Making a living as a freelance writer – building a profitable writing career – is possible, especially if you learn from successful writers! These are the steps I took to make money writing; I’ve been earning a solid living as a writer for three years (and I started out in the slowest economy ever!).
Before the tips, a quip:
“Imitation is the highest form of pissing me off. Quit stealing my content and violating my copyright.” ~ Jen T. Verbumessor.
To make money as a writer, you must watch your copyrights, reprint rights, and editorial contracts! Read The Freelance Writer’s Bible: Your Guide to a Profitable Writing Career Within One Year for a wealth of information for aspiring and established freelance writers. And, here are my steps to making money as a freelance writer…
For a Profitable Writing Career – 10 Steps to Making Money as a Freelance Writer
1. Work part-time, write freelance part-time. I worked 2-3 days a week in an office for about 2½ years, while I established myself as a freelance writer. For financial reasons, I couldn’t just jump into writing full-time. Plus, getting out of the house helped me stay sane! I was getting rejections from magazine editors and publishers left right and centre (and lots of no responses), so I needed to get out into the “normal” world regularly. When it seemed like the right time to focus on writing full-time, I quit working part-time. Now, I have a profitable writing career — and I expect the upward trend to continue because I work hard.
2. Take everything you read about freelancing writing with a grain of salt. Before I started earning a living as a full-time freelance writer, I was always reading different books about writing. It was a great way to learn how, for instance, to pitch query letters to magazines. But since then I learned that every magazine, editor, and publisher has different preferences regarding query letters, sourcing experts, article submission policies, etc. For instance, one of my regulars likes long, detailed query letters while the editor at my newest magazine asked me to shorten my pitches. So, take “the rules” of freelance writing with a pinch of salt, and find what works for you.
3. Take risks with the “rules.” The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burell is an awesome way to look at “the rules of a profitable writing career.” There really are no rules – each freelancer has to find her own way. If a book about freelancing says “write a one-page query”, but your idea takes two pages to explain it properly, then use two. That said, if you know that the magazine prefers two-paragraph queries, then write short pitches. All freelance writers must find their balance between breaking the rules and not being too “out there.”
4. Don’t write until you have an official assignment from an editor. It’s a waste of time to write an article before you have a contract. Of course, this is different for poetry, short stories, novels, etc. With non-fiction magazine writing, I recommend waiting until you have an editor’s email or contract that assigns the article.
5. Blog. Blogging has strengthened my writing skills, taught me writing discipline, and connected me to editors, readers, and other writers. But I never blog about my life — my blogs are all tips-based (such as Quips & Tips for Achieving Your Goals).
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6. Stretch your writing skills. Not only does writing for the online e-zine Suite101 help me make money as a freelancer, it also boosted my confidence as a writer. And it gives me credibility. I started out in a volunteer position for BellaOnline, which lasted for a few months. It was nice, but I soon tired of writing for free. Getting paid to write really is a dream come true, and I’ve learned a ton from being the Psychology Feature Writer.
7. Submit your articles early (be reliable). I always try to hand my article in before the deadline, though sometimes it didn’t matter because editors can sit on articles for weeks! That doesn’t always happen, though. Sometimes editors turn them around within a few hours — zipping them right back to you for editing.
8. Make requested edits quickly and happily. Most of my articles required tweaking; if I want to keep making money as a freelance writer, I want to turn them around and get them back to the editor fast. And – I want to learn from my editors. I learn the least when the editor simply publishes my writing as is. That’s a little flattering, but there’s no depth there…no writing training or coaching.
9. Keep submitting, no matter how many rejections you get. I’ve learned that most of the time my article ideas just don’t fit the magazine’s requirements. I don’t take it personally.
10. Surround yourself with people who believe. My husband Bruce tells me almost every day that soon he’s gonna retire and I’ll support us both with my profitable writing career. Today, for the first time, I believe him!
If you have any thoughts or questions on making money as a freelance writer, please comment below…