The word freelancer had its origin a few centuries back when knights, carrying long poles or lances, sold their services like a mercenary. They were called “free lances” as they had the freedom to choose whom to fight for. Today, it still refers to anyone who has the freedom to choose their boss, albeit on a temporary basis, and sans the lances. At the same time, the term is no longer restricted to knights – almost any profession can have freelancers (e.g. photographers, programmers, designers etc), but the most popular freelancing career is that of a writer.
Since you’re reading this, you are most likely interested in becoming a freelance writer. You want the freedom to choose what to write, when to write and for whom to write. Sounds easy? Not exactly. It takes a lot of time and effort, not to mention periods of no income, before you can reap the benefits of working for yourself. The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many freelance writers have gone before you. Learn how to become a freelance writer from these people. Here are the steps that successful freelancers take:
Step #1 – Write, write, write
A freelance writer is one who earns money from writing, so it goes without saying that you need to write to start earning. You’ve probably learned the basics of writing in school, so the next step is to use your knowledge to build your portfolio. Look for topics to write and experiment on various mediums (web content, letters, reports, novels etc) so that you can get a feel on your skill level. Writing is still work, so set a time to just write. Whether you do it longhand or use a computer (or even a typewriter, if you like!) it does not matter. As long as you compile your written work as this will comprise your portfolio.
Step #2 – Get an opinion
While you may love writing, others may not like what you write. To earn money from writing, someone has to buy your content. That means you have to sell your word, but you probably don’t know the demographics of your audience. Ask someone to critique your work, preferably someone who is in the business of writing. If you don’t know one, join writing communities and put your work out there. Work online, there are many writing services that you can join to hone your skill. If your career pans out, you at least got paid a few dollars for your effort.
Step #3 – Get published
Once you have a portfolio, you can take the next step. Most writers dream of seeing their book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, but as a new writer, it will take more than showing your portfolio to a publisher for that to happen. Take baby steps by publishing your writing online. Remember though, that web writing is different from mainstream writing so learn web styles and methods. The best way to make your presence felt online is to create your own blog. While most blogs are casual recordings of the bloggers personal style, you want to set your work apart by making it more professional. Build your base of readers by constantly posting. You can earn from your blogs through ads, which should pay for your expenses in building your writing career.
Step #4 – Move to traditional publications
It’s hard to enter the world of traditional publications. J.K. Rowling was rejected several times before Harry Potter series saw the light of day. And when she tried moving away from children’s stories genre to crime genre as Robert Galbraith, she still received rejections until her publisher revealed her identity. My point is don’t take rejections personally and continue with your plan. It’s easier to be a freelance writer than to be staffed in a writing position. Know which mediums you excel, and tailor your writing to the audience of your intended publisher. Don’t go postal on criticisms and stalk the ones who rejected you. Instead, learn how to use them constructively, even if they were delivered with malice.
But how do you get to the front door first? You will have to write a query letter to the editor. First, hook the editor in by stating an interesting fact or ask a titillating question. Then explain your work and why its interesting. Tell him about your credentials then close with a call to action. Send to several editors (but remember to tailor every letter) and wait for their replies. Hopefully one or more will find your work worthy of publication.
You will probably have to take the foregoing steps on how to become a freelance writer several times before you become successful. Sometimes you move up and down, but the important thing is to persevere until you find your place in the freelancing world.