less than $0.25 per word – often closer to $0.50. I also write for several fitness websites and a few humor sites on the side. It doesn’t matter how old you are (or how young); there are opportunities for everyone.
Andrew Handley can’t mention most of his work because, legally, it wasn’t written by him, but he shares more of his own experiences and advice on his blog at http://www.HandleyNation.com.