Recently in my online travels, I came across a comment on a message board that got me thinking. The commenter stated that freelance writing is “an open door that invites anyone in.” This person goes on to say that well-educated and informed writers have to prove themselves.
I agree that the Internet has opened up many possibilities for freelance writers. There are opportunities available online that simply weren’t offered a few years ago. And yes, many people think that they want to “get into” writing. It’s a situation of many being called, and few having what it takes to stick to it, build their skills and develop the contacts they need to make money from it.
It may seem like the doors are open and everyone is welcome, that’s not really the case. Some clients are very open to giving new writers a chance to work for them, but rest assured that if you submit work that is subpar, riddled with errors or you simply don’t follow instructions properly, you won’t be given more assignments.
I do agree that freelance writing isn’t brain surgery, or even rocket science, but that doesn’t mean everyone can do it. I used to have a gig where I reviewed aerospace research sites with educational content and the basic principles of rocket science are relatively simple to understand. It doesn’t mean that I can go out and build my own X-plane, though.
Freelance writing is part art and part skill. Even if someone has the skill part down, i.e. they can put a sentence together correctly, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they have a talent for choosing the right word patterns to effectively convey an idea or evoke a feeling in the reader. I used to get criticized when I was in school for not pumping up my work with a lot of flowery language; my writing was relatively short and to the point. Who knew that this style would be what works best online?
The second comment about how well-educated and informed writers have to prove themselves applies to any field of endeavor. Someone hiring you wants to know what you can do for them moreso than what you have done in the past. You will get a lot further by showing up, getting your hands dirty (figuratively speaking) and doing the work than trying to impress someone with your background.
And the brain surgeon I mentioned earlier? Part of their training involved reading texts, which were written by someone who at that moment at least, was a writer. We may not be brain surgeons, but the work that we do educates, informs, entertains and persuades people to buy a product or support a cause. Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me.
Cheril Vernon says
“I used to get criticized when I was in school for not pumping up my work with a lot of flowery language; my writing was relatively short and to the point. Who knew that this style would be what works best online?”
Doesn’t that make you want to call up your teacher and tell him or her that you now get paid to write?
@ Cheril: I sent him an e-mail, actually. He didn’t respond. I’m sure that I frustrated him to no end when I was in school. I asked way too many questions and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t beef up my writing the way he wanted me to.
See, I look at it a little differently. I think that everyone *thinks* they’re invited to be a freelance writer, even if they don’t have the chops. Unfortunately, those people do still get hired, even if only once by each client. In the end, I feel like it makes those of us who actually do a good job look bad and contributes to the mindset that we shouldn’t be well compensated. Nothing gets my ire up quite like someone telling me, “Oh, I should do what you do!” like it’s just the easiest thing in the world. Sure, they probably won’t hack it in the long run, but how much damage will they do to the rest of us while they’re out there pretending to be writers and disappointing clients?
I will now get off my soapbox.