How To Become A Working Writer
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: good writers only become great writers with constant practice. So while you’re waiting for that manuscript to become the next best seller or your screenplay to make it to the theaters, you might as well make a solid living practicing your craft. What better way to do it than as a freelance writer?
Your first step is to choose an area (or areas) of expertise. Here are some options:
Advertising Copywriting: Somebody’s got to write those radio commercials, the sales brochures and all that junk mail. It might as well be you! As a copywriter, you can market yourself to small businesses or ad agencies who need talented writers to write copy that sells. This is a highly competitive field so be sure you have some education or experience before you hit the pavement. At the very least, you’ll need a portfolio of work to get your foot in the door.
How-to Writing: You can learn how to do anything online. How-to articles are popular for all kinds of websites (including this one!) that want to provide added-value content for their visitors. You don’t need to be an expert in the field (although it does help), but you should have strong research skills and a curious disposition to tackle this field.
Technical Writing: Technical writing is the most lucrative choice of all “commercial” writing, mainly because it can be the most challenging and dry of all writing specialties. As a technical writer, you’ll write manuals for everything from electronics to games to software programs. It’s ideal for linear thinkers who can take complex subjects and explain them in down-to-earth form.
E-commerce Writing: E-commerce websites (online stores) are literally growing by the thousands every day. You can now buy everything from rare jewels to handmade dog sweaters on the web. Unfortunately, many of these websites are lacking quality content, which directly impacts their sales. If you can write product descriptions that sell, you’re in business.
Journalism: With the advent of blogs, the days of traditional journalism are long gone. Online news sites, as well as print publications, are always seeking new article submissions from writers. Start with small trade publications or community papers before working your way up to the big dogs. You’ll likely find submission guidelines on the publications’ websites.
Ghost Writing: If you’ve proven yourself to be a published author, why not do it for someone else? You’d be surprised how many people have a story to tell…they just don’t have the writing skills to tell it.
No matter what freelance track you decide to take, you’ll give your mind the “word work out” it needs on a daily basis, which will enhance your writing skills in other areas, like fiction or script writing. Once you chose your path, it’s time to get out there and sell! Here are the necessary steps you’ll need to take to announce your talent to the world:
Gather your samples: Just like any prospective employer will check your references, most of your clients will want to see samples of your work. Have a portfolio of relative samples on hand, in electronic and printed form, to send out upon request.
Develop your sales materials: You need to let prospective clients know you’re out there. You’ll need a basic web-page, like the profile pages here at WritingRoom, that showcases your skills and a creative “sales kit” with a letter, brochure and business card that you can mail to target audiences. Call up a freelance designer to help you make a professional impression.
Search the freelance sites: There are plenty of sites for freelance writers that list job opportunities or allow you to post your profile. Expect minimal fees for many of them, but beware of extravagant “membership” charges.
Cold call/email: Don’t be shy. Pick of the phone or get behind the keyboard and start making connections. A great way to break the ice is to tell the prospect that you’ve reviewed his/her website and explain your ideas for enhancing the writing.
Advice on how to become a working writer.