by Deborah Ng
When I first began freelancing in 2000 I thought I had an edge. I spent a dozen years in publishing, after all. That experience should work to my advantage, right?
Well…yes and no.
It gave me some good ideas about customer service, what editors look for and more. There were some areas however, in which I was a little green. There are a few things I had to figure out on my own. I’d like to share them with you today.
1. There Are Different Types of Freelance Writing Jobs
I was kind of surprised at all the different types of writing available to freelancers. Where should I set my sites? Print? Web? Business writing? Writing grants? Those new fangled e-books everyone is talking about? Obviously I found my calling, but it was a little confusing for me in the beginning and I had some fits and starts before reaching my comfort zone.
This is why I think it’s important for all new freelance writers to take some time out before they begin to research every aspect of the business. Not only will they learn some of the ins and outs of the business, but also the types of writing.
2. Everyone’s Good at Something
Today it’s all about branding and expertise. Most freelancers have to pick something they’re good at and use that to their advantage. Thanks to the Internet, there’s more competition now than there was when I worked with freelancers in the mid 80’s and 90’s. To stand out an impressive resume helps. Set yourself up as an expert in your favorite topic and soon the jobs will come to you.
3. Taking Gigs For the Sake of Taking Gigs Leads to Boredom and Burnout
I think one of my biggest mistakes as a freelance writer was taking every gig that came my way. Yes, I gained valuable experience and yes, I was doing some good earning. I was also suffering from burnout. To keep up I woke early and worked late in to the night. I wasn’t spending free time with my family because I had no free time. Plus, I was writing about topics that didn’t interest me and I was bored and prone to procrastination. I understand that it’s difficult to be picky when starting out, but if you’re in a position to pick and choose, do consider whether or not you’ll be happy with a gig before signing on.
4. There’s a Lot More to Working as a Freelance Writer than Writing
I thought I could spend the whole day typing and doing nothing else. Writing is only a small part of a freelance writer’s job. We have to do a lot of research. We spend hours on the phone or with email. We comb the job boards looking for work and we have to keep our accounts in order. Successful writers multi-task.
5. You Get What You Give
It’s not enough to turn in 500 words and be done with it. If you want good pay and cushy gigs, you have to rock the customer service and fulfill all your promises. Give every job your all. When you go through the motions your job list and clientele reflect this. If you have a good work ethic and your clients are pleased you’ll get referrals, raises and more jobs.
What are some of the things you wish you knew about freelance writing when you were just starting out?