These five tips won’t just help you become a freelance writer, they’ll ensure you keep getting article assignments you don’t even have to pitch! No more writing query letters, sending article ideas to magazine editors, or searching the internet for online publications.
One thing I didn’t realize when I first started freelancing was that good writers don’t have to keep pitching articles. Editors need and want a stable good writers. When they find a writer who is smart, professional, and easy to work with, they keep that writer busy. Sometimes too busy.
If you’re a beginning freelance writer, you haven’t built many relationships with magazine editors. That’s not only ok, it’s normal. It can take months or even years to build good relationships, and to become a freelance writer who is actually sent assignments from editors. Take heart! The years, they go by fast. If you read my five ways to get more freelance writing work – and actually follow my advice – you will succeed as a writer. Even if you’re a writer without a journalism degree.
Speaking of education: what do you know about the business side of freelance writing? Learning how to become a writer involves studying books by and for successful freelancers. For example, the series of Writer’s Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published by Robert Lee Brewer are a must for serious magazine writers.
Whether you’re learning how to become a freelance writer or you’ve been freelancing for years, keep learning about the business of magazine writing. Things change fast – even in the publishing industry (which is notoriously slow and laborious). You may think you know all the writing markets and editors, but you’d be shocked to learn what kinds of print magazines still exist. You’d also be surprised to learn that you can slant your article ideas to all sorts of different markets and audiences…if you learn how to be a flexible, creative freelance writer.
Making money as a freelance writer is competitive, but not impossible.
How to Get More Freelance Writing Work
If you’ve never been published in a magazine, read How to Write an Author Bio When You’ve Never Been Published.
1. Stay on the editor’s radar
No matter how gripping your last feature article or project was — no matter how amazing you are — clients will forget you. When I writing for BC Women’s Hospital, the Executive Director (ED) asked if I had experience with press conferences. He needed someone to organize one within a week. I said sorry but nope, that’s out of my realm. Another staff member mentioned a public relations professional, and the ED slapped his forehead and said, “Of course! How could I forget her? She’s perfect for the job!” To become a freelance writer who gets repeat work, fellow scribes, you must get (and stay) under your clients’ noses.
2. Be aware of your self-imposed obstacles
What are the top three obstacles that hold you back from getting repeat work? Maybe you struggle to find ideas for feature articles, or you can’t follow through on your writing goals. Maybe you spend too much time reading blogs and taking freelance writing classes, and not enough time discovering and overcoming your personal and professional roadblocks. This tip on how to become a freelance writer is about figuring out what holds you back, and deliberately deconstructing that obstacle.
The Freelancer’s Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams – On Your Terms by Sara Horowitz will help you overcome almost any obstacle I can think of. Becoming a freelance writer, blogger, editor, ghostwriter, or any other type of writer isn’t hard, but it does take effort. You need to be professional – and this book will help you become a freelance writer who is prepared for anything.
3. Hold your writing loosely
Instead of gripping your sentences and articles with both fists, focus on working with your clients to get the job done. This can be tough for writers; our words are our identity — especially if we believe that writing is about opening our veins and bleeding all over the laptop. But, the sooner we let go of our writing and get those articles written, the more successful our freelancing careers will be. Listen to your editors’ and clients’ requests, accept their edits, and keep the big picture in mind. The successful completion of a freelance writing project involves excellent customer service, flexibility, and enthusiasm (on YOUR part, not your editors’ 🙂 ).
4. Visit your clients or editors in person
This tip on how to become a freelance writer is from my experience writing for BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. When they invited me to tour the hospital, I thought it would be a “nice thing to do” – not realizing it would be the best thing ever! The tour changed how I see hospitals, which enriched my writing. Further, I can now put a face to the names in my email correspondence, and the visit added a new dimension to my relationship with BC Women’s. In fact, the Executive Director even offered me more work in communications and public relations, which I had to turn down. Visiting your editors and clients in person may be challenging for freelance writers, but it can make the difference between being a busy writer or a starving writer.
5. Get specific feedback from your editors and publishers
The more you learn about yourself as a freelance writer, the better you’ll perform (and the more repeat work you’ll get). Learn about your good and bad writing habits; tweak your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. When you complete a project or feature article, ask your editors for two things you did right, and two things you could improve on. Of course, this depends on your relationship with your clients, how many times you worked with them, etc. The idea is to avoid the “But I’m the best freelance writer in the world! Why didn’t they hire me again?” mentality. Instead, see yourself through your clients’ and editors’ eyes.
And stay focused!
I watch Dragons’ Den at lunch every day, and one of the things these entrepreneurs and investors say is that if you haven’t quit your day job, they won’t invest in you. You have to focus on making your dreams come try — and your first step is breaking down your dreams into a clear set of goals.
“Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets.” – Nido Qubein.